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WHAT WILL MAKE BABANGIDA, ATIKU, GUSAU OR SARAKI NORTH'S CONSENSUS CANDIDATE

By NBF News
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Saraki
As members of the Mallam Adamu Ciroma committee, set up by the Northern Peoples Leaders Forum (NPLF), holds its final meeting tomorrow, factors that would influence the emergence of North's consensus candidate have been unveiled. Whoever emerges as the consensus candidate would square up with President Goodluck Jonathan in the PDP presidential primaries expected to hold in January or February 2011.

Sources told Saturday Sun that going by the feeling and sentiments expressed by emirs, governors and community leaders in the North, members of the Ciroma committee have listed criteria that would influence their decision. It was gathered that most of the individuals and groups the Ciroma committee consulted, in its quest to pick one among Babangida, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; ex-national security adviser, General Aliyu Gusau and Kwara State governor, Dr. Bukola Saraki, advised that since the battle for PDP ticket is going to be against a sitting president, there is the need to choose somebody who is known in other geopolitical zones of the country.

Saturday Sun can reliably report that in recommending somebody with national acceptance, without specifically mentioning names, the Ciroma committee was reminded of what happened in 1979 when the North settled for Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the least known among those who expressed interest in becoming president from the North.

In the 1979 presidential election, Shagari, Mallam Ciroma and Alhaji Maitama Sule were considered, in the choice of a consensus candidate of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Shagari eventually emerged and contested the presidential election against the late Awolowo, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the late Mallam Waziri Ibrahim.

The Ciroma committee, it was gathered, was told that the North almost lost the presidential election in 1979, as the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who had a national clout, came close to defeating Shagari. The committee was, therefore, told that with the endorsement Jonathan has got since he officially declared to contest next year's presidential election, it would be risky for the North to present somebody who would not match him.

The popularity question
Sources said that with the recommendation for a popular personality as the consensus candidate, the Ciroma group has made consultations in the South East, South South, South West and North Central geopolitical zones, to find out who, among the four presidential aspirants being considered, would attract more votes outside their area.

It was gathered that in the consultation, the Ciroma committee met with opinion leaders in the zones and sought their positions on the aspiration of the four candidates, especially on who, among them, that would be accepted. It was gathered that various zones regaled the committee with what some of the aspirants did for them in the past, which would influence their support or the lack of it.

Also, the issue of where the vice presidential candidate would come from came up. The South East, it was found, said it would prefer somebody who is favourably disposed to the plan for an Igbo to emerge president in 2015.

Strong character factor
Another factor that would influence the choice of the Ciroma committee is the disposition of the aspirants. Sources revealed that the committee was advised to go for an aspirant who has a strong character and would be decisive as president.

The committee was specifically told not to go for an aspirant who would take decisions and reverse himself sooner than later. Also, the committee was advised to pick somebody who would have influence in the military, as the safety of democracy is important.

Geopolitical zone factor
The Ciroma committee would also be looking at the geopolitical zones of the candidates, especially as regards where former past presidents of the country came form. Babangida and Saraki are from North Central zones, which had produced three previous heads of state (Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and General Yakubu Gowon). Atiku is from North East, which produced former Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa. Gusau is from North West, which produced five heads of state (President Shehu Shagari, General Muhammadu Buhari, the late General Sani Abacha, Gen. Murtala Mohammed and the late Alhaji Umar Yar'Adua).

Sources said that the committee has consulted on Nigerians' feeling about presidents from the far North and Middle Belt and would go with what would be acceptable to the three geopolitical zones in the South.

Defender of democracy option
Sources revealed that the committee is also looking at the aspirants based on their contributions to the development of democracy. With democracy already 12 years old in the country, the sentiment, from the finding of the Ciroma committee, is to have a president who would take actions that would entrench democracy and make this system of government stronger in the country.

Getting other aspirants to accept choice
Saturday Sun found that the main headache of the Ciroma committee is how to get the three other aspirants accept the anointed one and also work for his emergence as PDP presidential candidate.

It was gathered that after tomorrow's meeting, members of the Ciroma committee would invite Babangida, Atiku, Gusau and Saraki for briefing. In the expected briefing, the power-sharing arrangement among the four candidates would be unveiled and sealed. In power sharing proposal, the second best candidate is expected to nominate vice presidential candidate, while the third best would nominate the Senate president. The fourth place, among the aspirants, is expected to nominate Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

Sources close to the Ciroma committee revealed that since the four aspirants made a commitment to accept the committee's choice, it's expected that there won't be any problem. However, the source said that if any of the aspirants rejects the committee's choice the only option that would be left to him is to pursue his ambition in another political party other than the PDP.

It was gathered that the committee's worry is whether Babangida and Atiku would keep to the promise of accepting each other as the consensus candidate. Gusau and Saraki, it was gathered, have severally restated that they would abide by the committee's decision.

Campaign organisations' directors-general already working together

Saturday Sun reliably gathered that the four directors general of the campaign organisations of Babangida, Atiku, Gusau and Saraki are already working together, ahead of the final decision of the Ciroma committee.

Sources revealed that from time to time, Chief Raymond Dokpesi (for Babangida), Mr. Chris Mamah (for Atiku), Dr. Udenta Udenta (for Saraki) and Dr. Ben Obi (for Gusau) meet, in the spirit of brotherhood.

One of the unwritten rules, among the four directors general, is that none of them would attack each other's aspirant. Instead, they have been jointly issuing statements.

When the consensus candidate would emerge
It is expected that the Ciroma committee may likely unveil the North's consensus candidate before the month runs out. Sources revealed that the committee would not delay in presenting its choice, so that it would have enough time to manage whatever controversy that may trail it, before the PDP primaries.