Abuja — With barely two weeks to the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has taken a step closer to clinching the sole ticket to contest the 2019 Presidential election.
The Presidential hopeful, who Thursday, inaugurated a 60-member nomination council ahead of the primaries slated for October 6, 2018, has succeeded in making a significant in-road into the heart of one of the vital organs of the party, the Board of Trustees, BoT.
While reeling out names of council members at his campaign office in Abuja, Atiku shocked not a few Nigerians with the inclusion of notable BoT members including former national chairman of the Party, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Stella Omu, Chief Tom Ikimi and Chief Vincent Ogbulafor. The move, Saturday Vanguard gathered is a strategic one aimed at boosting the chances of Atiku, in the event of the failure of other 12 aspirants to agree on a consensus candidate.
It would be recalled that last week, chairman of the board, Senator Walid Jibrin warned members on the dangers of hobnobbing with Presidential aspirants, daring those with intent to do so to resign honourably.
He had said, "If you are a member of BoT, you remain the conscience of the party and you should not be moving with any aspirant.
"If we are really the conscience of the party, we should not move about with aspirants. That was what happened during the last national convention when we elected the national chairman.
"Some of us went and pitched camps with aspirants, taking them all over the place. This time, we will not allow that to happen.
"Anyone of us who moves about with any aspirant should resign from the BoT. We are the ones that will settle the complaints. But if we are involved, then, it will not be fair. So, we have told our members not to campaign with the aspirants because we are also the delegates."
Flouting the directive however, the five BoT members have pledged not only to work for Atiku but also promised to go the whole distance to ensure he emerges winner at the convention.
So much is their dedication to the Atiku cause that chairman of the council, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, in his acceptance speech, declined the "incentives" promised members of the council by the Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organization, Otunba Gbenga Daniel on behalf of his principal.
"I have a house here in Abuja; I have a car to move around. I know there are those who don't have. So, such persons can take their own incentive but I will collect mine after the victory of Wazirin Adamawa," said an elated Iwuanyanwu who would go on to charge his colleagues to get down to business immediately.
Like Iwuanyanwu, Daniel told the council members not to sleep on in Abuja but to move down to their wards, states and zonal levels to drum support for Atiku, assuring them that upon victory, their efforts would be worth the sacrifice.
Given the dramatic twist of events occasioned by the rebellion within the BoT, a distraught Senator Jibrin called off the press briefing earlier scheduled to hold yesterday even as he noted that the party would issue a statement on what transpired at the meeting held with the aspirants late on Thursday night.
How Jibrin lost out
Meanwhile, an official of the party who does not want his name mentioned said Jibrin's inability to stop BoT members from aligning with one of the Presidential aspirants, is not unconnected with the determination of the members to freely express their preferences in accordance with the dictates of their conscience. According to him, the 2017 elective convention of the party took place in an atmosphere of democracy where party leaders and stakeholders freely moved about with the aspirants of their choice, without any hindrance.
"I think what is happening is good for the PDP internal democratic process. BoT members are delegates who will cast their votes on convention day. If there are about four or five with Atiku, is it not true that the rest are with other contenders? There are some legislators, governors, ex-governors and various leaders who are with one aspirant or the other. I really don't see any reason the BoT members should not support whoever they wish to support," he said.
He also noted that the insistence of Jibrin for a consensus candidate may have played a part in the crack currently rattling the Board of Trustees today.
"The leadership of the board has been working behind the scene for a consensus candidate but as it were, there is no way of knowing who it would be especially as none of the aspirants is ready to step down, at least for now. These leaders probably felt that if primary election is where the choice of the Presidential candidate would be determined, why not join the camp of the aspirant whose leadership they believe in?
"Our governors are against the consensus thing, so it appears that the BoT is alone on this. If any aspirant decides to step down, that is fine but if not, they should be allowed to test their popularity. I believe this is the position of the national leadership of the party," he added.
With the possible exemption of Senator Ahmed Makarfi who is ready to abide by any decision the party deems fit, all the aspirants are prepared to slug it out for the sole ticket, with a pledge to throw their weight behind who ever picks the ticket at the convention. However, with the recent turn of events, it remains to be seen what manner of Presidential primaries the party will hold come October 6, 2018.