By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor & Luka Biniyat
ABUJA — The four presidential aspirants forged in alliance against President Goodluck Jonathan for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential ticket were in suspense yesterday after it emerged that the nine-man committee was inconclusive after its meetings with the quartet.
The Committee is to announce its choice of a presidential aspirant by noon tomorrow at a press conference to be addressed by the Chairman of the nine-man committee of wisemen, Mallam Adamu Ciroma.
Aspirants meet with Ciroma
The four aspirants, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Bukola Saraki, Gen. Aliyu Gusau and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida took turns to meet with the Ciroma committee in a private residence in Abuja yesterday following which the Committee retired for a separate closed door meeting to ponder on the issues raised with each of the aspirants.
Meanwhile, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, could offer a platform to any of the aspirants who decides to further his ambition on the party’s platform, a senior party official told Vanguard yesterday. The party, it was disclosed, would not lock out new members from seeking elective offices as it is the rule in the PDP.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on its part yesterday warned that it would not recognise any consensus candidate presented by any party who did not emerge through democratic means.
Atiku was the first to meet with the committee yesterday followed by Gusau, then Saraki and last on the line to meet with the committee was Gen. Babangida.
Vanguard gathered yesterday that the meetings spanned in some cases up to two hours. The aspirants were quizzed on the policies they desired to implement if given the opportunity of governing the country.
“It was a serious interview and they were asked questions ranging from their economic plans to issues on national security and foreign policy,” one source privy to the proceedings told Vanguard yesterday.
Following the interview sessions with the different aspirants, the Committee proceeded to an undisclosed location in Abuja where members reviewed the weaknesses and strengths of each of the aspirants.
At the end of the meeting, the committee is expected to come up with a recommendation which will be passed on to the four aspirants at a meeting later today. The Mallam Ciroma-led committee, it was learnt, would vote among themselves to choose the aspirant to back.
Aspirants to meet Jonathan today
Meanwhile, the aspirants are preparing to meet with President Jonathan today on undisclosed issues. The president, it was learnt, wrote each of the aspirants separately and each responded positively towards the meeting.
ANPP ticket open to failed consensus aspirants
Meanwhile, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, has said that it would not be unmindful having anyone of the rejected aspirants flying its ticket so long as such an aspirant met the standards required by the party.
ANPP’s national publicity secretary, Emma Eneukwu told Vanguard yesterday that there would be no automatic tickets but equally affirmed that the party unlike the PDP would not lock out new entrants from picking its presidential ticket.
“If a candidate fails to secure the flag of any party in the presidential primaries, he can attempt to get that of the ANPP only if he queues behind those that were there before him after formally relinquishing the membership of his former party.
“The person must first of all register as a member of the ANPP in his ward, fulfil all the laid down requirements before coming to vie. He will then compete for the ticket with others,” he said.
Affirming that the party does not lock out new members, he said: “For political offices, we do not specify time limit. You can join and contest any time, as long as you meet other criteria. The reason is that we are seeking credible candidates,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
We won’t recognise imposed consensus candidate—INEC
Regina Omo_Agege, INEC Acting Director, Political Party Monitoring and Liaison, gave the warning of the electoral body’s determination to stop candidates who emerged through an undemocratic consensus arrangement on the sidelines of the Monitoring Training Workshop for INEC staff in Abuja.
She noted that any consensus arrangement that failed to garner the support of all the aspirants involved would be deemed illegal and unconstitutional.
The training workshop organised by INEC through the support of the Democratic Governance Development Project, DGD, DFID and UNDP is aimed at building capacity of INEC staff for monitoring of political party primaries and conventions
“A situation where we have 100 and only two voices agree is not consensus. It is illegal. It is undemocratic. We are not going to take that negative consensus.
“If the party says consensus can be allowed, let them bring out all those contesting for the position. As long as one person is complaining, (there is) no consensus,” she declared.
Omo-Agege urged political parties to shun any arrangement that did not conform to its constitution as well as laid down democratic processes.
“If the constitution says two-third majority, then you go by two-third majority. But if the word consensus is used, it has nothing to do with two-third majority. It is agreement by all,” she said.