The crack created by the selection of the former Senate president, Bukola Saraki and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, as consensus candidates from the North on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has widened.
Our correspondents report that the outcome of the report which favoured Mohammed and Saraki against Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Mohammed Hayatu-Deen had generated uproar as they rejected the arrangement.
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Professor Ango Abdullahi on Friday in Minna, Niger State, announced the endorsement of Saraki and Mohammed as the northern consensus candidates of the PDP.
Prof. Abdullahi, who is the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), said the two aspirants chosen should work together and decide on which of them would be the consensus candidate.
However, contrary to reports in the media that the selection of Saraki and Mohammed was the position of NEF, Daily Trust gathered from reliable sources that the consensus report, which was signed by Prof. Ango, was done in his personal capacity as an elder statesman.
“Without prejudice to the efforts he made as an elder statesman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi did not sign the document on behalf of the Northern Elders Forum. As you can see, the outcome was not printed on NEF’s letter headed paper and at the end of it, he described himself as Magajin Rafin Zazzau,” one of our sources said.
Prof. Ango also corroborated this in a telephone interview last night when he said the endorsement was not on behalf of NEF.
Consensus dead on arrival
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the consensus arrangement has since collapsed as all the participants except Saraki and Mohammed, have distanced themselves from it, insisting that they will slug it out at the primary election slated for May 28 and 29, 2022.
Promoters of the consensus had gone across the country to secure the buy-in of the party’s stakeholders. However, hours after Ango’s announcement, Tambuwal rejected the endorsement.
Tambuwal, in a statement by his campaign office, noted that the arrangement had failed and he was prepared for a primary election.
“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 collapsed, he will go ahead and face screening and indeed contest the PDP presidential primary election,” his campaign office stated.
Similarly, Hayatu-Deen told our correspondent yesterday that the consensus arrangement collapsed 48 hours before Ango Abdullahi’s announcement.
In a phone interview, the former chief executive officer of the FSB International Bank said at their last meeting that they all agreed to jettison the consensus arrangement and slug it out at the primary.
“Four of us at a meeting on Wednesday agreed that the arrangement was dead and buried. Saraki, Mohammed, Tambuwal and I agreed that we would not proceed with it,” he said.
Aside from the four and even though all those behind the consensus move are from the North, the leading opposition party has other aspirants, including Atiku Abubakar (Adamawa) and who is also from the North; Anyim Pius Anyim (Ebonyi), Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom).
Others are Peter Obi (Anambra), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), Nwachukwu Anakwenze (Anambra), Dele Momodu (Edo), Sam Ohuabunwa (Imo), Cosmos Ndukwe (Abia), Charles Ugwu (Enugu), Chikwendu Kalu (Abia) and Oliver Tareila Diana.
When contacted through his media aide, Paul Ibe, Atiku said his quest was to become a candidate for Nigerians.
Ibe said, “His long-time aspiration, not just for 2023, has been to be the candidate of Nigeria for all Nigerians. This reinforces his words in his declaration.”
Quoting Atiku’s during the declaration, Ibe said, “Throughout my life, I have never looked at Nigerians as divided people. In my eyes, all Nigerians are the same. When I see you, I don’t see Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Fulani, northerner or southerner. When I see you I only see a Nigerian, and I expect the best from you.”
Another source said Atiku was right from the beginning not happy with the approach by the four PDP aspirants from the North.
“It appeared from the onset that they ganged up against him thinking that when they coalesce into a force and produce one candidate, they would tackle him at the primaries.
“However, as you can see they could not agree among themselves because each one of them wants to be the preferred choice,” the source said.
My intervention not on behalf of Northern Elders Forum – Prof Ango
Contacted last night to clear the controversy on whether the news relating to the selection of Saraki and Mohammed was the position of Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango said, “No. There was a press statement printed and issued to journalists in Minna yesterday. If you are in possession of that press release, I think that is the summary of the situation as it is now. Clearly you probably just have seen some press statements by some of the aspirants themselves in which Bauchi (governor) spoke, Tambuwal also spoke. They were the aspirants we thought were heading for a consensus on PDP platform especially from the northern Nigeria.
“They came together and reached us and say they are working together and they are hoping that by the time they finished their discussions, talks and consultations they would come and tell us one of them is their consensus candidate.
“Unfortunately, they have not been able to succeed in arriving at that final position which they hoped they could. But then in failing to do so, they then requested the elders to pick one from them. And we thought it was too heavy for us to do that during a very short notice and time and the elder that they had approached, our former President Babangida suggested and we all agreed that we should do more consultation, if they had not been able to do it themselves.
“We have to help them but we have to do more consultation. And that is the consultation that we tried to do within the shortest possible time and that gave us an assessment of their rankings, the four of them in terms of their rankings and we told them what we found and that is of course all four cannot be the same. In this case, the two (Saraki and Mohammed) happened to be at par with each other and we decided that they should carry on with their consultation we see how far they can go.”
Asked if the conclusion was behalf of Northern Elders Forum or PDP Elders Forum, Prof. Ango said, “I am not PDP and also as I told somebody yesterday, I did not sign that statement on behalf of Northern Elders Forum because even in Northern Elders Forum we have a position.
“But the Northern elders position has always been very clear that there should be no zoning and we should be allowed all over the country to contest and that is our position and we also hold the view that a good candidate from the northern part of the country would eventually contest without prejudice to other good candidates from other parts of the country; but we disown zoning, no questions about that. There should not be any controversy,” he said.
When told that it appeared the consensus efforts had collapsed, the elder statesman said, “We told them that consensus is a continued process; they can relook at themselves and look at others, those who are not favoured by what we did can go and contest,” he said.
NEF not involved
A source within the PDP said yesterday that the northern elders under the auspices of (NEF) were not involved in the process as it was purely a PDP affair as it was former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida who invited Prof. Ango to design a process that will lead to the emergence of any of the four aspirants as a consensus candidate.
Giving further insight, he said, “General Babangida and Ango Abdullahi had advised the four aspirants to go and select a consensus among them but after four weeks, they could not and they came back and asked them to select a consensus candidate for them, that was how Ango Abdullahi became involved.”
Another source within the NEF corroborated this saying the report was not the decision of the NEF.
“NEF as a forum was never directly involved in this, apparently, the convener of NEF is a founding member of the PDP and the contestants themselves submitted themselves to the process which President Babangida asked Prof. Ango Abdullahi to handle,” he said.
Position injurious, personal opinion – Lamido
A former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, has faulted the endorsement of the NEF, describing it as their personal opinion.
Lamido, a founding member of the PDP, in a statement he signed, noted that the position of the northern elders was not only injurious to the North but equally injurious to northern aspirants.
Daily Trust on Sunday could not establish whether Lamido was aware that NEF members said they were not part of the deal.
He said in his statement, “Having widely consulted party leaders across the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), it is hereby stated to our teeming party members and the general public that what is reported in the media is only the personal opinion of those who issued the statement and not the position of PDP members in the North.
“Discussions are ongoing with all the aspirants in our party, with a view to having a national consensus if possible, or at least working towards having a smooth, acrimony-free national convention,” he said.
Stakeholders meet tomorrow
An emergency meeting of the stakeholders of the party from the North has been convened, it was gathered. The meeting will hold tomorrow in Abuja.
The meeting, it was gathered, would be attended by stakeholders across the 19 northern states to review the development.
A leader of the party from the North East said at the end of the meeting that they would take a position on the matter.
This is just as the aspirants and their supporters are awaiting the convocation of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting to review the recommendation of the committee headed by the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom.
On April 1, this paper reported that the zoning committee recommended that the race be made open to all the aspirants.