By Dirisu Yakubu
As the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, finally resolved its internal squabbles ahead of the October 31 national elective convention, no fewer than five persons have reached advanced state of consultations to vie for the Presidential ticket of the party in the 2023 election.
The party at the end of its 92nd National Executive Committee, NEC meeting last week approved October 31 to elect national executive members as the tenure of incumbent chairman, Prince Uche Secondus gradually inches to an end. Nominations to the various committees of the convention are expected to be submitted on September 9 for ratification by NEC.
Vanguard reliably gathered that former Vice President and 2019 Presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, Sokoto state governor, Aminu Tambuwal, his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki and former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Tanimu Turaki have all decided to vie for the sole ticket once again.
It would be called that four of these PDP chieftains were among the 12 aspirants who converged in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital for the 2018 convention, won by Atiku. While the former Vice President clinched the ticket with 1,532 votes, Tambuwal, Saraki and Turaki garnered 693, 317 and 65 votes respectively.
The decision to test the waters again is not unconnected with the party’s decision to keep faith with the North in the 2023 polls as they did in 2019. A reliable party source told our correspondent that the North offers the party a better chance of returning to power than the South.
According to him, “the party is yet to make an official statement but we all know it is going nowhere other than the North. The reason for this is already public knowledge for if the ruling party is going South, the PDP will go North and test its might and popularity among Nigerians.”
Buoyed by his last outing, Atiku who has travelled the length and breadth of the country in the past two years, building bridges of friendship, sees 2023 as his last chance to realize his dream of governing Nigeria as an elected President.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard, a loyalist of the Wazirin Adamawa said the former Vice President “will again seek the blessing of his party to contest the biggest election on its platform.”
Asked if Atiku is not tired of running for the office, the light-skinned fellow who asked not be named noted that “he’s doing this in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. He is tired of seeing a potentially great country reduced to ruins due to the incompetence of those managing her affairs. If you know the number of employees this man single-handedly engaged; you will ask that the race be thrown open to him alone. He understands what it takes to make governance count for the people. I can confidently tell you that when the time comes, he will contest but let’s not jump the gun.”
Speaking against the backdrop of recent criticisms of abandoning the party in times of crisis only to show up at electioneering period, Atiku pledged last week to always stay around this time, saying ‘I want to let you know that I won’t be travelling to Dubai again. I will always be around with you.”
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Like Atiku, Tambuwal who finished second on the log in 2018 Presidential primaries is aiming to go again. As chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, the Sokoto state governor has in the past three years visited the six geo-political zones as well as top leaders of the country including former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida.
An aide to the governor who pleaded anonymity because he doesn’t have the permission to speak on the matter said his principal has the blessing of eminent Nigerians including some “founding fathers of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to seek his party’s nomination.” Tellingly, the governor has used every fora to hit the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, exposing its loopholes and asking Nigerians to give PDP another chance in the next election cycle.
Tambuwal is not the only governor credited with ambition to go for the sole ticket as his Bauchi state counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed is said to be in the race as well.
Another colourful in the race is Bukola Saraki whose 2023 Presidential posters were pasted at designated areas of the nation’s capital a few months ago. Although the former Senate President was quick to dismiss them, the ex-Kwara state governor has continued to make significant inroads into the nation’s political cum geographical zones, particularly after his appointment as the chairman of the PDP’s reconciliation and strategy committee.
A member of NEC of the PDP noted that owing to the fact that the Presidential ticket is north-bound, “Saraki will fight it out with others given the nod of approval he has so far gotten from his nationwide consultations. He is contesting and you can take that to the bank,” he said.
Meanwhile, a loyalist of the former Kaduna state governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi has dismissed reports crediting the ex-PDP caretaker chairman with interest to succeed Secondus. Reacting to a report in a national daily (not Vanguard) linking Makarfi with the chairmanship of the party, he said, “His Excellency Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi is not running for anything. People are just speculating. All he is interested in is a peaceful democratic change that can urgently save this country. His personal ambitions are secondary.”
Tanimu Turaki, Vanguard learnt, will be aiming to do better than he did in the December 2018 convention in 2018, having made up his mind to seek the blessing of his party once again.