WAR AGAINST ATIKU, JONATHAN'S CAMP SET FOR BATTLE
Barely a week after the announcement of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the consensus candidate of the Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), there are indications of fresh hurdles to frustrate the presidential ambition of the Turaki Adamawa.
On one hand, the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organization is said to be jittery over Atiku's emergence contrary to media reports that it came to the group as a relief and is already strategizing on how to scuttle his bid for the sole Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket for the 2011 election.
The development comes amid feelers that tension is gradually mounting in the North over Atiku's emergence as the NPLF preferred choice. Sunday Sun gathered from an authoritative source close to the Presidency that power brokers in the Jonathan camp are already armed with a catalogue of Atiku's negative activities in office as vice president.
Atiku was Nigeria's number two citizen under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration between 1999 and 2007. It was gathered that his former boss, Obasanjo, is likely to anchor the 'stop Atiku' project as he is believed to have more information on the former VP, having worked with him. 'Don't mind media reports that the Jonathan camp was jubilating when Atiku emerged as the consensus candidate of the North. It is not true. You are going to see a lot of smear campaign in the weeks ahead. A can of worms may likely be opened when the battle starts.
'They know that Atiku is not an underdog in politics and they are having sleepless nights on how to stop him from launching himself back into the hearts of power brokers in the PDP, especially the governors. They also think he has a lot of political baggage that would sway Nigerians against the former vice president.
'Remember that Atiku has a history of surviving many political battles. Remember that Obasanjo did all he could to stop him from contesting in 2007 but failed. In 2003, Obasanjo was reported to have knelt down for him when his re-election became difficult. At that time, the governors were more loyal to Atiku than Obasanjo.
'If you know Obasanjo well, his fight with Atiku is not over yet because he knows the implication of the emergence of the former vice president,' the source said. Jonathan's field men are also said to be aware of the fact that Atiku has a lot of money and knows how to deploy it during elections. Part of what shocked those in Jonathan's camp, according to our source, was the acceptance of Atiku by the other aspirants that lost in the race for the consensus candidate immediately he was announced by the NPLF.
It was gathered that supporters of Jonathan had hoped that the other three candidates would reject the decision of the Ciroma committee. Our source also informed that part of the worry in Jonathan's camp is that his supporters are not sure of the loyalty of some northern governors. For instance, since Atiku emerged, Governors Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) have been meeting secretly to chart a new course for the North.
Known as the G3, the group has met in different places including Yola, Sokoto and Dutse. Whereas some insist the governors were working for Jonathan, others believe the G3 was established as a counterpoise to the Ciroma committee. Our source told Sunday Sun that part of the fear is that the Turaki Adamawa has a history with governors and northern elders, who are usually influential during elections.
Already, his image is said to be on the rise again in the North with a coalition of supporters of candidates who lost in the race for the NPLF consensus candidate working desperately to launch him back into the hearts of power brokers. Our source said that the manner Atiku beat other big guns in the keenly contested battle for the NPLF ticket came as a surprise to kingmakers in the North with many of them thinking that he may be the man to help the geo-political zone recapture power in 2011.
'Since Atiku was announced by the Ciroma committee as the 'consensus candidate of the North,' the mood among people of the area is changing. Even those who ordinarily could not have given Atiku a chance are beginning to have a rethink. 'Many expected that the former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, was going to easily emerge as the consensus candidate.
So, for Atiku to have beaten a man who is considered as a movement in Nigeria, the calculation is that if the North rally round him in the PDP primaries, he would be a hard nut to crack by the Jonathan camp,' the source said. He added that having inherited the late General Musa Yar'Adua-led Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), arguably the most powerful political structure in Nigeria, it would not be impossible if Atiku comes with another surprise package in the PDP primaries.
According to him, the same odds that favoured Atiku against the other three aspirants in the consensus project might also come into play at the primaries of the ruling party.