As Nigeria’s main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) makes final preparation for its highly anticipated presidential primaries scheduled for this weekend in Abuja, the aspirants are also in final race to politick their way to pick the party’s coveted ticket.
For over three months now, aspirants have transversed the length and breadth of the country meeting party delegates to sell their ambition of being the party’s flag bearer ahead of the 2023 presidential elections.
One of the aspirants and a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi on Wednesday resigned his membership of the party and also pulled out of the race for the party’s ticket reducing the contenders to 14.
The 14 presidential aspirants as of Thursday include; former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, two former Senate Presidents, Bukola Saraki and Anyim Pius Anyim as well as Governors Aminu Tambuwa, Nyesom Wike, Bala Mohammed, Emmanuel Udom, of Sokoto, Rivers, Bauchi and Akwa Ibom states respectively.
Others are businessman, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, former Governors Peter Obi and Ayo Fayose of Anambra and Ekiti States, Chief Sam Ohunabunwa, Dele Momodu, Charles Okwudili, Chikwendu Kalu, Cosmos Ndukwe and Olivia Tarela, who is the only female among the PDP presidential aspirants.
However, while the race appears tight and competitive, the odds seem to be in favour of the incumbent governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal.
*Tambuwal controls largest share of delegates by region*
In search of the best candidate to take PDP to victory come 2023, several speculations have been made in favour of Atiku with citation of his political record in 2018, during which he polled 1,532 votes at the PDP’s primaries to secure the party’s ticket and marched to keenly contest with President Muhammadu Buhari – he (Atiku) garnered 11,262,978 (41%) while Buhari Buhari of claimed 15,191,847 (56%).
For those on this lane, there are two points that have been gravely ignored, one of which is that the dynamics of politics in Nigeria today are unfavourable for Atiku and the second factor is that Tambuwal’s feat at the same 2018, where he trailed Atiku after securing 693 votes is highly underrated – not everyone is aware that the Sokoto State Governor continued to nurture his strength and political structure while Atiku on his side abandoned his political house after losing out in the last presidential election.
With President Muhammadu Buhari withholding assent on the Amended Electoral Act 2022, Tambuwal’s call to a new political glory was made more pronounced. This is because the Northwest Zone where he hails from would be presenting the highest number of delegates to the convention given the region’s superior number of local governments. The zone comprises of Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara States – and most of these states are in his pocket (Tambuwal).
Only 811 voting delegates are expected at the PDP convention, they include 774 national delegates (1 Per LGA and 37 special delegates (People with disability from each of the 36 states and FCT).
There is an aggregate of 186 national delegates in the Northwest and Tambuwal is the only candidate presented by the region. Firstly, there is no gainsaying that he (Tambuwal) will clear all the delegates’ votes in Sokoto. In Kano, Tambuwal has also become a favourite leader following the exit of a former governor of the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso in PDP. Jigawa, is controlled by Tambuwal’s ally, former governor, Sule Lamido who has seized the territory for his friend.
Tambuwal is also a force to reckon with in Katsina, although Wike’s man, Senator Garba Lado is also doing his best to get some votes. Tambuwal’s train is also strongly stationed in Kaduna and Kebbi but Atiku and Saraki will give him a fight here. In Zamafara, General Aliyu Gusau is supporting Saraki, however, Tambuwal and can’t be written off in the state.
A PDP chieftain in the region muted that power brokers are open to supporting a northern consensus candidate and Tambuwal, it was said stands a higher chance than Atiku as he is seen as very accessible and also enjoys the home advantage factor in this zone.
More impressively, Tambuwal isn’t that far from taking a win as other contenders will only jostle for leftover votes in other regions and he (Tambuwal) is still part of the party. Wike will be struggling at his own home front in South-South, and might not be able to pick more than Rivers and Cross Rivers. In North-East, Atiku has Tambuwal, Saraki and Wike to fiercely contend with. In North-Central, Saraki though will win his state may have to still battle for survival as Tambuwal, Wike, Atiku also take their own share. In the South-East, Wike will have an edge since he is working with some governors but besides the fact that votes here is not as sizeable as in other regions, Tambuwal still stands strong with the support he is getting from the former governor of Imo State Emeka Ihedioha.
Power brokers, stakeholders in the North are backing Tambuwal
With the defeat of the southern presidency agenda which paved way for an open contest for the PDP’s ticket, most power brokers in the northern part of Nigeria are settling for a candidate who is reasonable and not so difficult to relate with – Tambwual mien puts him miles above a high-and-mighty Atiku in this stance.
Only recently, when the gruesome murder of a defenceless student, Deborah of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto by her irate schoolmates had troubled Sokoto State and many had feared the tension escalate and spread to other states, however, it was Tambuwal’s responsiveness, liberality and willingness to work with others that saved the day and by a large extension doused the wake of a likely religious tension in the country.
From his days as Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2011 to 2015, he has continued to build bridges. Close and confidential sources around the Sokoto Governor describe him as one of the most down-to-earth politicians, meeting people on their own terms and engaging with them in a manner like never before. He takes his politics personal and is keen on maintaining quality conversations with people around him, never taking decisions on his own, which is why he had a balanced House of Representatives as Speaker, giving key positions to members of the House in an equitable manner. He also carried everyone along and made sure that consultation was the theme of the day before taking any critical decision.
Still, it’s worth emphasizing that it might be just a few days away from the d-day but in politics, there’s an incredibly wide range of results that are within the margin of error.