With 15 aspirants from across the country given the clean bill of health by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest at its presidential primary, Nigerians are anxious to know how the party will manage the intra-part poll, writes KUNLE ODEREMI.
The chicken is slowly coming home to roost, as the dates for the conduct of presidential primaries in the parties approaches. For the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the process of removing the chaff from the grain is about entering a very crucial phase. The men are being separated from the boys.
Two weeks to its historic presidential convention, PDP has thrown open its 2023 ticket after a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting that considered the recommendations of the PDP Zoning Committee led by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State. His Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, that looked into the performance of PDP in the 2019 general election had recommended a similar position, but which provoked sweeping outrage. Now, the stage is set for the PDP to choose its candidate for the next presidential election after screening out two of the 17 aspirants keen on flying the flag of the party. A cursory look at the list of aspirants cleared for the race shows that only one is from the North-Central and two from the North-East. Only one contender is from the South-West. The South-South has two key contenders and incumbent governors who at the final stage of their two terms of four years each as state chief executive allowed by the Nigerian Constitution. There are three main contestants from the South-East.
The list of all the major aspirants across the country include former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; former Senate president and ex-governor of Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki; incumbent governor of Sokoto State, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal; Mohammed Hayattu-Deen and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, all from the North.
From the South are the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and that of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel; ex-Senate president and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; business guru, Chief Sam Ohuabunwa; former Anambra State governor and PDP vice-presidential candidate in 2019, Mr Peter Obi. ex-Ekiti State governor, Mr Peter Ayodele Fayose and Ovation publisher, Mr Dele Momodu.
Others are Mr Cosmas Ndukwe and Nwachukwu Anakwense.
But who does the odds seem to favour in the battle to pick the ticket? How do the individual contestant stand across the states/zones ahead of the primary slated for May 28 and 29?
Atiku has been a major face in the race for president for a long time. His credentials abound in the public space, especially his professional background, his adventures into politics, business, among other areas of human endeavour. Nigerians are also familiar with the track records of Honourable Tambuwal, who rose from the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the post of governor and had shot at the presidential seat in the past. Bala Mohammed has moved from being a minister to a senator before being elected governor in 2019.
On his part, Saraki, a technocrat, and an innovative political leader, has over the years continued to serve as a bridge between the various sections of the country, a true nationalist. His associates and allies say his mission and vision to excel in whatever situation he finds himself, combined with an inner strength to conquer the hurdles that fate may place along his path, marks him out as a unique Nigerian. They affirm that he consistently proved that in all his endeavours in life.
Described as a political neophyte when he joined partisan politics in 2002, Saraki quickly rose through the ranks, defeating Governor Mohammed Lawal at the 2003 Kwara State governorship election, and subsequently enjoyed two-term in office as allowed by the constitution. Consequently, his leadership in the Eighth Senate, and as Chairman of the National Assembly, was a clear demonstration that a committed, patriotic, and detribalized Nigerian can bring unprecedented leadership ideals and fresh ideas to the table in the development of Nigeria. According to his admirers and supporters, facts cannot be controverted, because under Saraki›s leadership, the Senate passed the most bills since 1999 and they are not just ordinary bills. They added that the bills passed by the Senate helped to give direction to the economy, strengthen the nation’s ability to tackle corruption, positively affected the lives of the people, and sought to make Nigerians secure.
Some of the laws passed by the eighth Senate include the North East Development Commission (NEDC) Act, Police Trust Funds Act, and Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Credit Act, and the Credit Bureau Reporting Act (both of which led to the upgrade of Nigeria by 24 places on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings). They also include the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission Act, Prohibition and Protection of Persons from Lynching by Mob Action and Extra Judicial Execution Act, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Act, Whistleblowers Protection Bill and Discrimination against Persons with Disability (Prohibition) Act, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Act, Prohibition of Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Bill among many others. Also, 12 Constitution amendment bills, out of the 24, were passed by the Eighth Senate secured the endorsement of the 24 Houses of Assembly as required by the constitution, and were passed to the President for assent. It is the submission of some observers that the eighth Senate co-operated with the executive where necessary and that is why all the ministerial nominees sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari were cleared alongside over 90 percent of the other executive nominees.
To say that there are some gods controlling the affairs of Nigeria is saying the obvious. These gods determine who become what. In 2015, it was the gods that decreed the end of Goodluck jonathan government. But what is the position of these gods on the current situation in the country?
The current development in the quest for the ticket of the PDP is instructive. In 2019, Atiku was the choice of some powerful Nigerian leaders, which paved the way for him to clinch the ticket at the party primary by a wide margin in 2018. Atiku was not the highest spender in 2018. Aminu Tambuwal through Wike was the biggest spender. This calculation changed when on the eve of the convention, General Aliyu Gusau moved into Port Harcourt, Rivers State venue of the primary and instructed the principal delegates that Atiku was the choice because it was thought he was the best of the candidates that could challenge Buhari whose government was already taking the country towards the current socio-economic precipice.
It is being suggested that these powerbrokers have already settled for a candidate that they believe will move Nigeria away from the precipice and may not go the way of 2019.
How the ticket will be won
However the situation in PDP is slightly different from 2109, though the rule of engagement has remained the same. With 15 aspirants already cleared to contest the primary, there is a call for a paradigm shift and a change in strategy from the PDP if it is intent on returning to power in 2023 by capitalising on the abysmal performance of the Buhari regime.
Sunday Tribune investigation revealed that the contest is fast developing into a three-horse race with Saraki, Atiku and Wike firmly ahead of other contestants. At the end of the day, the ticket will be won by the aspirant who is able to hold on to the largest number of delegates and at the same time is favoured by the gods who control the affairs of the country.
Who has hold on which delegates is some of the game currently playing out. As of today in the scheming for delegates, a majority of the governors are said to be divided between Wike and Saraki. The governor of Adamawa is supporting Atiku based on a symbiotic political relationship, though some sources claimed one cannot rule out the disposition of the governor for Wike’s bid.
In the whole of the Niger Delta, Saraki is said to have the backing of PDP governors, who are not running for governor. He has the support of Bayelsa, Delta, and Edo. Even Akwa Ibom that is running for president is well disposed to Saraki and if he were to step down, he would rather do so for Saraki than Wike.
In the North-Central, while Ortom is a Wike’s man, he knows that he must give some delegates to Saraki, otherwise, he will face a revolt. In the North-West, While Tambuwal controls Sokoto and Jigawa through Sule Lamido, Kano is now a place for all serious aspirants to shop for delegates. Saraki already has a stake there. He may inherit Kwakwanso loyalists left in PDP. Saraki will take Zamfara State. The new players in the state, Abdualazeez Yari and Kabiru Marafa are Saraki’s allies.
In Gombe, where speculations are rife that some APC chieftains are on the verge of defection, Saraki could be a major beneficiary based on political behaviour of the critical mass of the citizens of the state.
In the South-West, the belief in the PDP circles is that Saraki is the only aspirant that can share the zone with Atiku. Though Wike is said to enjoy the support of Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, the delagates› votes may be shared among the three aspirants. However, Ogun appears another main battle ground as the Atiku is believed to enjoy the sympathy of the majority of delegates because of the influence of a former National Assembly member, Honourble Ladi Adebutu. But all this may change with the directive from elders of the state, especially former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is said to have strong affinity for Saraki who is likely to get a measure of votes the delegates in the state.
The scenario in Osun State is also intriguing as most of the party elders and their team supporters appear to have skewed their disposition from what obtained in 2018. The permutation is that Saraki might secure the majority votes of the state delegate at the primary. But, analysts predict a 50-50 chance between Saraki and Atiku in Ondo State, with Ekiti likely to be decided through compromise with ex-Governor Fayose who is also in the race.
The South-East constitutes another zone that might require serious political negotiation and compromise for other aspirants to make a major incursion. This is because the two South-East PDP governors are said to be on the same page with Wike in his bid to be the candidate of the party. However, the possibility of the North getting the ticket, pundits claim, is not in doubt, as the northern elders agree it was the time to reconcile the three geopolitical zones in the North. Their plan is to, again, unite the area and forge a common front that can guarantee victory. The odd is said to favour Saraki, based on their calculations and a myriad of factors. Said a source: “They want to reenact the old Arewa Gamji tree and therefore ensure that other zones like the North Central and the North East produce the next President of northern extraction. Since Saraki is the only aspirant for the North-Central, the chances are very bright.”
The coming days could herald a new approach to the hitherto whistle-stop consultations and campaigns by the aspirants. More exploratory talks on alliance, compromise and power sharing could gain ground against the backdrop of baited breath among most stakeholders in the buildup to the 2023 general election.
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