- Category: Politics
- Published on Sunday, 21 November 2010 05:30
- Written by The Nation
- Hits: 1321
AHEAD of the likely announcement on Tuesday of the North’s consensus aspirant for next year’s presidential election, President Goodluck Jonathan has invited for a meeting in Abuja on Monday the four northern aspirants eyeing the presidency in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Sources said the meeting may hold at the Presidential Villa. However, it could not be ascertained whether the four aspirants would honour the proposed session with the President who is also campaigning to run next year.
The move is seen in political circles as a counter-strategy by Jonathan’s camp in the race for the party’s nomination. It was learnt that the president’s loyalists were disturbed by the fact that it had been difficult to penetrate the Adamu Ciroma panel to have an idea of its likely choice.
The Ciroma-led 17-man selection panel, which is insisting on a northern presidential candidate for the party in 2010, is considering ex-military president Ibrahim Babangida; ex-vice-president Atiku Abubakar; ex-National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau and Kwara State Governor Bukola Saraki for its endorsement ahead of PDP’s primaries in January.
Babangida however told newsmen in Minna Saturday that he was not worried about the possible outcome of the exercise.
Babangida, who was with former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), spoke to journalists in Minna Saturday when he paid a Sallah visit to Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu.
Responding to a question on the countdown to the announcement of the consensus northern presidential aspirant, he said, "Me, agitated? At my age, by my exposure and experience I cannot be agitated over issues like this. Sincerely I am not agitated."
A highly-placed source spoke to The Nation on the presidency’s "sudden invitation" to the northern presidential aspirants.
He said: "There is no doubt there is panic and tension in Jonathan’s camp than even among the four aspirants.
"The initial feelers in Jonathan’s camp border on speculations that the Ciroma panel may not go far.
"With the seriousness attached to the assignment and imminent announcement of a choice, the President’s camp has been locked in lengthy sessions in the last few days on how to respond and curtail the North’s choice.
"For the four aspirants, appropriate campaign strategies have been designed to checkmate them in case the mantle falls on any.
"The President intends to use the meeting as a pre-emptive step to douse the political tension the decision of the Ciroma panel might cause.
"Jonathan is also trying to demonstrate to Nigerians that he is politically large-hearted so that the consensus candidate will have to key into his rapprochement policy.
"I think the President also does not want the political space heated up having discovered that the North-South divide is becoming pronounced."
There are strong indications that the Ciroma panel will meet with the four aspirants in Kaduna Sunday or Monday.
A top source said: "The Ciroma committee and the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) leaders will meet with the four aspirants in Kaduna. The committee will brief them on how it arrived at its decision and to avoid any pressure, Ciroma will immediately address the press.
"As I am talking to you, it is difficult for any NPLF leader to tell you the final choice but I am aware that Atiku and Saraki are top contenders for the slot.
He added: "I am aware that the Ciroma committee has designed a comprehensive package on how the consensus candidate can win the PDP primaries.
"First, the three aspirants who lose will become automatic members of the Presidential Advisory Council.
"Second, all the campaign directorates will be collapsed into one and their Directors-General will be in what is called Presidential Executive Council.
"Already, the DGs of the four campaign organizations have been meeting on modalities for the collapse of the structures of the Northern aspirants.