Can the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, and a section of the North succeed in the plot to pick a consensus candidate to confront who would confront incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential primaries? That is the basis of this story which also includes perspectives to the current issue of zoning. Add to that, moves by the NPLF to choose a consensus candidate. This report provides an insight into the workings of the committee.
By JIDE AJANI, Deputy Editor,
The story starts with President Goodluck Jonathan. His decision to contest the 2011 presidential elections on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was the catalyst. They waited patiently – leaders of the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, that is. Once they were certain that President Jonathan was going to make his public declaration to contest, they swung into action.
Sunday Vanguard’s investigation revealed that 24 hours before the President’s declaration at the Eagle Square in Abuja, a special crucial meeting was called.
The meeting took place at the Maitama, Abuja, residence of former Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
There, the Directors-General of the campaign teams of former military President Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, then out-going National Security Adviser, NSA, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd), and Kwara State governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, represented by Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chris Mammah, Senator Ben Obi and Dr. Ibrahim Yakubu Lame, respectively, needed to meet and they met.
As expected, President Jonathan would seek re-election. He was going to declare in about 24 hours’ time. Therefore, these men and their principals needed to prepare an immediate response. They did.
After their meeting, the campaign teams of the four men agreed to set up a committee that would, initially, explore the possibility of seeking a consensus candidate from among the four presidential contestants.
A communique followed the meeting. In what was meant to be a double-barrel attack, the NPLF again issued a letter addressed to the national Chairman, PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo. In that letter, the leaders admonished Nwodo to prevail on Jonathan not to seek re-election.
And what was their basis? That the zoning agreement reached at the expanded caucus meeting of the PDP on December 22, 2002, that after former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure of two terms of four years each, the North would also have its own share of eight years of two terms of four years.
They even went a step further. In the letter entitled: “RE: REQUEST FOR DECLARATION TO RESERVE THE PDP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION FOR NORTHERN ASPIRANTS AND TO RESTRAIN PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE 2010 PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY AS AN ASPIRANT”, and signed by Adamu Ciroma, MFR, Madakin Fika, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, Amb. Yahaya Kwande Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim, Alhaji Bello Kirfi, CON, Wazirin Bauchi, they insisted that “The stability and the corporate existence of our Party are all at stake and we urge you to grant our prayers.
In the event however that the Party dismisses our plea or fails to act, please take notice that in addition to other legitimate measures, we will, in concert with other aggrieved members, take any and all actions warranted by Law to obtain justice in this matter. Kindly consider this letter as a grievance under Article 21.2(1)(111) and (iv) of our Party’s 2009 Constitution as amended”. A committee was then set up with a view to presenting a consensus candidate among the four aspirants.
Committee for consensus candidate
After a few days of searching, Sunday Vanguard discovered that contrary to media reports on the composition of the committee searching for a consensus candidate, the names being touted are off the target. A member of the committee told Sunday Vanguard that “what is being published in the media and which we have seen are mere speculations. They are not correct. Most of what you are reading are not correct and I can assure you, the members of the committee, contrary to what you are reading, is not what is being published”.
Pressed further to make a disclosure, the Committee member insisted that “nothing would be given to you. We can discuss something else but not the membership of the Committee”.
Asked to give a detailed Terms of Reference, different from what was released, the member said: “I can not help you”.
However, after days of persuasion, Sunday Vanguard got to know that the composition of the Committee was based on Northern geo-political representation. Three members were selected from each of the three geo-political zones of the North – North Central, North East and North West.
A state governor from each of the three zones of the North also is being represented on the Committee. That is not all. Although it could not be confirmed, three lawyers from each of the three zones of the North are also members.
The DGs of the campaign teams are not involved, Sunday Vanguard was told.
However, presentations regarding the contestants are expected to be made by each of the campaign DGs. This, Sunday Vanguard gathered, is “with a view to ensuring that issues that would be raised regarding the appropriateness or otherwise of each of the aspirants would be addressed by each DG upon request and invitation. Further inquisition in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, revealed a partial bull’s eye.
Sunday Vanguard found out that the zones of North Central, North East and North West are being (unofficially) represented on the Committee by General David Jemibewon (rtd), Mallam Adamu Ciroma and Mohammed Dikko Yusuf, respectively.
But there are still fears in the camps of the contestants. These stem from a possible decision that may not enjoy the support of the masses teaming behind the aspirants who would definitely lose out. The Committee is expected to come up with the name of just an aspirant.
Would the other aspirants abide by the decision of the Committee?
Each of the camps, according to what Sunday Vanguard was told, believes that its candidate would come out victorious. For the Saraki camp, generational change is the catch. But if generational change is the catch, what happens to political experience and popular support?
In the case of Babangida, the same issue that is being over-flogged would be thrown up again: June 12. Aside this, he is seen as the main candidate to beat because of his network of friends within and outside the country.
Then there is Atiku, the former Vice President and at some point the single largest financier of the PDP. Some say his pursuit of the presidency has attained a desperate dimension but that would not in any way rob him of his vast experience in PDP politics, his understanding of which remains second to none. What of Gusau? He is seen in many quarters as a mystery man.
But what more than makes up for this mysterious nature is his calling. He knows the state. He is regularly called upon to protect the state. He is the man of the state. And for that, he is respected globally as a man who can protect the state. But this is actually what some people fear. Knowing so much about the state and now having executive powers as the President / Commander-in-Chief, what would he do with the power?
These and many more are issues that would be be dealt with by the Committee.
Terms of Reference
And whereas the Committee is still keeping its workings closed, Sunday Vanguard learnt that what best corresponds with the Committee’s Terms of Reference can be located in the following: Who among the contestants will contest and win against President Goodluck Jonathan? This is then further broken down into the following:
Who, among them, will best protect the interests of Northern Nigeria within the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Who will keep power for the state?
Who will use power for the protection of the state?
Who, among them, will ensure that the unity of this country is not destroyed because of pettiness and witch hunt?
Who would best deploy power in the interest of the state?
Sunday Vanguard was told that “in properly answering these questions, the profile of each of the contestants would then be matched against the bench marks set”.
Zoning In Perspectives
One source said “it would not be fair to any of the contestants for you to attempt to begin to score them. It would not only be needless but it would not achieve any objective because the members of the Committee are very committed to the job at hand.
They will not waver. They will not flinch”. But in pursuing the details of this story, Sunday Vanguard stumbled on what may, perhaps, have resolved the current crisis over zoning but the opportunity was lost. It would have actually quashed the present heightening of tension in the country over zoning.
Paradoxically, it can be located in the 1994/1995 Constitutional Conference Report of the administration of late General Sani Abacha.
Signed by the quartet of Justice Saidu Kawu (rtd), Chairman; Dr. Joseph Wayas, deputy Chairman; Justice Adolphus Godwin Karibi-Whyte, Chairman, Constitutional Conference Commission, CCC; and Justice Maman Nasir, Deputy Chairman, CCC, on June 26, 1995, the draft makes an unassailable provision in Section 142 viz:
“There shall be for the Federation three Vice Presidents”.
Section 143 (1) states:
“In any elections to which the fore-going provisions of this part of this chapter relate, a candidate for an election to the office of President shall not be deemed to be validly nominated unless he nominates three candidates, one from the President’s zone and two from the other zone, as his associates in running for the office of President, who are to occupy the office of Vice Presidents, and those candidates shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the offices of Vice Presidents if the candidate for an election to the office of the President who nominated them and such associate is duly elected as President in accordance with the provisions aforesaid”.
Had this provision not been expunged from the draft of the 1995 document, the controversy which is creating tension in the polity would have been avoided. But again, how would an incumbent, constitutionally qualified to seek re-election not be allowed because of a party rule?