North's consensus candidate to emerge this month

THE NATION Newspaper

THERE were strong signs Thursday that the North may pick a consensus candidate for the 2011 presidential poll by the end of this month.

The candidate will come from the quartet of ex-President Ibrahim Babangida; ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; ex-National Security Adviser Gen. Aliyu Gusau; and Kwara Governor Bukola Saraki.

But Atiku Thursday said he no longer believed in consensus candidacy.

It was also learnt that the team searching for a consensus candidate has excluded all the campaign chiefs of the aspirants from the panel.

The search team has concluded the criteria template for the screening of the aspirants.

It was also learnt that the 17-man team, which had been meeting in the last 72hours, might engage in intense review of the records of the aspirants and hold consultation with strategically chosen Northern elders on who to back.

A highly-placed source, who spoke in confidence, said: "We are likely to pick a consensus candidate by the end of October.

"We have drawn our criteria, we have obtained the records of the affected aspirants and the screening has started.

"But in the next one week, we will begin consultations with key Northern elders on why we are zeroing in on a particular candidate. After reaching common grounds, we will unfold the final choice."

Responding to a question, the source added: "I can tell you that all the Campaign Directors- General of the aspirants have been excluded from the search panel.

"We decided to exclude the DGs to ensure fairness and justice. They cannot preside over their own affairs. And the issue at stake is not where partisan interests will partake."

The four presidential aspirants had on September 17 agreed to present a single candidate.

They also pledged to collapse their campaign organisations in favour of the common candidate.

Flaunting his credentials as a democrat, Atiku said, "consensus candidacy is no longer in vogue. Neither is voting by acclamation. People have to stand for elections. All these have come through our struggle."

He added: "God has used me to deepen democracy and the rule of law in this country. Because of my struggles against unconstitutionalism and recklessness, it is not possible to bar anyone from running for office unless by a competent court of law. It is not possible to bar someone from office, because he or she has changed party."

He also said Nigeria "must end the tradition of electing reluctant, ill-prepared and ill-equipped people as presidents".

Atiku railed at ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying dragging Obasanjo out of prison and making him president was the PDP’s greatest mistake ever.

He warned against making another mistake of electing an unwilling president.

Atiku said: "My former boss and former President Olusegun Obasanjo was somebody who came out of prison and was not ready to be president and we dragged him to be President from his Ota farm and you can see how Nigeria has ended after his tenure.

"The PDP was founded on the basis of democratic norms because we wanted to establish a very strong and big political party so that we can be able to mobilise the people of this country to ensure that there will be no more military meddling into political affairs.

"I know nothing more than putting together my ability to build and manage political parties and also making them to win elections. I know what contribution I have made to ensure that PDP is what it is today. I know the contributions I made in deepening democracy in our party and in the country at large.

"I want to say that among all the presidential aspirants that are vying for president today, nobody is politically more qualified to be president than myself. This is because if you look at all of them, none has got the experience in democracy for eight years as much as I am today because we have never had an opportunity to have a democratic governance for more than eight years.


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