Battle for PDP Presidential Ticket Enters Final Stage

Segun James writes that three top contenders may be positioned for the final battle for the  presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party 

Finally, the battle for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket has entered the final stage. Unlike in the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) where the list of aspirants continues to grow with over 20 persons in the race, the PDP ticket is set and practically closed with only 17 aspirants having indicated their intention.

Exceptional times call for exceptional measures. This appears to be the situation in the PDP. Yes, politics has begun in earnest and the race for the top job is hot in the two leading political parties in the country. Unlike in the APC, the battle has apparently been settled as a three horse-race in the PDP as the party has concluded formalities on who and who will contest in the May 28 and 29 national convention of the party believed to be scheduled for Eagle Square, Abuja.

With the screening of the 17 aspirants who paid N41 million to obtain the nomination and expression of interest form to the Senator David Mark committee and the submission of the results to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, the door of nomination has closed. 

Not surprising, the party’s leadership realizing the need to present the best candidates that can do the battle with whatever candidate that the ruling APC can throw up, has penciled former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the best of three options for the party to select from. But in the spirit of true democracy, the party decided to allow anyone interested in the race to vie.

According to Mark, a former president of the senate, only 15 of the 17 aspirants will contest for the votes of the 3700 delegates on May 28 and 29. The original 17 aspirants include Abubakar Atiku, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Bala Mohammed, Aminu Tambuwal, Mohammed Hayatoudeen, Anyim Pius Anyim, Peter Obi, Sam Ohunabunwa, Nyesom Wike, Emmanuel Udom, Ayodele Fayose, Dele Momodu, Olivia Tarela who is the only female among them, Charles Okwudili, Chikwendu Kalu and Cosmos Ndukwe. Mark however disclosed that two of the aspirants were disqualified. 

The PDP apparatchik in its analysis believe that eventually though Bauchi Governor Bala Mohammed emerged alongside Saraki as consensus candidate of the PDP, he may eventually step down to seek re-election so as to enable him complete the good work he has started as Governor of the state. The elders pointed that Mohammed had given the indication of his likely dropping off from the race.

It is almost certain that PDP will take a presidential candidate from the North because its leaders want to pay back the APC for what it did in 2015 to gain advantage over the ruling party. The PDP’s decision is further emboldened by the facts that the APC having seen that it has not been able to force PDP to toe its line of zoning the presidency to the South where the ruling party has comparative advantage over the PDP, is now mulling the idea of throwing the presidential ticket open to all from any of the six geo-political zone.

The decision not to zone the presidential ticket by the PDP is another gamble after weeks of political infighting. After much trailing, a presidential candidate will emerge for the PDP this month. Whoever that will b, will be determined by a lot of factors and that person must also have the ability to take the party to the next level – the presidency.

Of the 17 aspirants, surprisingly, one person whose ambition is not flying is that of the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tanbuwal. Tambuwal’s ambition is not flying even in the north, and among serious PDP leaders. First, many of the northern elders were not happy the way he tried to rubbish them over the consensus arrangement after he joined Mohammed, Saraki and Hayatoudeen in inviting the elders to arbitrate on the choice of the consensus candidate, only to back out when it was clear he would not win. His efforts to paint the elders black backfired and diminished his rating.

Less than three weeks to the national convention where the delegates will cast their votes, sources at the weekend indicated that top party elders, leaders and decision makers in the leading opposition party in the country have embarked on careful sifting of the pack and the general opinion among these opinion leaders is that only three of the remaining 15 aspirants have the chance of becoming presidential candidate and flying the party’s flag in next February’s election.

It is believed that Tambuwal has seen the handwriting clearly on the wall. He is also alleged to have secretly purchased a senatorial election form which some in Sokoto State said is held for him by a trusted loyalist. Tambuwal May eventually negotiate to return to the National Assembly and bid for an influential office of presiding officer.

The seeming preference for a Northern candidate may have affected the chances of southern candidates like Anyim, Obi, Wike, Udom, Momodu, Ohunabunwa and others. Top Southern aspirants are also said to be likely running mate to the eventual flagbearer. It is believed that aspirants like Anyim, Obi, Wike and Udom will most likely be selected as running mate to the eventual presidential candidate.

Another non-presidential aspirant said to be high in consideration as possible feature in the presidential ticket is Ifeanyi Okowa. But in top PDP circles, Atiku and Saraki are seen as the leading presidential aspirants from the North. However, one Southern aspirant whose aspiration could not be lightly dismissed with a wave of the hand is Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, whose pocket is the deepest among the aspirants. Wike has emerged as the biggest spender in the party. His strength is the money that he is deploying to get people to listen to him.

While the leaders are not comfortable with Wike, they believe he has to be factored into the consideration for the convention or primaries. The elders believe that as at today, the PDP has three leading aspirants, one of whom will emerge. They are Atiku, Saraki (both from the North) and Wike. They believe the three men are the ones they have to make up their mind on who to back and sell to the super delegates who will then spread the message down to the other delegates. 

As at today, the three men are the leading aspirants in terms of their reach, acceptance, name recognition, exhaustive campaign and influence among delegates. The leaders also believe the three men are the ones the undecided delegates are thinking about making up their minds on what to do and where to vote.  

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