Consensus Deal: Saraki Settles For Chief Of Staff Position - Source
San Francisco, Nov 19, (THEWILL) – Barring any last minute changes to a deal that would ensure that the Adamu Ciroma led northern consensus candidacy arrangement does not collapse, Kwara State Governor and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant, Dr Bukola Saraki has accepted to be the Chief of Staff (COS) to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar if Atiku wins the PDP primaries and presidential election in 2011, according to an insider with knowledge of the deal.
Recall THEWILL had earlier reported that feelers from the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) put Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as frontrunner in a fragile negotiation ahead of the three other candidates (General Ibrahim Babangida, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau and Dr. Bukola Saraki), but the choice of Atiku did trigger disagreements and claims of massive inducement of members of the committee mandated to pick a consensus presidential candidate for the north in the PDP.
Some of those in the committee include former PDP National Chairman Audu Ogbeh, former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu and former Police IG, Alhaji M.D Yusuf.
Following the disagreements which has continued to delay the announcement of Atiku as its consensus candidate, the NPLF and the other candidates have been holding series of consultations on how to share political offices amongst all the interests in order to placate various political interests including those of Babangida, Gusau and Saraki, to ensure that the arrangement does not die as widely predicted by political analysts.
Though the power sharing talks are still ongoing, a source privy to the high-level horse-trading who opted to remain anonymous told THEWILL that Dr. Bukola Saraki has been sorted and has accepted to become Atiku’s Chief of Staff (COS). Saraki has also been allotted some slots in the Federal Executive Council.
Recall that Saraki, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), has recently become the most vocal amongst the other candidates saying he would accept the decision of the NPLF when it formally makes its choice public hopefully sometime next week after one last meeting with the contenders scheduled for this weekend according to the source.
THEWILL also gathered from the source that General Babangida and General Gusau Mohammed have been jointly allotted the privilege of selecting the Vice Presidential nominee for an Atiku ticket. Babangida and Gusau according to the source are jointly second in the NLPF choice.
Talks between the NPLF, Babangida and Gusau, who our source said has been unhappy with the manner in which the consensus arrangement is being handled are still ongoing. General Gusau according to our source is still of the opinion that he is the most qualified for the office amongst all the contestants.
Babangida and Gusau are yet to agree on who to nominate for the slot but THEWILL gathered from our source that efforts are being made to ensure that Gusau is comfortable with the consensus deal before it goes public hence Babangida may be pressured to favour Gusau’s choice for Vice President, a candidate who Atiku would have no objections working with as Veepee, and someone who will definitely be from the South Eastern zone.
On the other hand, Atiku Abubakar has consistently maintained that he is confident he would emerge the consensus candidate of the NPLF.
He touts his leadership track record and commitment to democratic ideals as his qualification for the position but the former Vice President continues to carry along the bribery scandal surrounding convicted former US Congressman William J. Jefferson who was found guilty following bribery deals where Atiku was prominently mentioned as beneficiary.
THEWILL also gathered that the choice of Vice President from Igbo speaking states is very key to the NPLF strategy to securing Eastern states delegates at the PDP primaries.
Though the dynamics and factors surrounding how the veepee nominee would emerge are still unclear, notable names being touted include: former Senate President and a Babangida supporter, Senator Ken Nnamani; former Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Uzor kalu and Senator Ben Obi, a strong Gusau loyalist, who was Political Adviser to the former NSA and presently the Director General of the Gusau Campaign Organization. Senator Ben Obi was also Atiku Abubakar’s running mate in the 2007 presidential election under the Action Congress (AC), now known as Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
The source said former Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili is not being considered as a possible veepee nominee.
To win Igbo PDP delegates, the NPLF would have to carry along key and respected politicians in the East that can mobilize delegates from the zone and whittle down the influence of the Governors from the region who have all thrown their weight behind President Goodluck Jonathan.
The NPLF banks on wooing the likes of former warlord, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu and Dr. Alex Ekweme in its plot to secure a huge number of delegates from the East.