For a party known for money bag politics than issues based, the conduct of the PDP primaries will make or mar its electoral fortunes, writes EMAMEH GABRIEL who puts into perspective the issues before theopposition party ahead of next year’s general elections.
Ahead of the primaries for the 2019 general election, the parties are neck deep in permutations on who to elect to fly their presidential flags. For the ruling APC, there are clear indications incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari still enjoys the Right of First Refusal, then, the hot enclave is the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) where 12 aspirants have already thrown their hats into the ring for the party’s presidential ticket.
While the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party may still be basking in the ambience of its recent political harvest from the ruling All Progressive Congress following the gale of defections that trailed the nation’s political atmosphere in the last six seven weeks, the party may likely found its back on the wall once again as the political scheming to shop for a consensus candidate to fly its flag in the 2019 presidential election thickens.
As the clash of interest among key stakeholders of the party clots, analysts have described the PDP’s current situation as its ball and chain that may mare its chances to wrestle power from the ruling party or perhaps dislodge it in 2019 if caution is not tread.
Recall that the PDP had in June this year signed a pact (MoU) with 38 other political parties to form a grand alliance that birthed what is now Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP). The sole purpose of the marriage is to unseat the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) under leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari whom they said had failed to live up to expectations in next year’s presidential poll.
The highlight of the terms of the MoU clearly spells that the marriage would produce a consensus presidential candidate who possesses the prerequisite political capital and war chess to challenge the popularity of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
The PDP on its part had while welcoming its new intakes, assured them of a level playground for those seeking tickets to contest under the platform of the party. It was alleged in some quarters that the party, as part of its deal with some key members of R-APC and its nPDP who left in 2014, promised sixty per cent shares from the spoils of the political war, including tickets for the new intakes.
Recalled that before the gale of defections, the PDP had under its former caretaker committee chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, lined out strategies to ensure its reinvention, and one of the ideas is to woo back its former members from the ruling APC and form an alliance with other political parties in the country.
This was the first major strategy put in place by the party to boost its chances in 2019, and recent developments in the nation’s political environment have shown that things are gradually falling in place for the party as it has become the major beneficiary in the ongoing realignment in the polity in the build up to 2019.
With thirteen senators, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, members of R-APC, three Governors in the likes of Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State and Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, with their supporters who recently dumped the APC for the opposition party, the Obasanjo’s Third Force movement together with other thirty eight political parties as well as thirty two members of the House of Representatives, the PDP has reaped bountifully from the Makarfi’s strategy.
It is no longer a rumour as it was before now insinuated that most of the key players who orchestrated the division in the APC and further left did so because they were not guaranteed a presidential ticket with the incumbent Buhari already being endorsed by most states governors of the party to recontest.
Former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who saw that earlier, had to leave last year before others recently joined the bandwagon after what they have described as irreconcilable differences in the APC.
Clearly, the recent political realignment has given the opposition party a big boost for the 2019 general elections. Analysts have however averred that the influx of political colossuses with larger clouts into the PDP may yet again brew some ripples in not just some of the state chapters of the party but also at the national level where political intrigues and manoeuvring is currently playing out.
As the deadline for party primary elections across the country draws closer according to the timetable recently released by the Independence National Electoral Commission, the pressure is more on the opposition PDP than the ruling APC, who no doubt has adopted incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari as its sole candidate for the 2019 presidential election.
However, the CUPP and the recent rearrangement in the polity have placed the PDP in a pole position going into the 2019 elections if concerned interests among leadership of the party are carefully manage as stakes continue to raise over who flies the party’s flag in 2019 and who gets what after what.
The party had through its spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiya, assured its members on several occasions that it has come up with a power sharing formula to accommodate all interest parties under the CUPP, also assuring them that none would be short-changed for the new intakes.
“The repositioned PDP has amply learnt from the past. All members must, therefore, dispel every fear in relation to control of our structure as well as processes for selection of candidates for election, especially on the choice of our presidential candidate, as such will be handled with the strictest adherence to the principles of internal democracy and zero tolerance for imposition’’, said Ologbondiya.
However the presidential ticket has heightened the scheming among key players of the party with some already jittering over fears that those who defected into the party recently are seemingly going to be favoured.
Already among those contesting the PDP presidential ticket are: former vice president Alhaji Abubakar Atiku; Ahmed Makarfi; former Minister of Special Duties, Taminu Turaki; former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido; Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dakwambo, Senator Datti Ahmed.
Others are former Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau and former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, Alhaji Tambuwa and Kwankwaso.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, though has not indicated interest to contest; he has not denied information linking him to the contest for the plump job. It is believe that he would be joining the list as it is becoming clearer by the day that he has eye on the number one seat.
Saraki’s recent visit to Minna to meet with Babangida barely a few hours after addressing a world press conference on Wednesday on the siege to the National Assembly was clearly a confirmation that the Senate President has started his consultations.
The Senate President had last week revealed that he was seriously considering running for the nation number one job.
As it stands, Saraki’s influence as the number three in the country with his financial war chest, he is second to Atiku Abubakar. With his position, he enjoys the support half of almost half of the national assembly and many of the nation’s moneybags which gives him the leverage should he throws his hat into the ring.
Saraki was, after his defection from the APC to the PDP, made the National Leader of the PDP. Something some party faithful were reported not be happy over. Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Senator Godswill Akpabio had told journalists after his defection to the APC that making Saraki who help to destroy the PDP in 2014 a leader of the party where there are high ranking party members, was meant to short change those who have worked to keep the party afloat till they came back.
This fear has continue to brew in the PDP at all level and analysts and concerned party faithful have warned that the PDP thread with care while making its choice as to who flies the party’s flag as the ruling party tarries, waiting for them to make the slightest of mistake to produce a candidate with pending corruption case or criminal charges on such candidate.
As the pressure on some of the aspirants to drop their ambitions to prone down the number of contestants for the party’s presidential ticket begins, it appears that Gombe State governor and a presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, may be the first casualty to drop his presidential ambition before the party’s primary election.
Report already has that barely two weeks after his declaration for the presidential race under the PDP Dankwambo is now under pressure from some party stakeholders and northern traditional rulers to step down for Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal who is believe to a better chance to contest against President Muhammadu Buhari.
Although, the Dankwambo camp has debunked the rumour saying there is no way their principal would sacrifice his presidential ambition to please his fellow aspirant, there indication that Tambuwa’s presidential ambition wheel is being oiled by Governor Nyesom Wike who controls the PDP structure with the aid of other governors.
Dankwambo is an active and respected member of the PDP Governors Forum. He was with the party in its trying times, working with Wike, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa lbom, Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa to keep the party afloat, reinvent it and sustained it till today.
He is not a spring chicken to that can be easily devoured or cow to drop his presidential ambition for his opponents who are tainted with anti-party activities.
There are already indications that some PDP governors are not happy with Wike’s moves and plan to give the party’s presidential ticket to Tambuwal on a platter of gold when there are other credible aspirants who deserve it because of their commitment to the party.
With the national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, a product of Governor Wike, doing the bidding of his benefactor, Tambuwal may get the backing of majority of PDP states governors.
This development is just one logjam among too many that may play out as events within the PDP unfold in the build up to the party’s primaries in weeks from now.
While the CUPP factor is yet to be addressed, the Atiku/Abasanjo renewed feud has further heightened fears in the party.
Even as the PDP seems to be shield that anchors other political party in the CUPP arrangement, the coalition will be very much interested in who emerges the presidential standard bearer of the major opposition party. This might again box the PDP into another tight space in the weeks to come as more events unfold.
While former President Obasanjo who orchestrated the Third Force movement had recently after a meeting with the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) pledged to work in line with the opposition party to ensure the removal of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, his recent remarks about Atiku Abubakar is raising concern in some quarters.
Obasanjo has continued to demarket Atiku. The ex-President had last week said he can’t work in the same party with Atiku,
“How can I be on the same side with Atiku? To do what? If I support Atiku for anything, God will not forgive me. If I do not know, yes. But once I know, Atiku can never enjoy my support…’’, Obasanjo was quoted in some national dailies.
The former president’s sudden romance with a party he helped sent out of power in 2015 and his comment about Atiku is already creating the insinuation of vendetta against his former 2IC as against his perceived genuine intention to assist the opposition party to win bounce back to power in 2019.
and now the defectors under the leadership of Saraki who has been branded as the national leader of PDP at a recent emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party to the consternation of many dyed- in – the – wool faithful.
With the way the PDP governors installed the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, it is glaring that they will play a major role in the choice of the party’s presidential candidate. Apart from keeping faith with the mutual power agreement which brought Secondus to power, the governors control the party structure at state level and they also determine the voting pattern of delegates from their states.
While other power players in the party are putting perfections to win the ticket for their loyalists, Tanimu Kabiru Turaki, is being reportedly favours by a section of the Third Force in the PDP. There are also powerful forces from the camps of ex-Presidents Obasanjo, Babangida, Goodluck Jonathan and ex-VP Namadi Sambo as well as other big names selling his aspiration.
Apart from popularity, acceptability and financial war chest, the PDP is believe would be deploying the integrity test tube as a perquisite to prone down its presidential aspirants.
Former Kano State governor, Rabui Kwankwaso, appears to be the most favourite who falls in this category and with the look of things; he is the only aspirant riding on self-popularity to win the ticket, though he appears to be Obasanjo second choice aspirant for the race.
Apart from his huge followership which makes him next to Buhari in the North where the PDP is banking on to harvest votes from in 2019, Kwankwaso is well-respected for his integrity, selflessness life style and religious outlook in states like Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Borno, Zamfara, and Yobe states.
He is a huge political capital for the PDP but analysts believe his that his political differences with President Buhari might be his Achilles Heel even if he emerges the PDP presidential flag bearer.
With stakeholders in the party already taking sides, it clear that some aspirant will be technically weed out of the race while those with financial muzzle and deep pockets to throw the money around will cause some upset. No doubt, this will put the PDP in a dilemma even when the party had allayed fears of imposition and assured its members that there would be a level playing field for all aspirants for the various positions, including the presidential ticket.
In all of this, the buck however falls on the table of the Governors’ Forum of the party. The Governor’s Forum decides where the pendulum swings. From indications, it clear that the PDP are not in the same page.
The APC may have learnt its lesson from the recent defection that hit it because it failed to manage properly its harvest from the former ruling party. The PDP has found itself in the same position today. Has the opposition learnt a lesson from its mistake in the past? The outcome of its primaries in the weeks to come will tell.
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