To avoid a bitter presidential primary that will hurt the PDP in the next general election, some leaders are pushing for a consensus candidate…

– Nwodo, Ogunlewe, others disagree

Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

Ahead of its national convention, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in a sort of dilemma. The party’s headache is how to conduct a rancour-free presidential primary. The opposition party convention, where its candidate for the 2019 general election will emerge, is scheduled to hold between October 5 and 6, 2018.

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Apparently to avoid a bitter presidential primary that will hurt the PDP in the next general election, some leaders the party are pushing for a consensus candidate from among the aspirants.

A member of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC), who pleaded anonymity confirmed to Saturday Sun that the party is talking with the presidential aspirants on the need to come up with a consensus candidate. Specifically, he said the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin had spoken to aspirants on the need to reach a consensus.

According to him, “what the party is asking them to do is get together and arrive at a consensus. All of them are qualified to be president. If they don’t arrive at a consensus then we will go to the primary. It is best for the party for them to come together and arrive at a consensus. Whoever is chosen from among them is good to go. The BoT has told them to get together.”

At the last count, 12 persons have indicated interest to be the PDP candidate in the 2019 presidential election. They are: former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku; Senate President, Bukola Saraki; former chairman PDP National Caretaker Committee, Ahmed Makarfi; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo and former Minister of Special Duties, Taminu Turaki.

Others: are former Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau; former governor of Kano State, Senator  Rabiu Kwankwaso; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang and the founder of Baze University, Abuja, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed.

But the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan said the party leadership is not involved in the proposal for a consensus presidential candidate. “Some of our leaders are talking about that. But we have not gotten to that stage yet,” he stated.

Former Minister of Works, Senator Seye Ogunlewe, said it is not the duty of the PDP BoT to choose a presidential candidate for the party. He told Saturday Sun that the issue of who will be the PDP presidential flag bearer should be thrown to Nigerians to guide the opposition party decide who the candidate will be. According to the former Minister, all the 12 aspirants should address Nigerians in a live debate, on how each of them will solve the problems of the country if voted as president, thereafter the party can go for a primary to pick its candidate.

“I don’t believe in consensus at all. Let us to talk to Nigerians. And they will tell us who to vote for after a live debate. Then we go for primary. The BoT cannot decide for the party. BoT cannot vote for the party. Our constitution does not allow that. Let members of the public pick for us, who they think they can vote for. How would the BoT know the candidate that Nigerians want.

“All our aspirants should address Nigerians on their programmes, policies and how to address all the problems we have in Nigeria, then we will know who to pick. Nigerians will tell us who to pick. Nigerians are the ones to vote. And we must know who they want before we pick them. And the only way to know is through live debate on television. Let the aspirants tell Nigerians directly what they are offering. We will be guided by what Nigerians want, then we will vote. That is the way to go,” Ogunlewe stated.

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But disagreeing with his position, former PDP National Chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo, said there is nothing wrong with seeking for a consensus presidential candidate, as the party has a lot to benefit from it.

According to him, “it has become a tradition in politics to seek for consensus candidate. But when that fails the aspirants will go for primary election and the person, who wins will become the candidate.”

Nwodo, who is also a former governor of Enugu State, added that the insistence of some stakeholders in the party for primary does not “exclude the window for exploring a consensus.”

He told Saturday Sun: “They are not forcing anybody to step down for anybody. But where they agree voluntarily in the interest of the party, because when they go into primary, they will spend a lot of money. And if you shelve that exercise, then the candidate of the party has more resources to go for the election. So, when the candidates agree for such a dialogue to take place, it is encouraging. But where the dialogue takes place and it is not successful, of course what the party requires is to have a primary. And you know that even when a consensus candidate emerges, you still have to cast a yes or no vote for him at the convention.”

On his part, former Minister of Transport, Ebenezer Babatope, said he has nothing against the idea of a consensus candidate, if that is what would put the PDP in good stead in the 2019 presidential poll.

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He expressed his doubts though. “I don’t know how they will arrive at a consensus candidate, because there are many candidates and that demands a lot of things. It is an organizational matter,” he said. “I will rather wish that we go for zonal election of who will be the candidate, across the six geo-political zones. I think that will be the best thing to do.”

He said once all the aspirants are sure that the primary is free and fair, then there will not be any problem.

“If we are going to have a consensus, it requires a lot of work. But if the party executive can do that, good. If  we go into primary and the aspirants have confidence that there will be a free and fair primary, then there will not be problem at all. But if the BoT feels that we can have a consensus candidate, it depends on many factors. How are we going to arrive at that consensus candidate, that it will not bring friction within the party, that is the issue.” Saturday Sun.