President Muhammadu Buhari, barring any unforeseen event, is already set to be on the 2019 presidential ballot for the All Progressives Congress (APC). Despite the adoption of direct primaries option for the APC presidential primaries, there seems to be no serious challenger in sight. The president may not have put up a superlative performance since he assumed office in May 2015, but his supporters are quick to remind us that his return to power saved our country from anarchy that was caused by rampaging insecurity problems.
The PDP, for now, is the only party that has the capacity to dislodge the APC from the corridors of power. The rising strength of the PDP has been made possible by the weakness of the ruling party. Those who crossed swords with the then Jonathan’s government in 2015 to give victory to Buhari now insist that Jonathan “was more sinned against than sinning.” The PDP that boasted it would rule Nigeria for 60 years is back to the trenches to examine its prospects for recapturing power. Knowing full well that what goes round comes round, the APC must be ready to drink from the bitter cup it forced the PDP to drink, now that the wheels have turned full circle. While it remains mere wishful thinking to believe that there are other parties that can defeat Buhari in 2019, the PDP, out of the many parties operating in the country, is the only one that possesses the arsenal needed to unleash an electoral defeat on the APC.
The 12 aspirants jostling for the PDP’s presidential ticket are Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, Aminu Tambuwal, David Jonah Jang, David Mark, Sule Lamido, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, Attahiru Bafarawa, Kabiru Tanimu and Datti Baba-Ahmed. Considering the current ratings of these aspirants, only four of them are frontline aspirants.
Aminu Tambuwal: He is the governor of Sokoto state and presently touted as the favoured presidential aspirant that enjoys endorsement by the PDP Governors Forum. He gained prominence in 2011 when he emerged as Speaker of the House of Representatives; an action that ran against the rules set by the PDP which had zoned the position to the South-west. He was later to defect to the APC after securing a deal with the then governor, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, who anointed him as a successor.
Tambuwal’s voyage into troubled water started when he allegedly lobbied Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to consider him for the position of a vice president in the event that Buhari did not pull through his first term due to ill health. Unsure of what would become of his fate, he commenced talks with the PDP for his eventual return. His leadership of the National Assembly, especially the lower chamber, portrayed him as an effective and caring leader who easily develops camaraderie with his colleagues from all parts of the country. With the PDP governors behind his aspiration, he may stun bookmakers and emerge as the candidate of the PDP. However, it is too early in the day for his camp to celebrate, as clouds of opposition are yet to clear over claims that Governor Wike Nyesom of Rivers state is set to swing the pendulum in the favour of the former speaker.
Atiku Abubakar: He is a former vice president whose quest for the nation’s presidency has become a recurring decimal. Condemned for what others see as his desperation to occupy the country’s highest office, he has a bottomless war chest filled to the top. However, the Wazirin Adamawa is blessed with so many political opponents. Chief among them is his former boss, former president Olusegun Obasanjo, whose capacity to inflict collateral damage on profiles of politicians has become legendary. When former President Jonathan attempted to ignore Obasanjo, he paid dearly for it. Considering his capacity to build bridges of political affiliations across Nigeria, Atiku is good to grab the ticket. But the role of governors in determining who gets the ticket through manipulation of the delegates could play a dicey role. The governors are unlikely to support anyone less than their own.
Bukola Saraki: A political survivor who has survived many legal arrows despite attempts by the executive arm of government to denigrate his position as Senate President. He spent over two years facing legal prosecution at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) for alleged false declaration of assets. Soon after, the Supreme Court absolved him of the allegations.
Having realised that he has been turned into a hunting game, the Ilorin-based politician, who ruled Kwara state for eight years, is many things to many people. His victories over issues brought up by the executive arm to discredit him have raised his political profile to an unprecedented height. However, those close to him say he is only interested in retaining his position in the Senate. How far that pans out in the future is fraught with unpredictable rhymes in the days ahead that are hinged on the outcome of the PDP’s presidential primaries next weekend.
Mohammed Ahmed Makarfi: He became the saviour of the PDP when he ended the troubling scenario generated by Senator Modu Sheriff who was determined to destroy the party. His eight years of governance in Kaduna state is still remembered with nostalgia by citizens. The Senator worked tenaciously towards the attainment of peace by giving everyone a sense of belonging in the state. The former governor who also represented Kaduna North Senatorial Zone from 2007 – 2005, is not a loud mouthed politician. If delegates from Kaduna were to be allowed to decide who picks the presidential ticket, then, Makarfi will, no doubt, fly.
The former governor boasts of building political bridges across various parts of this country. His managerial acumen in avoiding a drift to disintegration for the PDP stands him as one of the leading lights of true democracy.
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso: He was among the governors who defected to the then New PDP. His political strength has suffered bashing after his deputy, who succeeded him, banned him from visiting the state. His political base has continued to suffer as the police have warned him not to visit Kano. When, in 2015, he contested for the presidential primaries on the platform of APC in Lagos, Kwankwaso came second after Buhari. His large rank of supporters has continued to diminish after some PDP members expressed disappointment at the manner the national headquarters of the party gave him 51 percent controlling shares of the PDP structure. In anger, another former governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, defected to APC.
Out of these four aspirants, one of them is most likely to pick the ticket. The success of the PDP in dislodging Buhari will largely depend on the capacity to manage the outcome of the exercise that promises to be a fiery battle amongst aspirants.