State governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were pulling in different directions last night on the party’s presidential choice as delegates prepared to commence voting at the Port Harcourt national convention.
Intense horse-trading by the party’s 13 presidential aspirants pervaded the city ahead of voting, and for the last time, the 13 aspirants jostling for the PDP ticket rejected pressure to consider adopting a consensus candidate.
Two of them -Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Kabiru Tanimu Turaki – dismissed speculations that they had stepped them.
The Nation gathered authoritatively that some of the governors were rooting for Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
Delegates from Cross Rivers, River, Ekiti and Edo States were particularly enthusiastic about him.
Those from Benue, home state of Senator David Mark, said they would cast their votes for the immediate past senate president.
But they said that in the event that he reconsiders his interest in the race, they would cast their lot with whoever he directs them to support.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was unrelenting in his campaign and continued to meet with as many delegates as possible ahead of voting.
Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo of Gombe State, according to sources, was reaching out to his fellow governors to back his aspiration on account of his loyalty to the party during its trying period.
The governor reminded them that he remained the only PDP governor in the North when others had left.
Worried by the tension sparked in the party by the primary, a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Aliyu Gusau held a closed door session yesterday with Atiku and 11 other aspirants.
He pleaded with them to place the survival of PDP above any personal interest.
He also asked the aspirants to be magnanimous in victory and defeat.
Multiple sources told The Nation that PDP governors turned down suggestion by one of them, Nyesom Wike (Rivers) to agree on a presidential candidate.
All the aspirants insisted on going ahead to try their luck through the ballot.
Gusau and other founding fathers of PDP were said to be concerned about stability in the party after the National Convention.
A presidential aspirant said: “Gen. Gusau only advised us to avoid rancour during the convention by subjecting ourselves to a free and fair process.
“He asked us to keep the party united irrespective of the outcome of the contest for the presidential ticket of the party.
“It was a moral suasion session and we have all decided to go into the race.”
On the suggestion for a consensus candidate allegedly promoted by Wike, one of the governors said: “As part of the horse-trading, one of us was pushing for an agreement on a candidate but we all rebuffed the suggestion.
“We knew the mindset of the governor, we did not allow him to ambush us. We told him to leave all the aspirants to slug it out.”
It’s satanic to say I’m stepping down for Saraki, says Turaki
One of the aspirants, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (a former Minister of Special Duties) denied stepping down for Senate President Bukola Saraki.
His campaign organization dismissed a speculation that he was withdrawing from the race as spurious, misguided and satanic.
“Let it be known loud and clear: Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN), has not stepped down, has no intention to step down and will never step down for any other aspirant, not in the least, the birds of passage in the PDP,” the campaign organization said in a statement.
It added:”It is sad that such a cruel impression was being created at the eleventh hour of the party’s national convention by unscrupulous personalities and their ilk who are showing a desperation never known to the party in recent times.
“Turaki has so far run a decent campaign which even the party’s National Organizing Secretary, Colonel Akobundu acknowledged publicly when his Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms were returned to the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja.
“It was this decency that propelled Turaki to refer to his co-aspirant and Senate President, Bukola Saraki as his brother who shared (?) the same edifying values and passion for Nigeria’s greatness with him when Turaki went on his consultation to Kwara State.
His position was borne out of Turaki’s close relationship with Bukola’s late father, “Okoye” Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki.
“It was this honest and innocent remark to honour a respected late leader that was now being dubiously manipulated again (this is the second or third time) by discredited people to undermine Turaki.
“Turaki remains the aspirant to beat, that probably accounted for why arrows are being fired against his aspiration.
“Luckily, his integrity, credibility, knowledge, intellectual experience, competence and dynamism had never been questioned.
“These are the attributes that had made former Nigerian leaders- Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to acknowledge Turaki’s capacity to hold the office which they once held, more so in this era of knowledge-driven governance.
“Besides, elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark and the leaders of the Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum never hid their admiration for Turaki when he was invited to address them.
“In fact, there were open endorsements by some governors and most of the state executive committees, elders and delegates visited by Turaki’s campaign team in the course of his nationwide consultations.
“In spite of his service and loyalty to the party, Turaki has been humble enough unlike his detractors not to campaign against those who once tried to destroy the soul of PDP.
“May be there is wisdom after all in the position of some of the resilient members who later became Presidential Aspirants that those who once tried to destroy the party should not be allowed to harvest where they did not sow to the extent of trying to destroy the common ‘farm’ ( the PDP).
They have argued that rewarding disloyalty or perfidy may turn out to be the party’s ‘Achilles Heels’. Time will certainly tell.”
In a separate statement, Senator Ahmed Makarfi said there was no iota of truth in a speculation that he was pulling out of the race.
He said there was no such thing and declared that he was sure of carrying the day.
Sen. Makarfi in the statement signed by his media aide, Murktar Sirajo, urged delegates at the convention to ignore the propaganda and remain focussed.
He said : “Our attention has been drawn to some disingenuous propaganda to the effect that Senator Ahmed Makarfi is stepping down from the PDP presidential nomination race at the ongoing convention in Port Harcourt.
“We wish to make very clear that not only is Senator Makarfi very much in the race, he is also doing very well and expects, at the end of the day, to get the nod of majority of the delegates to fly party’s flag in forthcoming elections.
“Delegates and the general public are advised to ignore this vile rumour and remain focussed.”