ABOUT four Igbo candidates are being considered for the Vice-Presidential slot to the Northern Consensus Candidate, ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar for the PDP presidential primaries.
Already Senator Ben Obi has been appointed as the Director-General of the broad-based campaign following a meeting between the Atiku and ex-President Ibrahim Babangida; ex-NSA General Aliyu Gusau; and Governor Bukola Saraki.
A highly-placed source, who spoke in confidence, said the meeting was part of their written commitment to harmonize their campaign structure to assist Atiku to win the 2011 presidential ticket of the PDP.
Those penciled down are ex-President of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani; a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria , Prof. Charles Soludo; ex-Minister of Information, Chief Emeka Chikelu, and Chief Nze Duru.
Investigation by The Nation revealed that although none of the candidates has shown interest in Vice-Presidency, some influential Igbo leaders are making strong case for them in what appears a North-South-East pact for 2011 presidential poll.
According to findings, as a political joker to break the hold of President Goodluck Jonathan in the South-East, the Harmonized Campaign Organization for Atiku is looking at the prospect of picking a Vice-Presidential candidate from the South-East.
A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) is likely to forge a strong alliance with the South-East for the 2011 in line with the PDP zoning formula.
“This alliance will be consolidated before the presidential primaries of the PDP to enhance the chances of Atiku.
“The position of the north is that presidency must shift to the South-East in 2015. This is the bargaining bait of the North with Igbo leaders.
“The search for Atiku’s deputy has started in order to be able to lay basis for the alliance. But Northern leaders will work with a South-East Committee, being chaired by ex-Vice-President Atiku, to pick the potential VP.
“Those being considered as ex-President of the Senate, Chief Ken Nnamani; a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria , Prof. Charles Soludo; ex-Minister of Information, Chief Emeka Chikelu, and Chief Nze Duru.
A top source said: “Many of these leaders and their sponsors have been making contacts with the Alex Ekwueme Committee set up by political leaders in the zone to pick a vice presidential candidate.
“The Ekwueme committee is an offshoot of the Igbo Political Leaders Forum which had entered into alliance with Northern Political Leaders Forum. The two groups had agreed to support the north to produce a president in 2011 while the South- East will produce the president in 2015.”
Besides the four candidates, another source added some Igbo leaders are also making a case either for the Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu or a serving South-East governor as VP candidate to Atiku.
He said: “Some are however saying that Ekweremadu is already embedded in Jonathan 2011 project and might reject the offer.
“If everything works as conceived, the serving governors in the zone may be asked to nominate one of them for the slot of running mate to Atiku.
After the session, ex-President Ibrahim Babangida spoke for about two minutes with reporters on why the leaders met.
He said: “We have come for consultations with the Consensus Candidate. Immediately after the announcement of the Consensus Candidate, we have not been able to formally meet as a body. That is why we were here.
We approved the appointment of His Excellency, Senator Ben Obi, as the Director-General of the campaign.
Asked if they discussed the issue of running mate to Atiku, Babangida said: “No, not yet.”
Responding to a question if they would accompany Atiku to campaign, he simply said: “Yes, sir.”
Pressed to comment on ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ridiculing of the Consensus Candidate, he added: “I am a junior officer. By tradition, I am not supposed to comment on what a Senior Officer said.”
Reminded that since he is now a democrat, why will he not react to Obasanjo who has also become a democrat, Babangida said: “He (Obasanjo) is still a General.”
Asked whether he is also laughing like Obasanjo, he said: “I am joking.”