IBB, Jonathan, Wike divided over aspirants
By SUNDAY ODIBASHI
The battle for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has intensified; aspirants and their sponsors deploying their political machines for overarching mobilisation and lobby. Consultations and negotiations have been deepened into the party structures and among prominent stakeholders.
It is curious that PDP has opened the political space for extensive campaigns, overtures and political simulations for the various aspirants in ensuring the revival of internal democracy in the party.
The struggle for PDP presidential ticket is currently in the front burner of the party’s preparations for 2019 General Elections.
Four aspirants have so far declared interest in the race. They include Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, former Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, former Governor Ibrahim Skekarau of Kano State and former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State.
Other presidential aspirants are still engaged in preliminary lobby, political simulation, negotiations, horse trading and consensus building before making formal declaration for the presidential race. However, their various Presidential Campaign organizations are in full swing of operations mobilizing support for their principals. The potential aspirants include former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, former President of the Senate, David Mark, and former PDP National Caretaker Committee Chairman, Ahmed Makarfi.
Findings showed that the real battle for the PDP presidential ticket is between the aspirants that are yet to formally declare their interests in the race. They have been involved in deep lobby and overtures to PDP leaders for support.
While these are going on, some PDP leaders have been making overtures to certain political and state actors who were former PDP members but currently in the All Progressives Congress (APC). Prominent among them are Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, former Governor of Kano State.
Apparently, while making endeavours to reinvent internal democracy in the party, the PDP is seemingly witnessing intense democratic struggle for power within its structures. The three leading aspirants for the PDP presidential ticket – Atiku, David Mark and Makarfi have been identified with elementary support from key party leaders or state actors.
Atiku had initial support from former President Goodluck Jonathan before his defection from APC to PDP. It was on the basis of the support and negotiations that the former president advised Atiku to beg former President Olusegun Obasanjo if he must proceed in the presidential race; an advice Atiku accepted to comply with.
Unfortunately, Jonathan could not coordinate the Atiku relationship in the build up to the December 9, 2017, PDP National Convention to guarantee the emergence of party leaders in the National Working Committee (NWC) who would serve the interest of the former vice president in subsequent power games in the party.
David Mark seems to be relying on the political machine of former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babngida, in the 2019 presidential race. The former President of the Senate is perceived as a product of the search for a retired military officer by some retired Army Generals to replace incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Mark was part of the power bloc that constituted the Unity forum at the PDP National Convention in Abuja. His loyalists were among those that won in the party leadership elections into the NWC. Invariably, the emergent PDP leadership is relatively skewed in favour of Mark if the IBB force is sustained in the party into the elections.
Meanwhile, IBB has retired from partisan politics but he is currently playing a pivotal role in the rebuilding of the PDP.
Another strong bloc seems to emerge from the Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State political trade off with Makarfi. Wike had traded the PDP National Chairman election won by Uche Secondus, who he sponsored, in a tentative compact to support Makarfi for the PDP presidential ticket. Thus, Wike, in cooperation with Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, may be mobilizing support for Makarfi for the PDP ticket.
Fayose, though has declared for the presidential race, is perceived to be positioning himself for the vice presidential ticket of the party.
The candidature of Makarfi has been generating skepticism over his health status by some PDP stakeholders, some of whom, however, has argued that the former Kaduna State Governor still has the health capacity to function as the President of Nigeria, and thus, should be given the PDP ticket.
Makarfi was PDP National Caretaker Committee Chairman at the time Atiku negotiated his return to the party with intention to contest for President in 2019.
However, the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Alhaji Jibrin Walid, had declared before Atiku’s return that there is no automatic ticket for anybody, maintaining that the political returnee has to fight for the party’s presidential ticket. The BoT Chairman further admonished that all the presidential aspirants in the party are strong.
Meanwhile, Governor Wike is conceived to be working out option B if the Makarfi candidacy fails. The Rivers State Governor has been making overtures to Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto State, negotiating his return to PDP.
Sule Lamido is also proving to be a force to reckon with in the power configuration of the PDP. He has sustained his horse trading for the party’s presidential ticket despite his case with the EFCC.
Atiku, however, possesses the highest name recognition score among all the aspirants; he remains a household name within large population of the country.
The new PDP leadership certainly has a big task ahead to ensure transparent party convention for the election of the presidential candidate in order to forestall post-convention crisis. The party leaders must provide appropriate mechanism for consensus building in the distribution of election tickets to party members.