2023 Presidential Poll: Governors, Atiku Draw Battle Line

The stage appears set for a showdown between governors elected under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its 2019 flag-bearer, Atiku Abubakar over the 2023 presidential ticket of the party.

The governors are actively working to reach a consensus on who becomes the candidate of the party in next year’s presidential election. It was learnt that the state chief executives are intent on having the flagbearer from among their ranks where the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and Sokoto Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and his Bauchi State counterpart, Bala Mohammed, have already indicated their interest in the ticket.

Others who have declared their interest for the ticket outside the governors are former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, Mazi Sam Ohuanbunwa, former Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, and Dele Momodu.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who is believed to head the group angling for the emergence of a state chief executive as the flagbearer, has been hosting meetings of his PDP colleagues both within the country and abroad working on ways to select the candidate.

Despite coordinating the move to select the standardbearer, Wike has also been speculated to have interest in the ticket but has not openly admitted the ambition.

However, party sources indicated that he is the brain behind the idea of making sure a serving PDP governor becomes the party’s candidate in the election rather than an outsider.

The Rivers governor has openly criticised former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, for appearing to claim the PDP presidential ticket even before a decision is reached on zoning and primary election conducted.

It followed the comments made by Atiku when he met with former president Olusegun Obasanjo recently, that he could never lose the party’s presidential ticket.

When asked if he was confident about securing the party’s ticket, Atiku had responded, “I have never failed to get the ticket? I am confident I will get the ticket,” a statement that appeared to rile the Rivers governor.

In response to Atiku’s statement, Wike warned that the outcome of the PDP national convention to choose its flagbearer would shock many.

He said: “People should watch. There will be shock as far as the PDP convention is concerned. People should watch what is going to happen. People like to underrate so many people and it is not good in politics.

“I didn’t expect him (Atiku), frankly speaking, to say that he will always take the ticket of the party. That is going too far and taking the delegates for granted.”

With the National Executive Committee (NEC) approving the PDP’s election timetable last week, the move to reach a consensus on the presidential candidate has intensified.

The PDP has also set up a zoning committee to advise the party on the appropriate section of the country to produce its presidential candidate for next year’s election.

However, without waiting for the committee’s recommendation, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) has opened the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms.

Atiku became the first of the aspirants to obtain the forms last week when he received the documents from the Northeast Business Forum who presented them to him at his Asokoro Abuja residence.

His official declaration for the race has now been scheduled for Wednesday at the Abuja International Conference Center (AICC). The declaration will come on the same day the PDP governors will be meeting in Aba, Abia State to continue to explore ways to select an acceptable candidate for the party.

Though the meeting, which will be hosted by Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu has as its agenda, “the State of the Nation, Party Matters and other issues of concern to the Forum,” the main focus is expected to be how to choose the candidate with minimum rancour. PDP sources affirmed to the Nigerian Tribune on Sunday that while the governors have not zeroed in on any particular state chief executive, they are however likely to resist the emergence of Atiku as the party flagbearer.

“The thinking is that Atiku is not the only capable politician in the PDP. He has had his chance,” a source close to the governors said.

The former vice president has also expressed his determination to fight for the ticket despite the thinking of the governors.

“Apart from Fintiri (Adamawa State governor), it is difficult to see any other governor that will support Atiku,” top PDP sources said.

Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal, Anyim others step up consultations In the same vein, presidential contestants in the PDP at the weekend, stepped up consultations across the geopolitical zones following indications that the party may have thrown its 2023 ticket open to all the zones.

The aspirants include a former president of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, incumbent governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal and a former Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Anyim Pius Anyim.

Each of them ‘stormed’ some zones on Saturday, to lobby party faithful, just as they released their itinerary for the new week.

Sources in the PDP said the setting up of a 37-man committee to evolve a zoning formula to be adopted for different elective offices is based on the ”need to fulfil all righteousness, apply wisdom and tact in addressing the contentious issue.”

From last week, the party began the sale of nomination forms to aspirants for president at N40million each. It was learnt that the arrowheads of the presidential bid of Saraki were in Bauchi State at the weekend to rally delegates for him.

The former governor of Kwara State, according to the sources, will be holding consultations with PDP caucuses in the National Assembly, on Tuesday, to solicit for their support for his presidential bid.

While the consultation with the Senate caucus would hold at the residence of the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, that of the House of Representatives caucus would hold at the residence of Honourable Ndidi Elumelu, in Abuja.

Similarly, a body called the Advocacy Group led by Professor Iyorwuse Hagher, which has been on massive mobilization, has reportedly covered the whole of north-west and North-Central. The group has spilt into two teams to hold consultations with PDP faithful in the NorthEast and the South-West from Monday.

“So on Monday, they will be in Gombe and Bauchi, as well Ogun and Lagos States. Then, on Tuesday, they will most likely be in Oyo and Osun on Tuesday, and then, Adamawa and Taraba on Tuesday. A source said Saraki will most likely formally declare his presidential bid at the end of March or early April.

On his part, the mobilisiation team of Tambuwal was in Kaduna on Saturday to seek the support of delegates and other main stakeholders of the party for his bid.

Meanwhile, the source said contrary to the views being expressed in certain circles, the PDP was not in dilemma over zoning.

“The PDP is not in a difficult position on the matter. The issue is that we are going to leave the race open. But what the leadership of the party is simply doing is bearing in mind the passion from the various interest groups. So, they have to be tactful and calculative in handling the matter. “The party cannot just say it is zoning its presidential ticket to a particular area. What the authorities in the PDP are doing is to buy time.

“The party has set up a committee and given it two weeks to address the issue. Eventually, they will throw the race open because there are very strong points from the two sides to the contest to avoid costly mistake; to ensure fairness and transparency.

“The matter requires wisdom and tact. The PDP chairman is just buying time. It is obvious that the people that can win the presidency for the PDP are in the North. And why will PDP go into the next election if it is not to win,” he queried?

He cautioned PDP not to play into the hands of the APC, as no new entrant among the party governors had structures and are yet to hold consultations across board.

Tambuwal held consultations with most major stakeholders in the northwest, including a former minister, Sule Lamido. According to the source, some party elders, especially members of the Board of Trustees of the party are among the key promoters of the renewed bid by Atiku for the presidency.

credit: Nigeria Tribune

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