President Goodluck Jonathan’s last minute message to the PDP governors , elders and other stakeholders ahead of today’s election of national officers of the party was unambiguos yesterday: It’s Bamanga Tukur or nobody.
Tukur,the wealthy businessman and former presidential aspirant from Adamawa State, is the president’s anointed candidate for the coveted position.
But the president had been unsettled by the defiance of some governors in the North East who sponsored Dr.Musa Babayo to defeat Tukur in the zonal congress of the party in Bauchi on Thursday.
Jonathan’s response was swift.He launched into series of meetings to pacify the governors and other stakeholders to get them to back Tukur.
His effort seemed to have had little or no effect on the governors who remained adamant on supporting Babayo, although he too refused to give up as he began a fresh round of lobbying in favour of Tukur.
The meeting was still in progress at press time.
It was gathered last night that the president was considering offering the aggrieved opponents of Tukur political appointments to enable them adopt the Second Republic governor of the old Gongola State as consensus candidate.
The governors asked the president to leave the contest open for delegates to decide if he would not change his mind on Tukur.
Jonathan felt that since all other officers had been elected through consensus, it would be a waste of time for delegates to flex muscles over an issue the party could easily resolve.
A source at the session said: “The meeting on Thursday night at the Villa was deadlocked but the president still left a window for further negotiation with the governors.
“That is why he has decided to meet with the governors, party leaders, and some of the candidates.
“One of the options being considered is to compensate the remaining candidates with political appointments to enable Tukur emerge as a consensus candidate.
“The president is also trying to use the opportunity of the session to unite Tukur and the aggrieved North-East governors.”
It was gathered that Jonathan is banking on Plan B should the North-East governors stick to their position for election.
A presidency source added: “The president has successfully secured the South-South, South-East, South-West and North-Central for Tukur.
“If we have to vote, the president will have no choice than to damn the consequence from the North-East governors.
“We are hopeful it will not get to the ridiculous level of defying the president. The North-East governors have said that they have nothing against Jonathan. So, we should be able to resolve this impasse overnight.”
At the time of this report, all roads leading to the venue of the convention had been cordoned off to prevent suicide bombers from taking advantage of the political gathering to strike.
All private vehicles will not be allowed entry into any place within 300m to 500m radius to the Eagle Square .
It was learnt that a special arrangement has been made to convene delegates in security censored buses to Eagle Square .
Security will be provided by the Nigeria Police, State Security Service, and Armed Forces.
About 500 anti-terrorism agents have also been deployed in the Eagle Square for surveillance.
The Emeka Ihedioha-led five-man Screening sub-committee of the PDP Convention Committee yesterday cleared all the candidates for the various offices.
They include the chairmanship candidates : Alhaji Bamanga Muhammed Tukur; the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Prof. Rufai Alkali; ex-Minister of Commerce, Ambassador Idris Waziri(Taraba); ex-Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Shettima Mustapha; the National Secretary of the PDP, Musa Babayo; ex-Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Adamu Bello; a former National Chairman of the defunct The Grassroots Democratic Movement, (GDM), Alhaji Gambo Lawan(Borno); ex-Governor Adamu Mu’azu of Bauchi State; and a former Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba Aji, a former Minister of FCT, Bunu Sheriff, and Barrister Ibrahim Birma.
A source inside the committee said they had taken a decision at the committee level to restrict the screening to the credentials “and other basic requirements” of the candidates.
“We decided to keep politics out of it and make it administrative because we are trying to build a new party and a new country”, he said
The source indicated that the job of the committee had been made simple as the president kept out of their work. According to him, “It is our view that this is a democratic exercise, and it is the task of delegates to choose whoever they want to lead them. What we had to do was check the records for evidence of membership and academic credentials. All others are left for the delegates tomorrow (today).”
The 11 chairmanship candidates were the first to appear before the committee and no one at the Legacy House venue of the exercise would have believed the level of camaraderie among them as they chatted and traded banters.
The appearance of former Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, was surprising to those who thought he had been caught in the web of deadline for submission of forms as his name did not appear on the list earlier published. However, after speculations that he had been anointed secretary, he appeared yesterday at Legacy House to face the screening panel.
Following closely on Wednesday’s election of Chief Olusegun Oni, former governor of Ekiti State, as National Vice Chairman for the South West, a second governor who lost out last year has been compensated with party office. A third, former Ondo State Governor Olusegun Agagu is a member of the Convention Planning Committee.
Of the 11 chairmanship candidates, five appeared to be the frontrunners last night.
They are Tukur, Babayo, Waziri, Alkali, and Bello .
But only Tukur had secured the nod of four geopolitical zones-South-South, South-East, South-West and North-Central- last night.
Contrary to expectation, Chief Uche Secondus, a candidate for Deputy National Chairman, may have lost out. Although his bid initially had the support of President Goodluck Jonathan and the national leadership, he was dropped for the choice of the five South South governors, Chief Sam Jaja, a former National Vice Chairman.
The candidacy of Chief Olisa Metuh as National Publicity Secretary and Mrs Kema Chikwe as National Women Leader, too, may have been settled.
Culled: The Nation