A fresh crisis is brewing in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as its leaders are set for a collision with some northern governors over a plot by some stakeholders to ensure that President Goodluck Jonathan emerges the party's presidential candidate for the 2015 general election by affirmation.
Although the president has not openly declared his interest in running for a second term, saying he would wait till 2014 before he announces his decision, the party has already been divided into pro and anti-Jonathan camps ahead of the presidential race.
Already, some loyalists of the president, in a bid to secure the party's presidential ticket, especially from governors who control the delegates at the party's national convention, are working to ensure that the president is the party's sole presidential candidate at the national convention and the delegates saddled with the simple task of ratifying his candidacy.
However, THISDAY learnt that the strategy does not have the support of some key party members, including most PDP governors who appear set to challenge it.
According to sources, the consensual election of Chief Tony Anenih as the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), the emergence of the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, as the chairman of the PDP Governors' Forum (PDP-GF), the takeover of the PDP structures in the South-west by anti-Olusegun Obasanjo's elements, and the sack of Senator Bode Mustapha as the national auditor of the party, were deliberate designs aimed at getting the affirmation for the president.
The sources added that last Friday's ruling by Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of an Abuja High Court that Jonathan was eligible to run in 2015, has served as the impetus for those behind the affirmation plot.
A few days before the court's pronouncement, PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, had said there was nothing wrong in the president contesting for the presidential ticket of the party.
Some presidency officials and stakeholders within PDP have also advocated the adoption of right of first refusal for Jonathan to emerge as the presidential candidate of the PDP, explaining that under the presidential system of government, the president, as the incumbent, should be given the right of first refusal to avoid distractions.
Sources told THISDAY that the right of first refusal option for the president should be seen as a counterbalance to the opposition parties uniting under the All Progressives Congress (APC).
One of the presidency sources said: "When the opposition parties are putting their house in order ahead of 2015, we in the PDP should not fold our hands and pretend that nothing is wrong.
"The right of first refusal for the president will eventually lead to an affirmation at the national convention where the delegates will simply affirm Jonathan as its (PDP) presidential candidate in line with the practice of the presidential system of government."
THISDAY gathered that it was in line with this strategy that the party has been gradually restructured to let those with ambitions know that there is no vacancy in the party for the presidential candidate.
"You know the political pedigree of Chief Tony Anenih and you know that Akpabio was brought into the plan as a counterweight to what was happening in the PDP," the presidency source said, adding that governors nursing presidential ambitions should by now have read the handwriting on the wall.
Though the PDP constitution stipulates that there shall be a national convention to choose a presidential candidate of the party, the presidency source added that the convention would be "turned to a national affirmation where the president will be affirmed as the presidential candidate. It is our expectation that the president will emerge as the consensus candidate."
But in a reaction to the restructuring of the party, a northern governor who spoke to THISDAY, simply said: "Inasmuch as we see what is happening in the PDP as provocative, I can assure you that it will not make any of us leave the party to join another party.
"Some of us know that the coming on board of Anenih was for a purpose, but we are determined not to throw in the towel.
"We are equally aware that the suit by one unknown man that went to court to determine whether President Jonathan was eligible for a second term in office or not was a front.
"Everybody knows that he was fronting for President Jonathan, but we will not be disturbed; neither do we plan to abandon ship.
"For us, it is too early in the day to do anything contrary, because we are prepared for everything as there is always a Plan B in all political undertakings. But let's wait till we get to that bridge and decide how to cross it."