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By NBF News
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IN late September, when the possibility of President Goodluck Jonathan running the 2011 presidential race became high, some Northern political leaders raised the ante and issued an ultimatum. They were determined to come together and fight Jonathan.

In a well meeting in Abuja, the northern leaders decided to set up a committee to a consensus candidate to contest against President Goodluck Jonathan.

The 17 men picked by the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) are: A.B. Mahmud, Sule Lamido, Magaji Dambatta, Audu Ogbeh, Ignatius Ayua, Iyorchia Ayu, Adamu Ciroma, Danjuma Goje, Ricky Tarfa, Ben Obi, Ango Abdullahi, Raymond Dokpesi, ABC Nwosu, Chris Mammah, Bashir Yusuf, Yakubu Lame, Shaaba Lafiagi.

But last night only nine of them finally voted for the consensus candidate. The nine are: Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Magaji Dambatta, Chief Audu Ogbeh, M.D. Yusufu, Maj.-Gen. David Jemibewon, Ambassador M.Z. Anka, Mr. Ricky Tarfa (SAN), Alhaji Shaaba Lafiaji and Alhaji Bello Kirfi.

The four presidential aspirants on the platform of the PDP – Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau and Dr. Bukola Saraki – in a joint statement promised to abide by the decision of the committee.

In setting up the committee the aspirant and the leaders had agreed on setting up a broader committee, with three nominees from each of the northern geo-political zones.

One major agreement was reached quickly when the four agree that whoever was chosen and the rest will support the candidate.

To represent the zones are A.B. Mahmoud, Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa and Magaji Dambatta (North-west); Chief Ogbeh, Ayu and Prof. Ignatius Ayua (North-central); and Ciroma, Governor Danjuma Goje of Gombe, and Tarfa (North-Central).

The move to unite Northern aspirants in the ruling party is intended to checkmate Jonathan who is seen as the ultimate threat to the return of power to the North after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua barely three years into a supposed eight-year, two-term tenure.

Atiku had said the North would have to settle for a consensus candidate if power is to return to the North in 2011. Gusau, who just resigned as the National Security Adviser (NSA), has said he is in the presidential race to win, as he promised to unveil his plans for Nigeria when he formally declares his candidacy.

Saraki had said: 'My chances are very bright because Nigeria will decide who has the best policies. This is about what each of us can deliver to Nigerians. I am talking of what I can do for Nigerians.

'I have done things in the period of seven years as governor to transform Kwara State and make people to be proud and I believe I can do the same for Nigeria. We believe that some of us have the energy, resourcefulness, capacity ability and knowledge that we can transform Nigeria and make it more effective, do some of the things we have been able to do in our state.'

In reaching its conclusion, Ciroma said that the committee consulted widely among the stakeholders in the North to ensure that the North fielded its best material against President Jonathan at the primaries.

In fine-tuning its reports, the committee had agreed on a power sharing formula among the aspirants. According to the power sharing formula, the aspirant that comes second would nominate the vice-presidential candidate; the aspirant that comes third would nominate the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), while the fourth aspirant would nominate the Senate President.

On the way to the announcement, the campaign organisations of the four aspirants dismissed a report that their decision to present a consensus candidate had deadlocked, as an attempt to 'deceive the Nigerian people and create disharmony among the various campaign organisations.'

According to the organisations the resolve of the aspirants to present a consensus candidate was on course. In a press statement signed by Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Senator Ben Obi, Udenta Udenta and Chris Mammah for the Babangida, Gusau, Saraki and Abubakar campaign organisations respectively, the organisations said the presidential candidates were 'irrevocably and irreversibly committed to the process that will throw up a single presidential candidate.'

Babangida however cautioned that the aspirants from the North should not be seen as candidates of the North, but as national aspirants. He said the position of the North on zoning had been misconstrued.

It was learnt that after consultations the political leaders 'discovered that Babangida would be a hard sell. His past was haunting him, particularly the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election. We were advised by those we met that we should look for an aspirant that would commend nationwide acceptance.'

'While we have not concluded the consensus arrangement, the former president has started making moves to contest on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party,' the committee member said.

Saraki was not considered as a core Northerner because he is from a minority ethnic group in the North.

Ciroma in an interview ahead of the announcement said 'everything is going according to plan and I believe that in the end of our exercise, we will produce a consensus candidate that will be acceptable to the aspirants and to Nigerians.

'We have said repeatedly that the North has never been one solid, indivisible unit in terms of political behaviour. Political behaviour centres on what individuals do or say. During the Second Republic, there was NPN, GNPP as well as other parties. So people are free to express their opinions. This remains the same till today. But always, one group will be the dominant group that prevails. We believe that we are the dominant group and I believe that we will prevail.

'There are people in the North who are in support of President Goodluck Jonathan. But there are people in the South who do not support President Jonathan. It is an indication of how integrated Nigeria has become. So we have no fears about the people in the North Central geo-political zone who don't believe in the North. It is not like that. In the North Central, there are people who support Jonathan and in the North Central, there are people who don't support Jonathan. In the South-South, there are people who support President Jonathan and there are people who don't support Jonathan.

'We have a document signed by all the four agreeing that one of them should emerge. This committee was set up to select one of them. That is the job we are doing.'

The Group of Nine
The Group of Nine (G.9), which voted for the consensus candidate are: Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Magaji Dambatta, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Alhaji M.D. Yusufu, Maj.-Gen. David Jemibewon, Ambassador M.Z. Anka, Mr. Ricky Tarfa (SAN), Alhaji Shaaba Lafiaji and Alhaji Bello Kirfi.

The nine were picked from a field of 17 after some individuals who were from states outside the northern region were removed from the committee. Ayu and some others were removed from the list because they had declared their intentions to contest the 2011 presidential election.?Each of the four aspirants had presented one person on the committee.  For Gusau, it was Anka; Tarfa for Atiku Abubakar, Lafiagi for Saraki and Jemibewon for Babangida.

Kirfi:?The Wazirin Bauchi (Prime Minister of Bauchi Emirate) Kirfi was Minister of Establishment in the 70s and Minister of State for Education in the Second Republic. He also served as Minister of Labour (1999 to 2002). Kirfi is close to Gusau who nominated him as minister under Obasanjo's administration.

Tarfa (SAN):?Tarfa, from Adamawa State was  lawyers who handled all the pre-2007 election cases for Abubakar. Tarfa is a nominee of Atiku in the consensus committee and so he is expected to vote for the Atiku.

Anka:? A PDP gubernatorial candidate in 1999, President Jonathan nominated him to serve as a National Commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He was however replaced because of his PDP links. He served as Nigeria's Ambassador to Libya.

Ogbeh: ?The former national chairman PDP and former Second Republic Minister of Communication, he is known for his principles, for which he suffered during his reign as PDP chairman. A close ally of Abubakar, both men left the PDP for the Action Congress.

Ciroma:?A statesman, Ciroma was one of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) presidential aspirants. He came third in the primary, behind Shehu Shagari and Maitama Sule. He was briefly the secretary of the NPN and was later made Minister for Industries, Agriculture and Finance. In September 1983, he was made the chairman of a presidential transition committee, which further demonstrated the trust the president had in his capabilities. The committee was mandated to make proposals on how to re-structure the federal government, which was going through a crisis of confidence.  He served as Minister of Finance in the government of Obasanjo.

A former presidential aspirant, former governor of the CBN, a former Minister of Finance and Agriculture, Ciroma is a founding member of the PDP. His role in this northern project might diminish his nationalistic stance. Time will tell. As an elder, he is said to be keen in demonstrating his neutrality and may refrain from voting at the initial stage.

Yusufu:? A former Inspector General, he is the leader of the Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ), a party under whose platform he contested the 1999 and 2003 polls.

Jemibewon:? Former Minister of Police Affairs, he was military governor of Western State, and first governor of old Oyo State. A founding member of the PDP, he served as chairman of the party's constitution drafting committee. He was nominated to serve in the consensus committee by Babangida.

Lafiaji:?Former governor of Kwara State, he was nominated by the Kwara Governor to serve in the committee.

Dambatta: ?A retired journalist, bureaucrat, and among pioneer public servants in the country.