Big guns in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are canvassing consensus for the purpose of picking the party’s presidential candidate in next year’s election to avoid a post-primary crisis.
The promoters of the consensus arrangement see it as the “only veritable option” open to the party in view of the huge number of members who have already indicated interest in the party’s presidential ticket.
There are 11 at the last count.
They include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo of Gombe State; a former Special Duties Minister, Tanimu Turaki; and a former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
Also in the running are two former governors of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and former Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau; former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido; and an industrialist, Dr. Baba Datti Ahmed.
Senate President Bukola Saraki said on Tuesday that he is “consulting and actively considering” joining the race.
The PDP has picked October 5 and 6 for its national convention to decide who will fly its flag in the February 16, 2019 election.
But some top members of the party fear that the large number of those seeking the PDP presidential ticket may spell doom for it.
They are worried that a primary contest could throw the party into a fratricidal conflict, the end of which may be difficult to predict.
A similar crisis erupted in the PDP soon after it lost the 2015 elections, leading to the emergence of two factions.
The matter went as far as the Supreme Court which ruled in favour of the Senator Makarfi’s faction.
The push for a consensus candidate, it was learnt, has gained momentum among members of the National Working Committee (NWC) who are said to be wary of the backlashes a proper primary might cause the party.
This was after chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party, Walid Jibrin, expressed concerns over the number of presidential aspirants within the PDP about three weeks ago.
He said: “Efforts are on ground by BoT to bring all the PDP presidential aspirants together to consider how best they should accept one of them to stand, realising that despite their number, only one person will emerge as a candidate during the primaries and also only one person will emerge as the president of Nigeria.
“We have men and women of honour in the BoT that will never sell their conscience, and ensure that the best will come out of the presidential aspirant without fear and favour.”
He urged all organs of the party to “partner with BoT in this respect.”
He also asked all members of PDP to “remain calm and resolute by remaining unshaken with the belief that PDP will take over government at the federal and states with majority of our members in national assembly and state assemblies.”
It was learnt that some of the presidential aspirants may not be serious after all, and that they may be only interested in attracting attention to themselves.
Highly placed party sources said some of the aspirants would not mind other elective offices if persuaded given the “fact that even a political student knows they cannot win as little as three millions nationwide.”
There is also the theory that some of them may have been planted by the APC to weaken PDP base ahead of the 2019 elections.
One of the sources, a NWC member said: “We are very sad with the large number of presidential aspirants we have. You could argue it should be a blessing but it means we have stormy days ahead considering the chances of post-primary crisis.
“It is even more worrisome that some of our heavyweight aspirants have opted for the presidential race. We would have been happy if some were in the senatorial race or what have you.
“As it is now, there must be a consensus for us to be sure of winning. It is obvious we cannot win with the array of materials contesting for our presidential ticket.”
Another highly-placed party official said: “the APC is already settled which gives them a head start with Buhari guaranteed the ticket.
“We cannot afford to lose time and resources with the primary. By the time we are ready settling disputes and appeals, we would have lost valuable space to regain lost grounds.
“So, the consensus option appears the way to go though we have worries whether or not it might sit well with the aspirants.”
Asked if it could be misinterpreted as imposition considering the status of the aspirants involved, the source said: “well, we plan to make it as rancour-free as possible. Yes, one or two of them might kick or even leave but it would have saved us from needless headaches and battles.”
It was gathered that some PDP chieftains are also bothered that the overcrowded presidential field may have been induced by the APC to weaken its fold.
“In politics, you don’t rule out anything. Some of these aspirants recently defected and want us to entrust the PDP most valuable ticket to them.
“It is not out of place to think some of them might have been moles planted to deplete our strength and distract us with battles in the primary.
“We have to win this election because it is so important to the party’s survival. So we are not taking chances at all,” another party stalwart told our correspondent.
Investigations revealed the convention may just be an affirmative exercise for the consensus candidate while other primaries would go on as scheduled.
But there are concerns the aspirants might kick against the consensus option because of the belief that they could be outwitted.
A chieftain said: “many of them don’t even know what is at stake. This is not the time to engage in a needless popularity contest. We have to be calculated and organised to stand a chance because this is the first election we are contesting at the federal level as an opposition party.
“Yes, they might kick but we would let them see that the party’s interest is more important. I mean if the party becomes weak, will they be able to vie for its presidential ticket again?”