AHEAD of tomorrow's National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where a successor to the immediate past National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, will emerge, strong indications emerged, yesterday, that President Goodluck Jonathan was under pressure to dump the Minister of Transport, Idris Umar.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that following the plan by governors elected on the platform of the PDP to protest against the President if he succumbs to submitting Umar's name to the NEC as the new party leader, Jonathan has begun to beam his searchlight on Senator Abubakar Mahdi; a former Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Abba Aji; and former National Chairman, Grassroots Democratic Movement, GDM, Gambo Lawan, all from Borno State.
Before yesterday's pressure on the President, he was said to have favoured the Transport Minister for the position against the backdrop that he is an absolutely loyal personality and his name was coming from his wife, Patience.
A source told Sunday Vanguard that Governors Isa Yuguda of Bauchi and Ibrahim Dankwanbo of Gombe and acting governor of Taraba State, Umar Garba, all from the North-east to which the PDP national chairmanship is zoned, had settled for Mahdi as their candidate.
According to the source, the governors discussed the name, presented it to the PDP Governors Forum and subsequently to Jonathan.
A source said several blocs have also emerged to be part of the selection of Tukur's replacement, just as the Chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, Chief Tony Anenih, was said to be rooting for Mahdi as a leader of his group, Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM, while the former federal commissioner and Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, and his group were, reportedly, backing Aji for the position of the PDP National Chairman.
But when contacted yesterday by one of our correspondents on the matter and whether he was supporting Aji, Clark said he was not part of the process as he had chosen to be neutral.
According to a source, the pendulum is shifting to Borno, a non-PDP state, to avoid having a party National Chairman from a state with a PDP governor to guard against what happened in Enugu State where Governor Sullivan Chime and former PDP National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilize Nwodo, engaged in a cat and mouse relationship throughout Nwodo's tenure, as well as the fight between Tukur and his governor, Murtala Nyako.
Aji is seen as a stabilising factor in the PDP, a good party man, but a source disclosed that issues that revolved round the alleged letter by the late President Umaru Yar'Adua to the National Assembly when he sought medical vacation, even as it caused disquiet then in Aso Rock, may work against him, just as the Presidency is of the view that having Lawan is like having former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori.
The position of the PDP National Chairman was, in 2012, zoned to North-east where Tukur, from Adamawa State, emerged from while the zone, as part of continuity, retains the position.
The underlining factor now is that the fight is between the PDP and non-PDP controlled states in North- east. The PDP states are Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba while Adamawa, Yobe and Borno are the non-PDP states.
Still as top contenders are the former Acting National Secretary, Dr. Musa Babayo, from Bauchi State, who was the choice of the zone in 2012 before politics played out and Tukur got it. Also from Bauchi is former Governor Adamu
Mauzu. Babayo and Muazu are said to be good party men, humble, loyal, and loved by the people.
The list of aspirants include Barrister Ibrahim Birma, Shettima Mustapha, Abba Gana, all from Borno State.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard on the development, a member of the PDP BoT said, "We have discovered that the problem of PDP is orchestrated by associates of party leadership and not members themselves.
"In the present circumstance, we want to elect a National Chairman who will help the President to unify the party and ensure his victory in 2015″.
" We don't want any candidate who is being sponsored by any individual or group within the party. "
Forces against minister
It is against the backdrop that some forces do not want a sponsored candidate that the state chairmen of the PDP were said to be strategising to field a candidate for the post of National Chairman at tomorrow's NEC meeting in the event the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, continued to canvass for Transport Minister, Idris Umar.
The chairmen, still basking in their decisive role in the ousting of Tukur, are particular to stop any candidate they believe to be pushed by the First Lady, on account of what they claimed was her role in stretching Tukur's stay in office far longer than he should have left.
The state chairmen, who met in Abuja, on Friday, and were set for another meeting, last night, it was learnt, have found coherence with the state governors from the North-east, and are threatening to cause a vote at the NEC meeting if a candidate they deem to be unacceptable is presented.
A decision on the course of action is, however, to be taken this night at an enlarged meeting, one of the state chairmen from the South-west told Sunday Vanguard.
Meanwhile, another state chairman of the PDP from the North-central, pleaded that the leadership of the party, meaning the Presidency and the National Assembly, be given full powers to nominate an acceptable candidate who he said should be a team player.
Already some of the candidates angling for the PDP top office had made contacts with the chairmen and one of the leading aspirants, a former presidential adviser, it was learnt, was scheduled to meet the chairmen last night. Irrespective of that encounter, the chairmen are also mulling throwing up one of the state chairmen from the North-east zone acceptable to the governors for consideration as a candidate in the event of an unacceptable candidate from the first family.
The state chairmen by themselves form the single largest voting bloc within the PDP NEC and with the governors almost form half of the voting bloc in the body.
The decision of the chairmen to pass a vote of no confidence on Tukur, last Tuesday, was one of the decisive factors that finally brought about the forced resignation of the immediate past PDP National Chairman of the party the following day.
"This idea of the First Lady bringing somebody will be seriously resisted by the chairmen who feel that Tukur stayed that long because of the overt support he was enjoying from the First Lady," one of the state chairmen told Sunday Vanguard. "The decision that was finally taken on Thursday (resignation of Tukur), if it had been taken about four, five months ago, the state chairmen feel that only one governor would have gone and that would have been Amaechi. Other governors who left were complaining about Tukur and his style of administration as characterised by the unwarranted dissolution of state excos and planting his own structures in those states and that, if this decision was taken about five months ago, the party would have been saved the embarrassment of the five governors leaving at the same time.
"This time around, we are set to resist any attempt where somebody would be imposed without us being properly consulted and convinced that that person will serve first and foremost, the interest of the party rather than the interest of an individual."
It was understood that the chairmen have scheduled to meet for today to put final touches to their strategies of ensuring that only somebody who will be able to discharge responsibilities to the promotion and growth of the party will emerge at tomorrow's NEC meeting.
"We feel that what we started would not be seen as complete unless the right person emerges as the Chairman. Anything short of that may lead to a call for a vote on the floor of NEC on Monday."
Among the criteria the state chairmen are insisting the candidate who will emerge the new PDP National Chairman should have, according to the source, are that "the person must be a politician who is accessible, ready to promote the interest of the party and not that of an individual, who is prepared to go round the 36 states of the federation to see for himself the state of the party and to ensure that the party is galvanised in preparation for elections." The source added: "We don't want a chairman who will only visit states where there is a presidential campaign. We want a chairman who will run an open door policy to all party faithful, a Chairman who will be committed to bringing back the five governors who left as a result of Tukur's high handed policies."