By Henry Umoru
The four presidential aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) jostling for the consensus candidacy of the north ahead of the 2011 polls are facing fresh hurdles.
Sunday Vanguard learnt yesterday that the Mallam Adamu Ciroma-led ‘17 wise men’, spearheading the consensus candidacy, has set four criteria the aspirant that would eventually emerge must meet.
The criteria were set just as one of the aspirants, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), said he would respect the outcome of the exercise.
The other aspirants are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; General Aliyu Gusau, serial National Security Adviser (NSA) and Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State.
The consensus committee was said to have raised a sub committee last week to commence further consultations across the three geo-political zones in the north to aggregate the views of the stakeholders on who best to pick from the quartet.
The need for further consultations came amid the claim of difficulty by the Consensus Committee in arriving at a decision on the exercise geared at picking a northerner to wrestle the PDP primaries with President Goodluck Jonathan.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the ‘17 wise men’ set the four criteria: age, experience, national acceptability and contribution to democracy and democratic values, to produce a strong aspirant to face Jonathan.
Using age as a yardstick, a source close to the committee said the criterion was working against Babangida and Gusau, just as he stressed that Babangida, who is 69 will clock 70 years next year. Gusau is already 67, Atiku 65 while Saraki is 49.
In the area of experience, Babangida who was judged as having served as head of state for eight years scored high here with Atiku, also as former vice president also considered alongside Saraki as governor for seven years and a half while Gusau was said to have scored low. Gusau only got his experience in the security circle and not democracy.
On national acceptability, Atiku was said to be leading, followed by Saraki while Gusau did not come close to them. Babangida was said to be under fire in the area of national acceptability following the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election adjudged to be the freest, fair and most credible in the history of Nigeria.
In the area of contribution to democracy and democratic values, Babangida, Atiku and Saraki came up high while Gusau’s name was barely mentioned, though it was said to be argued that as a security adviser, he helped in the stability of the polity while Babangida was said to have introduced MAMSER, the two parties of the aborted third republic, Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention, NRC, as well as put in place party secretariats in all the local governments of the country, but, above all, the sin of annulment brought him down.
Among the ’17 wise men’ are two state governors, Alhaji Sule Lamido of Jigawa and Danjuma Goje of Gombe. Others include Chief Audu Ogbeh, Professor Ango Abdullahi, Dr. Yakubu Lami, Senator Iyorcha Ayu, Ignacious Ayu and Ricky Tafa (SAN).
I’ll respect north’s verdict – IBB
Meanwhile, Babangida, said, weekend, that he would accept the decision of the consensus candidate arrangement.
Answering questions from newsmen in Katsina, IBB said though his chances of emerging as the candidate were bright, he was ready to accept whatever decision the committee took on the issue.
Babangida, who expressed confidence in the ability of the committee, said all the three other aspirants had also agreed to abide by the committee’s decision.
He said: “You know this issue is being looked at by very credible people who have spent all their lives working for this country, who know what is best for this country, and who we (the aspirants) respect a lot because of their integrity.”
IBB, who was in the state to consult with stakeholders over his presidential ambition, said if elected president, he would ensure that the country remained united and one indivisible nation.
He noted: “I want to see a strong united Nigeria, a rich and prosperous Nigeria where every person, irrespective of gender, religion, tribe or whatever has an opportunity to develop his capacity.
“I want to also see a country that is at peace with itself, with its citizens and with other nations.” he added.