After weeks of politicking, schemings and nocturnal meetings, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday elected Vice President Atiku Abubakar its Presidential flag bearer for the next general elections. MUYIWA OYINLOLA in this report presents issues that played out to enhance him victory.
By the night of Friday October 5, 2018, Adokiye Amaesiamaka Sports Complex, Igwurita-Ali, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, venue of the Presidential primary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been made ready for the activity billed for the following day.
Most of the contenders and their supporters had also arrived the oil rich city and had painted the town red.
Activities at the Port Harcourt airport and major motor parks had also come alive, no thanks to the influx of party supporters, stakeholders and delegates that had besieged the city for the political exercise.
Expectedly, hotels were fully booked, necessitating why those who did not make early reservation, were still roaming about till around 11:00 pm in search of where to lay their heads.
From Friday night till the early hours of Saturday, eagle eyed journalists noticed movements of some aspirants, party big wigs and delegates in and around Presidential Hotel and Le Meridian, Port Harcourt, engaging in one form of meeting or the other.
Besides the nocturnal meeting, the aspirants also held a meeting on Saturday morning at Presidential Hotel.
Whereas details of the meeting was 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 recalls that past attempts to streamline the number of aspirants to about five had failed.
It will be recalled that the host governor, and a major stakeholder in determining the fortune of who becomes the party’s flagbearer, Nyesom Wike, had insisted that all aspirants must 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, on Friday that he would not support any aspirant against another, insisting that they should slug it out among themselves. While the meeting was ongoing, their loyalists broke into the rank of the delegates and divided them among themselves. Soon after they departed from the meeting, they arrived at Adokiye Amaesiamaka Sports Complex and into the waiting hands of delegates that would determine their fate.
Soon after the National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, had declared the occasion open, the aspirants took turn to market themselves to the delegates.
They included former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, a two-time governor of Kano state; Sule Lamido, a two-term governor of Jigawa state; Aminu Tambuwal, current governor of Sokoto State and former speaker of the House of Representatives, and Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who was a two-term governor of Kaduna state.
Others included Dr. Bukola Saraki, current Senate president and a two-term governor of Kwara State; Alhaji Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, former governor of Sokoto state; Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, current governor of Gombe state; Kebbi State born Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, former minister of special duties and inter-governmental affairs, and Datti Baba-Ahmed, astute politician and proprietor of Baze University in Abuja.
Also on the list of aspirants were Jonah Jang, former governor of Plateau state and a serving Senator of Nigeria, as well as former Senate President, David Mark.
After marketing themselves, voting began late in the night and it ran into the early hours of yesterday.
At the end of the exercise, Atiku, Tambuwal and Saraki emerged the three leading aspirants.
Atiku polled 1,532 votes to emerge winner, while Tambuwal, who came second polled 693 votes. Saraki was beaten to the third position with 317 votes.
Why Atiku Won
Atiku’s emergence as winner in the race, according to pundits may not be unconnected to his experience in management of delegates. Recall that the politician has been involved in presidential elections for quite some time as his group, PFN/PFN has been doing this since 1990 when they beat the PSP group to seize control of the then SDP. In the same vein, Atiku has been described a man with tremendous resources which he was said to have deployed widely for the primaries. Besides, unlike some other aspirants who joined the race a few months back, Atiku started his campaigns since 2016 even as he also returned to the PDP from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) very early. Atiku, today, is perhaps one of the very few politicians with a wide and strong political structure, even as he was said to have widely deployed the old Shehu Yar’Adua PFN/PDM machinery to his advantage.
The Odds Against Saraki
Whereas Saraki has been commended in many quarters for running issue-based campaigns as he moved round the country in his bid to get the party’s ticket, one point that counted against him is that he was a late starter. He joined the race barely two months ago, after his return from the APC to the party. It was also a miracle that he got up to 317 votes, because of the series of distractions in form of litigations and impeachment threat that he suffered. LEADERSHIP recalls that he suffered frequent distraction from the Presidency and APC, the ruling party that never wanted him to emerge against Buhari. According to pundits, this is Saraki’s first time in managing a presidential and national elections. He does not have unlimited resources as Atiku and Tambuwal who was financially supported by a governor in one of the oil rich states. In the same vein, Saraki’s North-Central was also not supported by the rest of the North in the just concluded exercise.