The major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will today head into a presidential primary which would determine its success, or otherwise, in the 2019 general election.
While governors of the party and over 3,619 delegates are poised to decide the fate of the aspirants seeking to fly the party’s flag in the contest, the aspirants, it was gathered, have refused to step down for one another heading into the contest.
The delegates are expected to converge on Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to begin the process of electing their party’s candidate ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
The aspirants in the race for the presidential ticket of the PDP are; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto state Governor Aminu Tambuwal; Gombe state Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi; a former minister of special duties and inter-governmental affairs, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, and a former senator, Dr Baba Datti Ahmed.
Others are a former Senate president, David Mark; a former governor of Kano state, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; a former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, and former Plateau State governor, Senator Jonah Jang.
Indications show that the race remains tight as none of the aspirants, at the time of filing this report, had officially withdrawn from the contest.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the aspirants were still bent on contesting for the position even as moves were being made to prune the number at the last minute. Some party sources told our correspondent that the race might not easily be narrowed down to any set of aspirants as the governors are yet to agree on a particular aspirant. Some of the influential governors, it was learnt, are still rooting for certain aspirants.
Besides the bloc of governors, the bloc of senators, comprising some former governors who wield some influence in their states, are angling to be in the fore of how the candidate will emerge.
It was also learnt that the influence of non-PDP members, especially the bloc of retired generals, leaders from the geo-political zones like the Niger Delta elders, Northern Elders Forum, Ohaneze Ndigbo and Afenifere, is also coming to bear on how the candidate might emerge.
Some party members in Abuja confided in our correspondent that some of the leading contenders in the contest are Tambuwal, Atiku, Saraki, Kwankwaso, Dankwambo and Makarfi. Another source however cautioned that the emergence of a dark horse or a compromise candidate in the case the various blocs refuse to reach a compromise should not be discountenanced.
Yesterday, media reports emerged that Lamido, Mark and Dankwambo had withdrawn from the race in support of Tambuwal.
But in a swift reaction, the media director at Dankwambo’s Campaign office, Ayoade Adewopo, told our correspondent that it is not true.
His statement reads: “There’s a news going around that I, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, has stepped down from the PDP presidential primary race holding this weekend. The news is false and nothing but treachery coming at an ungodly hour to cause unnecessary distraction among the party delegates.
“I hereby implore all our delegates and supporters to remain calm and trust that I’m firmly in the race and we are assured of nothing but victory at the end of the primary exercise.”
Reacting also, Senator Mark, in a statement by his media aide, Paul Mumeh, refuted the report and urged delegates to vote for him as the candidate of choice that would usher in peace, unity and prosperity to the nation.
Mark maintained that he was “well equipped and prepared for this assignment. My blueprint is designed to address grey areas and imbalances in our national life”.
Senator Mark counseled party faithful to be guided by good reasons in their choice of the PDP presidential candidate, pointing out that “those who were fair weather friends yesterday would not be different tomorrow.”
Similarly, personal assistant on social media to Sule Lamido, Mansur Ahmed, denied the report that his principal had withdrawn from the race.
“We are in the race to win, Insha Allah. The issue of withdrawing does not arise. It is those who are afraid of contest that are behind such reports. We urge all our teeming supporters to disregard the misinformation,” Ahmed said.
Meanwhile, five aspirants yesterday In Abuja signed the much anticipated code of conduct ahead of the primaries.
Those who put pen to paper to pledge to remain faithful to the party irrespective of the outcome of the primary election are Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Tanimu Turaki, Datti Babba-Ahmed and Sule Lamido.
Others were absent at the ceremony presided over by the national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus at Legacy House, Maitama, Abuja.
It was not clear why the others did not show up at the meeting.
Speaking after the signing, Secondus said the primary election to select the party’s flag bearer would be transparent and the result acceptable to all.
He stressed the need for the aspirants to remain together no matter the outcome of the convention.
.Strengths, weaknesses of aspirants
Atiku Abubakar, 72, is a founding member of PDP. He served as Vice President to the President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007. However, in the build-up to the 2007 elections, Atiku left the PDP for the defunct Action Congress where he ran for president and lost. He however returned to PDP in the build-up to the 2011 election, contested the primary against the incumbent president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, and lost. He defected to the APC in the build-up to 2015, contested the party’s presidential ticket but lost again to the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari.
With his chance of securing the APC presidential ticket in the 2019 election slim, Atiku returned to the PDP last December and has since thrown his hat into the ring.
Strength: He has amassed a lot of political exposure having shown interest for the office of the president several times, since the botched Third Republic under the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).
He also has wide contacts across the nation, which he may exploit to clinch the ticket. Although, some of his close associates are still in the APC, it is believed that some of them will join him in the PDP to support his candidacy. He also has a large financial war chest to fund his aspiration, a key requirement in Nigerian political clime.
Weaknesses: He is perceived as being desperate to be president, with many pointing to his defections from one party to another all in a bid to be on the ballot on election day. Although he was cleared of any corruption charge, many still question the source of his enormous wealth. His age might be an issue particularly at a time of the clamour for a younger president.
Another issue is whether he can amass as much followership in the North as President Muhammadu Buhari, who might be his major opponent, if both win the primaries. He is also yet to warm his way into the hearts of most of former generals across the country, particularly his former boss, Obasanjo, whom he felt out with in 2007.
The governor of Gombe State is one of the only two governors elected on the platform of the party from the north, the other being Darius Ishaku of Taraba.
A former Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Dankwambo, 56, has served for almost eight years as governor, surviving the APC political tsunami that swept through the north in 2015.
His major strength lies in his being an incumbent governor, a situation which affords him the chance of convincing his counterparts and other party leaders across the states where PDP is not in power to support his aspiration.
His loyalty to the party has proven to be a major plus for him as he could have defected to the APC easily during the period his party assumed the opposition status. As a technocrat, Dankwambo has managed to stay away from major controversies since assuming the office of governor in 2011. His is considered youthful and cosmopolitan.
Weaknesses: in some quarters, he is seen as being too cautious when it comes to national issues as he hitherto hardly added his voice to any burning issue. His reluctance to take charge during the days of the party’s internal crisis, which had more to do with his zone, was counted against him. His ability to confront a formidable APC candidate like Buhari and defeat is another perceived challenge.
Sule Lamido is a two-term governor of Jigawa State and the first to declare his ambition for 2019. He is also believed to be the most performing governor in the history of the young state.
He, just like Atiku, has vast political experience as he was the national secretary of the defunct SDP during the Third Republic.
Lamido, who is in his early 70s, is considered bold and daring in conveying his convictions. His loyalty to the PDP has never been in doubt. He is one of few party leaders who has been with the party through thick and thin. As a former governor, Lamido also has widespread support across the party faithful and leaders.
Weaknesses: His ongoing corruption trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) remains a major albatross. The PDP will be wary of fielding a candidate facing trial and has the potential of going to jail before, during or after the 2019 election. Like Atiku, his age might be an issue.
The former Jigawa governor is also perceived as being too independent-minded. Whether or not he has the war chest for the contest also remains under.
Makarfi, 62, is a two term governor of Kaduna State and former senator. He is the immediate past chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP. At the height of the party’s post 2015 internal crisis, he was handed the reigns of the PDP and he was able to restore sanity to the party. He showed maturity in handling the crisis that heralded his tenure, leading up to the Supreme Court.
It was alleged in some quarters that because of the way he handled party affairs, some governors and leaders entered into an agreement with him to make him the candidate of the party.
Strength: Just like Lamido and Dankwambo, he has proven his loyalty to the party, a situation which has earned him the trust of party faithful. He is also considered to be firm as was seen in his handling of the Ali Modu Sheriff battle. Although he left office as governor a long time ago, he is yet to have a corruption charge against him. His experience both in the executive and legislature is a major plus. His mature age is also a plus as well as his ability to manage a state like Kaduna, particularly through the period of intense ethno -religious strife, which marked him out as a leader that can manage the complexity of today’s Nigeria.
Weaknesses: For years, unverified reports about his health concerns have trailed Makarfi, but he has remained active and alive to his functions.
Tanimu Turaki Tanimu
Turaki is a former Minister for Special Duties in the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Turaki is also the chairman of the forum of former PDP Ministers and leader of the PDP, North west caucus.
Turaki, 61, has remained loyal to the PDP and chose to remain in the party at a time many persons in the north, especially his home state of Kebbi, were trooping into the APC.
Strength: He is regarded as a clean politician. Although he served under former President Goodluck Jonathan, he is one of the few top members of the administration that appears not to be under investigation by the country’s anti-graft agencies.
Weaknesses: His contact across the nation compared to other contenders remains suspect.
The Sokoto State governor, who recently returned to the PDP from the APC, is already being touted as one of the favourites going into the contest. He is seen as being backed by some influential governors in the party. His youthful disposition and wealth of experience in the legislature is a major plus for him as far as he can rally that political bloc as well.
Although the PDP governors, who usually determine where the pendulum swings in the contest for the party’s presidential ticket, is divided this time around, Tambuwal is perceived as the favourite of most the governors, especially the influential ones among them. Coming from the state of the Seat of the Caliphate, he is considered more cosmopolitan and acceptable across the country.
He is also said to enjoy a favourable consideration from the northern intelligentsia.
Weaknesses: The Sokoto governor is considered as being too politically savvy. What’s more, many still believe that the role he played in destabilising the PDP in 2015 might not be easily wished away.
Kwankwaso draws his strength in the contest for the PDP presidential ticket from the massive followership in Kano State and most parts of the Core North. His political group, the Kwankwasiyya movement, is considered very formidable and would be a ready tool to mobilise delegates to support his aspiration.
He is considered the only PDP candidate that can match President Buhari in the North. Coming from Kano, a state with almost the highest population in the country, is also considered a big plus to Kwankwaso.
Also, like Tambuwal, the former Kano governor would be relying on his former colleagues in the Senate in the contest for the presidential ticket and the main election, if he emerges as presidential candidate. He would also be depending on his contacts among the former PDP governors, who served the same time with him.
However, on the other hand, analysts say although Kwankwaso is popular in Kano and the North, particularly the Northwest, there are fears whether he would be able to garner votes for the PDP outside of Kano State, and the North West, if he emerges the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 polls.
Weaknesses: Also, the fact that Kano State is currently controlled by the APC is a minus to the presidential hopeful, as it will affect the number of delegates to the convention coming from the state.
Bukola Saraki is currently the Senate president of Nigeria and a two-time governor of Kwara State.
Saraki has proven to be one of the most influential politicians in Nigeria’s recent political history. His ability to out-fox the APC, which had reportedly tried to stop him from emerging as Senate president and remaining one over the past three years, has earned him a lot of respect within the political space. Besides coming from a strong political family, he has been able to create a niche for himself and blossomed politically. He has been able to grow his political network above what he inherited from his late father, Olusola, and he has age on his side.
Weakness: perhaps, like Tambuwal, he is perceived as being too politically savvy.
Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa was the governor of Sokoto State from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. At 64, Bafarawa is bent on having another shot at the presidency after a failed first attempt in 2007. He ran under the platform of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) that he formed. Like some other aspirants, his political spread does not appear formidable.
Baba-Ahmed is renowned academic and cosmopolitan politician. Young and vibrant, the former federal lawmaker and owner of Base University in Abuja has been able to establish himself as a political powerhouse not just in Kaduna, his home state, but across Nigeria. He has displayed clear insights into the workings of Nigeria, particularly as far as the private sector is concerned.
Datti Baba-Ahmed was elected a member of House of Representatives in 2003 under the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) representing Zaria federal constituency in Kaduna State. In 2011, he defeated Ahmed Makarfi, incumbent senator and former governor of Kaduna state, for the Kaduna North senatorial seat.
Baba-Ahmed boasted that he would demystify the power of incumbency and defeat President Buhari if he secures the ticket of his party.
Whether the delegates will look beyond the norm and give him the ticket remains to be seen.
David Mark is a retired Nigerian Army Brigadier General and politician. He was President of the Senate of Nigeria from 2007 to 2015 and is the Senator for the Benue South constituency. He entered the presidential race at a time many thought he wouldn’t after rumours had swirled within the political cycle. Nonetheless, he was able to aggressively campaign across the country, proving book makers, who thought he wasn’t in it to win, wrong.
He without a doubt enjoys the support of many lawmakers and is revered as one of the stabilisers in the party. His ability to manage the National Assembly remains a major plus for his candidacy. However his age, being in his 70s, seems to be a minus at the moment. However, what he lacks in youth, he makes up in experience.
Jonah David, Jang, 74, a former two- term governor, is the senator for Jos South Constituency in Plateau State. Much like Mark, he also joined the race late. But while Mark was able to engage in aggressive campaigns across the country, little was seen of Jang.
It is interesting to see how he would woo over the delegates. The way he managed his exit from the office of governor, which saw to the defeat of PDP in Plateau State, remains a minus for him, plus that was recently remanded in prison over charges of graft.
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