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2023: PDP banks on Atiku/Obi, Saraki, others

South-West may get Senate President, S/South, SGF,

• South-East wants one term for Atiku

• Tambuwal/ Wike’s ticket in danger

 

Indications were rife over the weekend that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is planning to return former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as its candidate in 2023 as part of efforts to win the presidential election.

Top party sources told Sunday Telegraph that the PDP believed that it is better to repeat the 2019 winning formula, which it used to contest against President Muhammadu Buhari. It was learnt that within the PDP hierarchy, the belief is that Buhari did not win the election against Atiku, but muscled him out with the power of incumbency.

 

But in 2023, where Buhari would not contest, it is strongly believed that an Atiku candidacy would be able to beat any other candidate of the All Progressives Congress(APC)

 

In fact, Sunday Telegraph was told that why the PDP is still divided on the zoning of the presidency is because of a battle between Atiku and the South East Caucus of the party, who are strongly arguing that it is its turn to take a shot at the presidency.

 

But within the party, many believed that a ‘strong candidate’ like Atiku is needed to wrest power from the APC first before the case of the South East would be considered. It was further learnt that should the Atiku option fail to fly because of age and other factors, the party might settle for a former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as the second option.

 

At the PDP presidential primaries held in Port Harcourt in 2018 ahead of the 2019 elections, Atiku beat Sakari to the third position while Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, came second.

 

But it was learnt that some powerful forces within the PDP are rooting for Atiku, following his strong showing against President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 election, which the party insists was lost to Buhari’s incumbency factor.

 

Although it was learnt that Tambuwal still has a strong interest at running for the president with the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, as his possible running mate, Sunday Telegraph learnt that most governors of the party believe that an Atiku candidacy would be strong enough to battle the APC, which may settle for a candidate from the South, going by sentiments within the party.

 

The PDP has not hidden its desire to field a candidate from the North for the 2023 election. In fact, the party’s 2019 Election Review Committee, headed by the Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, had recommended that the ticket should be thrown open to every interested Nigerian.

 

The committee submitted its report last week. It was learnt that the only major obstacle to Atiku’s candidacy is coming from the South-East, a region which feels marginalised and is seriously spinning with the party to be given the slot.

 

It was also learnt that the South-East caucus of the party is also negotiating that in the event that Atiku runs, he should do only one term. He is expected to retain his running mate in 2019,

Mr. Peter Obi again, although some forces within the party are rooting for a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu as Obi’s replacement on the ticket. However, a source at the party’s headquarters told Sunday Telegraph that the leaders of the party are not well disposed to the Ekweremadu calculation. They rather believe that Ekweremadu should pursue his ambition to be governor of Enugu State.

 

Said a party chieftain:“ A lot of governors in the PDP have made up their minds that it is either Atiku or nothing. So, definitely, PDP’s ticket is not coming to the South. It is not. Some forces within the party want to use former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to push out Peter Obi. Others said it can’t work. Ekweremadu is over ambitious.

 

He wants to be governor too in Enugu State, even as he is also chasing the Vice Presidential ticket. The powers in PDP are telling him to go for governorship. “The major problem is that the South-East Caucus is pushing that Atiku should do one term. If he does one term, Peter Obi will come in.

 

That is the olive branch being given to the South-East caucus that Atiku won’t do more than one term. “South-East is still negotiating. The deal is for the PDP to take power with a strong candidate -Atiku. So, that National Reconciliation Team led by Saraki is an advanced team. “

 

In a situation that Atiku’s candidacy doesn’t fly, they will bring in Bukola Saraki. It will now be Saraki and Peter Obi. Atiku will now be the leader of the party. Anything that will make Buhari go and ensure APC loses.”

 

On Tambuwal and Wike, sources said that their fate will be sealed at the December Convention of the party, if Prince Uche Secondus is elected for another fouryear tenure as Chairman. Wike and Secondus have been buddies from the same River State.

Wike’s coup at the National Convention of the party in 2016 in Port Harcourt sacked the then Caretaker Committee Chairman, Senator Modu  Sheriff and brought in the Ahmed Markarfi-led Caretaker Committee, which eventually gave birth to the Secondus’ chairmanship.

 

“But since then, Wike and Secondus have parted ways, fighting a cold war to the extent that Wike does not want Secondus back as the National Chairman.” Recently, governors of the party passed a vote of confidence in Secondus and his National Working Committee members. Another source said: “Remember, Secondus was the Deputy National Chairman.

 

We did not have a national chairman. It was in Port Harcourt that Wike and Secondus hatched the plan that overthrew Modu Sheriff and installed Markarfi as the National Chairman. So, Wike and Secondus were good then. In turn, Wike backed Secondus as chairman. “What is driving APC crazy now is the Bukola Saraki National Reconciliation Committee.

 

What the Committee is doing is scary to the APC. They have visited former President Olusegun Obasanjo, IBB and Abdulsalami Abubakar. Once those leaders give you thumbs up, the rest is history.

 

Buhari did not disappoint them (OBJ, IBB and Abdulsalami) because he acted in the way they expected him to act. The Saraki Committee has reconciled a lot of leaders and submitted their recommendations to the National Working Committee.”

 

In PDP’s calculation, if Atiku picks the ticket, the South-South will take the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), while the South-West would produce the Senate President. Said another Source: “In the South-South, they know the presidency is not coming to them now.

They are negotiating for SGF and the South-West will go for Senate President. The only fear is that Atiku may not agree for one term. PDP is banking on APC’s failure in governance and disturbing the state of the nation to win the 2023 elections.

“The APC knows that Buhari is not interested. The Northerners will follow Atiku because it would mean power staying back in the North. Our last President is from the South and the current National Chairman is also from the South. We cannot bring the President again to the South.”

The leadership of the PDP in the South-West is currently a direct fight between a former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose and the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde. While Makinde, by his position as a sitting governor, is the leader of the party, Fayose wants to have a say in negotiating for who would be the party’s candidate. A South-West leader of the party told Sunday Telegraph that Fayose believes that Makinde has pushed him too far.

 

“Makinde has a parallel working committee in every state in the South West. They are promoting these leaderships in Abeokuta and other states despite the fact that they cannot vote in the congress. Is that not a ploy to scatter the party?

 

It is presumed that he wants to defect the APC with all those people as the only way he believes he can win re-election because PDP will not give him a ticket for a second term.

 

He has scattered the whole structures in the South -West and Oyo State in particular that brought him to office. If Eddy Olafeso wins the Vice chairmanship position of the PDP in the South- West, that is the end of the road for Makinde in PDP. In APC, he will meet former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, Adeseun and others, who helped him in the last election.

 

“In the South West, they want to give the party to Eddy Olafeso and Fayose. Fayose has his own agenda. He wants to negotiate with any President that is coming. He wants to be the one to do the battle in the South- West.”

 

The PDP however, said it is yet to decide on where to zone its presidential ticket in 2023. The party in its official twitter handle, @OfficialPDPNig, added that it is yet to adopt any of the recommendations proposed by the Senator Bala Mohammed’s Committee on the Review of the 2019 elections. PDP stated: “It will be incongruous for anyone to assert that any decision has been taken on zoning of the presidency ahead of the 2023 elections.

 

Leaders, members and supporters are enjoined to note that the party is yet to take any decision on the proposals presented by the committee.” But it was gathered that despite the opposition to the Atiku return in some quarters, he has gone ahead with preparations for the 2023 battle.

A source close to the former Vice President told Sunday Telegraph yesterday: “I think it is safe that he is within the landscape. However, there are certain interests who believe that the PDP to, as a strategy, repeat the 2019 formula, which they believed they won.

 

They believe that Buhari just muscled the PDP out; that it is safer to go through that same route, more so that Buhari is not going to be in the picture in 2023. “They believe that if they could defeat Buhari then, it would not be difficult to defeat any other minor that come after Buhari.

 

There is that prevailing argument. There are also pockets of oppositions, especially from those agitating for the South-East presidency, who believe that the last time was for the North but now is for the South- East.

 

“That is why you have the dichotomy of should it be zoned or be left open. I think it is still early. In all of these permutations, the prevailing argument is not to change the 2019 formula.

 

Most likely, his running mate is coming from the East, if he picks the ticket. He has this sense of justice that things should rotate accordingly.” He said that some associates of Atiku have gone ahead to set up support groups from the 2023 presidency.

 

He said: “Some of his associates are activating the support groups’ network. That I know. That includes the membership recruitment process and cultivating people across the states and zones, who will be leading the advocacy.

 

His support group is two pronged. One is political, one is not necessarily political.”

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