There are indications that the recent defection of some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might have created a nightmare for the major opposition party in the country. Already, governors elected on the platform of PDP and other stakeholders are divided over the party’s presidential ticket for next year’s election.
They are torn between handing over the ticket to defectors or members who had stayed in the party since 2015 when PDP became an opposition party. So far, about 11 aspirants are in contention for the PDP ticket, which has been zoned to the North.
Among those who have publicly declared their intention to run for the presidency are former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido; former Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki; immediate past Chairman of PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Senator Datti Baba Ahmed, proprietor of Baze University.
Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, as well as former Kano and Sokoto state governors, Ibrahim Shekarau and Attahiru Bafarawa, respectively, are the other aspirants. President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Sokoto State Governor, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal and former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who rejoined the party some weeks ago, are also interested in the PDP presidential ticket.
They have not declared publicly, even though their aspiration is almost an open secret. Findings by New Telegraph indicated that there is a ‘cold war’ in the party over the presidential ticket. A source at the national headquarters of the party in Abuja said: “There is ‘cold war’ now in the party since Tambuwal and Saraki came back. You know, they are interested in the presidency. “With that, the front runners would be Atiku and Tambuwal. As a matter of fact, the battle is a straight one between Atiku and Tambuwal. The governors and other party stakeholders are divided.
“The interesting thing this time is that the governors are not united unlike before. (Nyesom) Wike is mobilising for Tambuwal, but (Seriake) Dickson and Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, are supporting Atiku. “So, it may be difficult to predict who will likely pick the ticket.”
He said, however, that those who had remained in the party like Makarfi, Lamido and others, are not happy that defectors are being given attention ahead of them. Atiku, Tambuwal, Saraki and Kwankwaso are the returnees seeking PDP’s presidential ticket. According to another source, those who had remained in PDP thought that the presidential ticket would be a compensation for any one of them for remaining loyal to the party while others were on political green pasture elsewhere. He said Tambuwal was persuaded to leave APC to join the presidential race by forces who are not too comfortable with the Atiku presidency.
Before Saraki and Tambuwal re-joined their former party, the ticket was for Atiku to lose. His rating was too high for any of them to meet. He had toured round the country more than twice, in consultation with wouldbe delegates, while some of them are yet to even begin. None of the aspirants could match his connection or what is known in political parlance as ‘war chest.’
But, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has consistently kicked against Atiku’s candidacy. It was gathered that the condition he gave PDP leaders who visited him recently in Abeokuta, Ogun State, was for them to look for another presidential candidate if they wanted his support in next year’s election. Obasanjo recently told an online portal, Premium Times, that God would not forgive him, if he supported Atiku’s ambition.
“The problem is how to handle Atiku, because he can match the governors money-for-money and he has contact across the country. He has been going round the country and has won many delegates to his side. “So, before Tambuwal joined PDP, none of the aspirants could match him.
So, I believe that is why some party leaders reached out to him to come and contest,” the source added. Obasanjo was said to be comfortable with either Kwankwaso or Dankwambo’s candidature, but the problem is that they lacked national appeal. Kwankwaso is said not to be popular in the South because of his antecedents. “In fact, some see him as a zealot who hates southerners.
“Dankwambo is relatively known. Apart from his position as Accountant General of the Federation, which is more of a civil service job, he has not occupied any national political office. “But Tambuwal was Speaker of the House of Representatives for four years and that has made him a national figure,” he said.
The source disclosed that Saraki is still interested in returning to the Senate next year.Asked how he intends to achieve this since every other primary would come before that of presidential primary election, the source disclosed: “He will put a weak person who will step down for him if he fails. Even Kwankwaso is thinking of that. Remember, he did the same thing in APC, with (Rochas) Okorocha.”
Kwankwaso and Imo State Governor, Okorocha, were among the APC presidential aspirants in 2014 presidential primary election, but later went back to pick the senatorial and governorship tickets in their states after they lost to Buhari. Certain factors are likely to influence the choice of PDP presidential candidate. One of them is the age factor while the other is geopolitical zone of the candidate.
Though sources said these have been played down, there are indications that PDP would prefer a younger candidate, who the party believes would appeal more to Nigerians. Again, the party may go for a candidate from North- West (where Buhari comes from) so as to be able to divide APC votes in the zone. All these factors favour Tambuwal.
It was gathered that the Caliphate has been lobbying for Tambuwal and would like to use him to pay Buhari back in his own coin for his ill-treatment of former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), who is a prince of the Caliphate.
There has been disquiet in the Presidency when the rumour of Tambuwal’s defection became stronger. His emergence as PDP presidential candidate would likely deny Buhari votes in Sokoto and Zamfara states. But it is not going to be easy for the Sokoto governor. Apart from his Bayelsa and Abia State counterparts, who are not supporting his ambition, delegates from Gombe and Kwara may also not vote for him at the convention.
Dankwambo is in the race, so also is Saraki, who is from Kwara State. Atiku’s camp also said it is not losing sleep over Tambuwal’s ambition. His media team had quickly released result of online poll, before he announced his defection to PDP, where pollsters rated the former vice president over Saraki, Kwankwaso and “others” for PDP ticket.
Spokesperson for Atiku Campaign Organisation, Segun Showunmi, said in an interview, that Atiku was not threatened by the entrance of Tambuwal into the race. “We are not threatened by anybody. We have penetrated every village and every town and hamlet in Nigeria,” Showunmi said.
He added that what Atiku campaign demands from PDP is free and transparent primary election. According to him, “Once the process is going to be credible, then, all candidates that have shown interest are encouraged to criss-cross the country, go and meet the delegates, market themselves to the citizens and may the best man win.”
Atiku and Tambuwal met recently in Abuja. The details of the meeting were not made known, but sources said it is in connection with PDP presidential ticket and Tambuwal’s declaration. PDP has, however, assured the aspirants of level playing ground for all aspirants.
Kola Ologbondiyan, the National Publicity Secretary, said PDP has taken note of all concerns raised by party members, including new and returnees and assured them that no one would be short-changed.
“While PDP appreciates and values such concerns, it is instructive to inform that the national leadership of our party has already envisaged the challenges of an enlarged family and has since made adequate arrangements that would effectively cover all interests for the task ahead,” the party said.