The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has thrown its presidential ticket open against the appeal made by the southern governors’ forum for the power to shift to the south. Following the ‘numeric strength’ of voters from the northern part of the country, elders in PDP believe it will adequately position the party to take power back from the ruling APC that is likely to have its presidential flag bearer from the south. The argument is that after the death of late Yar’Adua in 2010, no northerner from the PDP has occupied the presidential seat and has emboldened presidential aspirants from the north in the PDP.
Regarding the presidential race in PDP, aspirants and stakeholders can be divided into three groups. The first group has Atiku Abubakar, keenly supported by Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Fintiri and his Edo Counterpart, Godwin Obaseki.
The second group is canvassing for power to return to the south; many of the southern governors of the party belong to this group.
The third group comprises aspirants inclined towards producing a northern consensus candidate; they include Former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor of Sokoto Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Bauchi, Bala Muhammed, and the former managing director of the now-defunct FSB International Bank, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen.
The four aspirants that believe in consensus visited Ibrahim Babangida, former military president, and asked him to lead the process that will lead to an agreement.
On the 22nd of April, there was an announcement of the adoption of former Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki and Bauchi State governor Bala Mohammed as the northern consensus candidates of the PDP by the Ibrahim Babangida/Ango Abdullahi-led group.
The communiqué signed by Prof. Ango revealed that Bala and Saraki were selected based on specific criteria adopted in the assessment of the four aspirants who submitted themselves for the exercise, and the two would, in turn, be required to make further concessions so that in the end, one of them would be presented as the consensus candidate.
The Consensus Assessment
The assessment was divided into 3 phases: candidate assessment, zonal assessment, and PDP previous experience. Six respected elders from the three geo-political zones were allotted two votes to choose the first and second choice of the four presented aspirants. At the end of the first phase, Saraki and Bala scored 10 votes each, while Tambuwal got 7 votes and Hayatu-Deen got 5. One of the elders deferred his vote, and two members did not cast their second ballots.
In the second phase, Saraki got 8, Bala got 7, Tambuwal got 2 while Hayatu-Deen got no vote. The third phase equally favoured Saraki as the only aspirant from the North-Central that has not had a single opportunity to get the PDP ticket since the inception of the current fourth republic.
Following the Ango-led committee announcement, different reactions have followed. Senator Isa Galaudu, the Director of Mohammed Hayatudeen Campaign Organisation, revealed that the candidate seeking consensus agreed to discontinue the process when a compromise could not be reached. He said, ‘unfortunately, one of the candidates had other plans, which led to a press conference that misrepresented the outcome of the closed-door meeting.’
Similarly, Mr. Hayatudeen, when asked on a Channels TV show, Politics Today, whether he regretted being part of the consensus, replied he didn’t regret it but had learned some political lessons.
The campaign organization of Tambuwal also reacted that at a review meeting held on the 20th of April, the aspirants have all unanimously agreed that the consensus arrangement was not working. The team had decided that Saraki should come up with a draft statement on how to communicate this decision to the Nigerian public, instead of this, he circulated a message suggesting that members of the team should head to Minna for a meeting on the 22nd of April. Tambuwal rejected the outcome of the exercise.
Many northern PDP leaders like the former governor of Jigawa, Sule Lamido, Adamu Waziri, and former Minister of Police Affairs, among others, have debunked and dismissed the Babangida/Ango-led group and urged all presidential aspirants to head to the presidential primary. The Northern Elders Forum, through its secretary, has also disassociated itself from Prof. Ango’s media statement.
The most astute and the smartest will have their way in such micro elections. With no disrespect to others, I wonder what they were thinking going into such an arrangement with a political mastermind like Saraki.
Bukola outsmarted them because neither Hayatu-Deen nor Tambuawal made a public statement to disassociate themselves from their earlier consensus stand before the Ango-led committee gave its verdict.