Although some pundits were curious as to how the outcome of the consensus arrangement among four Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aspirants would end, not many foresaw that it would crumble in the way that it is, dragging the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) into a somewhat knotty spot.
In March this year, the trio of Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal; former Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki; and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed had after a two-hour closed-door meeting in Bauchi agreed to shop for a consensus candidate from among them. They were later joined by business mogul Mohammed Hayatudeen.
Curiously, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who was the Northern consensus candidate in 2011 under the leadership of the late Adamu Ciroma committee, was indifferent to the arrangement. Although there were insinuations that the move was made to stop Atiku from getting the ticket, he later explained that he distanced himself from the arrangement because it was supposed to be driven by elders and not the aspirants.
However, the consensus proposition was designed to trim the number of presidential aspirants ahead of PDP’s May 28 Presidential primary election. So far the party had 17 aspirants.
And so the consensus quartet, as they were later called, set out on the task of wooing PDP stakeholders and aspirants to buy into their plan. But no sooner had they started than it became clear that they were on their own as other aspirants, besides Atiku, didn’t buy into it.
While the South East presidential aspirants formed their own alliance, Akwa Ibom State governor Emmanuel Udom, was indifferent to the whole idea, his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, dismissed the move as a “shine-shine bobo” arrangement.
However the bubble burst last Friday when the result of the consensus arrangement emerged.
A communique issued by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and signed by its chairman and a former Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, picked Saraki and Mohammed as Northern Consensus candidates for the PDP Presidential ticket.
Ango who is the chairman of the Consensus Committee said this when he submitted the report of his committee to Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, a former military president, whom he said, the presidential aspirants unanimously vested with the task of deciding a consensus candidate for the northern region from among them.
He said Saraki and Mohammed’s selection was based on certain criteria adopted in the assessment of the four aspirants who submitted themselves.
But this sparked off a fierce reaction from Tambuwal and Hayatudeen, who both dismissed the verdict, adding that they had all agreed to discontinue the deal because it was not working days before the verdict was released.
They disclosed that all members of the consensus quartet unanimously agreed that the arrangement was not working hence its disbandment as on Wednesday 20 when they met at Bauchi Governor’s lodge in Abuja and had a review meeting.
On his part, Atiku, perhaps feeling vindicated, said the consensus arrangement was not binding on him, describing the idea as divisive, adding that any arrangement that is “premised on regional, zonal, ethno-religious, and/or sectional will further deepen and widen the divide in the country.”
Former Jigawa State governor and a founding father of PDP, Sule Lamido, declared that the pronouncement was the opinion of the initiators of the consensus arrangement even though it was injurious to the party.
But this was just the beginning as the dispute shifted to the NEF as it’s spokesman, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, distanced the forum from the consensus declaration by its chairman, Prof Ango Abdullahi.
Baba-Ahmed, who said the entire process to produce the consensus candidates did not involve the Forum, said it believes that the North has excellent candidates whose fate should be left to party delegates and voters to decide.
Beneficiary of the consensus arrangement, Bauchi State governor Bala Mohammed, didn’t take to the posture of the spokesman lightly, describing his statement as an act of insubordination.
He insisted that Ango Abdullahi acted on behalf of the NEF even though not all members of the organisation were invited to participate in the process of choosing the consensus candidates.
Mohammed also dismissed the claims by Tambuwal and Hayatudeen. The Bauchi governor who stated that the Northern Elders needed to be commended and not criticised for their selfless effort in choosing a candidate for the North, said Tambuwal backed out of the consensus deal because he probably had a premonition that it wouldn’t work in his favour.
Earlier, minister of Mines and Steel during the second republic and member of NEF, Dr. Paul Unongo, justified the choice of Saraki and Mohammed as PDP Northern consensus candidates.
The elder statesman who addressed newsmen in Jos, the Plateau State capital, said the whole idea was meant to solidify the unity of the North.
Unongo who also spoke on the controversies trailing the endorsements explained that the decision was taken in the interest of the north and North Central in particular to foster its unity.
“Both Saraki and Bala stood out, we felt that a person who was a former senate president and two-term governor of Kwara state and performing governor of Bauchi state would be a better choice for the North. We felt we should present the two and let them choose among themselves.
“I was there with Professor Ango Abdullahi and many others and we gave our views. If our able and qualified elders like Yahaya Kwande felt we didn’t do well, they can go ahead and submit their own fresh names and we shall look into it but we felt we have represented all members.”
In a retort, some PDP Northern Stakeholders, including Lamido; former minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Waziri; former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu; Senator Dino Melaye; former governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna; and former governor of Kogi State, Ibrahim Idris, warned NEF against splitting the PDP between North and South.
Evidently, the consensus deal appears to have hit a rock as initiators of the idea have failed to agree with the outcome. And if the spirit of the consensus as enshrined in the new law is anything to go by, since all the aspirants have failed to agree it won’t fly.
Tambuwal and Saraki have since submitted their forms preparatory to the May 28 primaries.
However, it is left to be seen how harmful the failure of the consensus deal will be on the party going into the election.
In any case, as much as the party leadership was not part of the arrangement, it has been put in a tight spot to ensure that the situation does not get any worse than it is now.
With the PDP national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, from the North, pressure will be on him to ensure as much as possible that the aspirants don’t embark on toxic engagements which could affect the party’s fortunes.
“It is a dicey situation at this point. The party leadership would need a lot of tact and depth to manage the seeming unpalatable outcome of this consensus deal. If the party overlooks this situation, it could turn out to be harmful,” a PDP chieftain, Ibrahim Abdullahi, cautioned.
Corroborating, Biodun Adeleke, a lawyer and pundit, said “When such arrangements fail in an acrimonious way, it’s left to be seen how the leaders of the party react to it.”
As it stands the days ahead will define the impact of the failed consensus deal on the party.
CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes on the ripple effect of the crumbling Northern consensus deal among four Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aspirants