SaharaReporters can authoritatively report that the jostling for the 2015 presidential election is gathering momentum among numerous Northern politicians.
Our investigations revealed that several political groups have emerged in the North. One is anchored by former military leaders, Generals Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Adamu Ciroma and a retired university professor and administrator, Ango Abdullahi, the other by Christian elements in the North who are backing a second term for President Goodluck Jonathan.
Both groups have gone underground in order to strategize for the next presidential election.
Members of a political bloc led by the retired generals and Mr. Atiku have held several late-night meetings in Kaduna, Abuja and outside the country. A competing group, whose top leaders are mostly Christian politicians, is anchored by Jerry Gana, Solomon Lar, andLabaran Maku. The group supports a second term for Mr. Jonathan. Apart from the Babangida, Abdulsalami and Atiku axis, another major group sponsored by Governors Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and Sule Lamido of Jigawa State is also working for the realization of a Northern president 2015. Even though this group wants a president of Northern extraction, they have significant differences with the Babangida-Atiku group. SaharaReporters learned that both groups have been going around different parts of the North in search of “common ground” to heal frayed relations between Northern Muslims and Christians.
A prominent Christian leader in the North confirmed to SaharaReporters that moves are being made by the IBB/Abdulsalami/Atiku group “to arrive at a common ground.”
“Yes, IBB has been sending emissaries and they met us and we told them our grievances. He and his group have realized that without the North being united, it will lose relevance in the larger politics of Nigeria. And it is better they try now to forge unity first or else they will lose bearing as it is with the North now.”
The source added that prominent Muslim politicians in the North have been trying to woe the Christian leaders to work for a united front.
He disclosed, however, that many Christian political figures are skeptical because of the spate of attacks against Christians and churches in the North.
“Many of us [Christians] feel it will be difficult to convince Christian voters in the North to follow their [Northern Muslim] line ahead of 2015.”
The source added: “They saw how division of the North along Christian-Muslim line helped President Jonathan to win in 2011. If the trend with the Boko Haram continues, the same thing will happen in 2015. It is very clear that the Christian North will notjust trust reconciliation on the political altar. Only time will tell.”
An informed Northern political analyst told SaharaReporters that Governors Aliyu and Lamido’s group is made up mainly of elements from the Northern Governors Forum.
“They are seeking, within the ambit of the forum, to extend their political mileage and influence. Some of the elements in the group are suspicious of the Babangida-led group."
“Many Northern governors view Babangida, Atiku and the rest of them as people who scuttled opportunities for economic development, political unity and democracy in the North,” said the analyst.
“That’s why the governors and other younger politicians want to stay ahead of the IBB group’s game,” he added.
Our source said members of the IBB group also view the Aliyu/Lamido group as mainly mercenaries of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
“Babangida believes somebody like Lamido and a lot of Northern governors are stooges who act out the whims and caprices of Chief Obasanjo,” adding that Mr. Obasanjo “is perceived to be tailoring President Jonathan’s second term bid.”
The source disclosed that the biggest setback for the IBB group was the Boko Haram insurgency which many Christians, “both within the North and outside, view erroneously as a militant group formed to target Christians generally and the Jonathan administration in particular.”
He added, “Many people forget that Boko Haram launched its first major attacks when the late Yar’Adua was in power.”