Saraki, Tambuwal, Mohammed push for consensus, unity team
• Ortom: Anyone above 70 should abstain from contesting presidency
• Resign now as zoning committee chair, Arewa youths tell Ortom
• Momodu welcomes Wike to presidential race
• PDP will lose if zoning isn’t respected, says Anyim
• Ishaku lauds consensus move among aspirants
A fierce contest lies ahead within the swelling rank of presidential aspirants on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The titanic battle is between proponents of zoning/power shift versus consensus/open contest.
A day after Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, in Benue State, tossed his hat into the ring, announcing his bid to run for office of president in 2023, the trio of presidential hopefuls, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, were in Makurdi, Benue State capital, for a sole reason – to propagate the gospel of consensus.
While welcoming Wike’s declaration, Benue governor, Samuel Ortom, who doubles as the chairman of the party’s zoning committee, expressed support for his Rivers counterpart for standing by the state during its herdsmen crisis, adding categorically: “On Southern presidency I stand.”
Not letting the matter go unchallenged, Saraki said yesterday that the reason they are pushing for a consensus candidate among the presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP was to reduce the rancour in the process of getting the party’s flag-bearer.
Addressing Ortom on behalf of the team, he disclosed that they decided to form a unity team, mainly to enable them reach a consensus among themselves in the days ahead. He stressed that they took the initiative to work as a team without anybody forcing them to do so, adding that it became necessary because the country was too divided by personal interests.
Saraki said the team of – Saraki, Tambuwal and Mohammed – would be meeting the former Vice President and another presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, later on Monday on the mission to find a consensus among the number of presidential aspirants.
The former Kwara State governor said their visit to the state was to inform the governor, Ortom, who is a critical stakeholder, of their mission and purpose.
Saraki said: “I’m here today with two brothers, Tambuwal and Mohammed, as part of the ongoing consultation of the three of us who have shown indication to aspire for presidency under our great party. On our own, a couple of weeks ago, we felt that, in the interest of the party, we should be able to come together and find a consensus candidate among us.
“Our interest is very little compared to our country at this time, which is at a very defining moment. I believe only our party can rescue this country from where it is today and those of us who are aspiring are committed to ensure that we find somebody who will unite us, whom we will all support.
“That’s a better way to unite the party and reduce the rancour in the process. To do that, we must also carry along key stakeholders of the party, leaders like yourself, and that’s why we are here today.”
Responding, Ortom said that, in spite of his belief in a Southern presidency, “the decision of the party on where presidency should be zoned takes pre-eminence.”
He appreciated the team for coming up with the consensus idea and submitted that it is high time Nigerians supported younger people.
“Any person beyond 70 years should not be looking for presidency. We are in computer age and these three gentlemen you see here are computer literate and they have the capacity to lead the country. We cannot continue to be in analogue. The world has changed, we are now in the digital world and we must computerise and digitise governance too,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group under the aegis of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF) has called on Ortom to as a matter of urgency, resign and hands off the chairmanship of the PDP zoning committee. In a statement, yesterday, in Abuja, the National President of AYCF, Yerima Shettima, accused Ortom of compromise and bias, stressing that his open support for Wike’s aspiration has clearly put the North at a disadvantage as far as zoning is concerned in the PDP.
Shettima called on the PDP chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, to come clean of allegations of harbouring a hidden agenda in support of Ortom’s actions and relieve him of the zoning task assigned to him or wear the toga of a collaborator.
Shettima, who noted that Wike clearly compromised the governor during his visit to the state wherein he donated the sum of N200 million after declaring his intention to vie for the presidency, in a bid to tacitly get the endorsement of Ortom and his committee.
“Benue State has faced security challenges over the years without Wike showing concern. But such a gift coming at a time when the issue of zoning has been left to Ortom and others to decide, makes it very delicate and totally unacceptable. For the records, we have canvassed that both the APC and the PDP either zone the presidency to the North or throw it open.
“Given the person of Ortom who has always kicked against anything North and does not see himself as one from the region, aside from his vast attacks on the Hausa Fulanis of the North makes him totally unfit for the zoning committee chairman of the PDP.
“That the North has only spent two and half years out of the 16 years PDP was in power lays the moral justification for the PDP to zone its presidency to the north or at best open the race. To now have Ortom fraternising with Wike in such manner leaves much to be desired of the PDP and its chieftains,” the group stated.
ANOTHER PDP presidential aspirant, Otunba Dele Momodu, yesterday, commended Wike for joining the presidential race, saying his move “will certainly bring some robustness into the race.”
The publisher of Ovation International magazine, who has been going round the country for consultation on his aspiration, said Wike’s decision to join the race came at a time when four Northern aspirants and two from the South have purchased nomination forms for the contest. He expressed optimism that the next few weeks will be interesting for the members of the opposition party that are determined to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said: “With Wike in the race, we now have Atiku (Adamawa, Northeast), Mohammed (Bauchi, Northeast), Tambuwal (Sokoto, Northwest), Saraki (Kwara, North Central), former Senate President, Anyim Pius Ayim (Ebonyi, Southeast), and Momodu (Edo, South South). Former Anambra governor, Peter Obi (Anambra, Southeast) was also reported to have joined the race but I am not sure he’s bought the form yet. Interesting weeks ahead.”
ANYIM has urged his party to respect zoning as enshrined in the party’s constitution if the party wants to win the 2023 elections. He emphasised that 2023 is a defining moment in the history of the country and only equity, fairness, and justice would guarantee victory for the party.
Anyim, who visited Jos to notify the Plateau State chapter of the PDP of his intention to contest the presidency, noted that he came to solicit support as he has the requisite qualifications, experience, and capacity to lead the country.
He said among other things that though he is from the Southeast region of the country, he is contesting as a Nigerian who is acceptable to all regions of the country as leadership in the 21st century requires one with the needed capacity to deliver on the job.
His words: “I am privileged to present to you my expression of interest form. I want you to know that having a credible educational qualification is very important because this is the 21st century where as a leader, you must have a level of training such that you will understand and have a complete mastery of the challenges of this time.
“Today’s leadership requires capacity, competence and Nigerians are longing with nostalgia for the Goodluck administration. I was the engine room of that administration. If we are looking for experience, qualification, honour, integrity, capacity and competence, I have put my credentials on the table.
“If PDP wants to win, we should respect zoning because the only formula is fairness, justice and equity. If we don’t rotate, we will lose the election. I am seeking to guarantee the peace and progress of the country. If I become President, I won’t tolerate crisis in Plateau, I will turn Jos to be a home for all.”
He recalled that in 2015, refusal to adhere to zoning was behind PDP’s defeat at the presidential polls. “In 2015, when the PDP reviewed why we lost the election, one thing that came out clear in that report was that we did not respect zoning.
“And you and I know that as at that time, it was felt so strongly that it was the turn of the North, and even a constitutional provision could not help it. No matter what the Constitution provided and gave the then-sitting president right, nobody could tolerate it. Again, we are at that point, if we don’t zone, we will lose this election,” he warned.
Anyim, who was the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, also said when the military expunged zoning from the draft of the 1999 Constitution, the PDP enshrined it into its constitution, “In section 733 (3c) that power should rotate between north and south.
“If it doesn’t rotate like that, it might not come to the Southeast, and be sure it won’t come to North-Central,” he explained.
“This rotation is imperative, and I have said it clearly, there is no zone in this country where you won’t get capable hands to govern this nation,” he maintained.
MEANWHILE, Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, has commended the consensus initiative by some presidential aspirants within the PDP. At a remark during a meeting of the trio of Saraki, Tambuwal and Mohammed at the Taraba governor’s lodge in Abuja yesterday, Ishaku said: “This is a wonderful golden initiative. PDP is known for being a family. We have shown Nigerians how to rule and manage their affairs and I think we should still be the leaders. I am very happy with this. You have my 100 per cent support.”
He expressed optimism that other governors and leaders of the PDP would support the move. “We only have to produce one person. Let us walk together, hold our hands together and agree that this person should be our leader and then we will all fall in line to salvage this country and bring it back to what it is,” he stated.