former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki(2nd right); Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohamed (right); Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal (2nd left) and Mohamed Hayatuddeen when they visited Okowa at Government House, Asaba in their nationwide consultation visits to prominent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members on their presidential aspirations, on Monday.

By Dirisu Yakubu

For two months, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, and frontline banker, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, traversed Nigeria, consulting the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on who among them should emerge the consensus candidate of the zone ahead of the May 28 presidential primary.

The plan, as it were, was that whoever becomes the choice would ride on support of the North to slug it out with his southern counterparts at the delegate election. Meetings were held with PDP groups imaginable by these gladiators apart from Hayatu-Deen in a bid to get their buy-in ahead of the primary.

Determined to make a bold statement, the PDP chieftains, last week, took their game plan to former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, enthrusting him the difficult task of making a choice out of the pack. 

The retired general contacted Ango Abdullahi,  professor of agriculture and former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, whose model of assessment, settled for Saraki and Bala Mohammed, leaving Tambuwal and Hayatu-Deen in the cold.

Sunday Vanguard reports that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was suspicious of Saraki’s game-plan from the get-go and resolved never to have anything to do with the arrangement. Expectedly, Atiku has reacted to the choice of Saraki and Mohammed, urging his supporters to remain focused for the task ahead.

In a release issued by the chairman, technical committee for the actualisation of the 2023 Atiku Abubakar Presidency, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, the group argued that Atiku “was never a party to the northern consensus arrangement.”

The statement read in part: “Waziri Atiku Abubakar, Vice President Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999-2007), was never a part of this purported consensus arrangement and did not subject himself to this process. 

Therefore, he is not bound by any of the recommendations and conclusions of the purported report.

“Waziri Atiku Abubakar as a nationalist strongly believes that Nigeria has never been so divided as it is today and any regional, zonal, ethno-religious gang-up or consensus driven in this manner will further deepen and widen the wounds that urgently require to be healed. He is anxious to implement plans, policies and programmes that will rescue and rebuild Nigeria.

“We urge our supporters to continue with consultations and townhall meetings with delegates across the country as the party prepares for the presidential primaries scheduled for Saturday/ Sunday May 28 and 29, 2022.”

Like Atiku, Tambuwal has since distanced himself from the development, saying consensus failed even before the IBB-led group made known its recommendation.

Speaking through Nicholas Msheliza, Director, Organization and Mobilization, Tambuwal Campaign Organization, the 56-year-old governor said the announcement that Saraki and Mohammed have been picked as the consensus candidates of the North is “not correct.”

“The attention of Tambuwal Campaign Organization, TCO, has been drawn to a news item that former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Gov. Bala Muhammad of Bauchi state have emerged as consensus candidates from amongst the four of us announced at a meeting in Minna, Niger state. This is, to be candid and forthright, not correct”, Msheliza stated.

“The correct situation is that the team met on Wednesday, 20th April, 2022, at Bauchi Governor’s Lodge in Abuja and had a review meeting; and, unanimously agreed that the consensus arrangement was not working.

  “The team further agreed that Sen. Saraki should come up with a draft statement on how to communicate this decision to the Nigerian public. This was the last time that members of the team sat and mutually agreed on anything. The proposed meeting to review and vet the statement scheduled for 10 pm of the same day was aborted unilaterally by Sen. Saraki via a WhatsApp message.

“However, on Thursday, 21st, 2022, same Sen. Saraki circulated yet another WhatsApp message suggesting that members of the team should head to Minna for a meeting on Friday. 

Gov. Tambuwal reached other members of the team and informed them that he stands by the decision of the team that the initiative is not working. This is the reason Gov. Tambuwal was absent at Friday’s meeting in Minna. As a result therefore, the outcome of the Minna meeting has no consequence or any implication on the aspiration of Gov. Tambuwal, who had earlier on, informed his colleagues of maintaining their agreed position that the initiative has collapsed.”

“Members of the public should be reminded that what was canvassed for was a consensus candidate and not consensus candidates.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Gov. Tambuwal has submitted his Presidential nomination forms and now that the quest for a consensus candidate out of the four has clearly collapsed, will go ahead and face screening and indeed contest the PDP presidential primaries.

“This is in consonance with his acclaimed outlook as a pan-Nigerian candidate, with pedigree of national service as the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, life member of the Body of Benchers and now in his second and final term as governor of Sokoto State.”

A former governor of one of the northern states and a chieftain of the PDP told Sunday Vanguard  that the development does not speak well of the North as a zone. While he initially declined to speak because he is a friend “to virtually all the northern aspirants and three from the South,” he changed his mind to say this: “If they all subscribed to a process and expressed readiness to accept the outcome, I am surprised that some people are no saying they were no party to the arrangement. 

At what point did they say this? They should have informed the public by way of addressing a press conference to state their positions ab initio. You don’t wait until a process does not favour you before you speak up. I am not sure they will accept whoever emerges at the primaries with the way they have handled this initial consensus arrangement.” 

For Wike, it’s presidential ticket or nothing

An aide (name withheld) of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State told Sunday Vanguard that his principal is bent on contesting the party’s presidential ticket at all cost, dismissing any possibility of him stepping down for another aspirant regardless of whether “he comes from the South or North.”

Reminded that the governor stated recently that he believed in a consensus candidate based on equity, fairness and justice, the aide argued that what Wike meant is that while he is irrevocably committed to the South producing the presidential candidate for the PDP, such a candidate must be one with proven capacity to solve the nation’s problems.

“The problem is that we don’t read deep into the implied meanings of some of these remarks. His Excellency wants a Nigeria that works for all; a Nigeria where insurgency will be a thing of the past”, he said. 

“He told the world recently that under his Presidency, kidnappers or terrorists will hear his name and run away. He has the capacity to make these things and more happen. Have you heard any of these people make bold commitments like this? Has anyone of them told Nigerians how he would tackle insurgency if elected? That is why we should not be asking whether he will step down for anyone because he won’t.” 

South-East Consensus Talks

In the South-East, the duo of former Senate President Pius Anyim and former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, hold the race, with the latter tipped to emerge the consensus pick of the geo-political zone.

Although, businessman, Mr. Sam Ohuabunwa, and medical practitioner, Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze recently met in Abuja and resolved to work towards presenting a common front at the primaries, not much has happened as all four are still going about their individual aspirations as if no commitment was ever made of a consensus.

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