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How PDP presidential aspirants are wooing S’West

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The 13 Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential aspirants have different expectations in the nation’s second highest vote generating region based on their antecedents and affiliations.

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

THE majority of the 13 aspirants seeking the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were last night locked in a meeting with the Board of Trustees, BoT trying to forge a way to beat the challenge of heading into the presidential nomination convention with a multitude of aspirants.

PDP presidental candidates

It is a reverse of fortune for a party which only a year or so ago was bleeding from all sides with some of its more prominent patrons going outside the umbrella to pursue their political aspirations.

Indeed, going into the Osun State governorship election tomorrow, Senator Iyiola Omisore will be flying the ticket of the Social Democratic Party, SDP partly because of doubts he may have had about the viability of the opposition party. Prof. Jerry Gana, one of the founders of the party and indeed the secretary of the G34 upon which the PDP was built upon is himself contesting the presidency on the platform of the same SDP.

However, the Prince Uche Secondus led leadership has despite initial skepticism been able to hold the ground fueling the influx of aspirants into the party.

As at yesterday, those in the race included former vice president, Atiku Abubakar; Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; Alhaji Sule Lamido; Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Senate President Bukola Saraki and his predecessor, Senator David Mark.

Also in the race are Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and the  penultiamte  governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; former minister of special duties, Tanimu Turaki, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State; Senator David Mark, Senator Jonah Jang, and a former member of the House of Representatives, Datti Baba-Ahmed.

The Southwest with the second highest number of registered voters coming after the Northwest where a significant number of the aspirants come from is becoming a major attraction for the presidential aspirants.

It was as such not surprising that several of the aspirants have made repeated visits to the zone. Before now, the aspirants had concentrated on the South-South and the Southeast geopolitical zones being the zones with the highest number of delegates to the convention.

So it came as no shock that several of the aspirants tried to use the opportunity of the PDP’s grand rally for the Osun Governorship election on Wednesday to showcase themselves.

The aspirants biding for support in the Southwest are bound to be confronted by the region’s overarching agitation for restructuring. It is an agenda that will boost some and diminish the expectations of others.

Among those to be boosted by the  restructuring  agenda are Atiku, Saraki, and Mark who  have  in the recent past pushed the agenda of restructuring. Kwankwaso will be seriously diminished by the issue given perceptions of his past assertions.

Going into the meeting last night many of the aspirants had virtually gone  round  the country selling themselves with Atiku Abubakar being the most visible of all the aspirants.

Atiku had gone into the campaign for delegates and votes with a rich experience of having participated in one way or the other in all but one of the presidential contests in the country since 1993.

The only presidential contest he understandably sidestepped was the 1998 contest dominated by General Sani Abacha.

His tentacles are very strong in the Southwest with the fact that his first wife, Titi is from Osun State. Even more, the director-general of his campaign, Otunba Gbenga Daniel was a governor of Ogun State between 2003 and 2011.

“I agree Atiku will get votes from Ogun, but we are not going to surrender all the delegates to him because of the particular nature of the state,” an official in one of the rival campaigns told Vanguard.

He spoke in reference to the historic division in the Ogun State chapter of the PDP that was in part triggered by Daniel.

Obasanjo factor

The Obasanjo factor which is likely to  play    out  in Ogun is also likely to weigh against Atiku.

“I don’t know who Obasanjo is supporting, but I certainly know that it will not be Atiku and that is to our gain,” a presidential campaign staff of one of the PDP aspirants said.

Atiku, however, is believed to be poles ahead in Osun and Ondo states. In Ondo, the party’s immediate past governorship candidate, Eyitayo Jegede is said to be working for him.

Saraki, Governor Tambuwal  and  Senator Kwankwaso who just re-entered the party  are, however, not new to the bid. Saraki was a participant in the 2011 contest for emergence as the Northern Political Leaders Forum consensus aspirant. He lost out to Atiku at that time.

Even more, he has been using the platform of his office and the experience of surviving a three- year game of intrigues with the Buhari administration to navigate himself. It is no surprise that despite his ascendancy into becoming one of the major contenders, Saraki is still clouded with the matter of identity. How to comprehend him as a Northerner or a Yoruba.

“That is not an issue for us and it is rather an advantage that we are going to prove in the contest,” a campaign official in the  travelling  party of the Senate President told Vanguard.

Saraki’s Lagos home

Saraki has a home in Lagos,  and is generally seen as a Lagos boy having attended Kings College, Lagos. He also has maternal linkage to the Southwest as his mother is from Ondo State.

Tambuwal may have been using the past few months to reach out to Southwest leaders who may have seen him as one who in the past blocked the region’s opportunities at the national level.

In 2011, he outsmarted the PDP leadership to emerge the Speaker of the House of Representatives against the zoning permutation of the PDP and also in 2015 there were perceptions that he did not support the Yoruba aspirant for the same office, through is Femi Gbajabiamila.

However, the issues that led to the two incidents are being reasonably justified if not put aside by Southwest leaders. Before he left the All Progressives Congress, APC, Tambuwal was believed to have made up with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Indeed, there is no trace of animosity between him and Southwest political leaders.

His urbane nature and outward looking  politics  is  expected to give him competitive energy in the struggle for delegates in the region, especially through his network of former members of the House of Representatives.

In Osun State, Olusola Obada, a former deputy governor of the state is believed to be working for Tanimu Turaki, with whom she served in the Jonathan cabinet.

Turaki being the only minister in the last PDP administration in the contest also has the advantage of having the support of several colleagues of his that were in the cabinet working for him in the region.

The exit of Mr. Moshood Salvador from the PDP to the APC has given Chief Bode George the latitude to get full control of the party in the state. Also given George’s new rapport with Obasanjo, Atiku is not likely to prove an attractive company for the Lagos PDP strongman.

That would put Lagos at play for some of the other dominant presidential aspirants.

Kwankwaso’s aspiration which has found traction in the core North has, however, not resonated very well in the Southwest.

His perceived opposition to restructuring is not likely to help his case. His meeting with Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State according to sources was very tight as the issue of the abandonment of the party in 2015 by him and some of the other presidential aspirants reportedly came to the fore.

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