By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
Their Common features Indeed, Jonathan and Atiku have a few things in common. They were both born in the month of November. While Jonathan was born on November 20, 1957, Atiku, his main and primary political opponent, was sired on November 25, 1946.
In their careers, both men had served in the Department of Customs & Excise. While Atiku served the department for 20 years, Jonathan functioned in the service for two years. The two-term former Vice President joined the Customs in 1969 and retired in 1989 after rising to the rank of Deputy Director of Customs, an equivalent of Deputy Comptroller.
On his part, Jonathan got enlisted in the Customs in 1975 as a Preventive Officer after his secondary education. He quit in 1977 on securing an admission into the Department of Zoology, University of Port Harcourt.
It will not be surprising if the duo deployed the experience they tapped from their sojourn in the Customs into the presidential contest.
Aside the Customs, Atiku and Jonathan are from unique geo-political zones – North-East and South-South. These are the only two zones that have not produced Military Heads of State. And the times people from the two zones occupied the seat of power, they were through democratic means. Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa hailed from Bauchi, North-East. He occupied the position between 1960 to 1966 through the ballot box. After him, no other person from the North-East has been president or Head of State.
The South-South shares a similar fate. It has neither produced a president nor a Head of State until Jonathan appeared on the scene, via a co-incidence of election and divine intervention. He was elected Vice President to late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua. He assumed the throne following the expiration of Yar’ Adua last May.
That may be where the commonness between both men ends. They have a lot of differences. For a start, Atiku is a Moslem while Jonathan is a Christian. Atiku is from Adamawa State, Northern Nigeria as opposed to Jonathan’s Bayelsa State, Southern Nigeria. Atiku is a polygamist while Jonathan is a monogamist.
Jonathan has one wife, Mrs. Patience Faka (from Rivers State), and two children– Aruabai and Adolphus Ariweri.
Conversely, Atiku has four wives drawn from four ethnic groups, four states and three geo-political zones, who bore him 27 children. The first wife, Hajia Titi, a Christian is from Ilesha in Osun State(South-West zone). The second wife, Rukayat is the daughter of the Lamido Adamawa (North-East). The third, Fatima is a Kanuri, Borno State (North-East) while the fourth, Jamila (formerly Jennifer Iwenjiora) is an Igbo from Onitsha, Anambra State.
It is too early to tell if these backgrounds will play a crucial role in the outcome of the PDP primaries and the April 9 elections proper. But one thing is certain, both men are not leaving anything to chance in their quest to be chief occupant of Aso Rock.
Changing political equation
The campaigns and posturing have since changed gear following the emergence of Atiku as the consensus flagbearer of North, according to the nine-man committee of the Northern Leaders Political Forum, NPLF led by Malam Adamu Ciroma last Monday.
A day after the adoption, Jonathan came out with an advertorial, in many national dailies, urging the electorate to cast their lot with him, the “consensus Nigerian candidate.”
Indeed, the emergence of Atiku Abubakar has started altering political permutations. Pundits say that the country is about to undergo an interesting phase with the political prospects of a new Nigeria.
The political will of the Nigerian nation is about to be tested with the convergence of divergent forces with the attendant far-reaching implications for the polity.
With Vice President Namadi Sambo as running mate, President Jonathan has entered the contest with the incumbency factor, Niger Delta factor, South/North factor and a perceived shy, unassuming, articulate, calm and calculating player.
On the other side, Atiku, who is expected to come up with a South-East running mate, which sources said might be named before the PDP primaries to sway delegates, is in the arena with Northern hegemony-cum- South factor, acclaimed consummate political gladiator and grandmaster, grassroots mobiliser and strategist as well as an articulate, calm and calculating master player.
Atiku is also going into the race with the backing of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusua, who lost the consensus ticket to him and thereafter pledged to collapse their campaign teams into his.
Raging tussle for PDP ticket
For the duo, the primary task now is clinching the PDP ticket, which is a different kettle of fish from the presidential election proper. The ruling party’s primaries would be won by the aspirant that woos the majority of delegates and going by current permutations it is almost a 50-50 chance between them with Jonathan having a slight edge.
The President has been endorsed by various groups and stakeholders even though most of the groups are not part of statutory delegates to the PDP convention. As of now, Jonathan has got the endorsement of the South-East, South-South and South-South PDP, Southern governors and a couple of Northern states’ helmsmen.
Presently, Atiku has the support of some North-West, North-East and North-Central governors and would-be delegates. Sources said he is push hard to get the South-East nod by picking his running mate from the region. He has promised to do a term and relinquish power to the South-East in 2015. Jonathan is yet to make a similar promise.
Towards this, Alh Abubakar has raised a committee led by former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, to advise him on the choice of a South-East running mate. Leading politicians being considered for the Number Two job include former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Senator Ben Obi among others.
Atiku to name running mate before primaries
Unlike what had prevailed in the past, sources said the running mate might be named before the PDP primaries, to sway delegates.
Sources said the Atiku camp is bent on realising the Northern plan of producing the president in 2011 in line with the PDP zoning formula.
The plan has four levels. Two has gone, remaining two. The first was to stop Jonathan from running and it failed. The second is to produce a consensus candidate to fight for the PDP flag with Jonathan and it has sailed through.
If Atiku did not get the ticket, the next plan, according to sources, is to contest on the platform of an opposition party or root for an opposition candidate without leaving the PDP.
On his part, the Jonathan’s team is upping its door-to-door campaign and firming its hold on consenting governors.
Going by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC timetable, both men have between today (November 26) and January 16, a duration of 51 days, depending on when the PDP will hold its primaries, to emerge as the standard bearer.
Implications of Jonathan, Atiku’s victory
If Jonathan wins the ticket, it might be nunc dimitis for the northern hegemony. And if Atiku wins, it might demystify and erode the power of incumbency in the polity. And depending on how the President is ‘humiliated’, he might throw his weight behind an opposition candidate, with the opposition being the beneficiary.
As it were, the winner of the race may not be the harder political puncher but one with the longer political stamina and political sagacity.