Ahead of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled for October 5 and 6, where the party’s presidential primary will hold, the list of aspirants is getting longer. Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN examines the chances of major aspirants in the shadow election.
THE search for the presidential flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for next year’s presidential poll is gathering steam. The National Executive Committee (NEC) has fixed the party’s national convention for October 5 and 6. The battle for the party’s presidential ticket is likely to be a stiff contest.
The major contenders for the party’s ticket are: former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Senate President Bukola Saraki; former Governors Sule Lamido (Jigawa State); Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna State); Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano State); Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe State), former Senate President David Mark and former Minister of Special Duties Kabiru Tanimu Turaki. All the aspirants are from the North, because the party two years ago zoned the ticket to that part of the country.
Analysts believe that the PDP would not compromise on its zoning arrangement. They recalled that the failure of the party to pick its presidential candidate from the North was largely responsible for its defeat in the last presidential election. One of them said though the contest is open to every Nigerian, the party has resolved to stick to its zoning arrangement this time around.
A new twist was introduced by some PDP stalwarts who are agitating for the micro-zoning of the ticket to the Northeast. They argue that the Northeast should be allowed to fly the party’s flag in the 2019 poll, since it is the only zone that is yet to contest the presidency in the region. Besides, they believe that since President Muhammadu Buhari who hails from Northwest is likely to clinch the All Progressives Congress (APC) ticket, ceding PDP ticket to Northeast will make the contest very keen.
It was against the backdrop of agitation for micro-zoning that Atiku recently visited Dankwambo in Gombe with a view to averting the fate that befell the Southwest zone over the PDP’s national chairmanship. Before the last national convention, the party zoned the chairmanship position to the South. Attempts were later made to have the party micro-zone it to the Southwest. But, it failed because the party’s leadership insisted that the position taken at the convention could not be altered or reviewed by any other organ.
Atiku in his meeting with Dankwambo canvassed the need for the Northeast zone to present a single candidate and go to the convention as a united front. Apparently asking Dankwambo to step down for him, Atiku said the zone should avoid anything that would make the PDP presidential ticket elude it.
But, the idea of micro-zoning the ticket to the Northeast has been rebuffed by some aspirants. In his reaction, former National Caretaker Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said there was no decision to that effect and that aspirants are free to canvass for votes. Makarfi said he was busy marketing his programmes, not to only members in the country, but to Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Another aspirant, Lamido, said the PDP has learnt from its past mistakes and that there will be nothing like imposition or exclusion. He said the party would provide a level-playing ground for all aspirants, including those that might join the PDP before the primary. He added: “A transparent presidential primary would produce the party’s flag bearer. We are committed to supporting whoever emerges as the presidential candidate at the end of the exercise.”
National Chairman, Prince Secondus, said the decision as to who flies the party’s presidential would be decided by the party members, stressing that nobody would dictate to the PDP.
The former Vice President is an experienced politician with huge financial chest to pursue his political ambition.
Atiku’s first foray into politics began in the early 1980s when he worked behind the scenes on the governorship campaign of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur who was elected governor of the defunct Gongola State (now split into Adamawa and Taraba States). Towards the end of his career in Customs, he was drawn by the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua into People’s Front (PF), a political association led by the late retired Army General. In 1989, Atiku was elected National Vice Chairman of the PF. In 1991 he won the Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket to contest governorship election in Adamawa, but he was disqualified by the General Ibrahim Babangida-led military administration.
In 1992, he contested the SDP presidential primary which was won by MKO Abiola. He stepped down for Abilola in the run-off and asked his supporters to vote for Abiola, hoping that the latter would pick him as his running mate. But, after winning the SDP ticket, Abiola picked Baba Gana Kingibe as his running mate.
Atiku contested Adamawa State governorship on the platform of the PDP in 1998 and won. But before he could be sworn-in, he was named as Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s vice presidential candidate. They won the presidential election in February 1999 and Atiku was sworn-in as Nigeria’s second democratically elected vice president on May 29, 1999.
Atiku’s second term as Vice President was marred by a stormy relationship with President Obasanjo. His bid to succeed Obasanjo did not receive his principal’s support. He decided to run for presidency in 2007 on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He was initially disqualified by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the grounds that he had been indicted for financial misconduct by an investigation panel set up at Obasanjo’s behest. However, the Supreme Court ruled that INEC had no power to disqualify candidates and ordered that Atiku’s name be restored on the presidential ballot.
He returned to PDP after 2007 presidential poll which he lost to the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP. In 2014, Atiku and some aggrieved members of the PDP stormed out of the party’s national convention to elect the party’s presidential candidate. They formed what they called new PDP. The splinter group merged with the All Progressives Congress (APC). Atiku contested for APC presidential ticket which was won by President Muhammadu Buhari. Atiku had returned to the PDP ahead of 2019 presidential election. He had declared his ambition to contest for the PDP presidential ticket.
To observers, Atiku is very desperate to become Nigeria’s president as he keeps moving back and forth, joining, leaving and rejoining political parties. A former Federal Commissioner of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, once described Atiku as a desperate politician that would go to any length in his quest to rule Nigeria.
Analysts say Atiku’s ambition is threatened by Obasanjo who has vowed to work against him. Obasanjo said he would give up his support for the PDP, “if Atiku gets presidential ticket”. He added: “He is not qualified to lead, but he cannot lead me.” Besides, Atiku’s position on restructuring has pitched him against the northern establishment. A statement credited to him that all issues raised by the leader of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu must be addressed for peace to prevail had been interpreted as tactic support for the Biafra secessionists. It has whittled down the popularity of Atiku among his kinsmen.
Saraki is yet to declare formally for the PDP presidential ticket. But, sources within his camp have confirmed that he will try to run for the office in 2019. Since the pronouncement of the Supreme Court that cleared him of under declaration of his asset, he appears to have become morally emboldened to rev up his presidential ambition. He has embarked on nationwide consultation.
A source said: “So far, the preliminary round of consultations indicates that he might participate in the presidential primary of the PDP. Initial field report and extensive survey have buoyed his confidence of winning the ticket. There is no doubt that he is a formidable force that should not be ignored because only few politicians in Nigeria today have the pedigree, the experience, the clout and the connection of Senator Saraki.”
This development, the source said, surprised Atiku Abubakar who had relied on Saraki’s support for his presidential ambition.
Kwankwaso had the first shot at presidency in 2015, when he contested for the APC presidential ticket, alongside President Buhari, Atiku and others. He came second, while Atiku emerged third. Kwankwaso was considered as an underdog in 2015 because his political influence was limited to Kano. Kwankwaso also defected from PDP to APC in the build up to the 2015 general elections, like Atiku. He recently returned to the PDP to actualise his ambition.
Observers say the senator had expanded the activities of his political pressure group, the Kwankwasiyya Movement, across the country as part of his presidential campaign strategies for the 2019 general elections. The Director General of Kwankwasiyya Foundation, Alhaji Surajo Habibu Tsafe, said the movement has freed over 2,000 prisoners with minor fines in the 19 northern states, while plans were on to free over 2,000 inmates in southern states. Besides, Kwankwaso through the movement had donated relief materials to victims of herdsmen attacks in Benue State and Hausa-Yoruba crisis in Ile-Ife, Osun State, while similar gestures were extended to internally displaced persons (IDP) in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Kwankwaso like other aspirants has also been holding meetings with PDP governors, party chieftains and various political groups across the country. Analysts say though Kwankwaso’s political base has expanded, compared to what it was in 2015, but it is still limited in scope, as it appeals only to northerners living in the south. They advised Kwankwaso to look for political allies across the country to broaden his political base or come up with new strategies that would make his political ideology acceptable to every citizen, irrespective of tribe or religion.
Makarfi was the immediate past chairman of the national caretaker committee of the PDP. He took over the leadership of the PDP when it was at the brink of collapse and applied wisdom to rescue it from sinking. His committee restored hope in the party and succeeded in organising a national convention that elected the current national executive committee of the PDP. The Makarfi was a two-term governor of Kaduna State. He is one of the few aspirants with unblemished record. He has not been accused of misappropriation or embezzlement of public funds since he left office as governor 11 years ago; he has never been invited by the anti-graft agencies. Observers said given his track records, some PDP governors and major stakeholders have started campaigning for him.
Reflecting over his experience during the PDP crisis Makarfi said: “If not for the steadfastness of committed members the PDP could have become history.” That explains why he warned the PDP against giving the defectors special treatment. Apparently referring to the defectors, he said: “Some people when you pinch them they will run to another party. When the going was tough, I stayed on. When you accept them (defectors) in your house and give them your guest room, the next thing is that they will take the master bedroom; next they will drive you out of your house. We must not allow this, nor give undue advantage to them, so that we don’t alienate our people. Ali Modu Sheriff was brought from another party; they said he had three jets and that he has billions, but what did he do? He was taking the party down. But, I, the bush boy with the support of others, I was able to make members close ranks and today we can all see.”
Analysts say Makarfi has integrity but he lacks resources to compete with the money bags. However, they are of the view that the immense goodwill he enjoys from party members across the country will see him through.
Sule Lamido’s political career began in the Second Republic when he joined the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) founded by the late Alhaji Aminu Kano. He was a member of the House of Representatives between 1979 and 1983. He became National Secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) during the aborted Third Republic. Lamido was criticised for his handling of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Abiola. He ran for Governor of Jigawa State in 1999 but was defeated by Saminu Turaki, the candidate of All People’s Party (APP). He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2003. He was elected governor of Jigawa State in 2007 on the platform of PDP. He was re-elected in 2011. He and his sons were put on trial in 2015 for embezzling state fund by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
His presidential ambition has the backing of some northern political groups. One of them Siyasa Akida Netwok is promoting the candidacy of Lamido in the 19 northern states. The group believe the former governor has the capacity to salvage the country from drifting. The group have stormed Lagos with posters of Lamido for president in 2019. A spokesman of the group, Hassan Mohammed, said Lamido was the most qualified among the PDP aspirants jostling for the party’s presidential ticket. Mohammed said: “We have seen his performance as governor of Jigawa State for eight years. He is indeed a man of the people and he has that pedigree and reputation to fly the party’s flag in 2019.”
Lamido has been criss-crossing the country to seek support of the PDP leaders. His arraignment by the EFCC for criminal charge is his albatross in the struggle for the presidential ticket.
Dankwambo is the youngest among the PDP presidential aspirants. He was born in 1962. He is a graduate of Accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He later obtained a Master of Science Degree in Economics from University of Lagos. He worked in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 1988 till 1999 when he was appointed the Accountant General of Gombe State. He was appointed the Accountant General of the Federation by the Federal Government in 2005 from where he resigned to contest the 2011 governorship election.
He was a greenhorn in politics when he was elected governor. Analysts said he had proved that it is not the number of years in politics that matters, but the ability to lead and the capacity to deliver. As a result of his impressive performance in Gombe, some northern PDP elders are rooting for him.
Tambuwal came into political limelight when he was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011. In 2015, he contested Sokoto State governorship on the platform of APC and won. It was learnt that he had wanted to contest for APC presidential ticket against Buhari in 2015, but was prevailed upon by party leaders to drop the ambition.
He has a record of betraying his benefactors. In 2011, he became the Speaker of the House of Representatives with the backing of the main opposition party in the House, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The House Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, stood by him and shielded him from being impeached by PDP legislators. In 2015, Tambuwal worked against Gbajabiamila’s ambition to become Speaker; he sponsored Yakubu Dogara. Again, he fell out with his political godfather in Sokoto, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, who facilitated his emergence as governor.
Wamakko believes Tambuwal has made the biggest mistake of his life by his defection to the PDP. Opinions are divided on who now controls the state, in terms of followership and clout, after the defection of Tambuwal.
Pundits say the challenge facing Tambuwal’s ambition was that he has not been able to construct his own political structure independent of Wamakko’s, which he rode to become governor.
Bafarawa was elected governor of Sokoto State in 1999 on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and was re-elected in 2003. Under Bafarawa, the state made significant improvements in the development of infrastructure. Schools were upgraded and enrolment greatly improved, due to assurances that all pupils would be taught morals and Islamic religion. Water supply also improved, as the administration constructed boreholes round the state.
He founded the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and became its presidential candidate in 2007. As presidential candidate when he met with the officials of the US State Department in Washington, DC, Bafarawa promised to scrap the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), if elected. He described the commission as a conduit of corruption and waste.
In 1979, he had contested for a seat in the House of Representatives on the platform of Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), but he lost. He was a member of the National Constitutional Conference of 1994 to 1995, under the Sani Abacha military administration.
Tanimu Turaki is a senior lawyer and a politician from Kebbi State. He vied for the Kebbi governorship seat three times and lost. He has a record of changing parties. Turaki joined United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) in 1996 where he contested governorship election. In 1998, he joined All Peoples Party (APP) where he was elevated to member of its Board of Trustees (BoT).
In 2003, he defected to United Nigerian Peoples Party (UNPP) and contested for governorship. After the elections, he defected to PDP the same year. He was the PDP governorship candidate in 2007. He joined ACN in 2011. This did not last as he returned to PDP the same year. He was Deputy Director General (North) of PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation in 2015.
He was a Minister of Special Duties under former President Goodluck Jonathan. He was appointed Chairman of Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North. Turaki has never held any elective office. He has set up a campaign committee headed by two-time governor of Adamawa State, Mr Boni Haruna as Director-General.
Professor Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies is the only female aspirant. She hails from Ira in Kwara State. She is a lecturer at the Rivers State University of Education.
In her declaration, Adesanya-Davies said: “I am aspiring to be the next president of Nigeria. I am out to put laughter of joy in the mouth of all Nigerians. I have discussed this with former presidential candidate, Mrs Sarah Jubril, who incidentally is from Kwara. Nigeria has opened the ground for the Nigerian women; my ticket is that of Nigerians, as presidential form is free for women.”
Adesanya-Davies, founder and Bishop of the Agape Bible Church, said she had wanted to be the running mate of former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, but her interest was ignored. She said: “That time I said with President Goodluck Jonathan in the PDP, I was going to be his running mate. I was sending text messages to him. I told him to let the then Vice President Namadi Sambo step down for him to be successful. But he did not listen to me.”
Former Senate President David Mark declared to run for the presidency on the platform of the PDP on Tuesday. One of the longest-serving senators, he declared after picking up his interest and nomination forms for the 2019 presidential election on Tuesday that he will fix the economy in two years.
Mark, who was the president of the Senate between 2007 and 2015, is the fourth PDP senator to show interest in the presidency. He said his military background and the fact that he has been in politics since 1998 would be an advantage for the PDP, if he is given the chance to fly the party’s flag next year.
His words: “In two years, if given the opportunity, we will turn the economy of this country round, we will solve these security problems, we will bring Nigerians together. The level of distrust in the government today has never been experienced in the history of this country. I have a very good military background and has been in politics since 1998. I think I have got the credentials to be able to do what I have promised my team.”
He declared his readiness to restructure the country, noting that “there are priority areas and restructuring is one of them. I think the time has come to restructure this country”.
A party chieftain, Ali Kano, said Mark has never, since the inception of the PDP, left the party for one day. He said: ”David Mark is a disciplined military officer, an astute politician who is tested and trusted. He is a thorough bred politician who has more actions in him than words. What’s more, he has the political sagacity and wherewithal lead PDP to victory.
“He presided over the National Assembly for eight years without blemish or blame. He avoided the banana peels brought down his predecessors. Nigerians will always remember him for saving our country from constitution crisis during Yar’Adua’s administration, when he came up with Doctrine of Necessity.”
SOURCE: THE NATION