From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
How far can the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar go in the 2023 general elections?  Atiku, a two-time vice president emerged the major opposition party’s standard bearer in next year’s presidential poll, recently, after defeating 13 other aspirants.
The former vice president has always had his eyes on the Presidency in the past 29 years. In the pursuit of this life long ambition, Atiku has criss-crossed several political parties, starting from the PDP to the Action Congress (AC), back to the PDP, and abandoning the opposition party for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and back to the PDP again.
The Adamawa born politician’s quest for the presidency started in 1993,  when he contested the presidential primary of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the botched Third republic. However,  his ambition to contest the 1993 presidential election superintended over by the regime of former Military President,  General Ibrahim Babangida was stillborn as he came third in SDP presidential primary,  with late Chief MKO Abiola clinching the ticket.
In 1999, Atiku emerged vice president to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Prior to  the 2007 polls, the former  defected from the PDP to the AC, the platform on which he contested the 2007 presidential election, after he fell out with his principal.  But he was beaten to a third position by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Muhammadu Buhari,  who came first and second respectively in the contest.
In the run-up to the 2011 general elections,  Atiku, who had returned to the PDP after falling to actualise his ambition in AC,  squared up against former President Goodluck Jonathan for the opposition party’s presidential ticket.  However,  he was defeated by the former President.
Like in 2007, Atiku dumped the opposition party again in 2014. He joined some other aggrieved leaders of the PDP to form a coalition with members of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to form the All Progressives Congress (APC). The former vice president, after an unsuccessful bid for the APC 2015 presidential ticket, returned again to the PDP in 2018. In 2019, Atiku was the opposition party’s presidential candidate. Nevertheless, he lost the main election to President  Buhari.
In all,  this  is the 6th time the former Vice President would be attempting to govern the country, and the third time, he would be on the presidential ballot in the last 29 years.

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However, the PDP candidate who would be 76 years old, on November 25,  sees the 2023 polls as his  golden opportunity to be president.
Prior to the opposition party’s national convention, Atiku had said he was the man to deliver the presidency to the PDP in the next general elections. During  a consultative meeting with the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), the former Vice President had boasted that he already had 11 million votes in his kitty.
The standard bearer, while addressing the opposition party’s NWC had noted: “I dare say Mr. chairman, I am the best candidate. Under normal circumstances Mr. Chairman, this is a guy who already has  11 million votes in his kitty.”
Analysts say the former vice president’s hope of winning the 2023 polls is premised on two main factors. These are the alleged abysmal performance of the ruling All Progressives Congress ( APC) and the fact that  President Muhammadu Buhari would not be in the ballot in 2023 polls. PDP leaders share the optimism of the Presidential hopeful too.
Former Senate President, David Mark, while speaking at the PDP national convention, had noted that 2023 will be an opportunity for Nigerians to right the wrongs of the APC-led administration. Mark, who was chairman of the national convention, expressed delight that Nigerians have “found solace” in the major opposition party.
According to him, “the 2023 election is not a contest between the PDP and the other political parties, it will be a moment of historic decision of all Nigerians to right the wrongs of the misrule by the APC.
“For Nigerians, it is a battle for survival. But thank God they have found solace and faith in the PDP as the vehicle to redeem the situation and give them a chance to live again.”
Former  Enugu State governor, Chimaroke Nnamani, thinks so too. Nnamani, who represents Enugu East senatorial zone in the National Assembly, in a recent statement, noted that the alleged failure of the APC -led Federal Government is enough to give the  PDP victory in the 2023 polls.
According to him, the legacy of the present administration since 2015, when it assumed office are endless loans,  rising unemployment, high  foreign exchange rates, inflation, insecurity, labour unrest, lack of infrastructure amongst others.
“If we were under a parliamentary system of government, the APC would have received a vote of no confidence and be sacked for non performance while the PDP should take a bow and be elected to govern Nigeria” he said.
Besides, party chieftains believe that with the emergence of former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, a Southerner, as APC candidate, the North is likely to unite against the ruling party, like what obtained in the  2015 polls. Nevertheless, a leader of the ruling party, who did not want to be named in print, said the opposition party and its candidate will be shocked, if they are expecting a repeat of the 2015 scenario in the North.
According to him, most of the APC northern governors, equally have their eyes on the presidential seat. Therefore, they see a Tinubu Presidency as a shorter route to the actualisation of their dream. He noted that their calculations is that power will return quicker to the North, if a Southerner wins the 2023 presidential poll.
The optimism of the PDP and it’s leaders that 2023 polls is theirs to lose,  not withstanding, analysts say a lot of odds are stacked against the major opposition party.
For instance, critics say the decision of the PDP to jettison zoning in the choice of its 2023 presidential candidate may be an albatross for  Atiku in the next presidential poll.
Recall that the opposition party, to the chagrin of stakeholders, had thrown the contest for its 2013 presidential ticket open, against the dictates of its constitution. Article 7 (3)(C) of the PDP  constitution stipulates that the party shall adhere “to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.”
Many believe that the 2023  presidential ticket ought to have been zoned to the South, and micro-zoned to the South East, which is the only zone in the South that is yet to produce a president for the country.
In the aftermath of the PDP decision to throw its presidential ticket open, the  Chairman, Elders Council of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu had  said: “it is embarrassing that the party the Igbo have supported for a very long time is the same party that will deny us of our dream; we have supported PDP all through during the time of Obasanjo till date; now that it’s time for them to reciprocate, they abandoned us, Ohanaeze will meet soon.”
Similarly, the apex Igbo organisation, Ohanaze Ndigbo, had described the decision of the PDP to throw its presidential ticket open as treacherous.
The national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze, Ogbonnia said the PDP had the option to make by either ceding the ticket to the South East or choosing a Northerner and fail woefully and be buried with an epitaph “there once existed a treacherous political party which changed its goal post at the middle of the game”.   
Like the Ohaneze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum ( PANDEF), as well as other socio-cultural organisations in the South had also spoken strongly against the decision of the PDP to retain its presidential ticket in the North.
Pundits say that the stance of the  social cultural organisations  should be a source of worry to the PDP and its 2023 presidential candidate. Recall that in the 2015 polls, the opposition party had jettisoned its principle of zoning and paid dearly for it.
Also, the mixed reactions that the choice of Delta State governor, as Atiku’s running mate have generated in the PDP,  is a source of worry for the opposition party, ahead of the 2023 polls. 
Besides, the  dynamics seem to be changing in some of the stronghold of the opposition party. There are indications that the recent defection of former Anambra governor, Peter Obi from the PDP to Labour Party, as well as the defection of former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso to the New Nigeria People Party ( NNPP) may rub off negatively on Atiku in the 2023 polls.
Obi’s exit from the major opposition party, it was gathered, has further alienated voters in the South East, from the PDP. Similarly, pundits say the defection of Kwankwaso is also likely to cost the PDP candidate some votes in Kano. Ironically, both the South East and Kano State, before now were strongholds of the PDP.
Analysts say how far Atiku would go in the 2023 contest will be determined by his ability to market himself aggressively to the the electorate, as well as his ability to resolve internal issues in the PDP and assuage the feeling of stakeholders in the South, who feel embittered by the jettisoning of zoning by the opposition party.

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