Abuja — Ahead of the October 5 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to pick its presidential flag bearer, the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party yesterday set hurdles the 13 aspirants must scale to secure the party's presidential ticket.
Vanguard gathered that the NWC, which said the era of "bow and go" during the screening was over, said the criteria to be met by the aspirants would include, among others, acceptability across the country; their political viability; the structure they had built over time; and the bridges they had built across the country.
According to the leadership of the party, all the 13 aspirants will be diligently scrutinized before testing their popularity at the primaries.
It also dismissed speculations of a possible existence of an agreement to favour a particular aspirant.
"The party does not and will not adopt any aspirant in the race for the presidential or any other office for that matter," the party stated.
A reliable source at the party's national secretariat told Vanguard on condition of anonymity, yesterday, that though the Board of Trustees, BoT, was working round-the-clock towards the emergence of a consensus candidate, the decision of the board was not binding on the party leadership or the aspirants.
He said: "All aspirants on our platform are credible people but that will not stop us from conducting a thorough screening of all our presidential aspirants. None of them would be asked to simply bow and go because the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus wants to do things differently.
"The party did not enter into an agreement with any of these aspirants as we have read in the media because there is no need for one. The era of impunity is over and so it is impossible to adopt a candidate in a delegate-system like ours."
He, however, noted that the party was not against the emergence of a consensus candidate, provided the aspirants subscribed to it.
Meanwhile, there are increasing pressure on the zones in the North to come up with a sort of agreement that would help reduce the heat ahead of the primaries.
Vanguard learned authoritatively that in the North West geo-political zone, party bigwigs and opinion leaders are set to meet with former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso; ex- Chairman, National Caretaker Committee of the party, Ahmed Makarfi; erstwhile Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; his Jigawa State counterpart, Sule Lamido; businessman cum politician, Datti Baba-Ahmed and incumbent governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal.
The purpose of the meeting, it was learned, is to see how some of them may drop out of the race of their own volition.
A similar meeting is also expected to hold with aspirants of North East extraction, including Atiku Abubakar and Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, in what is clearly an attempt to see the two gladiators work together as a common front.
All aspirants free to contest
Meanwhile, an official of the party, yesterday, told Vanguard that the PDP would not bar any of the aspirants on the basis of corrupt allegations.
The official, who pleaded not to be named, said the leadership of the party had chosen not to play into the hands of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, by asking aspirants facing corruption charges to bow out of the race.
He said: "The APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole is facing corruption allegations even though the security agencies have not mustered the courage to investigate and arraign him. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has serially been accused of graft but they are there still. So, we won't go into that (barring aspirants facing corruption allegations).
"We are not like APC that tries people on the pages of newspapers and found them guilty. The choice of who becomes our candidate will be determined by our delegates who represent the voice of millions of Nigerians."
On insinuations that the number of presidential aspirants may breed fresh crisis in the party after the primaries, the party official dismissed same, stating that the sheer number of interested contenders showed that the PDP was the preferred platform of Nigerians "to birth a fresh start."
He added: "The interest is a clear indication that PDP is the chosen platform of many Nigerians and I want to say that the more, the merrier.
"How many aspirants do they have in the APC? Those dreaming of seeing implosion in the PDP will continue to wait until we take over Aso Rock in 2019."