•As party seeks to break Buhari’s grip on zone
•Governors kick over Wike’s romance with aspirant
•Uncomfortable with Port Harcourt as convention venue
Anxiety is spreading within the top hierarchy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as pressure mounts on delegates to the forthcoming national convention to pick the party’s presidential candidate from the Northwest.
Proponents of a northwest candidate say it is the only way the party can stand a reasonable chance of defeating President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Buhari is from Katsina State, one of the seven states that make up the zone.
The zone has the largest voting population of about 18 million.
However, some other PDP members say there should be no micro-zoning the ticket to any zone as doing so will automatically foreclose the aspiration of the likes of Senate President Bukola Saraki (from Northcentral), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (Northeast), Chief David Mark (Northcentral), Senator Jonah Jang (Northcentral) and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo (Northeast), and generate bad blood ahead of an election they need to contest as a united front.
Also currently causing unease in the party is the venue of the national convention.
The Nation gathered that the convention might come up on Saturday, October 6 in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Many governors elected on the platform of the PDP see the host governor, Nyesom Wike, as a strong backer of one of the presidential aspirants, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal.
They fear that Wike might unduly influence the process of the party’s primaries in favour of Tambuwal.
Some of the governors met in Abuja during the week and have been exploring ways of checkmating Wike from imposing a presidential candidate on the party.
The issue of consensus candidate has been discarded all together by the 12 PDP presidential aspirants with all of them fully focused on the primaries.
The aspirants are Atiku, Saraki, Mark, Jang, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, ex-Minister Tanimu Kabiru Turaki, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, Dr. Datti Baba-Ahmed, ex governors Sule Lamido and Dalhatu Attahiru Bafarawa.
A governor elected on the platform of the party admitted that there has been pressure from power brokers in the party, PDP stalwarts and strategists to shop for a candidate from the North-West against Buhari.
His words:”Without prejudice to other presidential aspirants, there is pressure on PDP governors to zero in on the North-West for our presidential candidate.
“The argument of those pro-Northwest is the need for PDP to take the battle to the stronghold of Buhari where he commands cult followership.
“It is taken for granted that the Southsouth, the Southeast and a part of the Northcentral might be controlled by PDP.
“I must confess to you that most of us in the PDP Governors Forum are buying into the idea because with the exception of Atiku from the Northeast (whose nomination might split the party) no other aspirants could match Buhari in the North.
“We have a challenge with Atiku, Saraki, Dankwambo and others who are insisting that the primaries should be left open.
“Before some of these aspirants defected to PDP and even prior to the emergence of the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, our party had commissioned a research which favoured ceding the presidential ticket to the North with our target on the Northwest.”
Responding to a question, the governor said: “The danger of not micro-zoning the presidential slot in PDP is that the money-bag aspirants will use their huge cash to buy over delegates which might lead to the emergence if a weak candidate for our party.”
On the suspicion that Wike has bias for one of the presidential aspirants, the governor said: “We know Wike might want to use his political influence in favour of his preferred aspirant but we are battle ready to checkmate him.
“We want the best for PDP, we will not allow imposition by Wike who is showing a suspicious interest in the presidential primaries.”
On the choice of Port Harcourt, the governor said: “We learnt that Rivers State was the first to indicate interest than others because of the high cost implications.
“Also, it is a honour for Prince Uche Secondus who is from the state. Some members of the National Working Committee said the PDP cannot hold its convention in Abuja because it will clash with that of APC.”
Separate sources confirmed that most of the PDP presidential aspirants have lost interest in the idea of a consensus candidate.
It was gathered that the Board of Trustees (BOT) was unable to convince the aspirants to buy into the idea.
All the aspirants have insisted that they want delegates to determine their fate.
When contacted, the Director of Media and Publicity of Tanimu Kabiru Turaki Campaign Organization, Mr. Sola Atere said: “I thought the party has gone beyond that (consensus) because there was no agreement at the last meeting. The BoT chairman is raising a committee
“For our campaign organization, we have always been loyal, this is why our aspirant never defected.
“He was one of those who rescued the party from mercenaries. If they say consensus, it is fine with us; if they say primaries, it is well with us.”
Most of the aspirants have intensified their shuttles to delegates in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Findings also confirmed that some of the aspirants have set up full-fledged campaign structures.
How the aspirants have fared so far
How the aspirants have fared so far
Saraki has a strong bond with many statutory delegates including members of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly. By virtue of his position as a former governor, he is also at home with governors and others. The emergence of the President of the Senate as the National Leader of PDP has caused some political quake in the camps of Atiku and Tambuwal who hitherto felt Saraki would work for them. They are yet to recover from the declaration of Saraki for President.
He has a huge war chest and as a risk taker, he can deploy his fortunes to secure the ticket. Apart from his romance with one of the foreign missions in the country, Saraki is well-connected in the business community such that sponsorship will not be a problem if he gets the PDP ticket.
He has been going round the country to talk to delegates.
This is likely to fetch him goodwill from Northcentral, some parts of the Southeast like Enugu where his political Siamese twin, the Deputy President of the Senate, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu comes from.
But what might work against him is the allegation that he is over-ambitious, which some PDP governors detest. His candidature might be a liability to PDP’s electoral fortunes in the North where he is regarded more as a Southerner than a Northerner. This same feeling affected the presidential ambition of his late father, Dr. Olusola Saraki in the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the First Republic (1979-1983).
Contrary to his assumption, PDP bigwigs will not forgive him for making the party lose in 2015. All his recent trips to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and others may amount to nothing.
Saraki might have noticed the slippery terrain when in his state, nomination for Kwara Central Senatorial District is still left open. He might seek solace in a return to the Senate. He has a subsisting agreement to re-emerge as Senate President if PDP wins the 2019 poll.
He is a serial presidential aspirant and the most experienced political tactician among the lot although his “magic wand” has always failed him. He is also the oldest presidential aspirant in the PDP having been in the struggle since 1992. Apart from his ambition to lead the nation, Atiku’s main problem is from the elites who do not want him for unknown reasons. If the race is credible and transparent, the ex-VP has enormous resources to outwit all other aspirants. But the conspiracy of the PDP governor may rob him of votes.
He has what it takes in terms of vision, economic roadmap, commitment to national unity and cosmopolitan outlook to give Buhari a fight but some power brokers like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo will oppose him. Obasanjo, some weeks ago, said God would not forgive him if he supported Atiku’s aspiration. But the former VP still enjoys goodwill nationwide.
He appeared to be the leading aspirant until the coming of Abubakar and Saraki. In the past few weeks, the tempo of his activities has been very slow because of the heavyweight presidential aspirants in PDP. The declaration of ex-Governor Attahiru Bafarawa for presidency is also a major setback because the former governor had the control of PDP structure in Sokoto State before Tambuwal defected. He has a big problem at home following the collapse of his alliance with Bafarawa and his campaign reach is limited nationwide. He relies much on Governor Nyesom Wike, his bosom friend, and a prominent traditional ruler in the North to do the magic of delivering the ticket to him. But the Wike factor might also turn out to be Tambuwal’s undoing.
Sources say Tambuwal has a Plan B in the event that he fails to get the presidential ticket: a return to the Sokoto Government House. The risk appears enormous.
He has a big acceptability problem with the Jonathan elements in the party.
An astute businessman, Bafarawa’s ambition is causing ripples and nightmare for Tambuwal. Although he has a rich political experience, he does not have the financial wherewithal to prosecute a presidential campaign that can match other moneybags in the race. His lingering case with the EFCC might be a slight problem despite the fact that he recently survived 11-year trial by the same anti-graft agency. The general feeling in PDP is that he might step down for a stronger candidate.
TANIMU KABIRU TURAKI
Some see him as an underdog but his campaign organization has input from the loyalists of Jonathan, strategists of ex-President Ibrahim Babangida and ex-VP Namadi Sambo. He is intellectually deeper than some of the aspirants and his blueprint for economic recovery is outstanding. But he is a rookie presidential aspirant because the highest office he has occupied is that of Minister of Special Duties under Jonathan.
An aspirant without blemish, Tanimu has had campaign runs nationwide more than any of the aspirants. He has gained mileage in Kebbi, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Cross River, Taraba, Oyo, Bayelsa, Ondo, Osun, Sokoto and Niger. He might split the votes from Kwara and Adamawa at the convention.
A brilliant chef whose cuisine revived the PDP, Makarfi is intelligent, cool-headed, contented and visionary. His success story in Kaduna State as a governor makes him to fit into the bill of a leader who can address the security and ethnocentric challenges facing the nation. He had an unwritten agreement with PDP governors who have jettisoned the pact. He is on his own with limited resources but exotic ideas. If PDP is a conscientious party, Makarfi should be its candidate. Despite his tortuous campaign nationwide, he is still a laggard.
An experienced politician whose fortress is party management, Lamido left worthy legacies in Jigawa State as a governor. His moral credentials for the presidency have been tainted by his implications in alleged contract scam alongside his children. With the smear, his campaign is dead on arrival despite his closeness to ex-President Obasanjo. The desolate nature of his campaign secretariat in an obscure place Abuja speaks volume of his mileage.
Kwankwaso is a political asset no doubt but he has a restricted politically volatile constituency in Kano State. Apart from his stint as a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and Minister of Defence, he does not command national appeal compared to some of his co-aspirants. His delivery of Kano State to APC in 2015 remains his reference point. But he was on a self-imposed exile in the last three years culminating in a diminishing return for his political empire. For his loyalty to Obasanjo, he was early in the race regarded as the “anointed” candidate of PDP but political calculations have not favoured him. Despite his presidential aspiration, he has a senatorial ticket tucked somewhere.
The recent defection of ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau and his irresolvable differences with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje made his chances very slim. Although he came second during the APC presidential primaries for the 2015 poll, he lacks the resources to repeat the feat now.
He might win sympathy votes from PDP delegates from states in the Northwest during the primaries.
The erudite but forgotten former President of the Senate, Sen. David Mark, is banking on past military glory and the agitation of the Middle Belt for proper integration to seek PDP presidential ticket. His campaign has a bedroom colour because he is not known to be keen. As a military strategist, PDP leaders are anxious to know what he is up to after being a benchwarmer in the Senate since 2015. He is gifted in all ramifications but his shuttles to states lacked any significant bite.
Another late comer in the race, ex-Governor Jang’s presidential race is belated because when he had the opportunity, he did not throw his hat into the ring at the right time. He is a Middle Belt emancipation zealot, a disposition which has limited his political horizon. Many PDP leaders and members are of the opinion that Jang’s aspiration is designed to cover up his ongoing trial by the EFCC.
Datti, the owner of the famous Baze University in Abuja, is known for his sustained advertisements on the front page of some newspapers. He is erudite but apart from being a former Senator, his ambition is a matter of the future. He cannot even match Makarfi in Kaduna State much more nationwide.
A suave accountant, Governor Dankwambo has earned much respect with his commitment to grassroots development. A former Accountant-General of the Federation, the governor is noted for prudence. He has vigorously campaigned in all the 36 states but as a neophyte in politics, he has a slim edge of emerging PDP candidate. He has age on his side which qualifies him if PDP wants power to shift to younger generation.
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