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Barely a week after four northern PDP presidential aspirants visited former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd), to seek his support towards a consensus candidate among them, a group of four southern governors yesterday held a closed-door meeting with Babangida and former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd).

LEADERSHIP observed that the meeting that started about 3:45pm lasted up to one hour before they departed for Abuja through Minna airport.

The southern Peoples Democratic Party governors who visited IBB’s house were Nyesom Wike, Rivers; Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu, and Abiodun Makinde, Oyo, as well as former Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam.

LEADERSHIP gathered that because of the seriousness of the meeting for national unity and cohesion as it regards zoning arrangements in the major opposition PDP, Babangida decided to invite General Abdulsalami who is the chairman of National Peace Committee for the meeting to devise a way to resolve the problem.

It was learnt that the southern governors had visited to seek the intervention of IBB on the need to impress it on northern aspirants to allow presidential power to return to the South for cohesion after President Muhammadu Buhari’s two terms in office. A source hinted that the governors are worried that the party may not be able to make the desired impact in 2023 if the northern aspirants refuse to see reason on why a southern candidate should emerge as the party’s presidential flag bearer for 2023.

It was learnt that the southern PDP governors reminded Babangida about his emphasis on the unity of the country when the PDP presidential aspirants from the north visited.

Babangida, it was learnt, emphasised that the unity of the country is paramount to him than any other consideration and promised to see how a balance could be struck for the needed cohesion.

Speaking to journalists immediately after the closed-door meeting at IBB’s hilltop house, Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu said they were in Minna to consult with the two former heads of state on national issues and economic development of the country.

He said, “We commended him for his support for the unity of this country and the discussions went very well and we will take it from there.”

Asked the takeaway from the meeting, Ikpeazu said that the former military president specifically “expressed concern and expressed his expectation for the younger generation to take up the baton of leadership and rescue Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki yesterday received PDP leading presidential aspirants to discuss the party’s zoning formula ahead of the 2023 general elections.

They include the governors of Sokoto and Bauchi states, Aminu Tambuwal and Bala Mohammed; former Senate President Bukola Saraki and foremost economist, Alhaji Mohammed Hayatudeen, among others.

Receiving the visitors at the Government House in Benin City, Obaseki said the country was in dire need of a leader with the capacity to unite and rebuild the nation.

“Forty years ago, we had a big cake to share but not today. That cake has disappeared. Whoever aspires to be president of this country must be somebody who Nigerians are ready to give ingredients to start to rebuild a bigger cake for us all.

“For us in Edo, we are ready for building a bigger, stronger and better Nigeria as we can’t continue the way we are today,” he said, adding the next leader of the country is not about individual aspirations but about Nigeria’s wellbeing.

Earlier, Saraki, who spoke on behalf of others, said the visit was to canvas the option to adopt a consensus candidate ahead of the 2023 general elections.

He said, “We all know the various situations that exist in our country and the need for the PDP to provide a platform, and in doing that, we realise that the interest of the country is more paramount to our own interests.

“As such, we have come together and agreed that we should work out a consensus where we don’t all just go to the field. We don’t want our energy to be focused on just trying to get to power, but on how to help make Nigeria better.”

A statement issued by the Saraki’s media team said Obaseki and Okowa supported the planned arrangement by the four aspirants of Northern extraction for the party to produce its next presidential candidate by consensus.

According to the statement, Saraki said what the country needs now is “the best hand to turn this country around.”

In Asaba, Saraki, who lauded Governor Okowa for his staunch commitment to the success of the PDP nationwide, stated that the consensus arrangement they are proposing “is not just about the issue of the North, but about Nigeria. “All of us are eminently qualified to rule this country, but we believe that this time only one person will win, and that person needs everybody to make Nigeria better. He needs everybody to fix this country. And, as we have shown, our interests are second to that of the country.”

He said it was important for the party to go with the consensus arrangement and maintain its unity in the process.

Ortom Committee Decides On Zoning Today

Meanwhile, the 37-member PDP zoning committee, led by Benue State governor Samuel Ortom, will decide and recommend which geo-political region should fly the party’s presidential ticket in the 2023 election.

The committee, comprising one member drawn from each of the 36 states and the federal capital, Abuja, was assigned the task by the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) with a mandate to report in two weeks’ time.

Ortom, at the maiden meeting of the committee last week, assured that it will come up with a recommendation that will be acceptable to all stakeholders in the country.

He however postponed the meeting till today.

Debate over zoning has failed to abate, with no fewer than 14 presidential aspirants, cut across the geo-political zone, have picked forms.

Yesterday, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar submitted his presidential nomination forms at the PDP national secretariat, Abuja.

The forms were submitted for him by media mogul, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who was accompanied by Senator Dino Melaye.

At the submission of the Atiku presidential form, Dokpesi said the Atiku campaign team has “nothing against whatever the party will decide, but the zoning will not be against us.”

On his part, Dino Melaye said “Atiku was the first to pick his form and the first to submit his form. God has told me that Atiku will be the president of Nigeria.”