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CONSENSUS CANDIDATE: Northern leaders set criteria, screen presidential hopefuls

By Jide Ajani

Stemming from penultimate Saturday’s meeting in Abuja by some Northern leaders, and concerned by the melange of criticism trailing the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari from some quarters, a set of criteria has been put forward by the leaders with a view to screening presidential hopefuls from that part of the country who would participate in next year’s presidential election.

This process, which is obviously being engaged without much though for the incumbent Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is said not to be of any real concern to leaders of the ruling party.

In fact, information made available to Sunday Vanguard at the  weekend  suggested that President Buhari is not one of those to be considered in the  pursuit  of picking a unity/consensus candidate for the North by this group.

Apart from  politicians, Sunday Vanguard has also been made to understand that the group involves both directly and remotely, but is not limited to influential leaders of thought, custodians of traditional institutions and religious leaders.

One of the criteria that has been put forward is that those seeking the office should have the “integrity and intellectual capacity to be President and Commander-in-Chief, especially at a time like this”.

In addition, such an individual  would be expected to be nationalistic in thinking.

Also, the person must possess the ability to immediately commence talks on proper reconciliation and unification across the country upon being sworn-in as President of the country.

That is not all.

Further more, Sunday Vanguard was told that while consultations are ongoing, one of the important issues that came up was the role of the private sector.

Therefore, as another criterion in the selection consideration, the individual being sought would be expected to enjoy the respect of operators, particularly leaders, in the private sector, just as such a person must respect the feudal system that operates in the  North.

Stemming from that but not in total submission to the above, the group is suggesting that the eventual candidate would stand better chances of acceptability across board if he (or she) is a liberal and accommodating Muslim.

Indeed, what appears to be obvious in the set of criteria that was put forward is the seeming deficit that seems to have ensued since President Olusegun Obasanjo left office as President and Commander-in-Chief.

The hue and cry in some quarters about the unacceptability of the spread of political appointments in the present regime, particularly from the opposition, continues to fuel the need for a paradigm shift in the activities of government.

Perhaps, it is in realisation of the danger such a deficit constitutes that President Buhari decided – and wisely so – to  appoint former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to reconcile aggrieved and warring members.

Tinubu is himself perceived by many as the aggrieved-in-chief among the lot in APC.

Therefore, the leaders are seeking “a  knowledgable individual who also understands  the dynamics of Nigeria; who is committed to the diversity and inclusiveness of the Nigerian state, as espoused and envisioned by the founding fathers”, a source close to the process told Sunday Vanguard from the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, yesterday.

The source, who is also close to Aso Rock Presidential Villa, hinted that the Presidency is not perturbed by  “people playing their politics”.

Already, Sunday Vanguard learnt that some individuals eying the number one seat are being screened informally but would at some  “point in the not too distant future  subject themselves to the committee.

This is reminiscent of the type of committee set up, in 1999, by leaders of northern extraction in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,  to screen presidential candidates.

At that time, Obasanjo, former Second Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Jim Nwobodo, Graham Douglas, among others were screened by the committee.


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