By Niyi Odebode
The Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party has set up a committee to liaise with all the presidential aspirants to discuss the possibility of having a consensus candidate.
The BoT also warned its members against campaigning for any of the aspirants in order not to polarise the party.
The BoT Chairman, Walid Jibrin, said these decisions were taken after the meeting of the board, which was held in Abuja on Sunday night.
He also said that the tenure of the current executive had been extended for another five years.
Jibrin, who spoke with journalists on the outcome of the meeting, said, “A committee has been set up to discuss with all presidential aspirants to come up with one of them as a consensus candidate.
“The meeting advised all members to always maintain their honour and integrity as the conscience of the party to remain neutral and never sponsor or lead aspirants to visits and rallies as was done during the last convention.”
On whether the party was showing preferential treatment to old members among the presidential aspirants, he said, “We have warned the party to manage the situation of new defectors to the party well and also consider the role played by old members.”
However, some presidential aspirants of the PDP, including ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, and a former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, on Monday disagreed on the presidential ticket of the party in the 2019 elections. At separate fora on Monday, the three of them expressed readiness to go for the primary.
It’s North-Central turn to lead Nigeria – Saraki
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that Saraki, during a meeting with the Benue State Working Committee of the PDP in Makurdi, insisted that it was the turn of the North-Central zone to lead the country.
The President of the Senate also stated that his presidential aspiration was driven by an obsession for justice, fairness, and respect for the rule of law.
Saraki stated, “As a geopolitical zone, we have paid our dues. It is the turn of our zone to lead Nigeria to stability. We have gone through bad times. The nation has become crises-ridden; the killings are uncalled for and the Benue valley is the worst hit. There should be justice to every citizen, regardless of geographical location.
“Democracy entails freedom or rights of the people. Our rights should not be imprisoned.”
According to him, Nigeria needs leaders who are capable of representing all interest groups, and not a section of the country.
“My presidential ambition is a collective decision borne out of a desire to salvage the disunity that we are witnessing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Saraki submitted his presidential nomination and expression of interest forms to the party in Abuja on Monday.
Saraki said that his antecedents stand him out among the other aspirants.
He said he had had the opportunity of serving as governor and that he is currently serving on the legislative side, stressing that it was important that the country had a president who could bring all parties on board.
We must ensure credible primaries – Senate President
On whether he can step down for a consensus candidate, he said, “I don’t think the consensus thing is the issue before us because we are trying to ensure that there is internal democracy in the system and very credible primaries.
“What is important is that at the end of the day, we have something that is rancour-free. What I can tell you is that we are working together because we are still part of one family.
“I believe at the end of the day, we will have a process that whoever emerges will be supported by all of us. So, there will be no need dividing ourselves.”
Atiku will win PDP ticket – Aide
Also, the spokesman for the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Mr Segun Sowunmi, said his principal was confident of emerging the PDP candidate.
Sowunmi told one of our correspondents on the telephone that since the PDP had not micro-zoned the Presidency to the North-Central, Atiku would not step down for anyone.
He said, “The business of zoning is a party matter, and the PDP, to the best of my knowledge, has not micro-zoned its Presidency. It was only zoned to the North.” Having said that, the former Vice-President has evolved beyond the candidacy of a tendency or even a zone.
“He is a pan-Nigeria candidate but we recognise that this country has become extremely divided and it takes a pan-Nigerian, who has a relationship with every part of this country to be able to bring the nation together. This is one of the many reasons he is needed. “
I’m the only aspirant that can defeat Buhari – Kwankwaso
Also, Kwankwaso, who spoke through his Principal Secretary, Binta Spikin, stated that only he could defeat President Muhammadu Buhari and as such would prefer to go for the primary rather than backing down for anybody.
According to Spikin, what is important is for the PDP to present a popular candidate who can beat Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.
Reacting to the claim that it was the turn of the North-Central to lead the country, she stated, “No, we don’t agree and I don’t think we should agree. Why? It is because what we are looking at is that person who can deliver votes. And going by the happenings in Nigeria, Senator Kwankwaso is the only person who can beat President Muhammadu Buhari. That is if you are talking about mass followership.
“From whatever direction one is looking at it, the most interesting and obvious fact is, who can beat President Muhammadu Buhari in the next election, and that person is Senator Musa Rabi’u Kwankwaso.”
But asked whether Kwankwaso would reject consensus candidacy in a text message sent to her, Spikin said, “Senator Kwankwaso believes in the law and party supremacy, hence he will be part of anything that will contribute to the overall success of the party.”
But when contacted, the spokesman for a former governor of Kaduna State, who is also a PDP presidential aspirant, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said his principal would not comment on the matter.
Makarfi, a two-term senator, is among eleven other aspirants jostling for the Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
“We will rather not comment on that. There is no comment from us. Thank you,” the spokesman said.