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Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Northern stakeholders of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have picked former Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, as the consensus national chairmanship candidate of the party.
It was learnt Thursday that two other contenders from the North, where the position has been zoned, former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema, and the incumbent deputy national chairman (North), Senator Nazif Suleiman, stepped down for Ayu to emerge.
At a press briefing on Thursday in Abuja, Governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, confirmed that the Northern Caucus of the party had unanimously picked Ayu as the candidate for national chairman.
Ayu had earlier emerged the consensus national chairmanship candidate for the North-central zone after other contenders from the zone withdrew from the race early this week.
The office of PDP national chairman, currently occupied by the South, has been zoned to the North ahead of the next general election.
The party’s national convention holds in Abuja on October 31.
On Wednesday, the northern PDP stakeholders had met to select a consensus candidate, but the meeting could not hold.
They, then postponed the meeting till 11am yesterday. Another meeting later held last night, where the Bauchi Governor, Bala Mohammed, and others hinted that all the governors had decided on Ayu.
Ayu was also brought in to appeal and plead for support and he assured that he would ensure a level playing field, before eventually emerging consensus candidate.
The scheme began to unravel at the North-east meeting, when Nazif found out that the Bauchi governor had encouraged Senator Abdul Ningi to join the race in order to stop him. The plan was for them to pick Ningi over Nazif and get Ningi to withdraw for Ayu.
But when Nazif threatened he would contest, regardless, and Shema also sent a signal that he would not withdraw, Mohammed and the other governors realised their plot might fail except they begged other stakeholders. It was at this stage that they pleaded and persuaded Shema and Nazif to step down, which they accepted.
However, after over three hours meeting at the Bauchi State Government Lodge, the Northern PDP stakeholders settled for Ayu as their consensus national chairman.
Fintiri, who is the chairman of the PDP national convention committee, said, “There is no vanquished, there no victor in this meeting. We all came out united…
“Distinguished Senator Iyorcha Ayu has emerged consensus candidate of the north. With this, we are fully prepared; we are ready. We will be talking with our colleagues from other parts of the country, especially, the south that they see reasons for this consensus candidate and give us support during the 30 and 31 convention of PDP.
“All of them were immensely qualified but through discussion and reconciliation, we have emerged with consensus list that was endorsed by the candidates themselves. There was no election and there was no selection.”
In his acceptance speech, Ayu said, “It is my singular honour to accept the accept the responsibilities, which has been put on my shoulders from the North. I believe that at the end of the day, it will not only be the North, but it will be all Nigerians. The PDP will be back to its winning ways. And we will work tirelessly after the convention to rebuild the party to take over power to rebuild the country.”
Insiders privy to the horse trading said Ayu emerged based on agreement and undertaking that he and the governors gave that his emergence would not preclude anybody from any zone from contesting the Presidency.
It was also agreed that if the emergence of a presidential candidate tilted the scale in favour of any zone, the chairman would have to resign and work for the candidate if such affected the equation.
Also, it was after Ayu and the governors agreed to this that Shema and Nazif agreed to withdraw from the race.
THISDAY further gathered that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar played no role in all these.
In fact, the source said, “It is only last weekend that both men spoke for the first time after many years as they have been feuding for years. The governors made sure Atiku did not play a role.”
Meanwhile, the PDP has approved the extension of sale of nomination forms for national officers for the October 30 to 31 National Convention, from the earlier announced date of Friday, October 15, 2021 to Sunday, October 17, 2021
This was contained in a statement signed by Kola Ologbondiyan, the National Publicity Secretary and Secretary, National Convention Publicity Sub-Committee of the party.
Consequently, the last date for the submission of duly completed forms has also been extended from Saturday, October 16 to Tuesday, October 19, 2021.
Accordingly, he said that the date for the Screening of aspirants for various national offices has also been adjusted to Wednesday, October 20, 2021, while Screening Appeals, to consider appeals arising from the Screening Exercise, is now scheduled for Saturday, October 23, 2021.
Please note that the date for the National Convention still remains Saturday October 30 – Sunday 31, 2021.
All aspirants, leaders, critical stakeholders and teeming members of our great party are by this statement guided accordingly, he stated.