Presidential ticket: Rally for consensus arrangement gaining traction in PDP
As the June 3 deadline by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for submission of names of presidential candidates of the various political parties draws near, intrigues and political calculations on how to present acceptable candidates to the electorate have been given sleepless nights to the parties’ gladiators.
The choice of presidential candidates will surely be a great test of the ability of the various parties to manage crises and handle the resultant conflicts of interest. This is because the presidential ticket is perhaps the most prized laurel any member can win. And that is why in most cases, only the most valuable, influential and experienced members throw their hats into the ring.
Leaders of the main opposition PDP have been at a crossroads on how to elect a presidential flagbearer, who will earn the support of his co-contestants and be in a pole position to win next February’s election against the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In their quest to wrest power from the ruling APC, some PDP presidential aspirants, recently took some practical steps, even at the expense of their personal ambitions, to initiate consensus arrangements among themselves to avoid rancorous primaries and frictions in the party.
Although only four out of about 15 aspirants have joined the group clamouring for the consensus option, the option is already gaining traction, with many Nigerians and party members sharing the view that it is the way to go if the party is desirous of winning the next election.
Some PDP members believe that credit should be given to the trio of former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and Governors of Sokoto and Bauchi States respectively, Aminu Tambuwal and Senator Bala Mohammed, who initiated the idea of working to produce a consensus candidate, among those who have indicated interest to contest for the office of President.
The team first met in Bauchi on March 20, 2022, and announced that its members were all working together to put forward just one of them to contest for the office of President, instead of having all of them contesting for the same post. Since then, they have admitted another aspirant into their midst. He is Mohammed Hayatoudeen, former Managing Director of African International Bank.
Since then, the initiative has started gaining the attention of many Nigerians. Party members have been commending Saraki, Tambuwal, Mohammed and Hayatoudeen for deciding of their own volition to prune down the number of aspirants, a situation that makes their ambitions become the first sacrificial lambs.
Ismaila Gaya, a party member from Katsina State described the efforts of the consensus aspirants as a big sacrifice and a demonstration that the men are patriots, statesmen, and peacemakers.
He said, “The aspirants know that by initiating this consensus move, three of them might lose out as only one person will be nominated to contest in the primary proper. Yet, they went on to make public pronouncements on their efforts, thereby, foreclosing the option for any of them to back out. These men have done well and they should be treated as heroes of the PDP and today’s democracy in Nigeria”, Gaya said.
Another member of the PDP from Abia State, Okey Elenwo noted that the subscribers to the consensus arrangement have demonstrated their transparency and commitment by going public with their plans from the beginning and leaving no room for escape or maneouvering. “Initially, I did not believe the four men were serious about their plan. To think that they mean business gives me the impression that they are making a big sacrifice, particularly since the initiative is a voluntary move and nobody is being compelled to join. Also, the party did not impose the idea nor is any incumbent President or other external or internal force directing it. The initiators deserve kudos.”
Talking about the benefit of the arrangement, Segun Adeyemo, a public commentator from Lagos State, added that what Saraki, Tambuwal, Mohammed, and Hayatoudeen have started might become the trend that will determine the shape of the 2023 elections. He added that the idea, which is seen as limited to the PDP might also be adopted by the APC because of its numerous benefits.
For Paul Ebiri from Rivers State, “This consensus arrangement will reduce tension in the PDP. It will make the presidential primaries to be better managed. The fall-out will also be easy to handle. If the aspirants are already holding discussions with each other, then they are already creating grounds for mutual understanding and support for each other. So, whoever emerges will find it easy to rally the others and everybody will be a winner”.
But Kunle Ogemo, a political analyst, wondered why it is only politicians from the northern extraction that are making such moves and cautioned southern PDP aspirants to avoid going to the primaries with many aspirants that have purchased the N40m nomination forms.
Observers, who gave kudos to the PDP gladiators that initiated the consensus are of the opinion that such a process that will reduce the number of aspirants, create a good relationship among them and prepare the grounds for working together, as a united team is what the opposition party needs to effectively challenge and defeat the ruling party.
It is also believed that without the consensus arrangement, a situation where there are 15 aspirants within PDP will only lead to division and make it easy for the ruling party to make mincemeat of it at the polls. It will be recalled that in 2015 when the APC was the leading opposition party, it managed to reduce the number of its presidential aspirants to just five. The five were Muhammadu Buhari, the eventual winner, Abubakar Atiku, Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, Rochas Okorocha, and the late Sam Nda Isaiah. Many other aspirants, who many expected to join the race simply put their ambition under wraps and chose to support Buhari to help their party defeat the then ruling PDP. It is believed that the current move by the consensus architects in the PDP is also a smart move to ensure a cohesive, united, and strong party that can easily defeat the APC, which has suffered image setbacks based on its performance in the area of security, economy and the fight against corruption.
The PDP consensus quartet has rigorously continued to take their message of unity and sacrifice to all key stakeholders in the party. They have visited all the other 11 governors, who are members of the PDP to explain their mission to them. To ensure that their initiative is not seen as a gang-up against any other aspirant, they have equally visited Atiku, who is not part of the current move. They have visited aspirants from the other zones like Nyesom Wike and Emmanuel Udom, who are also governors.
A source disclosed that the consensus team might next week hold a joint meeting with all other aspirants from other parts of the country, who are not opposed to the consensus idea so that they can all agree on modalities for further reducing the number of aspirants in the interest of the party.
Saraki, who is the spokesman of the consensus advocates, has repeatedly mentioned that all the four of them in the group are qualified to provide effective leadership and good governance for the nation. He said they believe that “the national interest and cohesion within the party are more important than individual ambition”. He added that what he and his colleagues have started is worthy of emulation as consensus building is needed at a critical time when the nation is troubled like now.
Alhaji Hassan Lado described the efforts of the group of politicians as “novel, noble, and worthy of emulation,” adding that, “they should be encouraged to pull it through. The consensus plan should not be abandoned mid-way. The PDP leadership should openly come out to identify with the idea, praise it and encourage all members and stakeholders to support it. We should encourage the subscribers to the idea to ensure it has a successful outcome. If it is just because of their selflessness and broad-mindedness, Saraki, Tambuwal, Mohammed, and Hayatoudeen deserve the votes of delegates and other Nigerians, that is, whoever emerges among them as the candidate of the PDP.
Barrister Okey Nwaeke, an Enugu-based lawyer noted that consensus is an idea supported by law. He added that the new Electoral Act recognises it as one of the ways by which parties can select candidates. He added that credit should be given to politicians, who are exploring this legal and lawful option as it demonstrates their predilection for peace, unity, and cooperation.
Nwaeke further advised that the advocates of consensus should continue to use persuasion to sell the idea and that “for as long as it is voluntary, not being forced on anybody and the initiators continue to be firm on the fundamental reasons for starting it, they will continue to be heroes of this political period and history as well as posterity will remember them for good cause.
“It will be recalled that PDP governors adopted the consensus approach in the election of the members of the National Working Committee last year during its national convention when Dr. Iyorchia Ayu emerged as national chairman. The APC also repeated this approach two weeks ago when it elected the Abdullahi Adamu-led NWC.”
Also, like Saraki, Tambuwal, Mohammed, and Hayatoudeen work to make a consensus candidate evolve in the PDP through persuasion and negotiation, close associates of President Muhammadu Buhari in APC are already sending signals that the President will eventually lead the way in endorsing one of the presidential aspirants, who will then become the consensus candidate of the ruling party.
Till then, political watchers are on the lookout as to how the consensus game will play out in both PDP and APC.