The race for the 2023 presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) intensified yesterday as top northern aspirants turned the national convention to a campaign ground.
The aspirants include former vice president Atiku Abubakar, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, his Bauchi counterpart, Bala Mohammed, former Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki and former Kano State governor, Senator Musa Kwankwaso.
Posters, banners and branded vehicles of the presidential hopefuls were visible within and outside the Eagle Square venue of the PDP 2021 National Convention.
Despite promises of a level playing field for all contestants into elective Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national offices, two unity lists emerged at the venue of the national convention.
Unity list, in the party’s parlance, is a list of consensus candidates as agreed by power brokers to occupy various party offices through affirmative election.
Although both lists indicated that 21 persons have been endorsed by the party power brokers, the major difference was the position of deputy national champion, which has remain contentious between Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Taofeek Arapaja.
While of the lists has Oyinlola and deputy national chairman the other list had Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja for same position.
However, according to the lists, Senator Iyorchia Ayu and Amb. Umar Iliya Damagum (North) were cleared as the National Chairman.
Others are Senator Samuel Anyanwu (National Secretary), Hon. Ahmed Yayari Mohammed (National Treasurer), Hon. Umar Bature (National Organizing Secretary), Daniel Woyegikuro (National Financial Secretary), Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe (National Women Leader) and Mohammed Kadade Suleiman (National Youth Leader).
The list also include Kamaldeen Adeyemi Ajibade (National Legal Leader), Hon. Debo Ologunagba (National Publicity Secretary), Okechukwu Daniel (National Auditor), Arch. Seteonji Koshoede (Deputy National Secretary), Ndubuisi David (Deputy National Treasurer) and the Deputy National Publicity Secretary (Ibrahim Abdullahi).
According to the document, Chief Ighoyota Amori and Hon. Adamu Kamale got cleared as Deputy National Organizing Secretary and Deputy National Financial Secretary; while Hajaja Wanka, Timothy Osadolor, Barr. Okechukwu Osuohaand Hon. Abdulrahaman Mohammed we’re given a clean bill of health as the Deputy National Women Leader, Deputy National Youth Leader, Deputy National Legal Adviser and Deputy National Auditor respectively.
Before the election some of the aspirants announced that they have stepped down for the sake o,f and interest of the party.
While the party has yet to take an official position on where its 2023 presidential ticket will be zoned to, it was learnt that the party is set to throw it open for all aspirants.
Although none of the northern presidential hopefuls have openly declared their intention to contest the 2023 election, their supporters besieged the venue of the national convention yesterday to project the popularity of their benefactors.
Dressed in colorful attire, they hailed their preferred candidates as they danced and moved round the venue of the PDP 2021 National Convention, tagged “Nigeria Rescue Mission”, yesterday at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
Supporters engaged in a subtle contest to out-cheer opposing camps.
Supporters of the former vice president, the 2019 Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar were seen with his posters with inscriptions like “2023, Atiku is the answer”, “I stand with Atiku” and “2023: Support Atiku” and dancing from one end of the convention ground to another.
Also, supporters of Senator Kwankwaso had placards and banners which read: “The People’s Choice,” which were sponsored by PDP Kwankwasiyya Patriotic Movement.
For Tambuwal, his supporters had placards which read: “The Bridge Builder-North East Vision For Tambuwal.”
The Saraki Support Group had a poster with the inscription, “Saraki Hope For Nigeria”. His branded vehicles were also seen around the premises.
Kwankwaso and his Kwankwasiyya followers, however, stole the show. Garbed in their white attire and red caps, they marched, in their large numbers, around the venue chanting “Kwankwaso! Kwankwaso!”
Kwankwaso himself joined in the march, cheered his followers along.
Supporters of former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, also moved around with posters and flyers of the Kauran Bauchi for 2023.
Meanwhile, PDP leaders at the convention took turns to lambast the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for misruling Nigeria just as they vowed to salvage the country from the precipice.
They accused the party of failing to make an impact since it assumed office because it was built around an individual who is bereft of ideas on what to do with victory.
They added that the APC administration had undone all the gains made by Nigeria since it took over power in 2015.
While delivering an address at the convention, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar called on the PDP to ensure that it rescues the country from “mismanagement, bad governance, insecurity and disunity,” saying Nigeria has been put in bad shape by the ruling APC since it came to power in 2015.
The former Vice President who said that the “mission to rescue Nigeria is a collective thing,” added that the PDP must position itself to “rescue and restore the dignity, security and economic growth of Nigeria.”
This is as he asserted that the decision taken at the party’s national elective convention would determine the country’s future.
Speaking also, Senate minority leader, Sen Enyinnaya Abaribe lampooned the APC for not having any clear ideas on how to manage Nigeria, lamenting that under its watch Nigeria has become the world poverty capital.
On his part, chairman of the PDP governor’s forum and Sokoto State governor, Tambuwal, said the country is going through trying times.
He said, “Our people are in need of policy intervention and leaders that can provide solutions to the challenges of security, unemployment, rising cost of energy, food and other essential items for living a decent life.
“We need a strong and smart Nigeria that can provide the leadership that will help sustain institutions capable of promoting collaboration in the areas of security, innovation, trade, investment and defence of our democracy.
“Our young people need a secured, safe and enabling country that will allow them to realise their desires to be educated, employ and deploy their entrepreneurship skills. They need to take advantage of their potential to fulfill their ambitions,” he said.
While he welcomed new members who joined the party, he noted that more will join.
In his welcome address, chairman of the national convention committee and governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Fintiri, said: “We have demonstrated our commitment to these time-tested ideals that Nigerians have every reason to trust us enough more than a contraption that was formed solely for the purpose of winning election and around the personal ambitions of certain individuals bereft of the knowledge of what to do with the victory.
“The PDP has traversed multiple stages of institutional consolidation that places it far ahead of any other political party in Nigeria. In spite of any setback, the party has remained afloat and waxing stronger with all its statutory organs functioning, from the BoT, the NWC and the NEC. The other contraption cannot boast of the same credentials.
“For Nigeria, the present APC-led government is hell-bent on rail-roading the country into multifaceted recession on all fronts. Indeed, the country has never had it this bad.
“That Nigeria is better by far with PDP in power is not in doubt: that the people relish those golden moments when the PDP held sway at the centre is not in doubt; that citizens are yearning for the return of PDP at the centre as the 2023 elections draw nearer is equally not in doubt.
“We therefore have a duty not to disappoint our teeming supporters. We have to take back our country as we have always done. We have to save Nigeria. If we could force the country out of the clutches of the military, we can do this one huge task: push the people who don’t know the true definition of good governance and national coexistence out of power. This is a Nigeria rescue mission. This is the role PDP was invented to play.”
He said the 2021 national convention presents a starting point for the Nigeria rescue mission.
He disclosed that 34 candidates indicated interest to vie for various national positions in the party, out of which 28 were cleared, two withdrew voluntarily and four were disqualified, adding that the Screening Appeal Committee under the leadership of Senator Ike Ekweremadu had submitted its report.
“I am glad to tell you that this is the least acrimonious convention ever in the history of the party,” he said.
Speaking on the mode of election and why the winners have to tarry a while before swearing-in, Fintiri said, “While we hope to conduct and declare election results on this convention ground, the winners of today’s election must wait till December 9 to be sworn into office. This is to enable the subsisting NWC members to exhaust their statutory tenure of office and ensure a smooth transition in the party.”
He also explained why the party is deferring vote on its constitutional amendment, saying, “This convention will also not give us the opportunity to make and adopt amendments to our constitution. This is because we are foreseeing a need for more amendments after the new Electoral Act passed by the National Assembly is signed into law.
“We are therefore deferring the votes on constitutional amendments to a special convention to be held on any convenient date to be decided by the NEC,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Eyinnaya Abaribe, however, moved the motion for the election to choose a new National Working Committee (NWC) to begin.
In his remarks, the acting national chairman of the party, Elder Yemi Akinwomi, appealed to all party members to come together, bury their personal, individual and collective differences and put PDP and the interest of Nigeria above any other considerations.
“We all know the disturbing and uncomfortable condition and situation Nigerians are in today due to our loss of power. The APC led-government is so clueless that Nigerians need a better hand to get them out of this mess. I believe we can do it as we did before,” he said.
Meanwhile, the party has introduced reforms to improve the process and the integrity of its congresses to reduce incidents of complaints that usually plague the exercise.
The PDP equally disclosed the introduction of “pictured ballot papers” containing the photographs of party aspirants at the gubernatorial and presidential primaries to ensure free, fair and transparent primaries.
The PDP national secretary, Senator Umaru Tsauri, stated this in a report at the convention yesterday in Abuja.
Listing other steps taken, the party said that it had created a computerised party register to ensure control and to avoid fraud.
It said that the computerised party register was piloted by a committee headed by the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki.
According to it, the e-Registration “would be done across the 8,809 wards in the country with Edo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states as pilot states.”