North woos ACN, CPC in bid for one candidate

2011-04-13
THE NATION Newspaper- Yusuf Alli and Vincent Ikuomola

Opposition parties were locked in a crucial meeting last night in Abuja over their chances in Saturday’s presidential election.

The outcome of last weekend’s National Assembly polls, which gave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a huge lead, jolted them into action.

It is all geared towards stopping the PDP, which they say has been in the driver’s seat for 12 years without much to show for it.

It was learnt that leaders of the North were mounting pressure on the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to present a common candidate on Saturday.

But a source said last night that ACN leaders were insisting on their candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

They said this is to protect their integrity. Besides, according to the source, it is too late in the day to go with another candidate.

The parties are expected to choose among three candidates – Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (CPC), Ribadu and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau (ANPP), who was not at the meeting last night. He was in Lagos.

For many hours yesterday, Northern leaders and some key opposition figures weighed options on how to wrest the presidency from the PDP, which is fielding incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

It was gathered that two former Heads of State, three ex-governors, a former National Security Adviser and a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and ex-ministers were part of the deal being brokered.

But President Jonathan yesterday intensified his talks with the North’s leadership.

He received some of the leaders of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF), Mallam Tanko Yakasai; former Speaker of the House Representatives Ghali Umar Na’Abba and Alhaji Aminu Wali, among others.

Na’Abba said Jonathan is not a “do-or-die” politician by, according to him, allowing credible parliamentary elections.

Both of them spoke to reporters after meeting with the President.

Involved in the opposition talks were groups, such as the ACN, CPC, ANPP, Northern Political Leaders Forum, G-3 and Mega Summit Group.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The moment of truth is here. All the big men in the North are part of the last-minute deal to present a common candidate.

“I think the opposition leaders are considering a working alliance to support a candidate among the three leading ones from the North on Saturday.

“What informed the latest alliance was the need to salvage the nation from the grip of the PDP. It is not an ethnic gang-up, but a timely meeting to save the nation from the clutches of the PDP.

“The opposition leaders have realised that none of the three candidates from the North can go it alone without a working alliance.

“But the nature of the alliance is such that every group will be part of the emerging power game and the three presidential candidates will partake in an all-inclusive government.”

As at last night, no decision had been reached on who among the three candidates will be adopted.

Another source said: “Many factors are being considered. The political future of two of the three candidates that will step down is more of concern to their supporters than the alliance itself.

“That is why those at the negotiating table are insisting on a written agreement before any candidate is chosen.

“We have the challenge of intense mobilisation in the next three to four days to convince our supporters to vote for a consensus candidate.”

Representatives of the three candidates also met last night on the way forward.

The spokesman for Shekarau Campaign Organisation, Mallam Sule Yau Sule said: “Discussions are ongoing, but the final decision is yet to be taken. The target is to adopt a common candidate; that is where they are heading to.”

Asked what informed the late-hour adoption of a common candidate, Sule replied: “I think the opposition leaders want a united house; they said the house should not be divided.”

Ribadu last night summoned a meeting of his campaign directorate for consultations.

Jonathan spoke on the election saying the nation was unstoppable in its determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections.

The President, in a posting on his Facebook page, said: “Together, we sent last Saturday and we will again by the grace of God next Saturday a message send a loud message to the world that Nigeria is on an unstoppable forward movement to free, fair and credible elections and a post election period of peace, progress and stability.“

 

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