The race for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has taken a new twist, with regional blocs of the party in the North insisting on producing the candidate of the party.
Feelers from the ruling party indicate that the aspirants, after turning down prospects of a consensus candidate emerging to lead the party’s contest against the All Progressives Congress (APC), have resorted to galvanizing their regions as a bulwark for their aspirations. LEADERSHIP Sunday however learnt that the party has refused to box itself into a corner over the demand by some aspirants to micro-zone the ticket to a particular section of the North. It was also gathered that the party is poised to allow major leaders in the North weigh in on the choice of who flies the party’s presidential flag in 2019. So far, there are 13 presidential aspirants in the race cut across the three geo-political zones in the North, namely Northwest, Northeast and North Central.
The Northwest zone has former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; former Sokoto governor Attahiru Bafarawa; former minister of special duties and intergovernmental affairs, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and former Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
In the Northeast, there is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankambo, while the North Central has Senate President Bukola Saraki; his immediate predecessor, David Mark and immediate past governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang. While the Northwest is pushing its voting population advantage, the Northeast is advancing the argument that the region has not occupied the position. The North Central, on its part, has launched a bid for the position, insisting that the zone deserves to produce the party’s flag bearer because its role as the stabiliser of the country. Kwankwaso has been in the forefront of the campaign for PDP to give its ticket to the Northwest because the region boasts of the highest number of voters in the country. Speaking shortly after he secured his presidential forms, which he has since submitted, Kwankwaso said, “If you come from Kano, it is the most populous state going by the last census in this country and politics is a game of number. “Secondly, Northwest is also the most populous zone. If you look at the figure as they stand now, North West is roughly Northeast plus North Central. And therefore, North West has more population when you compare it with any other zone in this country. And that is on one side.” But leaders of the PDP from the North Central have resolved to present a consensus candidate for the forthcoming 2019 presidential elections, adding that the time was ripe for the zone to produce the next president of Nigeria because they have competent, capable and experienced aspirants that can improve the fortunes of the country. According to a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday by director-general, Abubakar Bukola Saraki Campaign Organisation, Wakil Mohammed, the resolution was taken at a meeting held on Wednesday evening at Grand Ibro Hotel, Abuja.
The statement said the meeting was attended by party leaders from the zone, including former governors, former and serving National Assembly members, members of the business community and the academia.
Those in attendance were briefed by the Senate President on his intention to run for the office of the president. The statement reads in part: “The PDP leaders from the region also emphasised that it was the turn of the North- Central region to produce the president of Nigeria, while also mandating the leaders to engage their counterparts in other geopolitical zones, with a view to convincing them to support the consensus aspirant that will be produced by from the North – Central. “Our zone has been the stabilising factor in Nigeria for many years, and it is clear that we need to continue to fight for the soul of our nation. The 2019 polls is not just an election, it is about winning the soul of Nigeria. Right now, to me and – I’m sure – to all the other contestants under the umbrella of our great party, nothing is more important than for us to rescue our people from the clutch of poverty, insecurity and ensure that we bring development to all Nigerian.”
However, Dankwambo’s presidential campaign organisation insisted if any form of micro zoning has to be done, the Northeast deserves to be considered first. The director, Media and Strategic Communications of the campaign organisation, Dr Ayoade Adewopo, hailed the PDP leadership for its quick and timely response in jettisoning the call for such arrangement among its presidential aspirants, especially those from the North West geo-political zone in the primary election scheduled for October 5. He, however noted: “We believe every Nigerian with credible fit and proper credentials deserves the right to contest the highest office in the country. “However, if such condition as micro zoning should be considered for the purpose of fairness, equitable distribution of power and to forge a formidable front in the 2019 Presidential election, the North East zone deserves priority in that regard, not the North West which has produced five out of the nine northern Heads of States of the country till date, while the North East has only produced one over 50 years ago. The North East is the most marginalized zone in Northern Nigeria.
“It is on record that the only leader ever produced from the North East zone was Late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the selfless and dedicated Prime Minister that served the nation from 1960 to 1966 with all he had, including his dear life. “The North East zone and the country, by extension is about to recover the loss 52 years after Sir Tafawa Balawa’s demise as another true son of the zone, Dr Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, the Executive Governor of Gombe State has been trumped up for election as President of Nigeria on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).”
On his part, former Senate president, David Mark, said, “The issue is that the party has zoned the presidential vacancy to the North. Whether you are from North East, North West or North Central, we are all northerners. And I think that that is what qualifies me in the first place.”