By Dirisu Yakubu
For the past eight years, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Nigeria’s largest opposition party has been in the backwaters of national politics, particularly at the centre. Following its loss of the Presidency to the then newly formed All Progressives Congress, APC in 2015; the PDP has been playing second fiddle to the ruling party, which again won the 2019 Presidential election despite the former fielding a master political strategist and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as its candidate.
A post-mortem carried out by a committee chaired by Bauchi state governor, Senator Bala Mohammed identified internal cracks within the fold of the PDP, lack of common front and unified purpose as some of the factors that worked against the interest of the party in 2019; issues that the new leadership of Dr Iyorchia Ayu has vowed to tackle ahead of the next election cycle.
As the Ayu-led National Working Committee continues to seek ways to reposition the party for the big test, prominent members of the party have not hidden their ambition to vie for the highest elective office, each trying to convince the PDP why the cap fits him more than the rest. Who are these men and how bright are their chances?
Atiku clinched the PDP Presidential ticket in keenly contested primaries in Port Harcourt, leaving Tambuwal and Saraki for the second and third places respectively. A master of the game, Atiku’s financial war chest, political visibility and structures place him in a vantage position to get the ticket again for 2023.
Already, the former Vice President has won the support of media tycoon, Raymond Dokpesi who is going round the ticket to selling the Atiku for President 2023 mantra to Nigerians diverse faith and ethnic configurations.
Set to declare his ambition on the platform of the PDP in the first quarter of 2022, Atiku has held various consultative meetings within and outside the country to swell up his support base ahead of the big test.
While his vast experience in politics is not in doubt, Atiku’s age is likely to count against him when the chips are down. He will be 75 in 2023, an age many would expect him to simply focus on mentoring young ones for future leadership roles.
The emergence of governors as a potent powerful bloc may see Atiku’s wings clipped given that they are likely to support one of their own for the exalted office.
Senator Bala Mohammed’s Presidential ambition is reportedly receiving the blessings of renowned businessmen who crossed paths with him when he was Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
Although eligible to seek a second term in office as governor, Mohammed is said to have told close friends and associates that a Presidential mandate will avail his opportunity to serve Nigerians to the best of his ability.
An alumnus of the University of Maiduguri, Mohammed’s growing political influence and network of friends across the land may sway the ticket in his favour.
Governor Bala Mohammed is often seen as one with doubtful loyalty to the PDP. In the past few months, rumours of his possible defection to the All Progressives Congress, APC, dominated news spaces for months.
As a first time governor, Mohammed’s national appeal remains a matter of debate with political pundits seeing 2023 as too early for him to go for the highest office in the land.
In 2018, Governor Aminu Tambuwal caused quite a stir when he beat 10 other aspirants to emerge the first runner up to Atiku Abubakar at the PDP Presidential convention in Port Harcourt.
Following their impressive outing, the 56-year-old politician is set to test the waters again ahead of the 2023 Presidential election.
Backed by the Northern traditional institution, Tambuwal is likely to clinch the ticket this time should the PDP elect to zone the Presidency to the North as it did in 2019.
In the past few years, the two-time governor has etched his name among a few of the performing governors in Nigeria; a development likely to work in his favour in the next election cycle.
While his popularity in the North is not in doubt, Tambuwal’s ability to garner delegates’ votes from the South remains a matter of conjecture.
He is not nicknamed Mr Projects for nothing. Some have argued that no governor since the return of democracy to the country can boast of massive infrastructural development like the governor of Rivers state.
In what appears like a political strategy, Barrister Wike has often called on political leaders from across party divides to participate in commissioning capital projects in the oil-rich state.
Although yet to make an official statement of his future post-2023, many believe Governor Wike is pushing the hierarchy of the PDP leadership to zone the Presidency to the South.
Even though the Iyorchia Ayu-led NWC is yet to make the position of the party known with respect to zoning, many are of the opinion that the PDP is zoning its Presidential ticket to the North in 2023.
Like Wike, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state has done well for his people, particularly in the execution of capital projects in the past six and a half years.
Set to declare his Presidential ambition in March, Emmanuel believes a Southern Presidency after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner in the saddle would help unite the country and mend broken fences.
A former President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, two-time governor of Kwara state is one of the most colourful politicians in the land.
In 2018, he finished third on the log behind Tambuwal and Atiku in that order. As a demonstration of his intent to go for the highest office, Saraki reportedly turned out overtures made to him to vie for the PDP national chairmanship election a few months ago.
It is not certain if Saraki’s state of origin Kwara is “Northern” enough to satisfy the yearnings of those clamouring for the zoning of the Presidential ticket to that region.
Dele Momodu/ Sam Ohambunwa
The two declared their Presidential ambitions earlier in the week at the PDP secretariat, Abuja. While they are both armed with ideas capable of making Nigeria rise again, it is doubtful if the fault lines that have held the nation down by the jugulars for years would pave way for the realization of their dreams.