Governor Donald Duke and his counterpart in Rivers state, Governor Peter Odili have bowed out of the presidential race in the Peoples Democratic Party, 24 hours to the national convention of the party. P.M. News learnt that the duo withdrew this afternoon, on the instruction of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Yesterday, another governor, Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna state also pulled out of the race. The moves by all these contenders for the prized crown are believed to have been dictated by the awareness that the convention may just be a formality, as the party and the leadership appear to have conceded the post to Governor Umar Yar’Adua of Katsina State, the younger brother of General Shehu Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s deputy in the military dispensation of 1976-1979.

Meanwhile, the widow of Shehu Yar’Adua, Hajiya Asabe has called on delegates to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) National Convention holding in Abuja tomorrow, to cast their votes for Governor Umar Shehu Yar’Adua. She said Yar’Adua has all the qualities needed to lead the country among all those aspiring to rule the country. According to Hajia Asabe, “Yar’Adua is a man of integrity, transparency and an incorruptible administrator and deserves the PDP presidential ticket for 2007.” P.M News also learnt that any moment from now, two of the nation’s mobile leading telecommunication networks will be relaying messages to delegates to the PDP presidential primaries in particular and the subscribers of the two networks in general on the need to support Yar’Adua in his presidential bid.

The message sponsored by the presidency is rallying support for Yar’Adua who is believed to be the anointed candidate of the presidency and possible successor to President Olusegun Obasanjo. A proposal was sent to President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mrs. Oluremi Oyo. The proposal specifically mentioned MTN and Celtel as the two networks that will relay the messages if approved. The message reads “support Mr. Integrity, Support Gov. Musa Yar’Adua for Presidency”. Another reads, “delegates, don’t sell your votes, don’t mortgage the future of Nigeria. Vote a man who would not corruptly deplete the resources of the nation”. The message was allegedly sponsored by Nigerian Youths for Integrity.

The proposal specifically said that over 10 million Nigerians would be receiving the message simultaneously and it will go a long way in creating enough awareness about the choice of Yar’adua as president. Though no cost was attached to the one page proposal, P.M.NEWS reliably gathered that the cost will be calculated after the approval by President Obasanjo. Ahead of tomorrow’s convention, Abuja the Federal Capital city and venue of the presidential primaries is aglow with activities as all the hotels are fully booked for delegates who have started arriving. Agents of the aspirants are also decorating the city with posters of assorted shapes and colours even though officials of Abuja Environmental Protection Board have warned that they will deal ruthlessly with anybody caught pasting posters in unauthorised places.

Nigerian Police spokesman, Haz Iwendi, has threatened that the police will not spare any trouble maker during the primaries. He said that the police have been trained to be civil to visiting delegates and residents of the city during the primaries. Iwendi, however, appealed to delegates and politicians to conduct themselves with a high sense of responsibility. He also appealed to the aspirants to educate their agents not to carry any weapon of any kind within and outside the venue of the primaries.

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