By Wilfred Eya and Noah Ebije, Kaduna

With deadline for the primaries of political parties fast approaching, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed and former Senate president, Bukola Saraki have come under intense pressure as Northern elders intensify efforts to get one of them to step down.

Both aspirants emerged as the Northern consensus candidates of the main opposition  Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 presidential election.

A highly placed source from the Northern extraction told Daily Sun that the move being anchored by former head of state, Gen Ibrahim Babangida is to ensure the aspirants rally round the consensus candidate in the primary which comes up next month.

He said the Northern leaders have insisted that either of Mohammed or Saraki must step down for the other to reduce friction during the primary.

The source said efforts are also ongoing to woo the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal  to accept the consensus deal, which he earlier rejected, when the recommendations by the leaders did not favour him.

Apart from Mohammed, Saraki and Tambuwal, the other candidate in the consensus arrangement was Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, former managing director of African International Bank. 

They first met in Bauchi on March 20 and announced that they were all working together to put forward one of them to contest for the office of the president instead of having all of them jostling for the same post.

  In the process leading to the consensus exercise, the quartet visited Gen Babangida and gave him the mandate to lead the move for a consensus candidate and agreed to abide by the outcome of the decision. The former president encouraged the aspirants to resolve within themselves and come up with one candidate, which they reported back to him after some days and asked him to go ahead and pick one of them.

But General Babangida opted for inclusion through wider consultations and assigned one of the elder statesmen in the North, Prof Ango Abdullahi, to design some criteria and carry out the necessary consultations with elders and leaders across the three geopolitical zones of the North.

Out of the four aspirants, Bauchi governor and former Senate president emerged as preferred choices, but Tambuwal rejected the outcome claiming that the Northern leaders did not follow due process.

Meanwhile, Northern elderstatesman and former Vice Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Professor Ango Abdullahi, has said zoning of the presidency is dead and buried.

To this end, he called on political parties to forget zoning of presidency to a particular region

He advised that those seeking to contest for the Presidency should be allowed to do so on the merit of their competence and not where they come from.

He added that such positions should be left open for standard norms of democratic processes.

Professor Abdullahi, who is the Convener of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) stated this at his Zaria residence while reacting to the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) leadership who paid him a visit.

The elder statesman who disclosed that over 11 presidential aspirants which cut across various political parties have visited him in Zaria for his candid advice, prayers and support, adding that, election of who becomes President of Nigeria should be left open and winner allowed to emerge regardless of where he or she comes from.

“The issue of zoning or power shift is dead and buried, candidates should be allowed to contest election on the basis of merit of their competence and not where they come from, hence the Northern Elders Forum is of the opinion that the presidential position should be left open for standard norms of democractic process.”

On the controversial PDP consensus process that produced  Saraki from North Central and Governor Mohammed from North East, he said: “The aspirants insisted on us choosing from among them but we told them it was not possible, so we consulted elders from across the North West, North Central and North East before Tambuwal and Atiku Abubakar withdrew from the process.

“All elders voted for first and second choice and Bukola Saraki and Governor Bala Mohammed tied and both of them were asked to either pick one among themselves or do further consultation on the best among them and our recommendation was signed by me as Ango Abdullahi and not onbehalf of NEF, a position I made very clear at a press conference I addressed in Minna”.

While lamenting leadership failure in the country, he challenged any one to a debate on the state of the nation, stressing that, “what is killing us is self serving”.

Earlier, spokesperson of the CNG, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman said: “We, at the CNG, will continue to look up to you as a great statesman, a mentor, a guardian, a living history and an embodiment of all the exemplary qualities young Northerners should strive to achieve.

“We finally urge you to remain steadfast in providing leadership advice for strong resistance to the antics of these political dealers desperately seeking to market the worst, unproductive, inefficient individuals with no record of credence in all their endeavours on the people as candidates from the North.”

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Source: news