Politics

2023 presidency: PDP and challenge of consensus

Attempts by some aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to forge a consensus among the party’s many presidential hopefuls have not been successful but ONYEKACHI EZE reports that all hope is not lost as the party prepares for this weekend’s special national convention to elect its candidate for the 2023 poll

 

Few days to the special national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the purpose of electing the party’s candidate for next year’s presidential election, there is still hope that the number of its aspirants would be scaled down. Presently, PDP has cleared 15 aspirants to vie for its presidential ticket. Attempts by some of the aspirants to forge a consensus among themselves collapsed about a month ago.

 

But Senator Walid Jibrin, Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) told journalists in Nasarawa State that the plan is still in place to trim down the number. “We in the BoT have met with the presidential aspirants to analyse and pick the best among them.

 

The BoT is going to set up a committee to come up with a consensus candidate, because of the decision taken by the National Executive Committee (NEC) that there will be no zoning and everybody should contest; but there is a loophole. “A consensus candidate has to be viewed and we in the BoT are taking that seriously, and as chairman, we are going to sit together and come up with a suitable candidate for our party,” Jibrin stated.

 

Four out of the five presidential aspirants from the North had met and agreed to forge a consensus among themselves. The aspirants are former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed and investment banker Mohammed Hayatu-Deen. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who is the other aspirant from the region, refused to be part of the plan. In 2011,

 

Atiku and other aspirants from the North, including Saraki and former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, had subjected themselves to the same process. At the end, Atiku emerged but lost to the eventual winner of PDP presidential ticket, then President Goodluck Jonathan. Saraki and his colleagues also attempted to involve aspirants from the Southern part of the country in their consensus drive but failed. Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who was one of the leaders in the South, the group approached to help work for a consensus candidacy among the aspirants, said any consensus to be  forged should be based on justice, equity and fairness.

 

This same view was shared by his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, who incidentally is one of the presidential aspirants. The position of the southern PDP leaders, notwithstanding, the consensus effort failed even among the promoters. As expected, this has created division among the aspirants.

 

The division was as a result of the Babangida-led Northern elders shortlisting of two of the aspirants – Saraki and Mohammed as joint Northern presidential candidates for the region. A former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof. Ango Abudllahi, who announced the decision of the Northern elders, said the duo were chosen after the four aspirants who approached them, were subjected to scrutiny based on three criteria. He  listed the criteria to include candidates’ assessment, zonal assessment and historical antecedents.

 

According to Abudllahi, in the first phase, the opinions of six distinguished persons each from the three geopolitical zones that make up the North were sought with regards to each of the four aspirants. His words: “Each of the zonal delegates were allocated two votes to choose the first and second choice making a total of 36 votes overall.

 

The outcome of that consultation was as follows: seven votes for candidate (A) Aminu Waziri; 10 votes for candidate (B) Bala Mohammed; 10 votes for candidate (C) Bukola Saraki; five votes for candidate (D) Mohammed Hayatudeen. “One of the elders deferred his votes  on grounds of continuing consultations with traditional rulers and other major stakeholders.

 

 

Two members did not cast their second ballots bringing the total to 32 votes cast out of 36.” Prof. Abdullahi said the second phase of the exercise involved zonal assessment “based on regions which was concluded as follows: a. North Central – (Eight); b. North East- (Seven); North West – (Two); One is still under consultation.”

 

On the third phase, which was based on historical antecedents of the PDP with regards to previous northern aspiration, Prof. Abdullahi noted that “the North-West has had the opportunity of contesting and even forming government in 2007. In 2011, a consensus was made among the four northern candidates, which the North- East got but lost at the primaries.

 

In 2019, it got the slot again though the party could not form the government.” He stated that the panel further noted that the North-Central has not had a single opportunity to get the PDP ticket since the inception of the current Fourth Republic. His words: “It was resolved that a leading aspirant from the North Central and one from the North-East are to be presented as northern presidential candidates.

 

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, out of the four that presented themselves from the North. “For the purpose of this exercise, it is hereby resolved that Governor Bala Mohammed from the North-East and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki from the North Central be presented as the northern consensus candidates for the moment.

 

“The successful aspirants are hereby urged to work together to make allowance for further consultations to foster understanding among themselves, and the PDP community to ensure a rancour-free primary election in which all eligible candidates would be free to exercise their right.”

 

This position was however rejected by Tambuwal and Hayatu-Deen, who said the decision of the Northern elders has no consequence on them. Tambuwal said through his campaign organisation that the team resolved to abandon the consensus when it discovered that the plan was not working. Director of Mobilisation of Tambuwal Campaign Organisation (TCO), Nicholas Msheliza, said a statement that the team met on April 20 at the Bauchi Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, where it reviewed the consensus arrangement and unanimously agreed that it was not working.

 

He added: “The team further agreed that Senator 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 Senator Saraki via a WhatsApp message.

 

“However, on Thursday, April 21, the same Senator Saraki circulated yet another WhatsApp message suggesting that members of the team should head to Minna (Niger State) for a meeting on Friday. Governor 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 Governor Tambuwal was absent at the meeting in Minna. As a result, therefore, the outcome of the Minna meeting has no consequence or any implication on the aspiration of Governor Tambuwal, who had earlier 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, Governor 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.” PDP stakeholders from 19 Northern states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), also rejected the recommendation of the Ango Abdullahi group.

 

The stakeholders in a communiqué jointly signed by former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido and ex- Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Maina Waziri, said PDP is “devoid of any sectional consideration. Our party is neither Northern nor Southern but Nigeria!”

 

They expressed joy that the Northern Elders’ Forum has through its Secretary, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, disassociated itself from Prof Ango Abdullahi’s media statement.

 

They made it clear that it is Ango’s personal opinion. The aspirants have informed us that they are discussing among themselves. They are consulting other senior citizens in order to create a better understanding and unity among themselves. “Their ultimate objective is to build a national consensus that will produce a national candidate for the party.

 

We urge them to keep up with this commendable effort,” the communiqué read in part. Ten of the 15 PDP presidential aspirants are from the South. Out of this number, six are from the South East, the zone laying claim to the ticket until the last NEC meeting, which threw open the ticket to all the six geopolitical zones. Four of the South East aspirants also met early April and promised to work together to ensure that the zone produces the PDP candidate for the presidential election.

 

The aspirants are former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and ex-President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim; former president of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Sam Ohuabunwa and an American based medical doctor, Nwachukwu Anakwenze. Anyim who read the resolution reached by the aspirants after their meeting, said they agreed to work together as a team. “We will work together to ensure that a south easterner emerge as PDP flag bearer for the 2023 presidential election. We intend to consult with other zones on this issue and it is based on fairness and equity.

 

In doing so, it is important to note that we have always supported other zones, and we now expect them to reciprocate.” He, however, did not say how they  intend to achieve this, whether through consensus or otherwise. It was also the last known time the aspirants met.

 

Dr. Anakwenze, one of the four aspirants was screened out of the race by the PDP presidential screening committee. With barely a week to the May 28 PDP special national convention, the 15 aspirants cleared by the party to contest the primary are already on the field canvassing for delegates’ votes.

 

But that does not mean that forging a consensus among them has been foreclosed. However, there is nothing wrong if all the aspirants decide to contest the presidential primary provided the party will conduct and credible and transparent primary and would be able to manage the postprimary crisis.

 

In 2018, all the 12 aspirants that obtained the presidential nomination form contested the primary and the losers congratulated the winner immediately at the convention ground.

 

Against this backdrop, some analysts are of the view that the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) should do if the aspirants fail to pick a consensus candidate among themselves is to ensure a level playing field. Luckily, Senator David Mark who is the chairman of the National Convention Organising Committee is a respected party man.

 

He is not known to have taken side with any of the aspirants before he was appointed to head the convention committee. Mark is also one of PDP leaders who believe in the party and will do anything to ensure its survival but the May 28 special national convention will further test his integrity.

 

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