By Dirisu Yakubu
Barely five weeks to its Presidential convention, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is facing a fresh crisis which if not addressed amicably, may affect the party’s fortune in the 2023 general elections.
The fresh crisis is not unconnected with the aftermath of the consensus initiative embarked upon by four Presidential aspirants of Northern extraction which Friday, produced former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed as candidates while urging them to further engage in talks that could lead to one of them stepping down for the other.
While Saraki and Bala Mohammed have since commended the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida-led group for a job well done; Tambuwal has vowed not to have anything to do with it, even as he accused Saraki and Bala Mohammed of coming short of doing the right thing as mutually agreed on by the aspirants at the onset.
Vanguard reliably gathered that the development has led to the National Working Committee, NWC, taking a decision to speak with the aspirants on the need to be careful of their utterances while going about their respective ambitions.
A NWC member confided in the Vanguard that “the leadership of the party is disturbed by comments credited to our highly resourceful aspirants. They need to be talked to because we can’t allow them to continue this way.”
According to him, “the road to 2019 was not like this. If consensus will tear them apart, it will be better to avoid it. This week or next week, the chairman will convey a meeting with them where the interest of the party will be re-emphasized.
“The NWC is worried and disturbed about their utterances and is bent on checkmating these before the situation get worse,” he said.
Meanwhile, the duo of Mohammed and Saraki have again insisted that the process leading to their emergence was not manipulated. This is even as they absolved General Babangida of tilting the process in their favour.
Spokesman of the Bala Mohammed Presidential Campaign Organization, Prof. Udenta Udenta in a release made available to journalists, Sunday said: “We wish to place it on record that Gen. Babangida never approached nor lobbied anybody to superintend the process that will lead to the emergence of a consensus Presidential aspirant. Rather it was the group of Presidential aspirants made up of Sen. Bala Mohammed, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal. Sen. Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Mohammed Hayatu-Deen that collectively, freely and willingly approached Gen Babangida to help select from amongst themselves a consensus Presidential aspirant.
“The above four named individuals not only initiated the consensus arrangement on their own volition but also agreed to fully and unequivocally abide by the decision that Gen. Babangida will arrive at in consultation with other elders as well as accept, honour the steps and procedures he will deploy in arriving at any decision.
“We, therefore, reject the current insinuations in the media from some quarters that purport that Gen Babangida and the elders either did not consult very widely or imposed a decision on an unwilling band of presidential aspirants. Gen. Babangida and elders deserve nothing but commendation for the conclusions they reached and the outcome of the consensus exercise by anybody who believes in the tenets of truth, honour and integrity.
“Political ambition should not and cannot be a condition precedent to cast overboard these time honoured verities and inviolable norms, and ask those desecrating these values to have a sober rethink.
“The Sen. Bala Mohammed Campaign Organization will not join issues with anybody on the question of the consensus arrangement because the truth needs no further protection from its traducers but will rather press on in rallying the nation around its progressive “Nigeria First” governance vision on the heels of the successful execution of the consensus arrangement.
“The Campaign Organization, however advises all those who are not happy with the result of the selection process or who did not participate in it to focus on their individual political trajectories without let or hindrance and not muddy the political waters any further.
“It’s on record that the participants in the process toured the whole country together and reached out to critical political stakeholders in the party including its elected governors to explain the meaning and purpose of the arrangement and to seek their buy-in into the process if possible. It is commendable that South East Presidential aspirants have also acceded to this mode! and we wish them success in their current endeavors in this regard,” the statement read in part.
The Bauchi state governor further noted that “the search for consensus, unity, solidarity and shared vision among the PDP presidential aspirants is a worthy move and a patriotic venture that aims at reducing unnecessary tension, acrimony and unhealthy diatribe among competitors and restore back to our politics the culture of reaching common ground, the reduction of the politics of bitterness and the respect of all shades of political opinion.
“Even if the process doesn’t secure all of its set goals at the end of the day, meaning that every aspirant participates in the Presidential primaries, it would have imbibed in all aspirants the culture of placing the group above the self in the party’s shared vision of the future and in accepting the very results of the primary election.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Sen. Bala Mohammed will build on the success of the consensus arrangement and unfold his grand “Nigeria First” governance vision in the coming days and weeks. Building also on his successful consultations with wide ranging critical party holders including but not limited to the Forum of Former Ministers, NWC, Board of Trustees, the Nigerian Senate and House of Reps caucuses. He will reach out to every single party delegate and influencers- a process he has long initiated unabatedly.”
Also speaking, media aide to Senator Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu described the emergence of the former Kwara state governor as one of the Northern consensus Presidential candidates as “a welcome development.”
According to him, “the process that eventually led to this decision cannot be faulted. It was painstaking, thorough and transparent. One needs to commend and appreciate the elders who worked to actualize the process. May Allah bless them all.
“Their decision was based on equity, justice, and need for inclusion of all. Yes, one consensus candidate has not emerged but they have initiated a process which can help the party later on. The process is a work-in-progress. One person will still emerge from the on-going process here in the North.
“The South also has an example to emulate in deciding on the aspirants that should proceed to the primaries considering the zones that have not produced a President before like the South-East. A nation like Nigeria with all the current problems needs consensus building as a way of healing the nation and enlarging grounds of co-operation, unity and understanding,” he said on behalf of Saraki.
However, Governor Tambuwal speaking with DW radio (Hausa Service), Sunday, questioned the sincerity of the process, vowing to go about his ambition individually.
He said: “Tell us who are the elders that sat down to come up with that decision. Who are the people that gave advice to reach that conclusion? Nobody has this information. I consulted the party leadership across the country especially the Northern PDP leaders but no one is aware what is going on, indicating that something fishy is going on. If not, we are the ones that took ourselves to them to help the process, and later withdrawn.
“Why should anyone insist the process of consensus must continue? So based on this, I didn’t go to Minna, and the decision that the two people are the Northern consensus candidates doesn’t in anyway reflect my wish, and should therefore not worry my supporters. I am not involved in any of such. I am still in the race, I am seeking victory from GOD.”
On how the consensus idea was birthed the governor stated: “Three of us initiated the process of consensus candidate- Senator Bukola Saraki, Governor of Bauchi state, Bala Mohammad and myself Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. We discussed the possibility of agreeing on one candidate within our group to represent us (initially not even to represent the whole North) and we all agreed based on the situation of the party.
“We started consultations based on that, and the fourth person that joined us is also another Presidential aspirant, Muhammad Hayatuddeen. In order for the people not to perceive that we were trying to fight the aspiration of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, we also went to consult him and seek his blessings.
“He was happy about it but he didn’t show any interest to join us. That was how we continued our consultations. Along the line, we discussed that we really need an elder in the country who will help us reach our goal amicably in case we may encounter any disagreement along the line within ourselves and we all agreed that we should take the matter to former president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in Minna.
“We explained to him and he immediately agreed. He was very happy. And he promised to do his best to help us achieve our mission. However, we had to at a point tell ourselves the truth. The four of us met in Bauchi state government diplomatic House in Abuja on Wednesday and looked into the issue from all angles and we made it clear that consensus candidate is not feasible and we couldn’t continue with the process.”
“Why should we go and suffer that old man (IBB) again? Why should they be in a hurry?” he queried.