The presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will emerge today as 3,696 delegates started voting in the early hours to choose from among 12 aspirants jostling to test their popularity against the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in the 2019 general election.
The presidential hopefuls 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.
All 12 aspirants went into the primary election as reported efforts to trim the number and narrow it to few contestants seemed to have been futile.
This is as the PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, has described the main opposition party as a ruling party-in-waiting.
Secondus made this comment yesterday at the Adokiye Amaesiamaka Sports Complex, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, while declaring open the 2018 special national convention of the party.
He noted that the three main campaign promises of the ruling APC had been anything but successful, and that because of this, the majority of Nigerians are yearning for the return of the PDP to power, adding that, that is why the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly are in the grip of the party.
The convention, which was also the party’s presidential primary, commenced at about 9pm following the arrival of the PDP national chairman and members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).
The convention had in attendance all the party’s presidential aspirants who all spoke to the delegates to seek their votes.
Secondus said: “In my acceptance speech in November 2017 when the current NWC was inaugurated, I promised that we will take steps to avoid past mistakes. Ten months after, the PDP of today has migrated from opposition party to a ruling party in-waiting.
“The PDP is now in control of the leadership of the National Assembly. This is an unprecedented feat in the history of the country. The Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are with us today.
“The governors of Benue, Kwara and Sokoto states are all with us today. Our reform process is on and it has yielded meaningful dividends.”
The PDP national chairman lamented that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which was one of the anti-graft agencies established by the then PDP-led administration, had become a willing tool in the hands of the APC against the opposition.
He continued: “Twenty years ago, our party gathered in Jos to elect a presidential candidate and we restored democracy to Nigerians. We inherited a divided people but we able to bring all back again. We were in government for 16 years without any blame-game like the government of today is doing.
“We rebuilt the economy, we repaid both the London Club loans and the Paris Club loans. We fought corruption by setting up the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
“The three main campaign promises of the APC -corruption, security and economy have been anything but successful. APC has become a haven of asylum for underhand politicians. The EFCC that was established by the PDP has become a willing tool in the hand of the APC-led government.”
Also speaking, Speaker of the House of Representatives,Yakubu Dogara, said the greatest challenge facing the country is not the killings or kidnappings going on in the country, but right leadership.
Dogara, who said it is the duty of the PDP to provide the right leadership that will tackle the challenges Nigerians are facing under the leadership of the APC, appealed to the presidential aspirants to accept the outcome of the exercise in good faith.
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP and former pesident of the Senate, Senator Adolphus Wabara said the era of impunity and imposition of candidates in the party was gone.
Earlier in his welcome address, chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee and Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, said the convention started late because the party wanted all its delegates to be in Rivers State first.
Aspirants In Crucial Meeting
Meanwhile, prior to the commencement of the exercise, the aspirants held a strategic meeting at Presidential Hotel, Port Harcourt.
Whereas details of the meeting were not made public, it was gathered that the aspirants met on how to firm up the possibility of going into the contest with fewer aspirants.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that past attempts to streamline the number of aspirants to about five failed.
It will be recalled that the host governor, Nyesom Wike, had insisted that all aspirants face the primary.
Wike, it was gathered, had told some of the aspirants who paid him homage and to seek his last-minute support on their arrival in the city last night, that he would not support any aspirant against the other, insisting that they should slug it out among themselves.
Aspirants In Last-minute Push For Delegates
In the lead-up to PDP presidential primary, the aspirants have laid into the delegates, dividing them among themselves.
While the aspirants were still at the crucial meeting at Presidential Hotel, their aides and loyalists broke into the ranks of the 3,696 delegates that would vote.
Feelers from happenings around Adokiye Amasiemeka Stadium, venue of the exercise, and Le Meridian and Presidential Hotels where most of the delegates were seen, indicated that delegates from North-central geo-political zone may have pledged their support for Senate President Bukola Saraki.
While scheming were still ongoing to woo delegates, it was gathered that both Saraki and Atiku Abubakar may have divided delegates from South-east and North-east among themselves.
Aspirants Pledge To Support Winner
While speaking on their manifestos, all the aspirants stated that their drive for the contest was the need to move the nation forward.
They also pledged to support whoever emerged as the party’s flagbearer.