former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)
The All Progressives Congress leaders have been meeting to avert likely crisis that may trail its presidential primary scheduled to hold in a few weeks from now.
Saturday PUNCH authoritatively learnt in Abuja on Thursday that the leaders had begun discussions with aspirants on the need to make the forthcoming primary less acrimonious.
As part of the moves to ensure peace in the party, the leadership is said to be pursuing the option of a consensus candidate.
The race for the ticket appears to be keenest between the former Head of State, Maj.-Gen.Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
But analysts believe that the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Kwakwanso’s interest in the party ticket cannot be ignored.
It was gathered that the APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, and national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had separately held at least two informal meetings with Buhari and Atiku.
It was also learnt that the two leaders had made personal appeals to the presidential aspirants to consider “the greater good” of the party.
However, none of the two aspirants has shown readiness to back out of the move to get the party’s presidential ticket.
The two leading aspirants had used recent party events to reach out to party loyalists and the would- be-delegates.
The latest being the APC recent mobilisation efforts in Sokoto and Lokoja where the party received some defectors.
But a chieftain of the APC in the South-East, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, confirmed that the party was aware that there would be challenges from the early stage, especially in the build-up to the primary, adding that the party had been holding meetings over the issue.
He said, “Many aspirants have expressed interest in the APC presidential ticket and all of them are qualified, so the party is considering whether to go for direct or indirect primary. But some of us are of the opinion that consensus may be better.
“But the likely challenge is that the person with a fat pocket may win the primary, considering the fact that he can just sit somewhere and control the situation of things.”
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, expressed anger on insinuation of a likely difficulty in resolving the issue of three strong candidates seeking the party’s presidential ticket.
He said, “The primary is yet to hold. We should leave them till when the time comes. As long as the process is transparent, the party will resolve the matter.”
Meanwhile, plans are underway by the Northern Elders Forum to set up a committee that will harmonise the positions of northern leaders ahead of the 2015 presidential poll.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that since the Peoples Democratic Party endorsed President Goodluck Jonthan as its sole candidate, prominent northern groups, especially the NEF, had stepped up efforts to ensure that a northerner wins the presidential poll.
Investigations showed that the proposal to set up a committee of eminent persons was taken so that they could work behind the scene to find a common ground on the 2015 Presidency.
It was gathered that the elders were disturbed that northern leaders were sharply divided over the issue of presidential aspirants.
It was learnt that the NEF was reaching out to other groups, including the Arewa Consultative Forum, to sort out the differences among northern leaders on the issue.
For example, a prominent member of the ACF, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, is a known supporter of Atiku.
A former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Commasie, who is the ACF chairman, is known to have a soft spot for Buhari.
A source, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “We will soon set up a committee to sort out all these issues; our collective interest is uppermost.”
When contacted, the spokesman for the NEF, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, declined to confirm the group’s plan on the committee, saying the elders would not reveal their strategies.
He, however, said that the PDP governors in the North could not save Jonathan from being defeated in the February 14, 2015 election.
Condemning the ruling party’s endorsement of Jonathan, he said, “Since the PDP has already closed its doors, the North has closed its doors to the PDP.