Beyond a claim to greatness firmly tied to its population size and the vastness of its oil fields, the nation’s sociopolitical developmental journey remains unflattering and foggy. It is against this backdrop that the outcome of the upcoming Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primary which will produce a challenger to Buhari represents a high-octane political event of huge significance for the country and Africa at large. It’s then little wonder that Nigerians and much of the world are waiting with bated breath, to see who emerges PDP’s presidential flagbearer for the 2019 make or break poll. Closely linked to the foregoing are indications that the forthcoming party’s presidential primary may spawn some tense moments following subtle and overt moves between Northwest and Northeast geopolitical zones to produce the standard bearer. Attempts by the Northwest to have the ticket micro-zoned to it did not receive the consideration of the party, as the National Working Committee (NWC) maintains the position of the national convention, which zoned the position to the north in general. The former Governor of Kano State, Engr Rabiu Kwankwaso had recently urged his party to zone the ticket to the North-West geo-political zone where he comes from – a tactical move seen by observers to improve his chances. The North-West currently has formidable aspirants on the platform of the PDP, including Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former governor of Kaduna State, his Kano and Sokoto states’ counterparts, Ibrahim Shekarau, and Attahiru Bafarawa respectively as well as erstwhile Special Duties Minister, Tanimu Turaki, and businessman, Sen. Datti Baba-Ahmed. But apparently having learnt from its bruising defeat at the centre in the 2015 general election, the party has ruled out any possibility of micro zoning its ticket to a particular geo-political zone in the north.
PDP National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan disclosed, expressing the position of the National Working Committee (NWC). Ologbondiyan, who had often insisted that the leadership of the party would not stand in the way of delegates in the determination of the PDP flag bearer for the 2019 presidential election, noted that all aspirants would reach out to delegates to present their plans for Nigerians ahead of the polls. It would be recalled that former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, recently visited Gombe State governor, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, to lobby for his withdrawal from the race to pave way for his eventual emergence as the consensus candidate of the northeast, with the hope that bloc votes from the zone, in addition to ballots from Southeast, Southwest and South/south will give him the PDP ticket. Apart from Atiku, Dankwambo is the only Presidential aspirant that has declared interest in the PDP ticket from the northeast geopolitical zone. Atiku’s visit is clearly indicative of the recognition that Dankwambo is one of the most important political contenders for presidency from the North-East zone and the North in general. Dankwambo, who bears the mandate of Gombe people till May 29, 2019, also holds Atiku in high esteem. Atiku himself has vowed to work in the interest of the party, regardless of whether he wins or loses the party’s sole presidential ticket.A former Accountant General of the Federation, Dr. Dankwambo has performed creditably and exceptionally well for the almost eight years he served as governor. He is credited with the uncommon transformation of rustic Gombe into one of the most developed states in the country within a short time. As a technocrat, Dankwambo, has managed to stay away from major controversies since assuming the office of governor in 2011. This has earned him a lot of respect all over Nigeria and beyond. His ability to secure reelection in 2015 despite the APC “political tsunami” in the north is another proof of his outstanding abilities. This surely will come handy as the gladiators enter the fray.
If history is any guide, then the case for looking North-Eastwards by PDP is pretty strong. As in the case of the chairmanship, the Northeast have been waging a silent moral campaign, arguing that after Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (which, in any case was under a parliamentary arrangement), nobody from that geopolitical zone has mounted the high horse of the Presidency. Political actors from Northeast also contend that while the North-Central has produced three heads of state, including Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar; the North-West has thrown up a total of six heads of state, including General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, General Sani Abacha, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and President Muhammadu Buhari, that has assumed power twice. So, whereas the north-west has more eligible voters, conceding the presidency to the northeast will unmistakably be seen as an act of corrective justice and fairness, which will further endear PDP to millions of Nigerians. It will give the party an additional national outlook. Against the backdrop of Nigeria’s development dilemma as she attempts to evolve a nation-state built on justice and equity, an energetic, visionary leader bereft of excess luggage of the past is surely imperative. From the perspective of generational change which much of the world is currently embracing, Dankwambo certainly represents a breath of fresh air when ranged against other aging options for the party. From all indications, how far the PDP would go in the 2019 poll depends to a large extent on how it manages its presidential primary, especially against the background of plans by the ruling APC to use both carrot and stick approaches to neutralise its efforts at providing a stiff challenge. – Achi, a senior journalist, wrote this from Abuja.