A former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, barring any last minute change in permutations is set to pick the presidential ticket of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s election. Atiku, the PDP’s candidate in 2019 election is one of the 15 aspirants cleared by Senator David Markled presidential screening committee last week, has succeded in dividing the party’s govs who were hitherto working together.
The former vice president is from the North despite growing agitation by Southern and North-central socio-political groups for the party to cede its ticket to the South as the eight year tenure of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to lapse in May next year. PDP has scheduled its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting for Wednesday next week to consider the report of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue-led 37-member zoning committee.
Though several issues have been lined up, the major contentious one expected to raise tension as the leaders of the party will discuss at the meeting will be that of zoning A party source told Saturday Telegraph that the contest for the PDP’s ticket is between Atiku, his running mate in 2019 and former Anambra State governor Mr. Peter Obi and the incumbent Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike. Of the two, Obi remains the Adamawa born politician’s major challenger for the party’s ticket at the forthcoming national convention as others are reported to be mulling the possibility of taking shots at other political offices within the party.
A source within the party, who spoke with our correspondent, stated that “In a free and fair contest, Obi is the most acceptable candidate. He enjoys nationwide acceptance, even across party lines. His sound economic management and proven integrity is working in his favour.
“But the problem is that he doesn’t have the money to give delegates. He is not even ready to give even if he has the money. “And you also know that the ‘kingmakers’ will not be comfortable with his austere nature. Obi is not ready to share money. Anybody who is not going to share money will not be in their good books.”
The source said what is going for Atiku is his network of contacts which have worked perfectly well for him as a source who pleaded anonymity said, “He is an experienced politician. As you can see, he has divided the PDP governors. “Before now the gov ernors were working together, to ensure that one of them becomes PDP candidate. But what do you see now? Four of them are in the race. So there is no way all of them will work together again,” the source added. Out of the 13 PDP governors, at least four of the governors are working for Atiku and sources listed them to include his home state governor, Ahmadu Umaru Finitiri, the governor of the neighbouring state of Taraba, Chief Dirus Ishaku, as well their Delta and Edo State counterparts, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
The former vice president is likely going to sway delegates’ votes from non- PDP controlled northern states to his side owing to the vast war chest in his arsenal to battle the governors for delegates’ votes in PDP controlled states. “He did it in Port Harcourt in 2018 and it is possible he is likely to repeat the same in this year’s national convention,” a source said. According to him (the source) “Atiku is a clever politician; he refused to join (Bukola) Saraki and others who are campaigning for consensus. He knows it is not going to work, have you seen how it ended?” The former vice president participated in a similar exercise in 2011 where he was chosen ahead of Bukola Saraki by former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, as preferred candidate of the North.
He however lost to former President Goodluck Jonathan at the party primaries. The source asserted that division among consensus promoters will be an advantage to Atiku. According to him, “It is more likely that Bauchi delegates will vote for Atiku, because Governor Bala Mohammed will be more interested in returning as governor than the presidential ticket. “It is the turn of Saraki to pay for the failed consensus. He is seen as too ambitious. The rejection by the Northern Elders Forum says a lot. The other candidate that is expected to give Atiku a run for his money is Governor Wike who is hoping to deploy huge resources to match him for delegates’ votes but the major snag is that many party members are not too comfortable with his style of governance. “The VAT issue won more enemies than friends, for him in the north,” the party source who spoke to our correspondent added. PDP National Chairman Dr. Iyorchia Ayu however assured of level playing ground for all the aspirants. Iyorchia told Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal that the party has not had a controversial presidential primary before, adding that the National Working Committee (NWC), is working to maintain the standard.