The Peoples Democratic Party presidential aspirants are facing a tough battle in agreeing on a consensus arrangement among them, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered on Tuesday that the consensus moves by some top presidential aspirants were heading for the rocks and that the party might have no option but to adopt either direct or indirect primaries for its May 29 shadow election.
It was reliably learnt that the aspirants were not making headway on the consensus discussion because most of the aspirants believed they were better positioned to be the PDP presidential candidate.
Findings also showed that disagreements on whether zoning should be adopted or not were another hurdle.
No fewer than 14 aspirants have picked the Presidential forms sold at N40m each.
Those who have joined the race are: A former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi; former Senate President Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State Governor and Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal; and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
Others include: Ovation Publisher, Dele Momodu; former Governor Ayodele Fayose; Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State; his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike; investment banker and economist, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen; a former President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa; Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze; former Senate President Pius Anyim and Oliver Diana.
Saraki, who alongside Tambuwal and Mohammed held a consultative meeting with Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri, on Monday, said the consensus plan of the aspirants was working.
But a top member of the party, who confided in one of our correspondents, stated, “Contrary to the picture being painted outside, the presidential aspirants are not making any headway. One, they have obtained forms and each of them believes he is the best for the consensus arrangement.
“Two, without the zoning problem being resolved, the consensus arrangement will not fly. For now, the party has not agreed on zoning. Atiku is not ready to step down. If consensus must succeed, all aspirants must key in.”
Obi will support a consensus candidate based on fairness, equity and respect for each zone – Aide
When contacted, the Media Aide to Obi, Mr Valentine Obienyem, said his principal would only support consensus if it was based on fairness, equity and respect for each zone.
Obienyem, in an interview with The PUNCH, stated, “Peter Obi will support a consensus candidate based on fairness, equity and respect for each zone.
Although, at the presentation of the nomination of interest form to him by a group of young professionals, Obi, had said he should be considered for the consensus option, because, “since the return of democracy in Nigeria, only late Dr Alex Ekwueme, from the Igbo extraction had contested the party presidential primaries with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 1999 and lost.”
Atiku busy with campaigns – Aide
When contacted on the telephone, the Spokesman for Atiku, Paul Ibe, said his principal had been meeting with stakeholders and delegates seeking their support ahead of the party primary.
He, therefore, did not say anything about zoning or consensus.
“All I can say is that we are busy seeking support from delegates. We met with stakeholders in the North-West on Monday as you know. So, we are busy gaining support and telling people why they should support us,” he said.
But an aide of Tambuwal, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said he believed the Sokoto State governor was favoured to emerge as the consensus candidate.
According to him, his principal has more national spread than other members of the party in the presidential race.
He stated, “After all, Bala (the Bauchi State governor) still had the chance to run for the second tenure in his state, I don’t think others have national spread. In any case, many or all of the aforesaid are hypothetical as the team has yet to come up with its position.”
I will win 70% of Imo PDP delegates’ votes, I can defeat APC – Wike
On his part, Governor Wike said he was already planning on how to defeat the All Progressives Congress at the general elections next year.
Wike, while addressing the PDP delegates in Owerri, the Imo State capital on Tuesday said he was capable of wresting power from the APC.
He stated, “I know all of you here (Imo state) can’t vote for me. I can’t win 100 per cent of the votes of the delegates from Imo state but I am confident of winning 70 per cent. I have what it takes to wrest power from the APC. I have been tested and trusted, judging from what I have done in Rivers State in the past seven years.”
Consensus best option to defeat APC, Saraki warns PDP after meeting Abia gov
In a related development, Saraki on Tuesday advised the PDP to go for a consensus presidential candidate.
Speaking with journalists after a meeting with the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, at his country home in Umuobiakwa, Obingwa, Saraki said that arrangement would be in the best interest of Nigeria in the present circumstance.
He said the PDP needed to get things right before the presidential primary, adding, “If the PDP wins, we all win because we all are one.”
Saraki said picking a consensus candidate for the 2023 presidential poll would put PDP in a vantage position to win the election.
Aspirants have purchased forms, you can’t tell them not to contest – Dele Momodu
In an interview on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme which was monitored by The PUNCH, Dele Momodu, who had submitted his Presidential form, said ideally, the South ought to produce the next President, adding that it was not true that only the North could win the Presidential election for the opposition party.
Momodu, however, said northern aspirants had also purchased forms and had spent money ahead of the primaries. Hence, it was no longer realistic to insist on zoning.
The Ovation publisher noted that any attempt to force zoning at this point could backfire as it could alienate the North and could also alienate the South depending on where the ticket is zoned to.
The aspirant added, “In the PDP, we have boxed ourselves into a corner by allowing everybody to buy forms. I think it will create more acrimony if after I have purchased my form, you now tell me that I am no longer qualified to contest elections. That might lead to litigation.
“Politicians are dancing around. Atiku said the other day that he must run. How do you stop such a man? If you can bully Dele Momodu, I don’t think you can bully some people. I don’t think a man like Nyesom Wike in Rivers could easily be bullied.
“The way the two sides are boxing themselves may not augur well for our party. I will just suggest let bygones be bygones. Let us all go and contest and whoever wins, so be it. But if you give it to the North, there will be a problem in the South and if you give it to the South, you can see the determination of those going around in the North.”
PDP zoning committee submits report
Meanwhile, the 37-person zoning committee of the PDP, Tuesday in Abuja, submitted its report to the National Working Committee of the party.
Earlier, The PUNCH had reported that the committee whose mandate ended last Tuesday, threw open the PDP presidential ticket to all aspirants.
According to a source who pleaded anonymity, the committee threw open the ticket “due to exigency of time” saying “zoning, as in our party constitution, is affirmed.”
While submitting the report, the Deputy Chairman of the Committee and Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, said the report reflected the unanimous decision of the members who he claimed were working for the party’s interest.
Speaking at the presentation, he noted, “Every member of the 37-man zoning committee had ample opportunity to make their submissions. Arising from our inability to conclude we shifted it to April 5 and on that 5th, we also unanimously arrived at a decision to promote the interests of the party and we came up with the resolution.
“I am not by virtue of the terms of reference allowed to roll out the content of the resolution because our job is to finish, submit and theirs to make a decision. So I will officially, on behalf of my colleagues, make the presentation of the report.”
On his part, the Chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, said the committee’s decision would be made public after deliberations on the report.
“This decision will be known to party members across the country and all Nigerians who are eagerly awaiting the final decision of your committee.
“Let me on behalf of NEC, because NWC is here acting on behalf of NEC, thank you most sincerely for the wonderful job you’ve done in the short time for the party and how much you have done to unite this party. We are very proud of the work you have done.”
An NWC member, who did not want his name mentioned, said the party would convene a National Executive Committee meeting to address the issue of zoning of the presidential ticket.
“The report of the zoning committee was presented today (Tuesday) to the NWC. The next thing is for the NEC to convene,” he stated.