Ahead of the primaries for the 2019 general election, the parties are neck deep in permutations on who to elect as their presidential candidates. While it is taken for granted that President Muhammadu Buhari might enjoy the Right of First Refusal in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the hot enclave is the main opposition group, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where 12 aspirants are jostling for a presidential ticket.
The presidential primary election of the PDP will be highly instructive for the following reasons:
It will indicate if PDP really has learnt its lesson or could walk the talk after 16 years of abysmal failure in power; it will produce a main challenger to President Buhari. It is likely to determine whether or not the party can make any impact in 2019 poll.
- Nigerian voters will be able to tell if they have an alternative to Buhari.
- The PDP primaries will be a beacon for measuring how keen and colourful the next presidential poll will be.
So far, about 12 aspirants have emerged in the party for the presidential primaries. It is a motley crowd. The aspirants are ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso; ex-Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Kabiru Turaki; Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo; ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau; ex-Governor Sule Lamido; a former Interim National Chairman of PDP, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi; Governor Ayodele Fayose; ex-Governor Attahiru Bafarawa; Datti Baba Ahmed; and the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki whose body language has shown a serious desire for the office . Analysts believe that Saraki is pretentiously busy testing the waters. The visit of 45 political parties to him on Thursday in Abuja was much more than the solidarity visit.
THE TENDENCIES IN PDP WHICH WILL SHAPE THE PARTY’S PRIMARIES
About seven tendencies have been in the PDP in the last 20 years of its existence. There is the military cabal which formed/ joined the party. This cabal is represented by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, ex-Military President Ibrahim Babangida, ex-Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Theophillus Danjuma and ex-NSA Gen. Aliyu Gusau. There are also the surviving elements of G-34 used as a springboard to form the party but shoved aside later; the new generation of power brokers in the party revolving around the shadows of Governor Nyesom Wike who is now in control of the party’s structure; the present crop of PDP governors who control delegates to the primaries; the old brigade of governors under the leadership of Makarfi and ably supported by Lamido, ex-Governor Liyel Imoke and ex-Governor Gabriel Suswam among others; the anonymous captains of industry, bank executives, oil sector cabal who share the ideals of the PDP secretly and benefited tremendously through humongous patronage during its 16 years inglorious rule; and now the defectors under the leadership of Saraki who has been branded as the national leader of PDP at a recent emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party to the consternation of many dyed- in – the – wool faithful.
The incessant shuttles to ex-President Obasanjo in Abeokuta (whose ghost is still haunting PDP), the Hill Top mansion of Babangida in Minna, the T.Y. Danjuma haven in Lagos and the modest Asokoro residence of Gusau pointed to how much reverence the party leaders and members still accord the military cabal which joined the party and produced Obasanjo as the nation’s President in 1999. Virtually all presidential aspirants have turned the homes of these military heavyweights to consulting clinics. Also, barely a few hours after addressing a world press conference on Wednesday on the siege to the National Assembly, Saraki jetted out to Minna to meet with Babangida, which was a confirmation of the influence still being wielded by the ex-military leaders. These past leaders have been fingered in the looming coalition of forces against APC.
With the way the PDP governors installed the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, it is glaring that they will play a major role in the choice of the party’s presidential candidate. Apart from keeping faith with the mutual power agreement which brought Secondus to power, the governors control the party structure at state level and they also determine the voting pattern of delegates from their states. A member of the National Working Committee said: “The governors have been dictating the pace in the PDP since 2003. They are natural kingmakers and I don’t think 2019 will be different because most of the statutory delegates are either their appointees or loyalists.”
Notwithstanding these tendencies in the PDP, all the 12 aspirants have been traversing every corner of the country in order to seek the support of governors and delegates. But the big question is how will these tendencies throw up in the choice of the party’s flag bearer? The big men are strategizing for the battle ahead.
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