From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja, John Adams, Minna and Gyang Bere, Jos
Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, has said Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and former managing director, FSB International Bank, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, were not only part of the initiators of the consensus option, but also agreed to accept the outcome of the exercise.
He said aspirants, who either did not participate or feel uncomfortable with the arrangement that produced him and former Senate president, Bukola Saraki as the North’s preferred presidential aspirants for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were free to contest the primary.
He said Saraki, Tambuwal Hayatu-Deen and him collectively approached former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd) to organise northern elders to chose a consensus candidate for the North in PDP.
Northern Leaders in a communiqué signed by Prof. Ango Abdullahi, had on Friday shortlisted Saraki and Mohammed as two leading presidential aspirants to represent the zone in the PDP presidential primary.
Abdullahi said Saraki, Mohammed, Tambuwal and Hayatudeen had submitted themselves for the drive towards a consensus candidate
He said the decision on Saraki and Mohammed was arrived at, based on certain criteria adopted in the assessment of the four aspirants by the northern elders.
He urged Saraki and Bala Mohammed to work together to make allowance for further consultations “to foster understanding among themselves, and the PDP community to ensure a rancour-free primary in which all eligible delegates would be free to exercise their rights.”
The development has, however, greeted with counter reactions as Tambuwal and Hayatu-Deen, rejected the decision, claiming it was not based on the principle of equity and transparency. Also former vice president, Atiku Abubakar also distanced himself from the arrangement.
The governor, in a statement by spokesman of his presidential campaign organisation, Udenta Udenta, yesterday, said instead of casting aspersions on Babangida and the northern elders that conducted the exercise, they should be commended for doing a great job.
It read in part: “We wish to place it on record that Gen. Babangida never approached nor lobbied anybody to superintend the process that will lead to the emergence of a consensus presidential aspirant. Rather it was the group of presidential aspirants made up of Sen. Bala Mohammed, Aminu Tambuwal. Sen. Bukola Saraki and Alhaji Mohammed Hayatu-Deen that collectively, freely and willingly approached Gen Babangida to help select from amongst themselves a consensus presidential Aspirant.
“The above four named individuals not only initiated the Consensus Arrangement on their own volition but also agreed to fully and unequivocally abide by the decision that Gen Babangida will arrive at in consultation with other elders as well as accept, honour the steps and procedures he will deploy in arriving at any decision.
“We, therefore, reject the current insinuations in the media from some quarters that purport that Gen Babangida and the elders either did not consult very widely or imposed a decision on an unwilling band of presidential aspirants. Gen Babangida and elders deserve nothing but commendation for the conclusions they reached and the outcome of the Consensus exercise by anybody who believes in the tenets of truth, honour and integrity.
“Political ambition should not and cannot be a condition precedent to cast overboard these time honoured verities and inviolable norms and ask those are desecrating these values to have a sober rethink.
“The Sen Bala Mohammed Campaign Organisation will not join issues with anybody on the question of the Consensus Arrangement because the truth needs no further protection from its traducers but will rather press on in rallying the nation around its progressive “Nigeria First” governance vision on the heels of the successful execution of the consensus arrangement.
“The campaign organisation, however advises all those who are not happy with the result of the selection process or who did not participate in it to focus on their individual political trajectories without let or hindrance and not muddy the political waters any further.
“Let us clarify to the millions of members and supporters of the PDP that the consensus arrangement was not designed as an end in itself but as means to an end; not as a goal with a limited regional vision or appeal but first in the series of processes and exercises aimed at building inclusiveness, harmony and unity within the ranks of the presidential aspirants in the PDP.
“Sen Bala Mohammed is a bridge builder and the composition of his Campaign Organisation will reflect our national diversity and mission of inclusivity on the basis of equity, justice and equal access to opportunities. His vision of Nigeria is a wholesome one just as his passion for party work and duty is almost peerless in the range of assignments he executed for it, not least being the Report on the 2019 Elections and the Modalities for balanced allocation of positions to be adopted by the party.
“Sen Bala Mohammed and his campaign organisation will contest for every political space and fight for every single delegate to the very end with robust energy and matchless passion but will continue to respect and honour our elders and critical party stakeholders as well as accepting and abiding by the ultimate decision this concourse of forces reach at the end of the day.”
Also reacting yesterday, Saraki in a statement by his media adviser said the process of arriving at the consensus aspirants was pain-staking, thorough and transparent.
He confirmed that he and Bauchi governor have initiated a process to ensure that one of them emerged as the North Presidential aspirant.
The statement read: “It is a welcomed development. The process that eventually led to this decision cannot be faulted. It was painstaking, thorough and transparent.
“Their decision was based on equity, justice, and the need for inclusion of all. Yes, one consensus candidate has not emerged, but they have initiated a process which can help the party later on.
“The process is a work-in-progress. One person will still emerge from the ongoing process here in the North.
“The South also has an example to emulate in deciding on the aspirants that should proceed to the primaries considering the zones that have not produced a President before like the South East. A nation like Nigeria with all the current problems, needs consensus building as a way of healing the nation and enlarging grounds of co-operation, unity and understanding.”
Saraki has said he was ready for the May 29 primary.
Speaking to newsmen in Minna, Niger State after meeting with PDP delegates at the party secretariat, the former Kwara governor said he accepted in good faith the decision of the northern elders.
Saraki was full of praises for the elders statesmen who participated in the process for their time and sacrifice.
“In the first place, we were the ones that went to them to seek their participation. They never asked for it. We decided on our own because we feel we can’t do it alone which they have done. We thank them for their patriotism and the sense of unity for this country…whatever is the outcome, I am ready for the primary election of the party.”
Addressing delegates, he said though he would not be a sectional, religious or ethnic president if elected, it should be the turn of the North Central zone to produce the next president for the country.
“This will be the first time that the zone will have a democratically elected president in this country,” he said.
While expressing the urgent need to rescue the country from the current mirage of problems confronting it as a nation, Saraki reminded the delegates that “the project is not for me alone, it is not about Bukola Saraki alone, it is about the entire North Central and Nigeria.”
In a related development, former chairman of Northern Elders’ Forum, Paul Unongo said the elders gave preference to Saraki because of his experience, having been two-term governor and senate president during the trying moments in the country.
Onongo said he was going to reach out to former Ambassador of Nigeria to Switzerland, Yahaya Kwande who was not part of the meeting on the decision of the elders forum.
The former minister of steel development stated this at an interaction with journalists in Jos saying he was a proponent of zoning, but that it should be rotated among the six geo-political zones.