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Row in PDP over Northern Elders’, Babangida’s endorsement of Saraki, Bala

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By Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt; Eric Ikhilae, Abuja and David Adenuga Bauchi

  • Hayatu-Deen joins Tambuwal in rejecting decision

  • Atiku: ‘I’m not part of consensus move’

  • Elders’ action not in North’s best interest, say Northern PDP stakeholders

  • We ‘re not involved in consensus talks – PDP

Different interest groups in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have sparked a fresh row in the party over Friday’s endorsement of former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed as North’s consensus candidates in next month’s primaries of the party by PDP Northern Elders and former military president Ibrahim Babangida.

One of the party’s four presidential candidates that mooted the idea of consensus, Alhaji Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, yesterday joined Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal in rejecting the elders’ decision.

Like Tambuwal, he vowed to forge ahead with his aspiration and test his popularity during the primaries.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said he had never been part of the consensus deal while former Jigawa State governor Sule Lamido told the elders off, saying their action was not in the best interest of the generality of Northerners whose cause they claimed to be fighting.

The Hayatu-Deen Campaign Organisation declared that the process of arriving at a consensus candidate had collapsed in the first place and branded the Professor Ango Abdullahi committee that handled the process as ‘completely faceless’ and its evaluation criteria “totally subjective.”

The Director General of the campaign organisation, Lamis Shehu Dikko, said in a statement that Alhaji Hayatu-Deen had decided that his campaign “will now be undertaken independently to maintain the sanctity and integrity of the Peoples Democratic Party.”

He said: “For the record, we would like to state that the process of arriving at a consensus candidate had collapsed. The candidates involved could not reach a compromise amongst themselves, resulting in the decision of our principal, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, and Governor Aminu Tambuwal to discontinue the process.

“The announcement we witnessed yesterday (Friday) was not based on the principles of equity and transparency, which we believe should lead the country and the party into the future.

“The committee constituted by Prof. Ango Abdullahi is completely faceless and the evaluation criteria are totally subjective.

“It seems to us that this entire charade was designed to achieve a preconceived outcome.

“The focus of our candidate, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, is to prove to our great party and Nigerians in general that he is the best man for the job as we proceed towards a truly democratic process at the PDP primaries.

“We believe that the lack of consensus amongst the Prof. Ango Abdullahi-led effort and the politicking of other candidates should not jeopardise the electoral success of the Peoples Democratic Party or threaten the peace and prosperity of Nigeria.

“Mohammed Hayatu-Deen is a business professional with years of experience leading successful organisations that have provided jobs and opportunities for millions of Nigerians.

“He is a man who understands the pains and sufferings of the average Nigerian and has a plan to return our great nation to prosperity.

“Mohammed Hayatu-Deen wants to build a Nigeria that works for everybody. He is the best candidate for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Why endorsement can’t hold – Tambuwal

Moments after Prof Abdullahi announced the endorsement of Saraki and Bala Mohammed on Friday, the Tambuwal Campaign Organisation pronounced it dead on arrival as all the four aspirants involved in promoting consensus had agreed 48 hours before the Minna announcement that their plan had hit the rocks.

It said: “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, April 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 today’s (Friday) 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 primary.

“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.”

Arewa group knocks Tambuwal

However, the Northern Democratic Defense League (NDDL) yesterday faulted Tambuwal’s action.

The group in a statement signed by its Coordinator, Auwal Liti Darazo, claimed that only a few hours before the Minna announcement, Tambuwal had been quoted in many national dailies as commending consensus as a good thing, healthy for the party, and saying “I’m thinking that the consensus will favour me.”

The group said the Northern Elders were right to come to the conclusion that the North East and North Central should be given a chance this time around because the North West has been having it good since the inception of the Fourth Republic.

It said: “The simple fact that the elders have so patriotically submitted that other zones which have not had the opportunity should be considered this time around, speaks volumes about their integrity, selflessness, patriotic love for the North and for country.

“It is therefore contradictory that Tambuwal who claims the ability to unite the whole country should also be the one fuming over an exercise in inclusivity that tilts towards zones that have previously been deprived of such opportunities.”

Atiku: ‘I’ve never been part of this consensus’

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said he was not bound by the decision of the Ango Abdullahi committee as he was never part of the consensus deal.

The Technical Committee for the Actualisation of Atiku Abubakar’s Presidency said in a statement that it owed it a duty to officially distance Atiku from the exercise after being “inundated with several calls and text messages from concerned party members”.

Spokesman for the group, Dr.Raymond Dokpesi, said: “It must be stated categorically and equivocally that Waziri Atiku Abubakar MA, GCON Vice President Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999-2007, was NEVER a part of this purported consensus arrangement, neither did he at any time nor in any place subject himself to any purported consensus process.

“Therefore, Waziri Atiku Abubakar is NOT BOUND by any of the recommendations and conclusions of the purported report.

“As an avowed nationalist, Waziri Atiku Abubakar strongly believes that Nigeria has never been as divided as it is today. He strongly believes that any ‘consensus’ arrangement premised on any regional, zonal, ethno-religious, and/or sectional gang-up will further deepen and widen this divide, and worsen the wounds that urgently need to be healed.

“Consequently, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is anxious to implement plans, policies and programmes that will rescue and rebuild Nigeria. This is his unwavering and resolute pledge and commitment.”

We’re not involved in consensus talks – PDP

Similarly, the leadership of the PDP has distanced itself from the controversial consensus arrangement.

The party said it was not involved in the talks in the first place and the entire arrangement was initiated by the aspirants themselves.

“The party leadership is not part of the consensus arrangement even though they were not against it, a source told The Nation in Abuja.

“Of course the party would have loved to have a situation where the 17 aspirants themselves are able to prune their number.

“But the party has no say in the matter and would be ready to work with whatever the aspirants agree upon. And if at the end of the day all the 17 aspirants want to contest at the primaries, so be it,” another party source told our correspondent yesterday.

When our correspondent called to get the reaction from the spokesman for the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, he promised to call back. But he had yet to call as of the time of filing this report.

There are 17 aspirants in the race for the party’s presidential ticket.

On the list are Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Atiku Abubakar, Pius Anyim, Peter Obi, Sam Ohuabunwa, Dele Momodu, Bala Mohammed and Mohammed Hayatu-Deen.

Others are Nyesom Wike, Nwachukwu Anakwenze, Udom Emmanuel, Ayo Fayose, Cosmos Ndukwe, Charles Ugwu, Chikwendu Kalu and Tariele Diana Oliver (the only female among the aspirants).

You got it wrong, Lamido slams Northern Elders

Also reacting to the development yesterday, the immediate past governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, said the Minna deal was nothing more than the “personal opinion of those who issued the statement.”

His words: “Having widely consulted party leaders across the 19 northern states and 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 the PDP members in the north.

“Discussions are ongoing with all the aspirants in our party with a view to having a consensus if possible or at least working towards having a smooth, acrimony-free national convention.”

“The position of the Northern Elders is not only injurious to the North but equally injurious to the northern aspirants!”

If you don’t endorse us, others will, Bala replies Lamido

In a swift response last night to the statement by Alhaji Sule Lamido, Governor Bala Mohammed said it did not matter if Lamido opted not to support the consensus arrangement.

Addressing journalists at the Bauchi Government House shortly after receiving the management of The Sun newspapers who paid him a courtesy call, he said the elder statesman was entitled to his opinion.

He said: “I’ve tremendous respect for Alhaji Sule Lamido, a former governor who is leading other former governors.

“It’s a pity if he was not consulted, but certainly, he is not the only person in northern Nigeria, and those that have been contacted have done the job on his behalf. But he is entitled to his opinion.

“Even if he does not endorse us, others will endorse us.

“Of course, we are not taking it that we have been adjudged the best, but we are calling on others who didn’t make it in the consensus to come and join hands with us and our southern compatriots so that we’ll do the primaries with minimum rancour.”

Afenifere knocks Northern Elders over consensus candidate

The Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, similarly criticised the PDP Northern Elders for their action which it said exposed the quagmire of conscience they found themselves in the critical question of moving Nigeria forward.

It said the overriding interests of the continued corporate existence of Nigeria required more reflective statesmanship.

Secretary General of Afenifere, Sola Ebiseni, in a statement in Akure said that the Elders inconsistently set aside all their vaunted factors in preference for equity.

Ebiseni said: “In their sermons they settled for aspirants from the North Central and North East against that of the North West only on the ground of adjudged equity that the zone had produced presidential candidates and presidents.

“They are deliberately oblivious of the indubitable history of Nigeria that the first executive ruler of Nigeria, Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, August 1957-January 1966, was from the North East and specifically Bauchi State and that most of the Military Heads of the Nigerian State were of the North Central origin.

“It beats the imagination that the northern elders would fervently seek to execute their northern agenda in the PDP which controls only five of its 19 states. The nation waits in the wings to see the outcome of this gerrymandering.

“The resolves of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum that the next President of Nigeria, after Buhari’s eight years full term, should be a person of Southern Nigeria origin, in the interest of equity, national sense of belonging and cohesion is the national consensus. No group or section is greater than Nigeria and the compelling interest of its corporate existence.”

Bala may withdraw for Saraki

Indications emerged yesterday that the Bauchi Governor may withdraw from the race and support Saraki for the ticket.

A source close to the consensus group confided in The Nation that Mohammed was being persuaded to back down and seek re-election as Bauchi governor.

According to the source who did not want to be named, those persuading the governor were of the view that it would be easier for him to win re-election in Bauchi than winning the presidential ticket.

The party source said: “Yes, some stakeholders, including some elders are discussing with the Bauchi governor to pull out of the presidential race and face his governorship re-election.

“The elders have reasoned that a bird in hand is worth a thousand in the bush. More so, the elders are being made to understand that the Bauchi people have been mounting pressure on their governor to seek re-election to enable him complete the good work he has started in the state.”

The source however, said the governor was yet to make up his mind on whether or not to drop his presidential bid for a second tenure as Bauchi governor.

Governor Mohammed, who was elected in 2019 on the platform of the PDP, is currently serving his first tenure in office.

Constitutionally, he is eligible to seek re-election in 2023.

However, the timeline for the submission of nomination forms for all elective positions expired last Friday.

It was gathered that only one aspirant had obtained the governorship nomination form for Bauchi as at the close of nomination.

The lone aspirant, Ahmadu Ahmed Mu’azu, is the first son of an ex governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu.

The PDP Northern Elders in their assessment of the four aspirants had awarded 10 marks each to Saraki and Governor Mohammed.

The two other contenders in the group; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and a former banker, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, were awarded seven and five marks respectively.

An insider account said in arriving at the decision, the committee considered PDP presidential nomination process since 1999.

The elders were said to have isolated the cumulative 13 years of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as president from 1999 to 2015 on the platform of the PDP.

In between the 13 years, the late Umaru Yar’ Adua was elected in 2007 before he died in office in 2010.

Yar’ Adua hailed from Katsina State, in the Northwest zone. Tambuwal is also from the Northwest.

The elders were said to have observed that the Northeast and the North Central have not occupied the presidency since 1999.

They also observed that the Northeast had taken a shot at the in 1999 on the platform of the PDP with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as flag bearer.

Bauchi State, where Bala Mohammed comes from, is also in the Northeast.

That leaves the North Central as the only zone among the three zones in the North that has never had the opportunity of taking a shot at the presidency.

Kwara State, where Saraki comes from, is in the North Central. This, insiders said, apparently formed the basis of the outcome of NEF’s assessment.

PDP risks extinction if it fails to win presidential poll, Wike tells Anamabra delegates

Also yesterday, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike said the PDP risked going into extinction should it fail to present an electable candidate for the 2023 presidential election.

Wike, who is a PDP presidential aspirant, said winning the 2023 general election was crucial to the survival of the party.

He said he remained the most electable aspirant capable of defeating the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The governor in a statement by his Special Assistant, Media, Kelvin Ebiri, spoke while wooing Anambra State PDP leaders and delegates to support his presidential ambition in Awka, the capital of Anambra State on Saturday.

He told the delegates that as a mark of honour, he had to personally visit Awka to formally notify them of his ambition to become the next President.

He said: “I didn’t send anybody to you, because I have respect for you. We have been in opposition since 2015 and if we don’t win this election in 2023, we can as well forget PDP. And so, everything must be done to win this election.

“No sentiment should be brought in. And of all the aspirants, whether the person is from Anambra, Sokoto, Imo, look at all of us. Who can withstand APC in this election? It is me.”

PDP NEC meeting holds May 4

The National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 4, 2022.

A statement issued on Sunday by the National Secretary of the PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, said the meeting will hold at the PDP national secretariat by 2pm.

Although Anyanwu did not state the agenda, sources said the meeting may deliberate on the report of the 27-member Zoning Committee set up by the NEC in March.

The committee, chaired by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, had submitted its report to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP.

The NWC is expected to submit the report to NEC at the meeting. Controversy had trailed leaked information suggesting that the committee had thrown the race for the PDP presidential ticket open to all contestants.

There is a sharp division among party stakeholders in the North and South over which region should produce the presidential candidate for the 2023 election.

The contest for the ticket had led to strong verbal exchange among some of the 17 aspirants and stakeholders in their respective regions over which region should fly the presidential flag.

The party has fixed its presidential primaries for May 28-29.

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