The duo of Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State must have tried to pull a fast one on the other presidential aspirants of northern extraction on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The other aspirants are former vice president Atiku Abubakar, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, and the renowned banker, Muhammad Hayatu-Deen.
Recall that the trio of Saraki, Muhammad, and Tambuwal had coopted Hayatu-Deen into its group of PDP presidential aspirants desirous of consensus in producing the party’s candidate in the 2023 presidential election. The group had visited some prominent Nigerians including former president Ibrahim Babangida and Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Professor Ango Abdullahi. It also visited other presidential aspirants like Atiku and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
This week, a report claiming that a consensus committee chaired by Professor Abdullahi had recommended to General Babangida a shortlist of preferred presidential aspirants that included only Saraki and Governor Mohammed, surfaced. It excluded Abubakar, Tambuwal, and Hayatu-Deen. However, the excluded trio has come out to dissociate itself from the NEF-led consensus, a forum that Saraki’s former Chief of Staff, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed is a prominent official.
First to dissociate self from the so-called consensus was former vice president Atiku. A statement signed by Chief Raymond Dokpesi, on behalf of the technical committee, Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign, states, “It must be stated categorically and equivocally that Waziri Atiku Abubakar MA, GCON Vice President Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999-2007 was NEVER a part of this purported consensus arrangement, neither did he at any time nor in any place, subject himself to any purported consensus process.
“Therefore, Waziri Atiku Abubakar is NOT BOUND by any of the recommendations and conclusions of the purported report.
“As an avowed nationalist, Waziri Atiku Abubakar strongly believes that Nigeria has never been as divided as it is today. He strongly believes that any ‘consensus’ arrangement premised on any regional, zonal, ethno-religious, and/or sectional gang-up will further deepen and widen this divide and worsen the wounds that urgently need to be healed.
“Consequently, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is anxious to implement plans, policies and programmes that will rescue and rebuild Nigeria. This is his unwavering and resolute pledge and commitment.”
This was the first blow to the NEF-inspired consensus, and in a VOA Hausa interview monitored in Abuja, Tambuwal gave fillip to Abubakar’s dissociation. In the interview Tambulwal said when they mulled the idea of consensus between the four of them, they thought it appropriate to visit former vice president Abubakar so they may not appear to have ganged up against him. According to Tambuwal, when they met Abubakar, he was noncommittal on the idea of consensus among the northern aspirants.
Also, the Tambuwal Campaign Organization (TCO), in a statement signed by Nicholas Msheliza, its Director-General, dissociated its principal from the purported consensus. The statement partly states that, “Our attention has been drawn to a news item that former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Gov. Bala Muhammad of Bauchi state have emerged as consensus candidates from amongst the four of us announced at a meeting in Minna, Niger state.
“This is, to be candid and forthright, not correct. The correct situation is that the team met on Wednesday 20th April 2022, at Bauchi Governor’s lodge in Abuja and had a review meeting; and, unanimously agreed that the consensus arrangement was not working.
“The team further agreed that Sen. Saraki should come up with a draft statement on how to communicate this decision to the Nigerian public. This was the last time that members of the team sat and mutually agreed on anything.
“The proposed meeting to review and vet the statement scheduled for 10 pm of the same day was aborted unilaterally by Sen. Saraki via a WhatsApp message.
“However, on Thursday, 21st, 2022, same Sen Saraki circulated yet another WhatsApp message suggesting that members of the team should head to Minna for a meeting on Friday, Gov. Tambuwal reached other members of the team and informed them that he stands by the decision of the team that the initiative is not working.
“This is the reason Gov. Tambuwal was absent at a meeting in Minna. As a result, therefore, the outcome of the Minna meeting has no consequence or any implication on the aspiration of Gov. Tambuwal, who had earlier on informed his colleagues of maintaining their agreed position that the initiative has collapsed.”
On the part of Hayatu-Deen, Lamis Dikko, the Director-General of his campaign organization, released this statement, in part: “For the record, we would like to state that the process of arriving at a consensus candidate had collapsed. The candidates involved could not reach a compromise amongst themselves, resulting in the decision of our principal, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, and Governor Aminu Tambuwal to discontinue the process.
“The announcement we witnessed yesterday was not based on the principles of equity and transparency, which we believe should lead the country and the party into the future. The committee constituted by Prof. Ango Abdullahi is completely faceless and the evaluation criteria is totally subjective.
“It seems to us that this entire charade was designed to achieve a preconceived outcome.”
Observers of this highwire political intrigue are at a loss as to how the duo of Saraki and Mohammed thought they could pull off this coup against their co-aspirants, and why General Babangida and Professor Abdullahi could allow themselves to be so used by the duo.