By Jide Ajani
The 12-member Committee set up to pick a consensus candidate for the North has met with the presidential aspirants – former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former National Security Adviser, NSA, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd), and Kwara State governor, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki.
The meeting secured a commitment from each of them to abide by its decision.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the name of the consensus presidential candidate chosen by the committee will not be made public immediately after the selection but withheld until a week to primaries of the PDP.
The reason for this includes but not limited to what a source disclosed to Sunday Vanguard as “the need not to open such a candidate to unnecessary ambush by opponents of zoning”.
Sunday Vanguard was informed that the questions the committee members are saddled with include:
“Who will likely win against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan?
“Who among them are the other parts of the country comfortable with?”
Sunday Vanguard gathered that “these questions would also be posed to some governors and key stakeholders across the country. The northern governors are involved and are being carried along in this project. The National Assembly members are also being carried along”.
That is not all.
Another key question which members of the committee would seek answers to from the aspirants themselves would be the issue of who any three of them are likely to support if confronted to make a choice among them.
Babangida consolidates on lobbying
General Babangida, in the meantime, has continued to consolidate on his negotiations and lobbying with a view to enlisting the support of more delegates ahead of the decision of the committee. Sunday Vanguard was told that the former military president has revved his campaign and is insisting that the campaigns be issue based.
By the same token, Gusau, Sunday Vanguard was told, “may have secured another sizeable chunk of northern delegates’ support as he continues his consultations. The former NSA is moving on and waxing stronger. Those who thought his late entry into the race was a discount would be surprised to discover how far he has gone with negotiations and consultations”.
One source said “the general is matching on and you just wait until the committee decides”.
Atiku, during the week, was said to have had a private session with Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, automatic delegates in Plateau, Sokoto, and Kebbi States which he is said to have visited in the last two weeks.
In Sokoto, according to information made available to Sunday Vanguard, “over 200 delegates attended different meetings which he hosted.”.
In Plateau State, the former Vice President was said to have “hosted more than 150 delegates who converged from the North Central States to meet him”.
Although Sunday Vanguard was told that his visit to the Sokoto axis of the North West was to condole with the people of the states where the recent flood disaster that left hundreds of thousands of people homeland and extensive farmlands destroyed, the visit turned political because delegates from across the North West states converged on Sokoto and Kebbi to interact with the former Vice President.
A member of the National Assembly and automatic delegate to the PDP primaries who attended one of the meetings with the former Vice President said many of the delegates pledged their support for his presidential aspiration because of what they referred to as his steadfast defence of democracy.
“A recurrent reference during the meetings which lasted until the early hours of the following days was the opposition of the former Vice President to attempts by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo to amend the constitution and have a third term in office.
“Many of them were emphatic that the debate on zoning and indeed the 2011 elections would not have materialised if Obasanjo had achieved his third term ambition”.
The delegates who expressed their resolve to defend the zoning arrangement in the PDP vowed to protect their votes in the primary election to ensure that Atiku emerges as the candidate of the party”.
On the part of the Kwara State governor, Abubakar Bukola Saraki is also said to be banking on the support of his colleagues in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.