Despite its claim of joy at the emergence of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as the choice of the Mallam Adamu Ciroma led Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan would rather have had him defeated.
Atiku’s choice opens the way to what could be a very eventful presidential primary in which the political neophytes, Jonathan and his number two man, Namadi Sambo would be meeting Atiku in his native habitat.
The outlook in the first instance looks very challenging for the Jonathan camp who would be fighting a very rugged politician with bloodied experience in the last two presidential contests.
After skipping the 2003 presidential contest at the last hour, Atiku fought his way through all manner of obstacles that were placed against him within the PDP and the electoral system. In all he emerged almost victorious with the exception of the presidential election where his participation was essentially a formality.
The decision of the Ciroma committee to back Atiku it was learnt was upon the quest to redress the disproportion in the occupancy of the nation’s highest political office. Of the eight political leaders of the country to have emerged from the North only one, that is Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, hailed from the Northeast.
The North-West and the North-Central respectively have occupied the highest political office in civilian and military cloaks four and three times respectively.
Remarkably, the other three presidential aspirants in the consensus arrangement, that is General Ibrahim Babangida, Governor Bukola Saraki and General Aliyu Gusau are keeping to their promise not to break ranks and are now fusing their campaign organisations in support of Atiku.
General Babangida it is generally believed would use the opportunity of his having been by-passed to rebuild his reputation as a national statesman after having involved himself in the seemingly sectional drive for a consensus aspirant.
However, there are doubts that had the decision gone the contrary for Atiku that he would have abided by the consensus arrangement given his level of preparation and determination for the nation’s highest political office.
With the battle coast now clear the two main aspirants are now set for the battle of getting the highest number of candidates required to qualify as the PDP presidential candidate.
In the Southwest where three of the six States are controlled by PDP governors, Atiku would have an uphill task battling the governors all of whom have openly declared support for Jonathan. Atiku would also be confronted with his old nemesis, President Obasanjo who has some measure of control over the delegates from the zone.
Since it is essentially a PDP affair, Atiku would have to tap into his old network in the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) to make some measurable showing in the Southwest. Lamentably for him the bedrock of the PDM in the zone have mostly retired out of politics or have joined the Goodluck train. President Jonathan if he is not betrayed by the governors should take majority of the delegates from the zone.
The South-South is President Jonathan’s home, but his influence over the region’s politics is relatively loose. With many of the governors only supporting him merely in appreciation of his origin, the chances of betrayal or attack from home undermining the essence of a Jonathan presidency is never remote.
The possibility of such an eruption is further exhibited by the continuing attacks between some Jonathan’s close associates and some governors as in Delta, Bayelsa, and Rivers.
Atiku has the brightest chance in the South in the eastern side of the River Niger. Despite the endorsement given the Jonathan aspiration by Igbo socio cultural group, Ohaneze Ndigbo, the chances of an Igbo man ruling Nigeria in the immediate future rests with the emergence of Atiku. Atiku’s promise to serve only one term could lure some substantial votes for him in the geopolitical zone.
Atiku’s chance looks brightest in Anambra State which is without a PDP governor. The Southeast if votes are in secret could therefore become an open contest.
Atiku’s chances despite the near complete dominance of the PDP governors in the region is bright in the Northwest. He would be helped further if Gen. Babangida and Gen. Gusau marshall support for him in Zamfara where the two retired Generals have some measure of influence. He would also be helped by the sentiment of zoning in this section of the country where belief in the zone’s claim to eight years of political dominance starting from 2007 to 2015 is a mantra.
Vice-President Sambo will have to overwork himself to stop an Atiku run in the region.
Despite winning the consensus ticket on the premise of him being from the Northeast which has been under represented in the power equation, Atiku’s political dominance of the region is not guaranteed. He has his normal political enemies in Adamawa and Yobe. In Adamawa it would be difficult to see Governor Murtala Nyako giving him full support.
He is also expected to face similar trouble in Yobe given Adamu Maina Waziri’s control of the PDP. Atiku’s traditional foes at home would be the ones to give Jonathan some respite in the Northeast.
The North Central is an open contest between Atiku and Jonathan. While Kwara would give its full support for Atiku, Niger delegates would vote according to the whims of the Chief Servant while the other States in the middle belt would largely swing towards Jonathan.