2019: THE CANDIDATES, THE CHALLENGES
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s bid to become Nigeria’s president might be much tougher than he envisages as governors elected on the platform of his party are the hurdles standing imposingly between him and his aspiration.
It goes without saying that since the momentum that greeted his emergence as the PDP candidate at the October 6, 2018 national convention, Atiku has not been able to rise above that feat the moment he settled for a former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, as his running mate.
Atiku was alleged to have struck a deal with some prominent South-east politicians, amongst them, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and the Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, as likely running mate if they supported him to emerge the party’s candidate.
But in the wake of his emergence, he was accused of settling for Obi without as much consulting with other critical stakeholders in the party, particularly those of the South-east and South-south extractions, thus fuelling intense mistrust amongst a majority of them, who then chose to stay away from his presidential affair, because ‘he cannot be trusted’.
Presently, Atiku does not enjoy, in the real sense of it, the support of any of the South-east governors as they are still bitter over his preference for Obi, when some of them had put in so much to his election as the PDP candidate.
This is even the more difficult for these governors, who are believed to be daily facing intense lobby from the president’s men and their colleagues in the APC, a development believed to have given rise to their recent meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa.
For their personal and selfish reasons, sources claimed the PDP governors were no longer committed to the Atiku project and might be working to derail the PDP plan to seize power from the APC in next elections, through some of the impossible deals said to being dangled before them.
In the South-east, for instance, Atiku cannot boast of a genuine support from any of the governors, a position they took, neither because of him nor Obi, but because of the perceived lack of respect for them in the manner he settled for Obi.
In the South-south, there is simmering discontents amongst some of the governors too, while others are facing the same pressure of striking a deal with the APC government for Buhari’s election.
For example, the embattled Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel is said to be under intense pressure from the APC to cut a good deal with the presidency on Buhari’s election and also return without any harassment whatsoever.
Although the pressure may not be unconnected to a recent move by five lawmakers to impeach the governor, sources are of the view that the governor is beginning to consider the option given the challenges and harassment he currently faces.
In the same breath, his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, who has always been alleged of considering a deal with the federal government, gave a subtle indication last week, when he resigned as the South-south coordinator of the Atiku campaign, alleging poor coordination of campaign activities, which according to him did not factor in comprehensive consultations.
Suffices it to reiterate that Wike never wanted Atiku to emerge as the party’s candidate in the first place, a move believed to be part of his long struck deal with the APC, that he would help facilitate the emergence of a weak candidate and in turn, be left to have smooth sail in his re-election bid, his resignation from the campaign council did not surprise many as such.
Inside sources also maintained that the governors’ laidback position to the Atiku project reflected recently during his turbaning as the Waziri of Adamawa, an occasion that coincided with his 72nd birthday and yet, all the PDP governors were absent.
“If you ever needed a reason to believe that these governors were working to derail and undermine this project, then, the occasion of Atiku’s turbaning was enough. The governors were conspicuously absent and it was deliberate. Reasons some of them gave later were an afterthought. They are not on the same page with him and are clearly running their own show,” a concerned PDP source said.
This, notwithstanding, considered the governors’ dilemma is a repeat of the Olusegun Obasanjo trick that was deployed to use against the South-west governors during the 2003 elections, when he struck a deal with them to return him and in turn, be returned too.
But apart from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, then Lagos State governor, who was believed to have been tipped off on the Obasanjo plan, other governors: Olusegun Osoba (Ogun), Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Lam Adesina (Oyo), Bisi Akande (Osun) and Adebayo Adefarati (Ondo), were all booted out of office, in what was then described as the PDP tsunami.
Coming from this background, the PDP governors are not oblivious of the fact that this is a familiar trick of the generals and since both Obasanjo and Buhari are generals, they are not certain they would not end up like some of the South-west governors of 2003, who went into the elections without circumspection.
Therefore, while Atiku continues to exude confidence that he would defeat Buhari in 2019, observers contend that those he actually banks on may not be as dependable as he thinks especially, when it appears that their understanding of the survival dynamics for the 2019 election may not be in sync with that of the PDP presidential candidate.