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It’s Atiku vs Jonathan

Atiku Abubakar and President Goodluck Jonathan

IBB, Gusau, Saraki, Nnamani hail

By Emmanuel Aziken Political Editor, Henry Umoru & Gbenga Oke

ABUJA—FORMER Vice President Atiku Abubakar was chosen yesterday as the choice of the Northern political establishment to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

The choice followed a close vote among members of the Mallam Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, which facilitated the consensus arrangement.

Sources close to the committee, however, cited the North’s quest to redress the disadvantage of the North-East in presidential power and Atiku’s democratic credentials above others as his selling point.

In deciding for Atiku, the Committee, Vanguard learnt, considered the predominance of the North-Central and North-West in previous governments headed by northerners.

I accept decision—Saraki

Kwara State governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki said yesterday that he has accepted the decision of the Mallam Adamu Ciroma’s Consensus Candidate Committee which came up with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the anointed one for the north.

The campaign organisations of the three losers, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Aliyu Gusau and Governor Bukola Saraki immediately pledged to respect the agreement entered by the four aspirants to support the winning aspirant. With the development, Atiku’s already vibrant campaign organisation is to be subsumed into a super campaign organisation in which all four aspirants would play a role.

A draft structure for the campaign organisation, Vanguard learnt, is to be approved by the four aspirants in a meeting expected within days.

Atiku’s choice was conveyed to newsmen at an emergency press conference addressed by the Secretary to the NPLF, Mallam Abdulkadir Sabo Bello, who reiterated the north’s position on zoning and determination to complete the four year tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Bello read out a statement jointly signed with the NPLF Chairman, Mallam Ciroma.

The statement:

“We are pleased to announce that we have concluded our assignment of arriving at a consensus candidate today and one out of the four aspirants who submitted themselves to the process has emerged. He is Atiku Abubakar.

‘’We are glad and proud that we have finally arrived at this outcome after several weeks of hard work and wide consultations. We are proud because of the unusual honour and extraordinary privilege given us by the four gentlemen who placed their political destinies in our hands.

“We are humbled by the strength of their faith. We appreciate their humility and cooperation. We have been reassured by all of them that they will work together to enable Atiku Abubakar clinch their party’s ticket in the presidential primaries.

‘’We thank all Nigerians, supporters and critics alike for their views over these past several weeks. While we note these views and respect each one of them, we insist that no individual, organisation or society dreaming of success and greatness can achieve these dreams without respect for others and honouring agreements voluntarily entered into.

“This is especially so where these agreements have been transformed into a binding document, a constitution, which governs the conduct of those who subscribe to it.

‘’We call on all Nigerians to reflect on this. We also call on all delegates to the forthcoming party conventions to take these into account while casting votes. God bless the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

How Atiku emerged

Atiku’s choice, it was learnt, was based on his credentials in fighting for democracy values in the past especially his trenchant opposition to the third term constitutional proposal in the second term of the Obasanjo presidency.

Besides, Atiku who is from Adamawa State in the North-East geopolitical zone was also helped by the fact that his geopolitical zone has held power least of the three geopolitical zones in the North. Of the 35 years that power has been in the North, the North-East benefitted only for six years between 1960 and 1966 when Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa was head of Nigeria’s first government.

Besides, the committee members were believed to have equally cited the fact that the North-East produced only one of the eight former Northern Nigerians to have governed Nigeria in either civilian or military capacities.

Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi State is the only person from the North-East to have ruled Nigeria. Gen. Murtala Muhammed, President Shehu Shagari, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Gen. Sanni Abacha came from the North-West. Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar are from the North-Central.

Nnamani reacts

In his reaction, former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani said: “I am pleased that the Northern Elders Forum is able to come up with a consensus Northern aspirant for the PDP presidential primaries. This is a good development as the contest will be quite competitive. I congratulate the consensus aspirant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and I wish him success at the primaries.”

We have no hand in it – PDP

THE national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said yesterday that it has no hand in the consensus arrangement of the Mallam Adamu Ciroma’s consensus candidate committee which produced former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the chosen one for the north.

Reacting to yesterday’s development, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali  described the exercise as an arrangement purely amongst individual aspirants within the party.

In a text message to Vanguard, Alkali said: “As elections approach, politicians are bound to adopt variety of strategies to achieve their objectives. The consensus approach is, therefore, an arrangement purely amongst individual aspirants within the party.

The leadership of the party has no input in this, as it is a cardinal policy of the NWC to remain neutral.

“Our primary concern has been and still is to provide a level playing field to all contestants at all levels. It is our commitment and determination to remain neutral and fair to all those who put themselves forward to contest for primaries on the platform of our great party, the PDP.”

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