By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, Political Editor, EMMAN OVUAKPORIE & INALEGWU SHAIBU
REVELATIONS, yesterday, emerged of how former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, backtracked from becoming the only candidate of the major opposition parties in the forthcoming presidential election and the offer of funds for his presidential campaign.
The disclosures came as talks to herald a united opposition were officially pronounced dead, weekend, following the collapse of tripartite talks by the trio of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
The collapse of the talks came as CPC and ACN separately intensified pressure on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the North. The CPC in a remarkable political gesture chose a younger brother of former President Umaru Yar’Adua, Lt. Col. Abdulazziz Musa Yar‘Adua, as running mate to Senator Garba Lado, its gubernatorial candidate for Katsina State.
Talks by the opposition parties on presenting a unified presidential candidate to fight the PDP broke down, weekend, after General Buhari reportedly rejected entreaties to ply his ambition on any other banner apart from his CPC.
Flying the ACN banner
Vanguard learnt that Buhari had, in the first stages of the talks, leaned towards flying the banner of the ACN but reportedly changed his mind after confidantes in The Buhari Organisation, TBO, persuaded him to the contrary.
It was further gathered that even the ACN presidential candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, had offered to withdraw for him but on the condition that he, Buhari, flies the ACN flag, which Ribadu and other party officials said was a more known and recognizable party. The ACN, it was learnt, was willing to offset the funding for the presidential campaign had Buhari agreed to the request.
The TBO officials had told the ACN emissaries that Buhari was in control of the votes in the North and as such should be able to decide the platform for the contest.
ACN officials were equally adamant on the ACN being represented during the presidential contest. The party officials, Vanguard learnt, were concerned about a bandwagon effect derailing the ACN in its strongholds in the Southwest as it happened in the 2003 elections when the Alliance for Democracy, AD, entered into an alliance with the PDP for the presidential elections.
That alliance is blamed for the wipe out of the party from the Southwest.
One high ranking party official told Vanguard, weekend: “The presidential election is taking place before the governorship election and if we tell people to go and vote for CPC in the presidential election, how do we go back within one week to again tell them to go and vote for ACN for the gubernatorial election.”
Confirming the party’s withdrawal from further talks with the CPC, the ACN National Secretary, Senator Lawali Shuaibu, said that the party had too much at stake to concede to a party as the CPC which he said lacks the necessary national structure.
Conceding the presidency
He said: “We have governments from the federal to the local government level while CPC cannot even boast of a councillor anywhere yet we were ready to concede the presidency to them.
“At the national level we have legislators at the Senate and House of Representatives; at the state level we have four serving governors and innumerable local government chairmen yet they want us to fly their flag that is practicably impossible. Let me tell you something, I will continue to say it, ACN is the party to beat in this country not the ruling PDP, in the next general election.
“We have what it takes to form the next national government come May this year as the Nuhu Ribadu ticket would sweep the PDP from power; mark my words.”
Asked whether there could be the possibility of reconciling their differences, Shuaibu said, such prospects were over as they could no longer meet with the INEC deadline.
Losing sleep over alliance talks
He said: “We are not losing sleep over alliance talks any longer. We have a credible candidate in Ribadu who has such a tall credential to deliver at the polls. He is young and energetic he can change the country for the betterment of all within a short period and take Nigeria to the next level without compromising standards in governance.
“He has displayed an impeccable leadership style even at a much younger age when he excellently built a new image for Nigeria as an anti_corruption crusader when he managed the affairs of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
“At the time he took over as pioneer chairman of the anti_graft agency no Nigerian was willing to accept such a thankless job and he performed it to the admiration of all Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, the CPC and ACN were, weekend, putting pressure on the PDP in the North. CPC gubernatorial candidate for Katsina, Senator Garba Lado, told newsmen in Abuja that he had chosen Lt. Col Yar’Adua to be his running mate.
He said: “The CPC has picked Alhaji Abdulazeez Yar’Adua as running mate for the governorship candidate in the April general election. Our choice is informed by his leadership qualities and his great political pedigrees come from his years of experience in the military and great family root. We believed that he will bring this great experiences and qualities to bear in our party and Katsina State.”
Yar‘Adua, a junior brother to late President Yar‘Adua quit the military last year to join politics.
His choice is expected to add to the pressure the PDP is facing in Katsina State from Buhari’s CPC. Buhari is from Katsina State.