There are strong indications that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have settled to give President Goodluck Jonathan the right of first refusal in the contest for the party's ticket in the 2015 presidential election.
The import of this development is that the president would emerge as the party's sole candidate irrespective of the interest of other candidates. In that case, the party would skip primary election for that office.
A source in the party, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, confided in LEADERSHIP last night that the party's top hierarchy had agreed to amend its constitution to accommodate the new thinking.
The idea, the source said, is to pattern the presidential contest after that of the United States of America, where an incumbent is given express ticket to contest the election. He also declared that the move was a done deal.
"As it is now, the plan is a fait accompli: the constitution of the party would first be amended and ratified in the next non-elective national convention. Nothing will stop the move. The top echelon of the party has endorsed it and what remains is for it to be adopted by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, which is likely to hold a meeting sometime next month," he said.
However, the source revealed that the sudden move may not be unconnected to fears that the president could face a steep battle going into the primary contest, a development that is capable of tearing the party apart. "We don't want an implosion," the source said. "The party will be thoroughly weakened if that becomes the case, and, of course, it is situation we cannot afford in the light of current realities."
The party, he further said, is positioning itself to counter the surging wave of the newly announced opposition merger platform, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
PDP leaders, LEADERSHIP learnt, are not unmindful of the strength that the APC could muster and the likely apathy of PDP members after the primary elections, which could "not only empower the APC, but spell doom for the PDP."
It's not true, primary must hold - PDP
But reacting to the story last night, PDP's national publicity secretary, Mr Olisa Metuh, denied that the party planned to amend its constitution, saying there is no truth in the story.
Metuh said: "I can tell you that under the constitution of this party, and the way we run our programmes, we are going to have primaries in 2015. We are completely unaware of any move to change the constitution of the party.
"The constitution that we have, which was passed at the last national convention, provides that we must have state and national convention."
Metuh, however, maintained that party could amend its constitution if it wanted to do so.
According to him, "A constitution can be amended at any time if the members decide to do so, or when the need arises. I'm just telling you what the law is at the moment. Even the constitution of the country is being amended; the constitution of the party can be amended if they (party leaders) decide to."
We are guided by the law of the land - INEC
When contacted, the director of publicity, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Emmanuel Umenger, retorted: "What does the law say in such circumstances? Does the law allow them to do that? Look, we are guided by the laws of the land."
There have been debates as to the propriety or otherwise of President Jonathan contesting the 2015 election. The latest was the comment credited to the governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, wherein he was quoted as saying that the president 'signed an agreement to serve for only one term'. The emergence of the APC, sources said, might have ignited the new thinking in the ruling party.