By NBF News

The committee of elders that chose the Northern PDP consensus presidential candidate voted on Monday in strict confidence such that no member knew how the other voted, its chairman Malam Adamu Ciroma has said.

Ciroma said based on the procedure adopted by the committee, which was meant to protect the confidentiality of the process, nobody has a way of knowing how the members cast their votes.

Speaking to Daily Trust in Abuja in reaction to media reports mentioning the supposed manner in which the committee members voted, Ciroma said he could not comprehend 'how people sat down and imagined the story as it came out in the papers.'

The Northern Political Leaders Forum on Monday announced that former vice president Atiku Abubakar was selected as the consensus candidate of the North in the race for the presidential ticket of the ruling People's Democratic Party.

Some newspapers yesterday reported that Abubakar scored four votes to beat former president Ibrahim Babangida with three votes, Kwara state governor Bukola Saraki with two votes and retired General Aliyu Gusau with no vote.

'It's completely untrue,' Ciroma said. 'We did the voting in such a way that no member of the committee would tell how the other voted.'

Few hours after Ciroma spoke to Daily Trust, the committee itself issued a statement, denying the media reports.

The statement, signed by secretary of the committee Abdulkadir Sabo Bello, said: 'The authors of the report…claimed to have known which members of the consensus committee voted for which candidates using evasive attributions…The forum would have totally ignored the report if the paper did not also attribute its story to 'a source who witnessed the vote.'

'For the avoidance of doubt, the NPLF consensus committee has finished its job and does not wish to be drawn into unnecessary controversy with paid agents of the state who thrive on patronage from any government in power. But the reference to 'a source who witnessed the vote' has made this rejoinder necessary.

'Unknown to the peddlers of this false report I, Bello Sabo Abdulkadir, secretary to the consensus committee, was the only person present who was not a member of the committee, when the voting to choose the consensus candidate took place. Yet, even I have no idea which member of the committee voted for which candidate simply because the voting was by secret ballot and no member volunteered any information to that effect.

'But the report in question fail all known tenets of responsible journalism in the sense that none of the reporters mentioned above spoke to me or to any member of the consensus committee. As a matter of fact each of the members of the committee has assured me that they have never met with any of the reporters nor spoken to any reporter since the conclusion of the process.

'How then did the reporters come about their vote count, not to talk of matching votes and voters to specific candidates? The report is, to say the least, highly irresponsible and regrettable.

'I would like to seize this opportunity to apologize to all whose hard earned reputation this report seeks to tarnish, especially the aspirants who submitted themselves to the consensus process.

'We all know the rotten depth to which the profession of journalism has descended whereby anyone with money can buy a story no matter how implausible or how absurd. We also know the identity of those who seek to benefit from this kind of reportage. They should know that those who live by the sword are bound to die by it.'

When asked about the fate of the consensus committee now that a candidate has been chosen, Ciroma said the committee was formed for a specific purpose and it has completed its assignment.

He said, however, that members of the committee were part of the broader Northern Political Leaders Forum which is still around for the purpose it was conceived. He said the forum will continue working to ensure that Abubakar emerges as presidential candidate of the PDP and subsequently wins the presidential election next year.