Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party Board of Trustees panel set up to discuss the possibility of having a consensus presidential candidate among the aspirants will meet with them (the aspirants) and also screen them on Thursday, The PUNCH has learnt.
The 12-man panel, which is headed by Senator Walid Jibrin, is expected to first meet in the morning of Thursday before inviting the aspirants for the screening.
Authoritative sources within the board told our correspondent in Abuja on Monday that all the 13 presidential aspirants had been contacted for the screening.
The aspirants are a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo; a former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso; and a former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa.
Others said to have been invited are President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; a former President of the Senate, David Mark; a former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Tanimu Turaki (SAN); a former Governor of Plateau State, Jona Jang; and a former Governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi.
Others expected at the meeting are a former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido; Dr Datti Baba-Ahmed and Usifo Stanley.
It was gathered that the aspirants would be persuaded to have meetings among themselves and see if they could agree on a consensus candidate.
Jubril, who will chair the meeting, confirmed to our correspondent that the board would meet with the aspirants.
“We will meet them on Thursday in Abuja, but I will not tell you the location.
“We are talking with the aspirants and I have hope that they will all work together for the progress of our party which will make us win the presidential election in 2019,” he said.
It was gathered that the aspirants had, however, made up their mind not to drop their ambition.
A member of the BoT said that the aspirants “do not want to hear anything about consensus or stepping down for anybody at all.”
But another board member said that the aspirants could still strike a deal among themselves before the October 5 and 6 dates for the presidential convention.
Investigations by our correspondent showed that the PDP is looking for a presidential candidate that will be able to deflate the support base of President Muhammadu Buhari in the northern part of the country.
A member of the National Working Committee of the party, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the party would prefer a candidate that would break Buhari’s popularity in the north.
He said, “We are praying to have a candidate that will be loved by the entire country; a nationalist, who will see the entire country as his base.
“We also want a candidate that is loved by the north, where we have zoned the ticket to. We need someone that can break the support base of President Buhari. That is just it.”
‘Killings, kidnappings caused by injustice’
Meanwhile, Lamido, on Monday alleged that heinous crimes such as killings and kidnapping were increasing due to injustice in the country.
Lamido spoke with journalists after he met with the forum of Southern and Middle belt leaders in Abuja at the residence of an Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark.
He said, “The culture of governance is deteriorating because of the absence of justice, which should be the anchor of governance but it is not in Nigeria anymore.
“That is why you are seeing all these kidnappings, Boko Haram attacks, killings in Taraba, Adamawa, Zamfara, Sokoto and all over Nigeria.
“This country is not being run according to law and order; there is nothing like justice in Nigeria. Therefore, Nigerians feel that this country is not good anymore.
“This government is trying to bury the contributions of our founding fathers; integrity and honesty are not new in our vocabulary.
“Before Buhari there was integrity; there was Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano and Nnamdi Azikiwe. These are people of honour and integrity. He (Buhari) has never for once paid tributes to our founding fathers.”
He regretted that President Buhari had breached the constitution by openly declaring that he would favour those that voted for him more than an area where he had fewer votes in 2015.
Lamido said, “More than anything, we are going through a period of injustice. In other climes, he (the President) will be impeached because he said he would work in favour of where he got 95 per cent votes and do less where he got five per cent”
“What is happening now is because this country is sick; we are looking for justice. We want a Nigeria where everybody will feel a sense of belonging, not nepotism anymore.”
The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, spoke on behalf of the forum.
He said, “Our people are deeply upset by the state of affairs in the country. Our country is at a crossroads where leadership is critical; so we have invited you here to tell us what you have for Nigeria.
“We seek restructuring of Nigeria to address the problems confronting us. We seek answers to how your policies will address all these.”
Mark seeks Abdulsalam’s blessing
Also, a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar (retd.) on Monday received Mark, who asked for his support for his presidential ambition.
Abdulsalam said Mark remained one of the capable hands needed to lead the nation out of the woods.
He said Mark had over the years demonstrated unwavering commitment to his fatherland.
He said, “Both as a military officer and politician, Senator Mark has proved to be a reliable and competent administrator.
“The nation would benefit from his wealth of experience if given the mandate to be President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Abdulsalam said he was pleased to note that the PDP was putting its house in order and playing the role of an opposition party, hoping that the 2019 elections would be free, fair and credible.
He counseled political parties, aspirants and supporters to play the game according to the rules, adding that only the wishes of the people would endure.
Earlier, Mark told his host that he was prepared for the contest believing that his track records of meritorious services to the nation had put him in a better stead to lead the nation.
The meeting later went into a closed door that lasted for about two hours. (Punch)