Atiku soars, Wike, Saraki, Tambuwal, Anyim, others fight on as PDP decides today
By Clifford Ndujihe
As 811 delegates of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party go to the polls to elect a standard-bearer today (Saturday), John Alechenu, takes a look at the strengths and possible drawbacks of some of the 14 remaining aspirants for the party’s sole ticket
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party which held power for 16 unbroken years before its fall from grace in 2015 has perhaps never had this number of members indicating interest in the highest office in the land.
Understandably, this interest is fueled by the belief in some quarters that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has performed so woefully that Nigerians are yearning for the return of the PDP.
A former Customs Officer, businessman, philanthropist and politician. He is a veteran of several presidential contests since 1993. Atiku more than any other aspirant in the race for the ticket of the PDP, holds the highest record of participation in such contests both as a member of a ruling party and in opposition.
He first came on the scene in 1993 in the race for the ticket of the now defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP on the prompting of his political icon, the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who was barred from seeking the office for himself by the military junta of the late General Sani Abacha.
Atiku won the 1999 Adamawa Governorship election but was picked as Vice President by the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo. He rallied most of the party’s governors and set up structures preparatory to a presidential run not long after he took the oath of office as Vice President. This set him on a collision course with his then principal leading to a public spat.
When his desire to bear the flag of the party in the 2007 elections failed, he took refuge with the then Action Congress of Nigeria, on whose platform he ran unsuccessfully against Umaru Yar’Adua. He returned to the PDP and again lost in his bid to secure its presidential ticket in 2011.
Has a large network of friends and political associates at home and abroad. He has also leveraged these interpersonal relationships to build a powerful political structure across the 36 states of the federation including Abuja. Apart from being a household name, Atiku has the financial muscle and the requisite experience to fight for the ticket. He has a good chance to lead the battle against APC.
Age is no longer on his side. At 76 by the time the 2023 elections would have been won and lost. Many feel the law of diminishing returns which has dogged the current Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, is likely to repeat itself if he is given the chance to preside.
Opponents equally point to his brushes with the law on issues bordering on alleged financial impropriety. Although he has not been convicted by any court, public perception has been a mixed bag. The former Vice President is likely to first contend with two other aspirants from the North East namely: Governor Bala Mohammed and Mohammed Hayatu-Deen for the zone’s 116 delegate votes before counting on others.
Abubakar Bukola Saraki:
United Kingdom trained medical doctor, Ex- Presidential aide, two term Kwara State Governor and immediate past Senate President. His four year reign in the Senate which was characterized by several political battles with his then party, the All Progressives Congress served as training ground for the political task ahead.
Like Atiku, Saraki moved from the PDP to APC prior to the 2015 general election which the PDP lost. His legislative interventions while presiding over the Senate endeared him to many. Some of his colleagues who served with him and are still influential in their various states will come in handy.
The Saraki brand has been in Nigerian political cycles for a while beginning with his astute father, the late Oloye Olusola Saraki who was Senate Leader during the Second Republic. The younger Saraki has since carved a name for himself as a consummate administrator.
The aspirant has youth appeal and is considered a team player by many. At 60, he has age on his side when compared to other aspirants. His experiences in the private sector, the executive and legislative arms of government will serve him well if it is properly harnessed.
He is the only aspirant from the North Central which accounts for 130 out of the total 811 delegates. Should he succeed in getting each of them to vote for him, it would go a long way in boosting his chances.
Like Atiku, he too has been dogged by unsubstantiated allegations of corruption and the active role he played in the defeat of the PDP in 2015 may come to haunt him. His chances are high.
Trained as a lawyer. He has made his mark as a grassroots politician in his native Rivers State. He started his political career as the chairman of Obiakpo Local Government Area reputed to be the largest local government in the state before working his way up to become Chief of Staff to Governor Rotimi Ameachi.
He was later appointed Minister of State for Education and later acting Minister by the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration. Never one to shy away from controversy, Wike has had running battles with the current APC-led administration on issues of financial autonomy for federating units especially in the area of tax administration.
“Wicked Wike” as some would prefer to call him, has remained committed to the PDP brand since joining at inception in 1998. He is reputed to be among the largest spenders if not the largest. If party loyalty will serve as currency in this primary, he will stand as the aspirant to beat. He has built political alliances across the country by supporting the party in PDP and none PDP states such as: Edo, Cross Rivers and Anambra. He is 59 years old. His chances of clinching the ticket are high.
He is often described as deficient in the requisite diplomatic skills to navigate his way out of tight political situations. This, they argue has shaped his often combative approach to politics. He has had open verbal confrontations with fellow party governors and successive National Working Committee members over party affairs. This may count against him. His chances are quite high.
Also a lawyer by training, Tambuwal began his journey into politics as a legislative aide before standing for and winning a seat at the House of Representatives in 2003. He rose to become Speaker against the wishes of the powers that be in the PDP and soon became what some analysts describe as the unofficial opposition to the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration.
He and several other colleagues dumped the PDP to join the APC at its formation in 2014. He contested for and won the Sokoto State Governorship election under APC and is serving out his second term of four year as PDP member.
At 56, his experience at the legislative and executive branches of government and his legal training will work in his favour. He has good interpersonal skills which have endeared him to some party members. With 193 delegates out of the total 811 delegates, the North West has the highest number of delegates.
In a heavily monitised race for the party’s ticket, there are doubts over his ability to mobolise the requisite funds to compete. He no longer enjoys the kind of support he did with Wike backing him during the race for the party’s ticket in 2018.
Tambuwal also hails from the North West where President Muhammadu Buhari, hails from. It also remains to be seen if he can attract votes outside of his Sokoto home base. The feeling even among northerners that the North West has dominated the presidency since the return of democracy could work against him. His chances are not so high.
Anyim Pius Anyim
Reputed to be one of the youngest, if not the youngest Senator to be elected into the Senate (at 39 years old) during his time with the return to democracy in 1999, the trained lawyer rose to become the President of the Senate (2000-2003). He served as Secretary to the Government of the Federation during the Goodluck Jonathan –led PDP administration.
He too had at some point honoured an invitation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission with respect with some of his official dealings while in office but he he has no case anywhere till date.
He is reputed to have built friendships and political alliances across the country. He is accessible and is considered in many cycles as a team player who is able to build consensus.
He has operated at the national stage in the legislative and executive levels. The experiences garnered from during his time as Senate President and SGF will serve him well.
Unless there are those who would step down for him from the South East, he will be competing with four other South Easterners for the 100 delegate votes on offer from the zone while hoping to pouch a few others from other zones to make up the numbers. He is not listed among the top spenders. His chances are not so high.
Trained Journalist, civil servant and administrator turned politician. Mohammed was at various times a newspaper reporter and rose to the position of Director before resigning to join full time politics.
He was elected Senator to represent Bauchi South Senatorial District, in 2007. In 2010 he was one of the leading lights among Northern Senators who led the clamour for the doctrine of necessity which sought a peaceful transfer of power to the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan following the incapacitation of President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua. He was appointed Minister of the Federal Capital Territory when Jonathan took office as President.
His experiences in the public and private sector in administrative capacity as well as his interpersonal relationships built over the years will serve him well.
He is not being considered among the top contenders for the ticket. It is debatable if he has the financial muscle to compete. His campaign has not been as rigorous as that of other contestants. His chances are at best abysmal.
A technocrat with several years’ experience as a banker who has spent most of his years in the private sector is clearly an underdog in this race.
He served as Managing Director and Chief Executive of the defunct FSB International Bank after several years as Chief Executive of the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation, Nigeria’s biggest industrial holding company with investment portfolios in a number of industries at the peak of its existence. He has not held any political office and has not been linked to any scandal.
From most of the accounts about him, he is financially stable but can also mobilise the requite funds to prosecute the race. He has a clean record as there has not been any mention of him having trouble with any of the anti-graft agencies.
His lack of public sector experience and the fact that he is 68 years old having been born on September 15, 1953 could serve as a minus. He will be competing for the 116 North Eastern delegate votes with veteran politicians like Atiku and Governor Bala Mohammed. His chances of clinching the ticket are next to nonexistent going by feelers from party insiders.
A pharmacist by training, Ohuabunwa brings on board years of experience as an entrepreneur, industrialist and philanthropist. His business interests span pharmaceutical and allied products.
He was at various times Chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, President of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association and Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce as well as member of various boards in the private and public sector.
His strong private sector experience in the critical manufacturing sector and his reputation as an employer of labour resonates well in a depressed economy. The aspirant is also financially stable.
His lack of public sector experience and his relative inexperience in the inner workings of the party could serve as a minus. He is also not listed among the high spenders going into the primaries; he is also competing against tested politicians for the 100 delegate votes from his native South East zone. His changes can be described as very slim.
A former banker turned politician, has been the Governor of Oil rich Akwa Ibom State since 2015. With experience in income optimization, financial control and Strategic Planning, the Governor has cut his earned his stripes in the politics of the state having succeeded Governor Godswill Akpabio and rebuffed moves by his erstwhile godfather to render him politically irrelevant, Emmanuel has shocked even critics with his performance as governor and a rising political star.
He has learnt the political ropes quickly. He has also built lasting relationships with some key players in the polity and has exhibited political skills which have earned him a seat at some tables. He also has the financial muscle to prosecute a battle for the ticket.
His successful setting up and management of the only state owned airline, Ibom Air, has earned his accolades as a manager of resources. At 55, he enjoys the benefit of age when compared to others in the race.
His lack of experience at the national stage could prove to be a hindrance. He is also swimming in the political ocean with tested political sharks like Wike, first for the 129 delegate votes from the South-South before venturing out to other zones. His chances are slim.
Ex-Governor of Ekiti State has been a political war horse for over two decades. Never shy to speak his mind on any issue, Fayose has remained a party man since joining the PDP at inception.
However, his decision to join the race for the presidential ticket at this time has left many wondering what his exact game plan is since he has not been involved in any form of serious campaign for votes outside his native Ekiti State.
Loyalty to the party. Like him or hate him, Fayose has been a player within the PDP and has built friendships across the country.
It is doubtful if he has the financial capacity to prosecute the battle. Already news making the rounds is that he is routing for his friend Nyesom Wike. How true this is will become public within a couple of hours. His chances are almost nil.