By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
With Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State still waiting in the wings, the race for the presidential ticket of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was yesterday turning into a heated race between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Special Duties Minister, Tanimu Turaki.
Other interested aspirants, including four former governors, have yet to pick traction in their bid.
Among the former governors in the race are Alhaji Sule Lamido, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau and Senator Jonah Jang.
Atiku and Turaki have lately embarked on aggressive drive for support from PDP chapters across the country with both men focussing on the North-East in the last one week in spirited move for support from the zone.
Atiku was in Taraba, yesterday, after earlier visit to Gombe on Monday; and Borno and Yobe on Tuesday. Atiku is expected in his base, Adamawa today ahead of his formal declaration tomorrow.
“Taraba was very good and we can see it from the pictures that have arrived,” a close associate of the former vice-president who was not in the travelling party to the Northeast said yesterday.
Turaki. on his part was in Bauchi, yesterday and immediately moved on to Jos for a meeting with the Plateau chapter due for today. He was expected to meet with Jang, who is the leader of the party in the state last night.
Atiku and Tanimu along with the other presidential aspirants were in Sokoto on Wednesday upon the order of the party leadership for a joint visit to Sokoto to commiserate with the state over recent attacks. The visit by the high powered delegation was, however, a cover for the party to frame negotiations with Governor Tambuwal who is still seen among some PDP and non PDP members as one of the more potent aspirants in the party even if he is yet to formally cross over to the party.
Tambuwal’s ascendancy in the PDP flows from a formidable structure built around PDP and APC members who were his colleagues in the House of Representatives. The structure Vanguard gathered could immediately be resurrected once the governor crosses over and gives indication of his presidential aspiration.
That aspiration, Vanguard gathered is, however, still being tempered by suggestions that the Southwest section of the country is yet to put behind it assertions that the former Speaker did not stand with the zone at critical times.
The Atiku Campaign it was gathered yesterday is projecting itself on the well know financial prowess of the former vice-president and the name recognition it has. Supporters of the former vice-president also claim that he has a cult following in the Northeast zone of the country which could put him at an advantage over the rest of the aspirants who are mostly from the Northwest.
That assertion was, however, yesterday being shot down by one leading party member who said that the choice of Mr. Boni Haruna as Tanimu’s campaign director general had effectively neutralised Atiku in the Northeast.
“Even in Adamawa, Atiku is going to struggle with Tanimu. The choice of Boni Haruna as campaign director general has neutralised him on that,” the party official who did not hide his own bias for Tanimu said.
Mr. Haruna, a former journalist became governor of Adamawa State after Atiku who he was attached to as gubernatorial running mate in 1999 was picked by Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo to become his presidential running mate for the 1999 election. Both men, however, fell out when they left office over yet undisclosed reasons.
Atiku supporters, however, counter that he is the only one with the national visibility and force to fight President Muhammadu Buhari who is likely to emerge as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Other PDP aspirants are, however, not folding their hands. Bafarawa Vanguard gathered yesterday is expected this week to hold a meeting with PDP chairmen from the former Northwest State where they are expected to also endorse him.
“He is going to host them and at the end of the meeting, they will say they have endorsed him,” a source familiar with the plan told Vanguard. However, Bafarawa like the others have yet to find traction.
Many of the aspirants are also dogged rightly or wrongly by allegations of corruption arising from their previous roles in government.