By Jide Ajani & Dayo Benson, Political Editor
LAGOSâ€”AHEAD of formal declaration by President Goodluck Jonathan to contest 2011 presidential election, a campaign team headed by Vice-President Namadi Sambo and former Chairman of Board of Trustees, BoT, of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, is already in place.
This is even as former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd), former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and National Security Adviser, NSA, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd) have reached an accord on how a consensus presidential candidate would emerge from among them.
President Jonathanâ€™s campaign team, expected to swing into action once the President declared his intention early next month, had been working behind the scene soon after it was constituted two weeks ago.
A source within the Presidency confirmed the existence of the team, saying: â€œI can confirm to you that Vice President Namadi Sambo and Chief Tony Anenih are leading the team and you will start hearing from the team as soon as the President declares early next month.â€
The source also explainedÂ why the President had not declared his intention to contest, saying that underground consultations were still on.
He said: â€œYou know when one wants to do a thing of that nature, there has to be wide underground consultations. He canâ€™t just come out like that. So, that is what is going on but the President wants to be sure of his support base and there is no doubt as to whether he will contest.â€
Oposition to Jonathan’s candidacy
The source added that some states in the North such as Kwara, Gombe, Sokoto and Jigawa, were not on the Presidentâ€™s side. It was gathered that the ambitions of Governors Bukola Saraki and Danjuma Goje of Kwara and Gombe states was the major reason the two states were opposed to Jonathanâ€™s candidacy.
Vanguard learnt that the former Head of State, Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, whose party, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, might be working against Jonathan in Sokoto and Jigawa, was not a hard nut to crack.
The source said: â€œWe donâ€™t have much problem with Jigawa because Governor Sule Lamido is former President Olusegun Obasanjoâ€™s man and he (Obasanjo) can easily call him to order.
We donâ€™t also expect to encounter problems in Katsina because the governor is battling for his own survival as he has the family of late President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua to contend with. Also, Buhari and former Speaker of House of Representatives, Aminu Masari, are not making things easy for him. So, he is not a threat to us.â€
A source close to President Goodluck Jonathan in his reaction to the setting up of President Jonathanâ€™s campaign team, however, said the head of the team will only be appointed after the President has declared early next month.
Babangida, Atiku, Gusau reach accord on consensus candidate
Meantime, an accord which General Babangida, Alhaji Atiku and General Gusau were said to have had is part of the ongoing process through which a consensus candidate would emerge from the North.
A very dependable source close to the three politicians revealed to Vanguard that â€œthe issue of arriving at a consensus candidate from the North revolves around General Babangida, Atiku and General Gusau.
â€œThe three of them are part of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NLPF, which has been championing the cause of zoning in the country. The three men had been in the fore front of the zoning agenda. They are also, without doubt, leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
â€œThe zoning agenda is a PDP agenda, and whatever anybody says, the next President of this country will be produced by the PDP. And that is why the contest for the presidential ticket of the party is very keen.â€
Vanguard was also informed of the strategy that the three politicians would employ in arriving at a consensus.
Available information suggested that the ongoing consultations embarked upon by the three politicians with state governors and legislators (at both federal and state levels), as well as a few other categories of elected public office holders across the country, was expected to culminate in the mobilisation of support.
The source said: â€œWhat the three politicians have agreed to do is to wait for President Goodluck Jonathan to publicly declare his presidential ambition before making their move.
Once President Jonathan publicly declares that he would be offering himself for participation in next yearâ€™s presidential contest, the three politicians would swing into action.
â€œBased on the agreement reached, they would all go into a sort of shadow primaries with a view to picking the most suitable and most popular choice among them.
â€œThose who would be involved in this shadow primaries, as I told you are state governors and legislators (at federal and state levels), as well as a few other categories of elected public office holders across the country with whom the three politicians have been consulting.â€
Asked whether those who would be voting at the shadow primaries would be restricted to governors and legislators from the North, the source explained: â€œIt will not be restricted to elected public office holders from the North. Like I said earlier, the consultations are going on across the six geo-political zones of the country. It s all about democracy; it is about free choice.
â€œThe three men, having agreed to work together, will respect the outcome of the process, irrespective of whoever wins at the end of the day.â€
Reminded that former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, remained a popular figure in the North and had a massive support base, the source charged back: â€œBuhari is a solo player and he is not even a member of the NPLF that is championing the cause of zoning. Buhari is not a member of the PDP. He is on his own.â€