By Dirisu Yakubu
With seven months to the 2019 general elections; the biggest opposition party in the land, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is facing a herculean task of selecting the best amongst the legion of aspirants that have so far indicated interest to contest the highest elective office on the platform of the party.
In a race brimming with seasoned politicians including a former Vice President, serving state governors, former governors and lawmakers, technocrats and ex-Ministers; it is understandable while selecting a sole candidate is not an easy choice for the PDP.
As these contenders transverse the length and breadth of the country, holding day and nocturnal meetings with stakeholders in a bid to woo their support ahead of the primary elections; a lawmaker representing Kano Central Senatorial District, Rabiu Kwankwaso earlier in the week offered a tip on how to make the walk to Aso Rock a lot easier for the party in 2019.
Addressing party delegates in Benin City, the Edo state capital, Kwankwaso, a Presidential hopeful on the platform of the PDP urged the leadership of the party to settle for a candidate of North West extraction, adding that doing so will brighten the chances of the PDP in its quest to return to power at the centre.
“It is common knowledge based on censuses that Kano state is the most populous state and North West is the most populous region in the country. So, if it is true that our former party is fielding a candidate from the North West, it is also necessary for the PDP to consider fielding its candidate from the zone.
I have no doubt in my mind that the South-South and South-East are very solid in PDP. I believe that with what we will do in the North and what will come out from the South-West, PDP will be victorious in the 2019 general election,” Kwankwaso had said earlier in the week. The thinking is that if PDP splits the votes in North West and wins reasonably well in other areas they could be coasting to victory.
The call which would naturally come as a music in the ears of Ahmed Makarfi, Tanimu Turaki, Attahiru Bafarawa, Ibrahim Shekarau and Datti Baba-Ahmed, who are all from the North-West, has however been rejected by the party, which Wednesday insisted that the process leading to the eventual choice of the PDP Presidential candidate would follow democratic procedures.
An official of the party who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent on Thursday that the party would not succumb to emotions in taking a decision as important as the choice of candidate for the Presidential polls. While stating that Kwankwaso was correct in alluding to the population strength of the North-West, he added that other geo-political zones need to be factored in the party’s political permutations ahead of the elections.
“While the party is aware the President has a sizeable number of followers in the North West that is not enough reason to preclude other aspirants from the race. Again the 2015 elections would be remarkably different from those of 2019.
When Buhari faced the electorate pre-2015, many of them believed in his so-called integrity but they have realized almost four years after that he has nothing to offer them. So, it is not true that a candidate who may not necessary come from the same geo-political zone as Buhari cannot give him a run for his money.
“The election is not just about North West and the earlier we realized this, the better it will be for our party. What is of paramount significance is this: “Will the eventual candidate stand a chance of returning the PDP back to power? Will the candidate be acceptable to our brothers and sisters in the grand-coalition we formed a few weeks ago? These are the questions we should be asking now, not the geo-political zone of origin of aspirants,” he stated.
Although the party insists the race is open to all contenders, the official however added that the PDP would succeed in ousting the All Progressives Congress (APC), if it is able to make all aspirants see reason to rally behind one or two of the contestants at the primaries.
He continued: “When we say the race is thrown open for all aspirants, we should be mindful of the danger here as well. We have seen all of them and we can authoritatively say where their strengths and weaknesses lie. If you ask me, two aspirants should be enough and that is if we can’t agree on a consensus candidate.”
When asked who he believed should get the nod of the party for the ticket; the dark-complexioned figure was evasive, stating that “By their strength and antecedents, we shall know them.”
Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal is seen largely as the choice of some power brokers in the North and South for the sole ticket but in former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; the party faces the tough choice of ditching experience and political visibility for a younger Tambuwal, who some argue, has the wherewithal to garner enough votes across the country.
Yet, former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki, who is being backed by former President, Goodluck Jonathan and a host of top retired military officers, cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. How the party finds its way out of the current conundrum in the weeks ahead remains to be seen.