By Ehis Osajie
Fears that the core northern states of the North West and North East geo-political zones might be a clog in President Jonathan’s desire to clinch the Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket for the 2011 general elections has heightened with the recent forays of both former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and ex military president Ibrahim Babaginda in these politically strategic states.

Many hitherto Jonathan/ Sambo’s reliable supporters in most states of the North are falling prey to the rhetoric of Adamu Ciroma led Northern Political Leaders Forum NPLF, and the deft political maneuvers  of both Atiku and Babangida midway into the battle.

This has no doubt  sent jitters into the campaign off ice of Dr Goodluck Jonathan and Ach Namadi Sambo

The recent endorsement of General Babangida by both the executive and legislative arms of government in Kaduna and Bauchi States shows the enormous task before Jonathan/ Sambo Campaign Oganisation in its bid to win the hearts of the North.

Media reports said that Governor Patrick Yakowa, a beneficiary of the Jonathan/Sambo presidency,  openly expressed his support for IBB when the latter came to open his campaign office in the state. According to the governor, the former military president “is the most qualified of all the presidential aspirants on the PDP platform.”

But miffed by the reaction of the presidency, the governor has since denied endorsing IBB, saying that the media misquoted him. A statement from the governor’s office explained that Yakowa only said, “Babangida is eminently qualified to lead Nigeria after 2011 polls”.

Not satisfied with what analyst have described as afterthought, the presidency has reportedly demanded for an explanation from Governor Yakowa. A source in the presidency said that “both President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo were shocked when the report was brought to their attention.”

Speaking further the source said, “we know the pains we are going through here in Abuja and Kaduna trying to convince the Kaduna people to give Yakowa the opportunity to continue in office in 2011”

Some analysts have alleged a Northern agenda . According to the latter school of thought  the game plan of some Northern leaders is to play along with the President’s campaign group, only to switch allegiance to the mainstream position of Northern consensus candidate when Jonathan  will be too weak to confront them.

The popular belief in the North is that it is the position of the region to contest the 2011 election as stated in the Peoples Democratic Party constitution. In most parts of the North with the exception of Benue and Plateau states, supporters of Jonathan /Sambo 2011 campaign are regarded as opportunists who do not have the interest of the North.

In Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna and Katsina states Atiku’s candidacy is said to be  enjoying popular support among PDP statutory delegates who have vowed not to be led by the nose again.

Last Wednesday, notable Northern leaders on the platform of Northern Patriots, joined issues with opponents of Ciroma’S f NPLF, saying that the 2011 presidency was not negotiable.

While extolling the virtues of the members of the Northern elders who rose against Jonathan’s interest, the group berated the promoters of the president’s ambition, describing them as divisive “by virtue of their bid to truncate zoning which has given all sections of the country a sense of belonging and fair representation.

A statement released by its chairman, Shehu Saleh Hassan reads: “We wish to alert Nigerians that those who championed the third term of former President Olusegun Obasanjo are the same characters championing the aspirations of President Goodluck Jonathan.

They include Governors Gabriel Suswam, Senator Abba Aji, Alhaji Samaila Sambawa, Senator Dalhatu Sarki Tafida and Saminu Turaki, among others. We wish to state, for the umpteenth time, that the issue of a Northern president come 2011 is and remains non negotiable.

This unequivocal position of the mainstream Northern leaders has shored up the support base of not only  Atiku,  Babaginda and Gusau but also  Governor Bukola  Saraki  in the seventeen Northern states.

Even Governor Sule Lamido who had never hidden his disdain for the promoters of presidential candidates of Northern extraction, especially the Adamu Ciroma led group, appears to be singing a new song.

Just last Thursday when  Governor Bukola visited him, Lamido was reported to have canvassed for the former’s presidential project. According to the governor, Saraki “is the most qualified to be presented by the PDP as its presidential candidate”

He spoke about his “advantage of age, proven ability and his successful tenure as chairman of the Governor’s Forum’ If you are looking for quality, to me you are the best and I can say that anywhere, “ he emphasised.

What  does this sudden switch of allegiance in the Northern part of the country pose to the Jonathan/ Sambo 2011 presidency?  Does this amount to a smooth ride for whoever emerges as a consensus candidate for the North?

Most analysts believe that all is not lost for Jonathan, especially with nationwide goodwill and apparent  block support in the South-South and South West. Their optimism is hinged on the president campaign managers’ ability to hold his share of supporters in  the South East and North Central regions, and wrest whatever is available from the core Northern states.

But there are fears that PDP delegates from only two or three states in the two  Northern regions  might whittle down the advantages of wholesale support from the remaining four regions.

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