- Some northern leaders are towing the path of the PDP board of trustees in streamlining the list of presidential aspirants from the zone
- Those profiled already include Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Atiku Abubakar and Bukola Saraki
- Details have also emerged relating to the reason Atiku visited some Yoruba leaders in Lagos recently
As the match to 2019 becomes intense, it has been learnt that critical stakeholders in the northern part of Nigeria have been meeting to decide on candidates to support for the presidential election.
Though seems to be some other aspirants on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), it is certain that the battle will be between incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and who, among the major contending forces, that finally springs up from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Currently, the PDP is believed to have at least 13 aspirants. While some are considered contenders, the others seem to be pretenders, according to feelers from within the party and the north.
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NAIJ.com learnt that just like the board of trustees of the PDP is working to streamline the number of those contending for the party's ticket, some northern chiefs are also closely looking at the aspirants and trying to work out a deal that would not cause frictions or further tear the region's unity apart.
"Yes, there are plans," a northern elder told NAIJ.com in the evening of Thursday, September 13. "The unity of the north is more important to us and so we are doing what we can to see who we will throw our weight behind.
"You already know that the APC has President Muhammadu Buhari. The PDP will also come out with one person. But what we want is a fair contest. So the pressure is on the PDP to come out with a widely accepted candidate and some of us seem to know who is widely accepted across the country among the aspirants."
Privileged information shows that Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria's former vice president, may emerge as the consensus candidate of the PDP if the moves by the party's board of trustees and the stakeholders are successful.
Out of the 13 aspirants, it is learnt that four have already being pencilled for consideration with further analysis ongoing.
"But as you know the major point is to support a candidate of northern extraction that is sellable across the country so we decided to do the cut down for the opposition to align its focus with ours.
"We cut down the number of aspirants to four: Senate President Bukola Saraki; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and Governor Aminu Tambuwal," the source said explaining that the situation is still sensitive.
Bukola Saraki was one of the top politicians who left the PDP in the days of Goodluck Jonathan as the president. His faction, the nPDP, fused into the APC. However, the Senate president claims he never had a smooth ride since his emergence.
While his travail, alleged victimization in the APC and the advantage of his young age are recognised, the fear among the core leaders in the region, it was learnt, is that Saraki does not represent the ideal northern posture needed for the PDP. Saraki may have also understood this argument as he is believed to have bought two nomination forms, one for the presidency, the other to return to the Senate should the first ambition fail to get him the ticket of the PDP.
In the beginning, Atiku Abubakar faced stiff opposition to his aspiration because of what analysts believe was his cosmopolitan posture. Though from the north, there was initial fear that he had close ties with some southern elements. However, some of his supporters argue that what the nation needs presently is unity and the north must start focusing on having a solid relationship with the south in order to develop evenly. There is also the push to have the north east given a chance in 2019. Apart from being ravaged by insecurity, the zone is the only part of the region that has not governed the country since Tafawa Balewa.
But Atiku has two major challenges, the first being the allegation that he was indicted in corruption issues involving a former US lawmaker, Williams Jefferson.
In defence, the Atiku campaign organization maintained in a text message to NAIJ.com that: "The former ex-congressman was convicted of 11 out of the 16 count charges in 2009, it is important to note that two of the five count charges he was found not guilty of bothers on the alleged bribing of foreign government officials as explained in the foreign corruptions practices act. This means that Atiku Abubakar was in no way attached to that case and his innocence has since been proven."
The second challenge has to do with how he can convince the likes of Sule Lamido to work for him should he emerge the PDP candidate as a section of Nigerians anticipate. But the PDP aspirants had earlier vowed to rally round any of them that emerges after the party primaries.
The discussion around Rabiu Kwankawso, a former governor of Kano with massive followership in the state, had been a heated one, NAIJ.com was informed. To some members, he represents the ideal northern philosophy and policy. The fear, however, is that he may not garner the same level of followership or support in the southern part of the country as well as in some of the northern states.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal
For Aminu Tambuwal, the deliberation around his candidacy has more about appeal. He made a major mark as speaker of the House of Representatives when he defected from the PDP at the time and joined the APC, a platform through which he became the governor of Sokoto.
It is learnt that leaders in the north recognise the advantage of having someone from the caliphate that represents the core part of the refion. His youthful age is also considered as an advantage.
The challenge for Tambuwal, however, is that his candidacy may be hard to sell. If he gets the ticket, it could be nearly impossible for him to win his Sokoto state because he is considered to lack a huge support base.
NAIJ.com learnt that the northern leaders making this considerations have liaised with the Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, and the Ohanaeze N'digbo of the south east.
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"This was the reason Atiku was summoned by the Afenifere to a meeting in Lagos recently," a loyalist told NAIJ.com.
At the meeting with the Yoruba leaders, Atiku was reportedly quizzed on his stand on restructuring which the group holds dearly. It was also learnt that the Afenifere agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with him to hold him accountable to his promises. As a follow up, leaders of the Afenifere and Ohaneze met with Atiku again at his Abuja residence as well.
NAIJ.com earlier reported that ahead of the coming Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primaries, about six presidential aspirants reportedly made a safety plan in case they fail to clinch the presidential ticket of the party in 2019 general elections.
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