The last few months have seen shifts and scheming in the political space, including aspirants plotting alternative political options if they fail to secure the top job, writes EMAMEH GABRIEL.
As the 2019 elections draw near, there seems to be palpable anxiety among the political class, as to where lies their political fate, particularly those inching for the PDP presidential ticket while still leaving no stone unturned to remain relevant in the polity.
The gale of defections that swept through the political parties was the first episode of the sordid drama that is presently playing out, and the next episode, political analysts have predicted, would be the scramble that is likely to arise after the primary, where those who fail to get their party’s presidential ticket, would have to fall back on their current positions or move on to something new.
But how such a scenario, which can be likened to aspirants having a contingency or a backup arrangement, will play out continues to raise questions from various quarters.
As the intrigues within the political sphere continue to unfold, the current wave of contingence politicking isn’t new, particularly among those with political clout.
This trend had played out in the build up to the 2015 general elections, especially in the buildup to the APC presidential primaries. The Kano State Governor in 2014, Rabiu Kwankwaso and his Imo counterpart at the time, Rochas Okorocha, had contested the presidential primaries of the APC against Muhammadu Buhari, who eventually won.
Kwankwaso and Okorocha purchased the APC presidential forms and fulfilled all the processes leading to the primaries. But they had other plans.
Rochas who had one more term to run, obtained the party’s governorship form in Imo State while Kwankwaso who was rounding off his second term as governor, secured the senatorial ticket of his constituency.
In Imo, Okorocha’s son-in-law and his Commissioner for Land and Urban Development, Uche Nwosu, held the forte for him while he took a shot at the party’s presidential ticket. Failing to secure the presidential ticket, he quickly took the ticket from Nwosu, who, in keeping with the deal, surrendered the governorship ticket to Okorocha, who is currently serving out his constitutional term in office.
Okorocha, in this dispensation is poised to scramble for the Senate in the coming elections since he cannot contend for the party’s presidential primary without incurring the outright disapproval of his party.
Same was done in the case of Kwankwaso. The former governor, whose popularity had soared in the heat of the 2015 political race, had easily secured the senatorial ticket as his influence helped to swell the votes the APC was able to amass both in the presidential, governorhsip, federal and state legislative elections.
The move by both Kwankwaso and Okorocha, had attracted critisms at the time, mainly on moral grounds.
Pundits believe that the 2015 scenario is already replicating in PDP. From the look of things, the gambit of contingency plan has now been imported into the PDP. It is clear that this development applies to the PDP alone as there are no aspirants contending the presidential ticket of the APC with President Buhari.
There have been several reports that some presidential aspirants on the platform of the opposition party have plotted a fall-back option in the event they fail to get the ticket at the party’s primary election.
Among those alleged to have arrogated to themselves the first right of refusal for less offices should the PDP’s presidential ticket elude them and had already purchased a plan B forms are: Senate President Bukola Saraki, David Mark, Senators Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Jonah Jang.
However, the PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, had debunked the rumour on a television programme (Sunrise Daily) carefully monitored by Leadership Sunday, saying it is a rumour sold to the public by the ruling APC.
Asked if it was constitutional, the PDP spokesperson said, it is not in the party’s constitution for any aspirant to obtain two forms.
‘‘It is not in our constitution and no aspirant has purchased two forms. This news is being sold out to the public by the APC’’, he said.
Meanwhile, in another report, a member of the PDP, Chief Sam Nkire, confirmed the development. “I heard of it but I don’t know specifically who and who bought forms for presidential, governorship and or senatorial race.
“However, that shows that the aspirants are not putting their eggs in one basket. It also shows that the aspirants themselves know that only one of them would emerge at the convention. So for me, it is an indication that all of them will work together after the primaries,” he said.
Saraki, who has demonstrated a Machiavellian astuteness in dealing with his political challenges, would also not be expected to throw all his eggs in one basket and run for the presidency without securing his senatorial seat, just in case he loses out in the presidential primary.
Securing the seat of the President of the Senate was not a mean feat. It was a venture that he fought keenly to actualise, a situation for which he is still being vilified by interests in the party. There is no doubt that he will likely reclaim his mandate as Senate President if he returns to the Senate. He would therefore, not leave out all the chances that are available for him to remain at the centre of Nigeria’s political affairs.
As it stands now, Saraki has both hands in the pie, and is fully ready to brace the odds in pursuit of his political ambition.
Currently Saraki has no major contender in the Kwara Central senatorial seat he currently occupies. Reports have however shown that the Senate President had already bought the form through proxy just as he did in 2011.
The Gombe State Governor who was initially believed to be highly favoured to get the PDP Presidential ticket, before the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Saraki and Kwankwaso returned to the fold. Now, the governor is having a tough time rubbing shoulders with the new returnees.
It is clear that Dankwambo had seen the writing on the wall that it won’t be an easy ride contesting with power brokers in the mould of Saraki, Atiku and Kwankwaso who appear to have enormous national appeal.
He had recently posted on his facebook account that the right of first refusal should be given to party faithfuls who stood by it during its thick and thin. ‘‘We have sacrificed so much for this party and I think there should be reward for loyalty”, Dankwambo had posted recently.
The Gombe State Governor is already considering a plan B, it was gathered, if the coast is no longer clear for him.
Rumours already have it that Dankwambo had through one of his proxies, precisely a serving commissioner in his cabinet, obtained a nomination form for the Gombe-North Senatorial District seat.
The commissioner and Dankwambo are from the same Gombe-North senatorial zone and the plot is to see him step aside for his principal who by all indications may soon be muzzled out of the PDP presidential ticket race as the party continue to put every effort in place to prune down the number of its presidential aspirants.
The former Kano State governor is not new to this game. That he purchased a second form is no more of a replication of the same political scenario that played out in the APC in respect to Kano Central Senatorial slot in 2014 after serving out his governorship terms.
Kwankwaso, then the governor of Kano State who contested against Buhari, coming out as runner up in the contest, had to reserve for himself the Kano central senatorial slot for the APC through his personal assistant, Alhaji Abba Yusuf who held the ticket for him in proxy.
Tambuwal, like Dankwambo is believed to have concluded arrangement with a former commissioner who emerged the consensus gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Sokoto.
It is reported that he is in the race to stand in for Tambuwal, who is currently in the race for the PDP’s ticket. Tambuwal who was Speaker of the House of Representatives in run up to 2014 was said to be eyeing the presidential ticket of the APC. He however was convinced not to contest against Buhari who was a clear favorite at the time to clinch the party’s ticket. He was however in the front row of the political gimmicks at the time and if anybody should understand the dynamics of having a fallback plan, he definitely does, analysts opine.
Senator David Jonah Jang who is also one of the PDP presidential aspirants is believed to have followed suit in setting aside a contingence plan in the event that he fails to win the party’s presidential ticket.
Although Jang who spoke to journalists at his residence recently in Abuja, reportedly said he would not seek re-election to the Senate if he lose the presidential primary, pundits said it might be a smoke screen for concertising his fallback plan or the usual rhetoric by politicians who of course would turn back tomorrow to say his people want him back.
He has stood his ground since the contest for the PDP ticket started. He has also stood by the party hoping to leverage on its rebirth after the 14 months long crisis to emerge it’s presidential candidate. But watchers say he might have also concluded his backup plan so that he does come out total burnt. So far he has repeatedly committed himself to being open to working with any aspirant that emerges.
Besides the aforementioned, other aspirants in the race include, Atiku, former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed.
Beyond seeking position to retain their position should they fail to emerge the presidential candidate, for some aspirants, the prospect of getting political appointments if the party eventually wins the general election is a driving force.
Critics have insisted that those who have wavering interests cannot be trusted to stay loyal to the party if their interests are not promoted, but the question is; is it morally or legally justifiable for any aspirant to hold on to two forms in any guise?
It isn’t in the PDP constitution for any aspirant to obtain two forms, the party may however end up giving automatic tickets to politicians who recently defected to the party as one of the conditions for them to remain in the party to help them wrestle power from the ruling party.
Nevertheless, while only the national chairman and secretary of a party can submit the name of a candidate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) there is also a provision for substitution of candidates in the electoral laws.
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