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PDP convention: Dollar rain for delegates

‘Leading’ aspirants promising as much as $20,000

Atiku in pole position with Wike unrelenting

Aspirants in today’s national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are offering elected delegates mouthwatering incentives to woo them to their side. About 14 aspirants are contesting the presidential primary, although there were possibilities that the number may be trimmed down.

This is as the Chairman of the National Convention Organising Committee (NCOC), Senator David Mark, assured participants of a transparent exercise. Saturday Telegraph gathered that the aspirants are guarding their prospective delegates jealousy. As at Friday (yesterday) evening, all the delegates has arrived Abuja. Although some delegates were reportedly “proving stubborn,” a source however said they were offered amount they couldn’t reject. “One of the leading aspirants is promising as much as $20, 000. And you know how much that means in naira, about N10 million?” he stated.

This same scenario played out in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in 2018. One of the delegates from Edo State, Ken Imasuengbon, confirmed in a television programme monitored in Abuja that he had been reached, but stated that nobody would influence him. The PDP National Working Committee called all the 14 aspirants to a meeting yesterday.

The meeting, which was earlier scheduled at Wadata Plaza, the party’s national secretariat, was later relocated to the Legacy House, the PDP presidential campaign office. The meeting was yet to start at the time of filing this report because the party leadership was part of a meeting between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and leadership of the 18 registered political parties. Party source disclosed that the purpose of the meeting was to explore the possibility of trimming down the number of aspirants. The meeting may hold before the commencement of voting. Mark who addressed members of the National Convention Organising Committee, challenged them to ensure a credible exercise.

The former Senate President in a statement by his media adviser, Paul Mumeh, called on any of the members who “have any interest or bias for any of the aspirants (to) excuse yourself from this assignment. You must be absolutely transparent.” Mark stated that the party was prepared for the exercise, noting that PDP has a track record of conducting peaceful congresses and conventions over the years. According to him, “the PDP has an array of eminently qualified persons to rule Nigeria. “We carried out due diligence during our screening. I am confident that whoever emerges from the convention will reflect the wishes of our party.” About 811 elected delegates are expected to elect PDP candidate for next year’s presidential election, but people with disability who are expected to be part of the delegates, said their members were excluded.

They staged a protest at the PDP national secretariat to register their displeasure. The delegates are made up one national delegate from each of the 744 local government areas of the country and one person with disability from each state of the country and Abuja. Atiku leads race with Wike unrelenting The D-day is today all eyes are on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to elect its presidential flag bearer for the 2023 general elections.

The road that the PDP took to its special presidential national convention has been a particularly bumpy one. Several issues had propped up and the decisions that the PDP took on those knotty issues have shaped the texture of the election amongst the fourteen aspirants for president under the banner of the main opposition party.

For example, the controversies that led to the sacking of the erstwhile National Working Committee of the party to the installation of new national officials for the party led by Senator Iyochia Ayu and the ratification of the Governor Samuel Ortom-led committee on zoning of elective national offices have defined the outlook of the convention that is holding at the National Stadium in Abuja to elect the next presidential candidate of the PDP. In all, 17 persons purchased the nomination and expression of interest forms in the PDP.

Of that figure, two were disqualified by the David Mark led screening committee, while another aspirant and former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, opted out of the race. In effect, there are 14 aspirants contesting for the ticket of the PDP today and, barring all odds, one of them will be announced winner at the end of the convention.

Party delegates that will elect one of these presidential hopefuls started trooping into Abuja since Wednesday and their arrival has highlighted some aspirants who are frontline contenders in the race. Against all previous projections, the race for the PDP presidential ticket is essentially a two-man race. As delegates and party leaders arrive in Abuja ahead of the convention, it becomes more obvious that the election is going to be a contest between former Vice President and the immediate past presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the current governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike.

Between the two of them, however, Atiku has an upper hand. Other aspirants that are poised to pull surprises at the convention include former governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki and the current governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal. Many of the delegates say that the utmost consideration for the party ahead of the 2023 election is to be able to win the presidential election and also for the PDP to have majority of states in the governorship election.

The popular contention among the delegates is that the position of the leadership of the party on the controversy over zoning is based on the consideration to win in the general election. “The principal idea behind the decision of the party to throw the presidential position open to all geo-political zones is to ensure that the PDP does not deprive itself of the best candidate that can win the presidency for us in 2023. Every political party wants to win an election.

A political party is not a pressure group. “So, if we are here to win elections, that is our primary purpose, of course. Where and how to allocate positions is not as important to a political party like who can win an election for the party.” Another delegate from Kaduna State said: “everyone in the PDP knows that we won the last presidential election. The election was heavily rigged and yet the APC only managed to declare a defeat of Atiku by less than two million votes.

I don’t think that there is any reason for us to change a candidate that we are used to. Someone with experience and is a good material to market across this country. With due respect to the other aspirants, I dare say that no one amongst them has name recognition like Atiku. Yes, Saraki has name recognition too, but you can’t compare him with Atiku.” Although the campaign offices of some of the aspirants in Abuja was brimming with activities when our reporters visited during the week, which the liaison houses of some state governments whose governors are also in the race have been decorated in campaign insignia of those states’ governor, it is believed that the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the amended version of the Electoral Act 2022 has affected the planning of those aspirants concerning logistic support to the delegates.

A source in the campaign office of one of the aspirants said that the switch from the known format of enlarged delegate to the new system with a reduced numbers of delegates would affect the outcome of the election today. According to the source, “the expectation was that the President would sign the amendment and that primaries will hold according to the provision of the amendment. Unfortunately, we are forced to approach an election with a new law that has never been tested and you will expect that there will be some teething problems in terms of logistics.” Another area where the change from the old system to the new one law will likely affect the outcome of the election is in the geo-political distribution of the delegates. Under the previous order for example, there are more delegates from the Southern parts of the country on account of the fact that the PDP controls more states in the south.

But with the exclusion of statutory delegates and with the provision that only elected delegates, one from each local government area, are eligible to vote during today’s convention, there is a shift in the balance of power between the North with more local government areas and the South with less local government areas. This is one reason also that a good number of the delegates believe that Atiku holds the ace.

The projection amongst many of the delegates is that the state caucuses of the party from the North will come to the convention in one bloc to vote for Atiku and Tambuwal. Although Wike is believed to have also made in-roads into some places in the North, however, it seems there is little or no appetite amongst the Northern delegates to cast their votes for the Rivers State governor.

On the contrary, a good number of delegates from the South are favourably disposed to Northern aspirants especially Atiku and Saraki. With just one day apart between when the PDP will conclude its presidential primaries and when the APC will initiate its own primaries, it is safe to say that whatever conclusions that the delegates of the PDP make in the election of their party’s flag-bearer will certainly be the take off point for the APC when they converge at the Eagle Square on Sunday.

 

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