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PDP's presidential candidate 'll be under 55, says El-Rufai

Posted by From Laolu Akande, New York on 2006/12/08 | Views: 928 |

PDP's presidential candidate 'll be under 55, says El-Rufai


IT may be a Freudian slip. But the Federal Capital Territory Minister (FCT), Malam el-Rufai has told Nigerians not to expect a presidential candidate from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who is above 55 years.

IT may be a Freudian slip. But the Federal Capital Territory Minister (FCT), Malam el-Rufai has told Nigerians not to expect a presidential candidate from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who is above 55 years.

The minister, who made the declaration on Tuesday afternoon in the United States (U.S.) also said he had an idea of who the person would be among the horde of aspirants for the office.

As at the close of submission of nomination form on Tuesday, no fewer than 30 citizens had indicated interest in the office. They each had bought forms from the party's secretariat for N5 million and have been on the campaign train across the country seeking the nod of Nigerians and party delegates.

But el-Rufai, at the launch of the Heart of Africa Project in Washington DC on Tuesday, declared that the party's candidate would be between 44 years and 55 years.

The occasion was attended by his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Prof. Joy Ogwu; the Minister of Information, Mr. Frank Nweke (Jnr.) and the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., Prof. George Obiozor, among others.

The disclosure began with a question from a Nigerian member of the audience, one Mr. Zimako Ibe, who asked about the fate of the Federal Government's ongoing reforms after the exit of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He also expected the minister to be in the thick of the ongoing campaigns for the office of president.

Ibe queried: "If all the economic reforms are to be effective and the primaries are next week, why are you here?"

El-Rufai responded that his duty was to complete the assignment given him by the President until May 29, 2007. But he conceded that similar questions were being raised in the international community for over a year now regarding the fate of the Nigerian economic reforms after 2007.

He then said that the PDP had created a "screening process" and that its nominee would be a "decent, honest, young person between the ages of 44 and 55."

Later at the evening gala, Obiozor said that the new generation of leaders in Nigeria was better than his own - the older generation. He said that the new generation has "self-confidence" and that his generation should "surrender."

El-Rufai's declaration led the modestly numbered audience into a frenzy, suggestive of a possible el-Rufai emergence as the candidate. But he quickly doused the fire of the speculation and explained that the next president "is not el-Rufai or Nweke Jnr" although he admitted that both of them were constitutionally eligible to run.

The minister said that "it is absurd" for members of the current economic reform team to run now "because the political infrastructure is not ready for us." He added that "the president is ready for us."

El-Rufai said that with the screening process in place, the party's candidate "would be a member of our generations," adding: "I think I know who it is."

He stated that Nigeria's next president in 2007 would be honest, decent and youthful.

Earlier in his presentation, the minister described Nigeria in 1999 as similar to a "post-conflict" country like Congo, left far behind by countries such as Korea that were at par with it in the 1960s. The minister made a similar analogy in 2004, when he was honoured by the Nigerian Lawyers Association in New York.

Describing the post-war conflict situation further, the minister said that after a $7 billion investment, the Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) was still the most expensive phone system in the world, noting that before the Obasanjo revolution, it could take 23 years for anyone to get a phone line.

He also noted that the nation had no Foreign Direct Investment, while 70 per cent of the population was rated as living in "high poverty," while industries had only 25 per

cent capacity utilisation.

With such a legacy, he then queried the bid by former military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida to return to power. Foreclosing the possibility of the Army General's wish being realised, the minister said: "IBB wants to come back! We won't let him come back."

Speaking at the forum, Congressman Donald Payne noted that President Obasanjo has chickens and other things to go back to and would be welcomed as an elder statesman if he leaves office in 2007 and respects the Nigerian Constitution. The Congressman also urged Nigeria to increase its agricultural output and exports to the U.S.

At the closing gala on Tuesday evening, Obiozor commended Obasanjo for appointing dynamic ministers and assistants into his team. "Love him or hate him, Obasanjo has made a difference in Nigeria," the ambassador said.

Obiozor added: "We have the natural resources and the human resources to make Nigeria's transformation irreversible. All we need is the technology."

Meanwhile, Nweke Jnr. is today scheduled to be interviewed again on the Voice of America Africa Journal at 7.00 p.m. (1.00 p.m. U.S. time) in a continuing effort to clear the air on his controversial earlier description of Nigerians in the Diaspora as "inconsequential." The live show, which will accept phone calls from all over the world including Nigeria, will also be on the Internet at www.voanews.com/tvtoafrica and some Nigerian stations.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.