By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, Political Editor & DAPO AKINREFON
LAGOS – THE 2011 presidential contest was, last night, enveloped in a game of intrigues over possible alliances by opposition parties against the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The intrigues being laced around plans to build a consensus Northern presidential candidate came against the background of reports that three former presidential aspirants of the PDP from the North had lent their political machines in the Southwest behind the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, presidential candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, one of the three aspirants was, however, non committal on the issue, yesterday, as he affirmed that he was keeping his options on the April 9 presidential contest open.
Vanguard learnt that Atiku was carefully avoiding contacts with any of the presidential candidates.
Associates of former President Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Aliyu Gusau were, however, divided on the Buhari option.
The confusion was further heightened last night after the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, at the end of a meeting kept mute. Atiku, Babangida and Gusau were reportedly present at the meeting, and no communiqué was issued at the end.
However, normally reliable sources in the NPLF told Vanguard that Babangida, Atiku and Gusau had already lent their machines in the Southwest to Buhari. One source within the movement said: “We have decided to support Buhari and the structures in the Southwest are now actively working to strengthen Buhari in the region.”
Reaction from Buhari’s team
Repeated efforts to get a reaction from Buhari’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, on the development were unsuccessful at press time. Atiku’s spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, flatly denied any collaboration between Atiku and Buhari in the Southwest.
He told Vanguard: “It is not true and Atiku has declined to meet with any of the presidential candidates. It is not for nothing that though there have been requests that he has decided to put his distance to all for now.”
The intrigues and the silence of the Northern political leaders is coming against the background of the proposed collaboration between the CPC and Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in the presidential contest.
The two parties are expected to meet early next week to take a decision that may entail one of the parties stepping down its presidential candidate in order to allow a united front against the PDP’s Dr. Jonathan.
The NPLF at the end of a meeting with South East leaders on March 24 had parried support for the PDP’s Jonathan saying in a communiqué that their followers should support only those candidates in support of zoning.