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The road to consensus

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By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
The journey to Alh. Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as a consensus presidential candidate of a section of the North started, subtly, about seven months ago.

But it took a concrete shape upon the swearing in of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as President on May 6, 2010 following ‘clear’ signals that Jonathan is interested in occupying the position post-May 29, 2011.

Jonathan was deputy to late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, from Katsina, North-Central zone in line with a zoning arrangement in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Were Yar’Adua to be alive, he would have been handed an automatic ticket to re-contest his seat on PDP’s platform. Yar’Adua’s recurring ill-health, which took a turn for the worse in November 2009, meant it was a matter of time before Jonathan assumed the throne.

Some leading Northern politicians and kitchen cabinet of Yar’Adua were averse to the move and wanted power to remain in the North.

The posture heated up the polity and at last, the National Assembly saved the day by paving the way for Jonathan to be sworn-in as acting president on February 9, 2010, in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

With Jonathan, a Bayelsan and South-Southerner on the saddle, the next line of action was to dissuade him from seeking to run in 2011 and be contented with ‘completing Yar’Adua’s term.’

Many Northern groups including the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF and Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF asked Jonathan not to contest and even urged the PDP National Executive Committee, NEC, National Working Committee, NWC and Board of Trustees, BOT, to stop him.

Pressured by groups from his native South-South, which produces oil that accounts for 85 per cent of the country’s foreign revenue but is yet to produce president, Jonathan could not yield to the demands to abstain from running.

All organs of the ruling party held that Jonathan had the constitutional right to run but noted that the PDP zoning formula favoured the North to produce the president in 2011.

The stage was thus set for the NPLF led by former Finance Minister, Alh. Adamu Ciroma, to begin the push to adopt a consensus PDP flagbearer, to slug it out with Jonathan at the party’s primaries.

Former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President, Atiku, Kwara State Governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki and former National Security Adviser, Mohammed Aliyu Gusau embraced consensus arrangement. However, another aspirant, Mrs. Sarah Jubril, distanced herself from it.

The NPLF raised a 17-man committee, later pruned down to 12 to hammer out modalities for the consensus aspirant and worked on it for over three months before producing Atiku yesterday.

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