By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Henry Umoru
ABUJA—An increasingly bitter competition for consideration in the 2015 presidential contest has broken out among serving second term governors creating opportunity for hitherto outside contenders.
Among those serially mentioned as seizing opportunity of the rancour among the second term governors is former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
Besides trying to seize the initiative from the northern governors, Atiku last weekend, also commissioned his associates to infiltrate into opposition political parties including the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
However, a recurring name mentioned in some quarters for his chances and national acceptance, Senator Ahmed Makarfi from KadunaStatetold Vanguard yesterday that he was not thinking about 2015.
The thinking of the northern governors nonetheless, the prospects of them mobilising a northern consensus for the election was yesterday dimming after a senior official of the Middle Belt Forum, MBF ruled out unconditional full scale support for any of the second term northern governors.
Mr. John Asake, a former member of the House of Representatives and National Youth Leader of the Middle Belt Forum said the body would throw its support for any of the candidates based on the interests of the body and the zone.
Vanguard gathered at the weekend that associates of the second term governors seeking to project their chances were projecting their advantages and at the same time projecting the negatives of their rivals in a seeming battle to get ahead in the race.
Second term governors
The northern governors presently serving a second term in office include Babangida Aliyu ofNigerState, Sule Lamido ofJigawaState, Isa Yuguda ofBauchiState, Murtala Nyako ofAdamawaState, Ibrahim Shema ofKatsinaState, Rabiu Kwankwaso ofKanoState, Aliyu Wamakko ofSokotoStateand Saidu Dakingari ofKebbiState.
All but about three of them are believed to be seriously working towards securing the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Ahead of the campaign, associates of governors keen on the contest are spreading negatives concerning rivals of their principals and at the same time spreading the advantages of their principals.
One of the serious contenders is said to have an educational problem, another one is alleged to be a talkative, another one in the core north is said to carry the baggage of having wiped ethnic sentiments through his serious opposition to the creation of another state in the South East.
Apparently worried by the development, a strategic southern governor largely known to be interested in the emergence of a northern presidential candidate on the platform of the PDP visited the North recently seeking to fashion some harmony among the northern governors.
The apparent divide among the northern governors, it was learnt has resulted in the almost full scale reactivation of the campaign machinery of Atiku Abubakar.
“You cannot believe it, Atiku’s boys are everywhere, he is sending his people everywhere and they are overworking themselves now,” one senior government official on the platform of the PDP from the north told Vanguard at the weekend.
“Atiku is working 210%, he is going everywhere, he is working really hard, he has dusted up his machinery and he is working very, very hard, talking to everyone and every time,” he added.
Senator Makarfi, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance who has been largely mentioned as a possible contender was dismissive of the reports about him saying:
“I am not doing or thinking about 2015. I am equally not aware of any such reports about me,” he told Vanguard despite reports weighing him as one of the brightest candidates from the northwest.
Atiku on his part, it was learnt is also mobilising his contacts in the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, the political machine conceived by the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar‘adua to help his campaign.
PDM associates were believed to have used the memorial lecture of the late Gen. Yar‘adua last Saturday for another meeting where they vowed to ensure that the PDP wins the entire South East and South West in 2015.
In his remarks at the meeting, Atiku stressed the need for PDM members to work within the PDP against the backdrop that PDM members formed the PDP and noted that PDM members must bring the movement’s ideology to bear on the ruling party, adding that the PDM remained the “greatest and largest political movement inAfrica.”
He said that the realignment of forces has become very important because PDP has lost ground in the South West and South East, adding, ‘’we must do our best to reclaim these areas by 2015.”
Meanwhile, a former ACN governorship candidate in Rivers State and member of the PDM Steering Committee, Prince Tonye Princewill cautiously explained that the movement was neither working for Atiku Abubakar nor President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said that the meeting was timely and designed to bring PDP back to the people as well as make those who founded PDP “to revive and bring to bear their vision of the founding fathers of PDP.”
According to Princewill the new PDM “has nobody in mind to support or promote for 2015 but are ready to work with any candidate that will have a programme that will take this country to another level. In other words, its principal mission is to make PDP more acceptable, accessible, visionary, egalitarian ad focused party.”
Speaking further, the former Vice President however compared the PDM to the Tea Party in theUnited States of America, urging members to return to their states to set up state, local government and ward chapters with a view to recruiting all those with similar philosophy.
Atiku who also noted that PDM members occupied significant positions in the opposition parties especially the Action congress of Nigeria (ACN), said as a committed member of PDM, he was ready to support the movement both morally, financially towards the actualization of its mission.
Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of the PDM Steering Committee, Bode Ajewole, explained that the meeting was intended “to showcase our strength and capacity and to convince Nigerians that we are truly back on the political landscape of this country and that we remain as potent as ever.”
“As a political family, we have a role to play. We are back to serve as the conscience of the masses, promote democratic values, defend and agitate for the rights of the masses, defend the unity of this country, lend our voices whenever situation demands on national issues in the interest of the nation without fear or favour.”
Other speakers like former Minister of Dubem Onyia; Mrs Titi Ajanaku; Ambassador Yahaya Kwande; Alhaji Murtala Yar’adua first son of late Shehu Yar’Adua, among others from all the zones all painted the gloomy picture of the past and the present uncertainty as well as poor living condition of Nigerians, just as they stressed the need for members to close ranks and work assiduously to bring back hope to Nigerians.
Chief Tony Anenih one of the leaders of the movement was absent having participated in the burial ceremonies of the junior brother of President Jonathan in Bayelsa.
Meanwhile, political activists from the Middle Belt section of the country are pledging to ensure a better deal for the region in the political permutations for 2015.
Mr. Asake, the national youth leader of the Middle Belt Forum told Vanguard yesterday:
“We will not support any of the northern governors who we know has supported or kept quiet to this spate of terrorism against our people because we know that some of them have through their actions or inactions not helped our people,” he said yesterday.
The forum he said would also not throw unconditional support towards President Jonathan as it did in 2011 he said.
“The Middle Belt People, particularly our Youth, come 2015 will avoid the very grave mistakes of 2011. What do I mean? Of course in 2015 we went into a blind support of the candidature of President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo without having a roundtable negotiation of the terms and conditions of our support. The most stupid thing to do is to blindly support anybody’s aspiration without knowing what will be your benefit in terms of allocation of resources when such a person finally wins and goes into office.”
“It is most pathetic when it is not you alone that has given the support but that you have convinced multitudes of other innocent and unsuspecting souls into giving their support blindly only on trust or sentiment without knowing what is in there for them. The people of the Middle Belt will do what do what in Nigerian parlance is called “Shine Your Eyes”. We will support anybody who is qualified to run for office of President under our constitution and has sterling qualities of a true leader. This is what we failed to do in 2011 that’s why the allocation of resources and political positions is grossly lopsided against people of the Middle Belt. This is partly because we did not have a standing structure for the Forum. Now the Forum has been restructured and we are ready to negotiate on behalf of our people come 2015.”