The Peoples Democratic Party is discreetly planning a consensus arrangement that is likely to see President Goodluck Jonathan emerging as its sole aspirant in the presidential primaries for the 2015 election.
The arrangement will also favour first term governors, who are likely to run unopposed in the party’s primaries.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH revealed that because of the sensitivity of the issue, the party is keeping details of its plans secret. The full details will, however, be made public in the middle of 2014.
The plan, it was learnt, might see the party amending its constitution to pave way for consensus candidacy for its members who are the sitting President and governors.
At the moment, it was learnt that the party is at a crossroads over whether to drop the plan completely or go-ahead with it.
It was further gathered that much as the party wants to satisfy the President, it is under no illusion about its potential threat to the cohesion of the party.
Some even fear that such a plan could lead to the disintegration of the party which prides itself as the largest in Africa.
The stakes are even higher in the North as prominent members have made subtle threats to leave the party in their numbers should the plan scale through.
Our correspondents gathered that the plan, which was leaked to some state governors and PDP leaders, had fuelled the lingering crisis in the party.
The strong opposition from governors and PDP leaders, it was learnt, forced proponents of Jonathan’s sole candidacy to refrain from announcing the plan to amend the party constitution to favour Jonathan.
Some governors, including Aliyu Babangida of Niger State, have voiced their opposition to the President’s second term ambition on the grounds that there was an existing agreement for him to run for a single term of four years.
Aliyu had insisted that Jonathan signed an agreement with governors in 2011 to spend only one term in office.
Also, a former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, was last week reported to have vowed to oppose any attempt to amend the party’s constitution in favour of Jonathan’s sole candidacy.
Atiku was defeated by Jonathan during the party’s presidential primaries in 2011.
He said, “My position is that, as far as PDP constitution is concerned, any attempt to change the rule to favour President Jonathan as a sole candidate in the event of his willingness to contest is unconstitutional.”
As part of moves to save the party from disintegration, its National Chairman, Dr. Bamangar Tukur, and his counterpart in the Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, have embarked on separate tours of the PDP states.
The issue of Jonathan’s sole candidacy is said to have featured prominently during their tours.
During his visit to Kano and Jigawa last week, Anenih held separate closed-door meetings with Governors Rabiu Kwankanso and Sule Lamido respectively.
It was learnt that Kwankwaso told Anenih in clear terms that the North would dump the PDP, if it amended its constitution to favour Jonathan’s sole candidacy.
It was also gathered the President’s sole candidacy formed part of discussions during the North-West zonal meeting of the party.
The consensus of the zonal leaders was that they should not allow the party to impose the President as the only aspirant at the presidential primaries.
Investigations showed that Anenih’s speech during his visit to Minna, Niger State, on Wednesday was part of the strategies to ease tension within the party.
He was reported to have said that the PDP was not in a haste to pick a presidential candidate for the 2015 elections.
He added that the issue was strategic and above discussions on the pages of newspapers.
The Niger State governor had earlier told the PDP leaders not to push governors out of the party.
He had said, “Unless the party decides to push some members out, no PDP governor is planning to dump the party.”
It was gathered at their closed door meeting, Aliyu pointedly told Anenih that the issue of Jonathan’s sole candidacy was capable of leading to a mass exodus of governors from the party.
It was also learnt that the party was not disposed to jettisoning Jonathan’s sole candidacy issue in spite of opposition by some governors.
As such, to pacify second term governors, particularly those of them from the North, the party is expected to give them automatic senatorial tickets.
One ready argument from proponents of Jonathan’s sole candidacy is that it is not different from what is being done by political parties in the United States when picking their candidates for the presidential election.
A member of the PDP National Working Committee, who pleaded anonymity, confirmed the development to our correspondent on Thursday.
He said, “It is true that Jonathan may be the sole candidate of our party, if we succeed in amending our constitution.
“But there are concerns that if the issue is not well handled, it will lead to the disintegration of the PDP as some of our ambitious members may dump our party. What we plan to do is to take care of vociferous governors and other members.
“After doing that, we can now begin to discuss the issue. Second term governors may get senatorial tickets, while the sole candidacy may be extended to governors in their first term.
“Another argument is that in those who are discreetly pushing for Jonathan’s candidacy are saying that in the US where we copied the presidential system from, if an incumbent want to re-contest, he is adopted as the party’s candidate.”
It was gathered that those pushing for a consensus arrangement for the President and governors were of the view that the arrangement would enhance the party’s chances at the 2015 polls.
The PDP leadership is of the view that the consensus method will not negate the concept of internal democracy identified to be a bane of the nation’s democracy, a source said.
It was, however, learnt that some politicians with presidential ambition and some of the governors who are in their second term are up in arms against the move, which is believed to have implications on their political ambitions.
Leading members of the party like former President Olusegun Obasanjo and others are opposed to any such plan and have set in motion a plot to counter it.
When contacted, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, accused opponents of the party of trying to unnecessarily heat up the polity.
According to him, the party is at the moment more concerned about settling its internal crisis than the issue of its candidates in 2015.
He said, “The fact that we are having challenges in the party now is more important to us than the issue of candidate or no candidate. We have some challenges and resolving these challenges is our main concern at the moment. The tour of members of the BOT is part of our efforts to address these challenges.”
As to whether there are plans for Jonathan run as the sole aspirant in the party’s primaries, as is done in the US, the party spokesman replied, “I can only answer based on our constitution right now. There are no plans to amend the constitution and going by the provisions of the constitution of our party, we cannot adopt the US model.
“The United States does things according to their culture and constitution. In Nigeria, we do things according to our culture and constitution. In our constitution, there are primaries and there must be primaries. The issue of whether we are galvanising support for the President or not does not arise.
“The President has not even indicated that he is going to run. If at the end he says he is going to run, who will blame him? Nobody can say he is creating tension; it is other people that are creating tension because there is no way the President can come out to say he is running or he is not running two years or three years before his tenure is up.
“If he says he is not running, he becomes a lame duck President. So, why don’t we wait until he says whether he is running? But ultimately, the decision on who will be the candidate of the party rests on the people, it rests on the party members. Members of the party will decide who is going to be the candidate of the party and Nigerians will decide who will be the President.”