Opposition parties in merger talks are shopping for a young northerner with a pan-Nigeria disposition that can be fielded as a presidential candidate in 2015.
SUNDAY PUNCH’s investigations showed that the search was part of the plan of the merger partners, if the Congress for Progressive Change Presidential candidate in 2011, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) dropped his ambition.
It was gathered that the opposition parties might shift attention to a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and the Action Congress of Nigeria presidential candidate in 2011, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
It was, however, learnt that the search was not restricted to the two as it would be extended to technocrats, with progressive disposition.
Such a candidate, it was gathered, must be able to take on President Goodluck Jonathan or any other politician that would be the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2015.
A chieftain of the CPC, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said, “We are working on a plan B. If Gen. Buhari does not contest, the parties will shift attention to younger candidates.
“Our search will be extended to non-politicians, including young technocrats from the North. El-Rufai and Ribadu will be among the pool of candidates who will be screened.”
Buhari, had after the 2011 elections said he would not contest again having contested three times and failed.
But at the inauguration of the CPC merger committee on January 16, 2013, Buhari said the outcome of the merger would determine his 2015 ambition.
It was earlier reported that Buhari might drop his presidential ambition as parties in the merger had an initial understanding that leaders must be ready to make personal sacrifices for the success of the merger.
Such a sacrifice, it was gathered, might see Buhari dropping his presidential ambition, if it would thwart the merger plan.
An aide of el-Rufai, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent that, “There have been various speculations. There was a report that there was tension between Gen. Buhari and el-Rufai. There is nothing of such.
“The former minister is concerned with the success of the ongoing talks among some opposition parties.”
Efforts to get Ribadu did not succeed as calls to his mobile telephone did not go through, neither did he respond to a text message sent to him.
A member of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, had said the merger plan by opposition parties would not stop the PDP from emerging victorious in 2015 elections.
Iwuanyanwu described the move as one that would neither pull PDP down nor succeed.
“As a democrat, I should sound a note of warning; I have read recently about the coming together of some political parties. They are not coming together on the basis of ideology. They are coming together because they are afraid that unless they gang up, PDP will win the elections in 2015. This is a wrong political calculation.”
The parties involved in the merger have however accused the PDP of frustrating their plan.
They said the merger plans had driven the PDP-led Federal Government to resort to tactics aimed at tarnishing the image of key opposition leaders.