The race for the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2019 presidential election has gathered momentum with the defection of some members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the party. ONYEKACHI EZE examines the chances of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar in the midst of array of other aspirants
Since he rejoined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in December last year, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has not hidden his intention to seek PDP presidential ticket in 2019. And this will be the second time he will be seeking to contest the PDP presidential primary.
The first was in 2011, when he lost to former President Goodluck Jonathan who was then an incumbent president. Atiku was then the consensus candidate of northern presidential aspirants after a shadow election organised by Northern Political Leaders’ Forum (NPLF) led by late Mallam Adamu Ciroma.
He defeated the likes of former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, former National Security Adviser (NSA), General Aliyu Gusau and the current President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who was then Kwara State governor to win the trust of the northern elders. But it will be a different scenario this time. The North is not going to present just one presidential aspirant at the PDP National Convention as it has lined up an array of notable politicians for the party to choose from.
The party’s presidential ticket for 2019 has been zoned to the region and Atiku has hordes of presidential hopefuls of northern extraction to contend with.
Apart from the former vice president, those who have so far indicated interest are, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido; former Minister for Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki; immediate Chairman of PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and the man who retired him from the senate, Dr. Datti Baba Ahmed. Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo as well as former Kano and Sokoto State governors, Ibrahim Shekaru and Attahiru Bafarawa respectively, are also interested in the ticket.
There are rumours that the defected President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal and former Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will also be seeking the PDP presidential ticket. Apart from Atiku and Kwankwaso, the other aspirants are new entrants in the presidential race.
This will be Atiku’s fourth (2007, 2011, 2015 and now) while it will be Kwankwaso’s second (2015 and 2018). Atiku further has an edge because he was a presidential candidate of Action Congress (AC) in 2007. Before the present political dispensation, the former vice president was a presidential aspirant in the 1993 presidential primary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) where late Chief MKO Abiola emerged as the party’s candidate for the aborted June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Atiku came third in the primary, conceding the second position to Ambassador Babagana Kingibe who later became Abiola’s running mate. Atiku, from all ramifications, can be described as a veteran in the presidential race. And this being the case, he appears to be defining the campaign process.
Since he rejoined the PDP last year, the former vice president has toured every part of the country, some of them, more than twice, in consultation for his presidential ambition.
He said of his ambition: “Nothing is absolutely certain in this life, but PDP needs a candidate with the brightest chance, and that can only come from someone who has major experience, exposure, knowledge about running an economy, who is a nationalist and not a sectionalist and whose brand cannot be intimidated in anyway by that of the current president. “If PDP picks a weak candidate, then the party is doomed.
Some of those whose names are being touted and bandied about have not grown beyond their immediate domains.
Former PDP National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, who is a member of the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Organisation, advised the party to field the best from the pool of aspirants that have indicated interest to contest the Presidential election in 2019. In terms of experience and exposure, Atiku has an edge.
He also has the contact and the ‘war chest’ to face President Muhammadu Buhari who is most likely to be the APC candidate. The 2019 presidential election has engaged attention of many Nigerians.
And with the abysmal performance of President Buhari in the last three years, all eyes are on PDP to form the next federal government. In an online poll last June, Atiku was voted as the candidate to succeed Buhari as Nigeria’s president in 2019. In the poll which involved 30, 000 voters, the former vice president beat Buhari, Dankwambo, and Tambuwal. He got 44 per cent of the pollsters to Buhari’s 31.
Dankwambo got 17 per cent while Tambuwal came last with eight per cent. In another poll conducted by @ YNaija run by Red Media, Atiku again beat Buhari by 70 per cent to 19.
Red Media was part of Buhari’s media team in 2015. But the polls would only be meaningful if Atiku picks PDP presidential ticket. The former vice president will first, beat other contenders to the party’s ticket. Pollsters also engaged the mood of Nigerians on who they think should be the PDP presidential candidate in 2019.
The poll was conducted by Japeth Omojuwa, a popular blogger and Atiku emerged victorious. He scored 42 per cent while Saraki got 37 per cent. Kwankwaso got 15 per cent leaving “other candidates” with six per cent of the votes.
On the heels of his presidential declaration, Atiku support groups sprang up in every nook and cranny of the country, canvassing for people’s to his presidential project. It is estimated that there are over 600 of them formed mainly by the youths. Mr. Oladimeji Fabiyi, Chairman of All Atiku Support Group (AASG) said Atiku is promising 40 per cent of appointments in his cabinet, if elected president.
“As a youth friendly leader who thinks and understands the feelings of youth, I urge them to give me the chance to make their dreams possible,” he pleaded. Atiku is very active on social media, the past time of many Nigerian youths.
It was on his Facebook page that he announced his return to PDP last December. “I am speaking to you today on Facebook live as I want to reach as many of our young people as possible as I have an important announcement to make about the future of Nigeria.
“I have found in my travels across the country that whenever I get into conversations with young people, their number one concern is whether they will be able to get a job, for without a job they have no means of sustaining themselves or begin a family,” he said.
Atiku also has active media team to responses almost immediately on every national issue. But unfortunately, there is the age factor. The Adamawa born politician will be 72 years in November this year. And with Buhari’s poor performance in government, which was attributed to old age, many Nigerians are rooting for a younger president. Fabiyi however, said age should not be a source of concern, but the ability to deliver good governance to Nigerians. According to him, Atiku does not look his age. “Today, California in the USA is the sixth largest economy in the world.
The governor of California is 80 years old and he is doing a lot of good work. So if we have someone in that category and he is doing well, we don’t need to talk. I think it has to do with the capacity of the person who is coming to power.
“We are not looking at age,we are looking at somebody who’s going to give results, better deal, good governance, efficient service delivery. These are some of the things that Atiku is bringing to the table,” he said.
There is also the allegation of corruption. But Nwodo challenged anyone with evidence against to come forward with such. “People say he is corrupt but he has challenged us to blow the whistle on him. We are waiting for a whistle to be blown. He has never held a position where he can approve monies,” Nwodo added. Atiku has, however, promised to remain in PDP even if he fails to win the presidential ticket, provided the primary was free and transparent.
“Whether I become the presidential candidate or not, I want to assure you that I will always discharge my obligations to this party. “If we can sustain the kind of primary that we had in Ekiti, there is no doubt that this party will be on its way to regaining the preeminence in power that we were known for,” he asserted.