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After screening, Jonathan, Atiku head for showdown

A PEOPLES Democratic Party (PDP) panel headed by a former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Alhaji Aminu Wali, yesterday screened three presidential aspirants on the platform of the ruling political grouping with President Goodluck Jonathan, describing the exercise as rigorous.

Later Wali told journalists that the three candidates have been cleared.
Also, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar expressed confidence in the committee.

Speaking with journalists after the exercise which lasted almost one hour, Jonathan, accompanied by Vice President Namadi Sambo, also gave his impression of the primaries so far conducted by the party saying: ‘’There have been some flash points. Whenever you have a general election in a big party as the PDP across the states, be it House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, gubernatorial or presidential, there is bound to be disagreement. There have been some flashpoints but on the average, the primaries went well.’’

Other PDP bigwigs who accompanied the President were Alhaji Dalhatu Tafida, DG of his campaign organisation, Chief Tony Anenih, Prof. Jerry Gana, as well as Governors Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom and Liyel Imoke of Cross River states among others.

Atiku who arrived at the secretariat at 1.57pm  had earlier gone to the presidential campaign office of PDP in Maitama at about 10am with his supporters but was told that the exercise would take place at the national secretariat of the party in Wuse District of the Federal Capital Territory..
Atiku who wore in a sky blue outfit had the following encounter with journalists when he came out of the screening venue:

How was the screening?

It went very well. I was asked many questions. I was asked about my return to the party; about the critical comments I made about the party before, what will I say now and so on and so forth. I was asked how I would unite the party and so many other things.

Are you satisfied with the composition of the committee?
The screening panel is a good panel.

In case you are disqualified, what will be the next step?

No, they cannot disqualify me. They don’t have the power to do that.
What about the issue in court, did they ask you questions about that?
They asked but they said they were not a tribunal. They were not a panel of inquiry, not a court. 

Meanwhile, one of the presidential aspirants on the platform of the party, Alhaji Sani Dutsinma, has described the proposed national congress as an illegality and threatened to ask the judiciary to declare it null and void because it is already an issue before the court.

In a letter written to the national chairman of the party, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, dated January 11, 2011 and entitled Presidential Screening for Primary Election, A Breach of Party constitution and OtherMatters’’, Dutsinma drew the attention of the leadership to the cases he had instituted in the court and one of which compelled the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to implement the zoning arrangement of the PDP.

He therefore, said, ‘’Sir, in view of the above, the PDP has done and is doing everything to jettison the principle of zoning and rotation policy.”

Announcing his withdrawal from the race if the party fails to abide by the zoning principle, Dutsinma said: ‘’In this regard, Sir, with due respect, I do not perceive fairness, equity nad justice from you toward my aspiration. With this conviction and fears, I am therefore, left with no other option but to decline to avail myself for screening along with Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. I am convinced that the exercise is a breach of the constitution of our party, contempt of the court of law, politically immoral, unjust and unfair. I am therefore, morally bound to decline to participate in the exercise. However, should you decide to drop Dr. Goodluck Jonathan from the exercise, I will be willing to participate.’’

Speaking with journalists at the PDP secretariat when he came to deliver his letter, Dutsinma said; ‘’I am ready to go to court to stop the exercise if they do not abide by the ruling’’.

Also screened by the panel was a female presidential aspirant, Sarah Jibril who said: “The screening was detailed and thorough. They asked me why I want to be a presidential candidate. They have political and technical sides of the questions.

As at press time, the screening panel was yet to say anything on the outcome of the screening exercise but The Guardian learnt that it might not disqualify any aspirant so as not to raise tension.

A source said the aspirants would be allowed to go and test their popularity at the national convention which comes up at the Eagle Square in Abuja tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Atiku Campaign Organisation in the South West has raised the alarm over alleged attempts by PDP executives in the region to delete the names of former Atiku’s supporters from the delegates’ list ahead of tomorrow’s presidential primaries.

The organisation alleged instructions must have been passed down to the hierarchy of the party in the region to substitute the names of known supporters of the former vice president with those loyal to Jonathan.
Speaking to the media on the issue, the Lagos State Chairman of the organisation, Adejumo Ajagbe, claimed that the PDP leadership in Lagos State had begun moves to execute the plot.

Meanwhile, a group of gay activists in Nigeria yesterday expressed support for Abubakar’s bid for the PDP presidential ticket.

The National Gay Forum’s (NGF’s) president, Victor Labelle, who addressed the media along with other members in Abuja yesterday, said the group’s position was predicated on the need to lend its voice and participate in the on-going political discussions in the country.

But a swift reaction, Atiku’s spokesman, Garuba Shehu, dismissed the endorsement as an attempt to dampen the rising influence of the former vice president.

Shehu lamented that the development was part of “the campaign of calumny in the country by desperate opposition who were already troubled.”

Ajagbe said: “We have just discovered a plot by the leadership of the PDP in the South-West to prevent our members from partaking in the forthcoming primaries of our great party.”

He also accused the party’s leadership of harassing and intimidating its members to dump the former vice president for Jonathan if they still desire to partake in the primaries.

Ajagbe added: “At first, I thought some of our delegates were just crying wolf until it happened to me personally. I won the election to become a national delegate in my local government in Badagry only to be told that my name has been substituted for the man I defeated.”

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