- As Atiku, Saraki, Makarfi, others, battle for presidential ticket
- Why party can’t produce consensus candidate
Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
All eyes are on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it gets set to nominate its presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections.
Since it lost the 2015 general election, after 16 years in power, the PDP has not left anyone in doubt about its intention to return to power in 2019.
From within and outside the PDP, a lot people are watching to see if the opposition party will get it right in the nomination of its standard bearer for the 2019 presidential poll.
The interest of members of the public, as well as the stalwarts of the PDP, in who becomes the party’s presidential candidate, is understandable.
Analysts say the party’s success or failure in the 2019 presidential poll, to a large extent, would depend on who it nominates as presidential candidate and the manner in which the candidate emerges.
At the last count, 13 aspirants have obtained the party’s presidential nomination and expression of interest forms. They are: former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku; Senate President, Bukola Saraki; former Chairman, PDP National Caretaker Committee, Ahmed Makarfi; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo and former Minister of Special Duties, Taminu Turaki.
Others are former Senate President, David Mark; former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang; the founder of Baze University, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed; and Stanley Osifo from Edo State.
Expectedly, tension is beginning to mount in the party, as the presidential aspirants and their supporters scheme on how to get upper hand in the contest for the party’s ticket.
The national convention, where the PDP standard bearer will emerge is scheduled to hold on October 5 to 6.
Also, most of the aspirants have equally embarked on a nationwide tour to market themselves to the delegates, who will decide who the PDP 2019 presidential candidate will be.
However, several leaders of the party have expressed concern that the large number of aspirants, may pose a challenge for the party.
Specifically, the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, has said repeatedly that there is need to prune down the number of the presidential aspirants in the interest of the party.
The BoT chairman is afraid that if all the aspirants are allowed to go for the primary, there might be disagreements among them, which would lead to a crack in the opposition party in the run-up to the 2019 general elections.
Apart from 2007, when 27 aspirants indicated interest in the PDP’s presidential ticket, the party has not had this number of presidential aspirants. In the 1999, 2003, 2011 and 2015, the number of presidential aspirants ranged from one to six.
But Makarfi, who is also a former governor of Kaduna State says there is nothing wrong with the number of aspirants, who have indicated interest in the PDP presidential ticket.
“There is nothing wrong with the number of aspirants. That shows that the party is vibrant and people like the party. The number of aspirants is an indication that the party is healthy,” the former governor told Sunday Sun.
As the PDP warms up for its presidential nomination, which analysts say, will make or mar the opposition party, Sunday Sun gathered that four key factors are likely to define the contest for the PDP presidential ticket.
These include the quest for a consensus candidate, clamour for the candidate to come from North-west, the need to reward party loyalty and the influence of the PDP Governors Forum.
The quest for a consensus candidate in a bid to avoid any unpleasant situation that may arise from allowing the 13 aspirants go for presidential primary, probably informed the BoT chairman thinking that “there is need for all the aspirants to agree to a consensus candidate.”
In a statement issued last Monday, Jibrin said that the BoT has set up a committee to interface with all the presidential aspirants with a few to getting them to agree on one candidate or at least get some of them to withdraw from the race.
According to him, “committee has been set to discuss with all presidential aspirants to come up with one of them as candidate.” He, however, noted that although nobody can be forced to withdraw from the contest, it is imperative to impress on the presidential aspirants the need to “put the interest of the party above their personal interests and ambitions”.
As desirable as the idea of a consensus candidate may seem, it appears to be dead on arrival, as the idea has not gone well with several of the party leaders. Some of the presidential aspirants and the PDP governors are also not favourably disposed to the idea.
After submitting his nomination forms, Senator Saraki said that the consensus candidacy is not an issue before the aspirants. Few hours later, the PDP governors, at a meeting with the presidential aspirants and the party leadership, rejected the idea of a consensus candidate and asked all the aspirants to go for primary.
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dubem Onyia told Sunday Sun that choosing the PDP presidential candidate through consensus is tantamount to handing over the nomination process to a cabal.
He said: “That will be impunity. That will be meddling with the internal democracy of the party. Let everybody go to primary. The PDP said they will give the party back to the people. Consensus candidate is a few cabals trying to bring one person. Let everybody go to the field, let the delegates chose.”
Sunday Sun gathered that, notwithstanding the seeming opposition to consensus candidacy, the withdrawal of some of the aspirants from the contest before primary could not be ruled out.
Analysts say what obtained in the 2011 PDP presidential primary, where all the northern aspirants adopted Atiku as their consensus candidate to face then President Goodluck Jonathan will likely play out again. It is expected that at the nick of time, the aspirants may meet at their zonal level to harmonise their position, so as to increase the chances of their zone clinching the ticket.
If that is obtained, the number of the aspirants will be substantially reduced. Makarfi also confirmed to Sunday Sun that the aspi- rants are talking among themselves.
The North West angle/reward for loyalty
Apart from the consensus, two other issues that are being canvassed by some party leaders and some aspirants is the need for the party to pick its candidate from the North-west and to see the presidential contest as op- portunity to reward loyalty to the party. Seven of the 13 presidential aspirants are from North-west.
They are: Makarfi, Lamido, Kwankwaso, Turaki, Bafarawa, Tambuwal and Datti-Ahmed. While Atiku and Dankwambo are from the North-east; Saraki, Mark and Jang are from North-central.
Apart from the Senate president, the former vice president, the Sokoto governor and the former
governor of Kano, who rejoined the PDP after a sojourn in the All Progressives Congress (APC), all the other presidential aspirants have remained with the party during thick and thin.
In spite of the argument for the ticket to be ceded to North-west, because of the population, Makarfi, who is also from the zone told Sunday Sun that “this ticket is open to the entire North. At the end of the day, let it be the collective decision of all of us. No one part should assume more right that the other part. It is not a major issue as far as I am concerned. We will talk to each other and weigh all options and all possibilities.”
He was optimist that at the end of the day, the stakeholders would reach a decision that would be in the best interest of the party.
According to him, “my take is that the most important issue should be credibility, capacity and acceptability, not just within the party, but among the electorate. If we limit ourselves squarely to what PDP wants, not considering what the voters prefer, that will be a big mistake because we are the minority in this case.
The voters are the majority. And the voters know each one of us. They will do our bidding if we present a candidate that resonates with them.”
On the issue of party loyalty, Onyia told Sunday Sun that “party loyalty is not the issue now. Somebody can be loyal to the party and not have the capacity. It is not party loyalty that is the issue. But who has the capacity and the experience to do the job. He added that “picking from North-west does not make any sense.
When President Obasanjo came, he could not even win his polling booth. And he won the election. It doesn’t matter as long as you have the support of Nigerians. President Jonathan contested election and won, South-south and South put together do not amount to the voting population of about three states in the North.”
The former minister noted that major consideration for the delegates in deciding, the PDP candidate should be somebody who has capacity and a democrat, who will respect the rule of law.
To many, Senator Saraki who comes from the North-central appears to fit into what the PDP is looking for as he is politically shrewd and smart just as he commands huge followership across the country.
Also, dismissing the argument that the presidential ticket should be ceded to the North-west and to an aspirant, who has remained in the party on a continuous basis, the spokesman of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation, Segun Sowumi, said that it is very possible for a candidate outside the North-west, to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said that the party should be looking towards the direction of Atiku, who although is not from the North-west, but has supporters across the country.
“Buhari has always been defeated by people from outside the North-west. It is not enough to say that you are going to defeat Buhari because you are coming from the North-west. We believe that if the PDP is in the 2019 election to win, the best is to have Atiku Abubakar as the candidate,” he said.
Similarly, a public affairs analyst, Dr Okey Ikechukwu, who is also close to the Tambuwal campaign organisation, told Sunday Sun that in as much as party loyalty is important, performance is equally important.
According to him, “reward goes with performance. The fact that you are in a party is one thing; the fact that you are contributing to the party is another; party loyalty is important, party performance and responsibility is also important. It is the party that will decide taking into cognizance several variables. If you say loyalty, it is not just enough to say I am loyal.”
He said the Sokoto State governor, who is a bridgebuilder and has a cross generational appeal, coupled with a track record of achievement, is the kind of person, the PDP needs as its presidential candidate in the 2019 polls.
But the immediate past Deputy National Secretary of the PDP, Hon Dave Iohember disagrees. He said rewarding those who have remained with the party in good and bad times will encourage more members to remain committed to the party.
According to him, “this will further encourage party loyalists from committing themselves to the party. Doing their best for the party. At a point this party was at its loyalists ebb. Some presidential and governorship aspirants stood by the party to ensure that the party was repositioned.
Today some persons are coming to harvest where they did not sow. Some were even on the other side, causing havoc, praying that the party should be destroyed.
“The party should look inwards, there are some persons who are not actually party men. All they are doing is to ensure they get platforms to actualise their ambitions.”
He added that but for the efforts of some of the presidential aspirants, PDP would not even be talking about a presidential candidate today.
“Ali Modu Sheriff was going to adopt Buhari as PDP candidate. Today, it is pay back time. The party should also reward some of us that stood by the party,” Iohembar, who is also a governorship aspirant in Benue State maintained.
PDP Governors’ influence
The PDP governors have always been a strong factor in deciding what happens in the party at any given time, especially in deciding who becomes the party’s presidential ticket.
From 1999, when the first PDP presidential primary took place to 2003, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo sought a second time ticket, down to 2015, the PDP governors have always decided who emerges the party’s presidential candidate.
However, things seem to be changing. A reliable party source told Sunday Sun that the governors may not decide the outcome of the next PDP presidential primary because they have their individual aspirants they are working for.
“The governor may not be the deciding factor. The governors are not united in this contest. You will agree with me that a lot of them have their presidential aspirants, who they are pushing. It will be difficult for them to speak with one voice in bringing out one person. We agreed that they have most of the delegates. But they are now split.
So, every person is to himself, especially as two of their members are aspiring. And some former governor are also aspiring,” the source stated.
For a political party, which has a history of imposition of candidates, analysts say the October 5-6 presidential primary of the PDP is a litmus test for the opposition party. Repeatedly, the leadership of the party has promised that it will provide a level playing field for all aspirants.
A member of the House of Representatives, Hon Joe Edionwele, believes strongly that the party would not repeat its past mistake of imposing a candidate. He told Sunday Sun that apart from the promise of the party to provide a level playing field, the aspirants
are ready to make sacrifices.
“The people are ready to make sacrifices. It is about sacrifices. The errors, like in (former President Goodluck) Jonathan’s time, where they said nobody should challenge him, will not repeat itself.
There are people who are ready for governance. And there are people who are ready to make sacrifices. I can assure you that it is going to be a free and fair primary,” he said.