How winner may emerge at PDP presidential primary election
After months of uncertainty, the National Executive Council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rose from its meeting on Wednesday to announce that it had thrown open its 2023 presidential ticket to all sections of the country.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said the decision was in line with the recommendation of the party’s zoning committee.
He said: “After a very extensive deliberation, NEC aligned with the recommendation of the PDP National Zoning Committee that the presidential election should now be left open. The party should also work towards consensus candidate where possible.
“NEC noted the recommendation of the zoning committee that in the interest of justice and fair play, the party should take decision on zoning timeously so as to prevent complications to the process.”
Ologunagba added that the party would conduct the presidential primary (Special National Convention) to elect the party’s presidential candidate on Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29 in Abuja.
With the recent development, the agitation of the Southeast geopolitical zone that it deserves to produce the next president given that it is the only region yet to occupy the exalted seat, may have suffered a setback. While assessing the chances of the respective zones, a couple of political analysts opined that the party may have tacitly put the north in good stead to win the upcoming PDP primary.
Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Mr Peter Obi, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa and Dr Nwachukwu Anakwenze are the PDP presidential aspirants from the southeast. Of the aspirants from the south, it is believed that with zoning now jettisoned, Wike appears to be the only aspirant of southern extraction who could make some impact in the primary election while the likes of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa and immediate past President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki from Kwara state in North Central are also considered as top contenders for the party’s ticket.
While the pundits sympathised with the predicament of the Igbo being the only region yet to savour presidency since 1999 and has the right to do so next year, they posited that with the calculations on ground, an Igbo candidacy by PDP may condemn the party to another loss against the ruling APC in the 2023 election.
“From what has been unfolding and where things stand, it is painful to say that neither APC nor PDP is prepared to concede its presidential ticket to the Southeast,” one analyst told The Guardian.
Taking a cursory look at the situation and where the pendulum may swing among the northern aspirants, especially between former vice president Atiku and immediate past Senate President, Saraki, observers noted that while Atiku is considered to have a stronger political network across the country, Saraki appears to be favoured by the powers-that-be among the northern and some southern political power brokers.
The Guardian findings revealed that ongoing consultations and horse-trading among leading stakeholders and power brokers in the party seem to favour the erstwhile governor of Kwara state. But he will need to contend seriously with the well-oiled political machinery of Atiku in the south and more importantly southwest where the former vice president is seen to be very popular among the delegates.
Already, the party has screened 17 aspirants and 15 were cleared by the chairman of the screening committee, Brig. Gen. David Mark (rtd).
Aspirants screened include Atiku Abubakar; two ex-presidents of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and Anyim Pius Anyim; chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and current Sokoto state governor, Aminu Tambuwal; his Bauchi state counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed and businessman, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen.
Others are Governors Nyesom Wike and Emmanuel Udom; former Anambra state governor, Peter Obi; his Ekiti state counterpart, Ayodele Fayose; Chief Sam Ohu abunwa; Dele Momodu; Olivia Tarela, who is the only female among them; Charles Okwudili, Chikwendu Kalu; and Cosmos Ndukwe. About 3,700 delegates are expected to vote at the primary.
It did not come as a surprise to political observers when some leaders of northern extraction penultimate week announced Saraki and Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed as the northern consensus candidates. Although, several aspirants from the region rejected the exercise, it does appear nothing could have changed the elders’ position.
While Mohammed’s game plan remains unclear, there are indications that he is prepared to step down and seek a re-election for a second term as governor to consolidate his achievements.
Tambuwal, on his part, is allegedly having credibility challenges with some party leaders, who felt slighted that the Sokoto state governor used unkind words in an attempt to denigrate the work of a team they set up to try to build a consensus among candidates from the zone.
His position was said to have been particularly annoying since he was allegedly part of those who asked the elders to mediate with a view to building a consensus among the northern aspirants.
Sensing the danger ahead, Tambuwal has allegedly secretly obtained form to enable him seek a possible return to the National Assembly and pursue a principal officer role in the Senate.
A source close to the northern elders noted that the seeming preference for Saraki appears to be based on the consideration that the late second republic president, Shehu Shagari was from Sokoto in northwest Nigeria, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua was from the northwest while outgoing President, Muhammadu Buhari, is also from the zone. It could therefore be a hard sell for the party to present another candidate from the northwest.
How Delegates May Vote
Another credible source with the party said the retired military generals and elders who make things happen in PDP have decided that Saraki should be given the chance this time around.
According to the source, “Don’t forget Atiku was the choice of the generals in 2019. That was why he won by a wide margin in the 2018 primaries. Atiku was not the highest spender in 2018. Tambuwal through Wike was the biggest spender. This calculation changed when on the eve of the convention, General Gusau moved into Port Harcourt and instructed the principal delegates that Atiku was the choice.
“Also, today, the governors are divided between Wike and Saraki. Atiku has no single governor supporting him. In Oyo state recently, Makinde refused to accompany Atiku to meet with delegates. The Governor of Adamawa is only supporting Atiku because he is afraid of local backlash if he does otherwise. The governor is a Wike man.
“In the Niger Delta, Saraki has the support of all the governors who are not contesting governorship. He has the support of Bayelsa, Delta, and Edo. Even Akwa Ibom that is contesting Presidency is well disposed to Saraki and if he were to step down, he would rather do so for Saraki than Wike.
“In North Central, while Ortom is a Wike man, he knows that he must give some delegates to Saraki, otherwise, he will face a revolt. In Northwest, 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 former Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso’s loyalists left in PDP.”
The source also explained that Saraki would take Zamfara state. “The new players in the state, Abdulazeez Yari and Kabiru Marafa are Saraki’s allies. In Gombe where it is expected that some top APC leaders may soon defect, Saraki will benefit from the control that such new leaders may have in the party.
“In the Southwest, Saraki is the one that can share the zone with Atiku who is relying on his old alliance with Wike, who is a buddy of Governor Makinde. Atiku will get the majority of the votes in Ogun through Ladi Adebutu but Saraki will take the remaining delegates in the state.
“Osun State is predominantly for Saraki while Ondo is shared between Saraki and Atiku. Ekiti will be used as bait for negotiation by Ayo Fayose. The two Southeast PDP governors are working for Wike.
“The northern elders have convinced themselves that this is the time to reconcile the three geo-political zones in the North. 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.”
Wike’s Perceived Strength, Weakness
If the game of number is played up, Wike may not really match Saraki and Atiku because the north has more delegates vote than the South. And except in Oyo state where Governor Seyi Makinde is allegedly working for Wike, majority of Southwest delegates may not really support him because of his attack against the region in 2017.
Wike is, however, not one that can be glossed over because of the financial resources at his disposal. It was said that Wike and some financially buoyant Southern governors have the capacity to dislocate the party if they are shabbily treated. If he misses the ball, he may be pacified with the vice presidential ticket.
Atiku is assumed to be the most popular of the aspirants in the southwest. His recent meetings with delegates across the south justify his acceptability in the region. And without doubt, the southwest delegates votes are crucial to the contenders.