Preparations for the presidential primary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the 2019 general elections are now on top gear. Preparatory to the scheduled October national convention, the various state chapters of the party, yesterday held delegate elections to determine who would vote to choose its standard bearer in the upcoming polls.
Prior to that, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party had released a 40-page document entitled: ‘Electoral Guideline for the
PDP, where the outline of the modality that would be adopted for the much-awaited primary was clearly spelt out.
While it said the presidential candidate would emerge through “modified open secret system,” it also clarified that the “aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primary. According to the document, “the decision of the National Executive Committee of the party shall be final and binding.”
The document further added that each aspirant must be nominated by not less than “60 persons from at least two-thirds of all the states of the Fed- eration who shall be registered voters in their respective local government areas and also registered members of the party.” In addition, all aspirants are to swear to an oath to abide by the decisions of the party on the conduct of its primary elections.
Like never before, the race is star-studded and enthusiasm is high among its teeming supporters. The large pool of aspirants jostling for the ticket also leaves no one in doubt that elasticity of the umbrella of the party is strong enough to accommodate all manners of persons.
In the last couple of weeks, over a dozen of heavyweights have declared their intentions to vie for the number one position on the platform of the PDP. These include: former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, his colleague in Gombe, Ibrahim Dankwambo, erst-while governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and Jigawa State’s
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Others are David Mark, Attairu Bafarawa, Jonah Jang, Ahmed Makarfi, Kabiru Taminu Turaki (SAN), a former Minister of Special Duties, Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies, a Professor of Communication Arts at the River State University of Education, Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose. More are still expected to join the race in the days ahead.
In view of the growing number of contenders, some concerned stakeholders are already expressing worries over the possibility of achieving a rancor-free primary.
A former member of the BoT of the party, Ebenezer Babatope, expressing concern over the rising figure of the heavyweights who are struggling to vie for the position of presidency in an interview with Sunday Sun, said:
“I must confess to you, it is a worrisome thing to me. All I want to say is to appeal to our National Chairman and the national EXCO of the party to ensure that a level playing field is given to all those who want to contest. Once we are able to do that, all the heavyweights who are contesting will work together for the victory of the party.
“At the end of the primary, we will settle all the differences with the spirit of a united Nigeria. All of them have proved themselves to be worthy ambassadors of Nigeria; all of them are democrats and they cannot compromise the tenets of democracy because of personal interest. By the grace of God, when the PDP forms the next government, we are going to put many of these heavyweights in the areas
where they are going to help the people of this country to develop.”
But another chieftain of the party who is a former Minister of Works and Housing, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, dismissed the worry, saying “the more, the merrier.” His words:
“That is the way to defend democracy. They should sign an MoU to ensure that whoever wins will be supported by other aspirants. Once the primary is free and fair; there will be no problem at all.” He advised aspirants to collect nomination forms for the Senate, governorship and House of Representatives as a back up since only one person will ultimately emerge at the end of the primary.
For the star-studded race, Sunday Sun gathered that issues of age, loyalty to the party, broad-based support, experience and integrity of aspirants would be the major determining factors for the emergence of the candidate of the party.
In this instance, Atiku, who is one of the leading aspirants, appears to be in a good stead to pick the ticket of the party, if experience and support base are to be taken into consideration. More than any other candidate, the former vice president, who is seen by many analysts as a detribalized Nigerian, has a strong support base across the geo-political zones of the country.
He also has a rich experience of the economy coming from his background as a successful entrepreneur and a former number two citizen.
Another unique selling point of his candidacy is his sustained campaign for the restructuring of the country.
Since the days of the late former Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Atiku has been in the forefront of the campaign for restructuring. He believes that only the restructure of the present federal system can address the incessant separatist agitations in the country. In actualizing his ambition, Atiku relies largely on the support of the young generation. He allegedly broke down in tears as he picked his nomination form for the coveted seat. Amidst his teeming supporters he said:
“The event today (purchase of nomination form) is significant and historic because this is the only time in my political career that young men and women in this country have come together without my knowledge or even consent to contribute their own hard-earned money
to buy me an Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms.
Atiku’s outburst of emotion was symbolic of the experience of Presidential Muhammadu Buhari, who in the run up to the last presidential election in 2015, openly wept for the level of rot he observed in the country. It could also be that he has seen the signal that he would be the next president to mount the ladder of responsibility to fix the nation’s numerous problems.
Regardless, Atiku is going to confront a huge opposition from the rank of his party members, if assessed based on party loyalty and age. In his years of struggle for his presidential ambition, he had dumped the PDP severally to join other political parties. Again, at over 70, Atiku would also likely to meet resistance from the advocates of generational shift in leadership. Again, there are those who believe that he is not liked by many because of his antecedents even when they cannot point to his offenses.
The spokesperson for Atiku Campaign Organization, Oladimeji Babiyi, in a telephone interview with Sunday Sun, insisted that the consequences of not picking Atiku as the flag-bearer of the PDP would be too grave for the party and Nigeria as a whole. He said:
“Moving from one party to another should not be an issue because what Nigerians need now is somebody who has the capacity to lead this country. We need someone who can deliver Nigerians from the present mess. In any case, who has not moved in the Nigeria political space? The current president moved from one party to the other before he became Nigeria’s President. The current Senate President was in one party before he moved back to the PDP.
“To many Nigerians and many supporters of our party, that is not what matters now. What Nigerians are looking for now is someone who has the capacity, who is tested and experienced, who has a track record of achievements in both private and public life. And that is where Atiku comes in.
“What Atiku camp is asking for is a level playing field. The delegates themselves know Atiku, they know he is the best for this country at this point in time. Apart from the fact that he is the only one who can push out the present government, they know that he is the only one who can take care of the needs of the Nigerian people. And he is a doer and not just a talker. All his achievements when he was VP are there for anybody to see. Except the party leadership wants the PDP to go into oblivion, that is when they will not ensure that Atiku becomes the flag bearer of the party. The consequences of not picking Atiku will be too dire for the country and even the party. PDP should think deep, act fast and act well.”
For the Senate President Bukola Saraki, he has been making a good showing in the political space following the clean bill of health giving
to him by the Supreme Court over the false asset declaration suit filed against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau. His recent defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP along some lawmakers in the upper chambers shows that he enjoys wide acceptability among his colleagues. And to that extent, he is a force to be reckoned with in the current power equation.
While making his declaration, he premised his action plan on poverty eradication, employment generation, national security, infrastructure development, among others. Saraki, who lamented many woes confronting the nation in his declaration speech at a dialogue with Youth and Young aspirants held at Sheraton Hotel under the auspices of the “Not Too Young To Run”, promised to see that the youths play major roles at all levels, not only in government, but also in the private sector and indeed in every area of Nigerian life.
Saraki combines advantages of age and experience as a former governor to be a preferred candidate for the race. But the question is whether or not, like Atiku, he can pass loyalty test. He was one of the arrowheads of the aggrieved governors who dumped the PDP to form the APC in the run up to the last general election. Many supporters of the party may not want to trust him for the role he played in the defeat of the party in the last election. Again, his support base cannot match the likes of Atiku who have structures across tribal boundaries.
Ogunlewe also lending credence to Fabiyi’s argument said:
“Nigeria is on the verge of total collapse. We need to salvage this country and the only way is to restructure this country. So, we need someone who believes in restructuring to lead us out of the woods.
“Age has nothing to do with capacity to govern. People talk about age because there is too much to do at the top. The top is too heavy and that is why we must ensure devolution of power to the local government. There is no way this country can survive with the structure we have at present. Bring down angel to govern, we will destroy ourselves.”
Saraki’s predecessor in the Senate, David Mark, in his own action plan, also promised to rescue the country from the brink of collapse. One of his close allies and National Coordinator of Door2Door for David Mark, James Oche, said the mission of the former senate president is to salvage the entity called Nigeria from total collapse.
Until recently, Mark has been lying low since he lost out of the power game in the 8th National Assembly.
While the lull lasted, his political influence had waned quite considerably. He will need to do a lot of work to re-engineer his political structure. Unfortunately, time is not on his side, as the party has just few weeks to the primary. Although he has a sustained consistent loyalty to the PDP, the sentiment about presenting a candidate from the core North is likely to work against him in the primary.
A former governor of Kaduna State and immediate past Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Makarfi, while declaring his intention to run for president in 2019, said if elected, restructuring of the country, tackling of insecurity, fighting corruption with due process, the rule of law, improving the economy, reuniting the nation would be the top priority agenda of his administration.
Makarf is respected for his doggedness in wading through the vicissitude of time while the struggle for the leadership of the party between him and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff lasted. For some members, he is one of the few hands that could be trusted to fly the ticket of the PDP.
A former Minister of Aviation, Mr Femi Fani-Kayode wrote in his twitter handle: “Ahmed Makarfi is a steady hand that is tried and tested and a man of his word. Kabiru Turaki (SAN) is one of the most brilliant lawyers in Nigeria and a man of honour. They both remained loyal to @OfficialPDPNig in difficult times and are both profoundly good men. I wish them well!”
According to him, the issue is not who can win the nomination, however, the real issue, he says is, who can win the election. “In politics, loyalty is everything. @OfficialPDPNig needs a presidential candidate that can be trusted, that can keep his word and that is a man of honour. He must also have a massive support base.”
Kwankwaso, a core northerner, is from a state that is in the North-west, which normally produces the highest votes in any election. In his declaration speech, he said that his determination to vie for the office of the president on the platform of the PDP was to offer a paradigm shift in leadership, adding that the narrative of poverty, insecurity and hopelessness must change to turn to a new dawn of confidence in building a well-restructured Nigeria.
But the question is whether or not he has the support base to secure 60 persons from at least two-thirds of all the states of the Federation who shall be registered voters in their respective local government areas and also registered members of the party as required by the guidelines of the party.
Kwankwaso came second to President Buhari in the primary of the APC that was held in Lagos in 2015. Now that he is back to his original party, he would need to convince the party hierarchy that he can be trusted to be the flag bearer. Besides, the recent defection of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau to the APC would have some negative impacts on winning delegates’ votes from his home state in Kano. Taminu Turaki (SAN), a former minister of Special Duties in the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, and chairman, Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North-east, is also making waves in his campaign to win the ticket of the party for the 2019 presidential election.
The spokesperson of his campaign organization, Mr Shola Atere, in a chat with Sunday Sun on his plan for the country said: “His (Turaki’s) major policy thrust will be to tackle the challenge of insecurity as well as the issue of restructuring that people are talking about. He already has a blueprint for the economy. He was part of the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan that built Nigerian economy to be the first in Africa. He knows his onion and he is ready to do all it takes to reposition the economy.”
Highlighting some of the qualities that stand him out, he added: “There is no doubt that Taminu Turaki is going to clinch the ticket. We have all the factors in our favour. The truth is that most of the other aspirants have what we call baggage; baggage in terms of corruption cases on their necks, baggage in terms of issues they have with the leaders of the party and leaders of Nigeria, baggage in terms of character.
None of these is applicable to our own candidate. He is not too old and he is not too young to run for the party. And nobody has disputed his integrity, his credibility and experience. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), he is knowledgeable to govern this country.”
On the issue of providing a level playing field for the aspirants, Atere expressed confidence in the leadership of the party. “We believe in what the chairman and the National Working Committee is saying that they are going to ensure free and fair primary. He (Chairman) was even on air some two days ago where he was reinforcing that. So, we believe in him and all the actions from the national head quarters have not given us any doubt that the conduct of the primary will be free and fair. Like the Chairman, National Working Committee, has been saying, because they are rebranding the party to make it more acceptable, they are removing impunity. It is in the best interest of the party if there is no factionalisation,” he posited.
Former governor of Sokoto State, Attairu Bafarawa, is another front-runner in the race for the 2019 presidential election. Dr Amanze Obi, who is the spokesperson for his campaign organization, gave a long list of reasons PDP must choose Bafarawa as its standard bearer in the upcoming presidential election.
His words: “He (Bafarawa) has been going round the country campaigning, talking to people about what he represents and what he will still represent if given the ticket of the PDP. I will like to tell you that he has very bright chances. One of the reasons is that he is a
grassroots person; he has been in the game for a very long time since 1976. And he has never had a break. He calls himself professional politician and he is very well known across the country. He had a track record of achievement for eight years he was governor of Sokoto State. Those records of achievement speak volume for him. For what he wants to do if given the opportunity to be president, he has written his position paper on some of the things he would do. What he has there is very persuasive. If Nigerians look at it very well, they will know that he has some thing to offer.
“This man comes from the North-west zone, which returns the highest votes in our elections. One of the best ways to unseat Buhari is to bring somebody from the zone. Kano alone returned over two million votes for Buhari in the last election. He is going to score more votes than Buhari this time around, if given the ticket. He is not from Kano State, but he is so popular in Kano that it will not be easy for anyone to defeat him in an election in the state. He is a very well known leader in Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamafara states. In fact, he controls those states politically speaking. By the time he adds these states to Kano, where he has a very strong appreciation, you will discover that he will be coasting home to victory.”
Aminu Tambuwal, the Sokoto State governor, similarly declared his confidence to win, saying he “has what it to clinch the PDP presidential
ticket in the forthcoming primary.
“As you are aware, the primary election is about party delegates and I am sure that the delegates would find me worthy to be the PDP candidate, with a view to winning the 2019 presidential election,” he said. The governor further expressed determination “to pro vide quality education for the youths so as to become useful in the society if given the mandate come 2019.”
In his own declaration, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, said his decision to contest for the number one seat in the country was out of commitment to fix the country and reposition it for greatness. Sule Lamido, enjoys the support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has been in the forefront of campaign for a change of government.
Lamido declared that only God could stop him from being the president of Nigeria in 2019. “The desperation by those in authorities of power today must know that the same God that have made Balewa, Ironsi, Gowon, Murtala, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida and Jonathan presidents could do the same for me if Allah so wishes,” he said.
There is a strong belief that his support base combined with the forces of the Obasanjo group would be an advantage for him in the general election, if given the ticket of the party. For political analysts, these and many more are some of the dynamics that would determine who would pick the party ticket in the scheduled October primary.