By Stephen Ubanna
The Opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, appear to be losing its public support despite the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, allegation of leaving the economy in a mess in its 16 years of ruling the country. Public support for the party had increased over the last three years of President Muhammadu Buhari led APC Administration because of the growing level of poverty and killings in different parts of the country.
Many had expected the party to take advantage of tBuhari growing unpopularity in the country, particular, the south , to have selected its Presidential Candidate for the 2019 general election.Bu the party has kept Nigerians waiting, fueling speculation that it is is not yet ready to take over the ledership of the country , thus leaving the coast clear for Buhari the APC, Candidate , who is seeking re-election.
Political analysts believe that if uche Secondus, the National Chairman of the party and the other National Working Committee, NWC, members of the party could read the mood of Nigerians, they would have known that Nigerians are anxious to know the likely flag bearer of the party ahead of its October 2018 national Convention the February 2019, Presidential election.
But sources told the Magazine that the party NWC, are not in a hurry to let the cat of the bag to avoid polarising the party ahead of the party Convention. This is because of the mistakes of 2015 which caused the party the loss of the Presidential election to Buhari, the then APC, Presidential Candidate. The party leadership may have given the Presidential Candidates a level playing ground to meet with stakeholders across the country to Campaign for support ahead of the party national Convention instead of throwing its support behind one Candidate . The Independent National Electoral Commission , INEC, was said to have given a deadline to all the registered political parties, including the APC, to submit the names of their Presidential Candidates on or before October 30, 2018.
For now, only the APC, may beat its chest of having a Presidential Candidate for the 2019 general election but the party leadership may not submitted Buhari, the party candidate’s name to the electoral umpire to beat the October 30, 2018, deadline,until after the party national Convention which would be a mere formality to endorse him. Buhari was said to have used the services of officials of the Department of State Security Services, DSS and Economic and Financial crime Commission, EFCC to force those considered a threat to him in APC to decamp.
Perhaps to accommodate the aggrieved alleged APC Chieftains who have Presidential ambition, the PDP leadership may have been dragging its foot over the choice of a Presidential Candidate. It was learnt that when it became obvious that Bukola Saraki. the Senate President and Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto state had concluded plan to quit the APC, the PDP, leadership sent foot soldiers to hasten them up to beat the party deadline of collecting the nomination form to contest the party Presidential primaries on October, 2019.It was gathered that Secondus, the party National Chairman and other party big wigs heaved a sigh of relief when the duo showed up at the party Secretariat at Abuja at different times to confirm their membership of the party .Eyewitness account disclosed that the party Secretariat was agog the day Saraki, the embattled Senate President showed up at the party national Secretariat as the Chairman hugged him with enthusiasm as though he has won the party Presidential ticket.
At the last count , no fewer than ten Presidential Candidates spread across three geo-political regions in the country including Saraki and Aminu Tambuwal, incumbent governor of Sokoto state have declared their interest to contest the 2019 election on the ticket of PDP. They were said to have been criss-crossing the country to meet delegates ahead of the party Convention. the latest entrant in the race was Jonah Jang, a retired Air Commodore and for governor of Plateau and who incidentally was also a Senator.
Prior toSaraki and Tanbuwal, joining the race, Abubakar Atikua, former Vice President, Seminu Turaki, a Lawyer and former governor of Zamfara state, Sule Lamido, a former governor of Jigawa state, Ahmed Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna state and a one- time Senator and interim Chairman of PDP, and Hassan Dankwabo, the incumbent governor of Gombe state, Ibrahim Shekarau, a former minister of Education, Rabiu Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano state,Attahiru Bafarawa, former governor of Sokoto state and Datti Baba Ahmed were the only known PDP stalwarts who had shown their interest to Contest the 2019 general election on the ticket of the party.
Makarfi and the other PDP Presidential Candidates may have known that Saraki and Tambuwal are not push over that they have resorted to Campaigns of calumny that the money would not play a party in selecting the party Presidential Candidate. They have also warned the party leadership of the dangers of supporting a Controversial Candidate at the party primaries, insisting that the north hold the key to who becomes the next President of Nigeria.
The PDP leadership may seen the danger ahead that it has resorted to pleading with the Candidates to discuss among themselves to pick one person that would be presented at the party Convention for endorsement.
Snippets from the Camp of the Presidential Candidates shows that no one is ready to step down for the other, insisting that anyone could win the party ticket at the Convention. Political analysts confirmed that in the last couple of months the PDP Presidential hopefuls had at different times visited former President Olusegun Obasanjo at his Otta farm residence and the Presidential Library at Abeokuta in Ogun state to hold consultations with him at different times. Saraki may have made difference as was said to have visited him at his Presidential Library at Abeokuata , in what analysts described as having a private audience with him devoid of distraction from political associates.
The PDP Presidential Candidates were said to have turned the Hill top home of Ibrahim Babangida, a former President at Minna, Niger state of a political Mecca of a sort. The only PDP Presidential Candidate who may still be finding it difficult to break into the ranks of the two elder statesmen , a source confirmed, was Atiku, a former Vice President. Former President Goodluck Jonathan may have known the implication to Atiku , the Turaki of A damawa winning the PDP primaries as he had advised him to still make efforts to reach out to Obasanjo. This is because Obasanjo, Bangida and the other retired Army Generals still hold the key on who becomes the next President of Nigeria.
Atiku may not have stopped trying to see Obasanjo but the former President may have closed his mind for him over undisclosed reason. ”God will never forgive me if I should support Atiku”, he had said. He may be responding to appeals by Atiku political associates in the south west geo-political region to forgive him of his offences while in office and support his Presidential stake.
The former President may be in a fix over Atiku because of his interest in the Candidature of Lamido and Saraki, who had worked closely with him in the past as minister and Adviser respectively while Babangia was said to have his support for Turaki because of his brilliant manifesto , considered a world class for the transformation of the country.
According to the source, the party NWC were not much interested about who emerges as the Presidential Candidate of the party but to ensure that both the winner and the losers work together to guarantee the party victory at the February 2019 Presidential polls.
It would be recalled that in winning the 2015 Presidential election, Buhari had visited the Otta farm residence of Obasanjio and the Hill top residence of Babandia in Minna to hold consultation with them and to seek their support.
He got it because of the then President Jonathan had lost face with them, particular, Obasanjo, who worked against him and the PDP. There are fears in both official and unofficial circleshat what befell former President Jonathan in 2015 may be the lot of Buhari in 2019 as the duo had turned their back on the ”old soldier”.
Although the PDP, Presidential Candidates and the party members in general may be going about with the impression that Buhari is a sick Presidential Candidate of APC and would be defeated at the polls with ease, they may have gotten it wrong, political observers posit. They claimed that he may have given them that false impression through his regular medical vacations to the United Kingdom, UK, in the last two years to see him as someone who do not have the strength to criss-cross the nooks and crannies of the country to Campaign for support.
His recent return after a ten – day medical vacation from UK and was able to trek 800 meters after a Jumat Prayer service at the Presidential Villa last Friday speaks volume. He may have sent a signal to the PDP and other parties Presidential Candidates that the battle line has been drawn on who becomes the next elected of Nigeria.
Party Chieftains fear that a repeat of what happened on the July 14, 2018, Ekiti state governorship election which produced Kayode Fayemi, a former minister of Steel and Solid Mineral Development and the APC governorship Candidate as the governor elect of the state despite allegations of ”official riggigging” .
They have a reason to worry. This is because Lawan Lawal Daura, a ”master planner” and former Director General, Department of State Security, DSS who was sacked, by Yemi Osinbajo, as an acting President,with the backing of Buhari, would affect the APC fortune in the 2019 general election may have to do a rethink. Buhari still want to use him in his security Committee for the 2019 general election to do that which only him could do: break all the security networks to weaken the activities of INEC officials during the election.
It was not surprising why Makarfi said the north, particular the north west hold the key to the 2019 general election. He is optimistic that the PDP Presidential Candidate would come from the north west geo-political region,Buhari’s political region to share the votes from the region with him. He has made it clear to those that care to listen that Buhari is a force to be reckoned in the region.
But secondus has assured Nigerians that they have no cause to worry as the PDP would present a presidential Candidate that would be acceptable to all Nigerians from all walks of life and not a sectional President.
Donald Trump, the United States President may have provided the ammunition for the PDP leadership to shop for a strong and credible Candidate to slug it out with Buhari , the APC, Candidate, described by Trumps , in one of his usual jokes about African leaders as being lifeless to cash in on it and act fast. The import of the statement was that Buhari was a weak Candidate and if PDP could present a strong and credible Candidate would beat him in the February 2019 Presidential election.
Already, Abudulsalami Abubakar, a retired General and former Head of STATE, has asked him to be prepared to concede defeat if he loses the 2019 Presidential election as former president Goodluck Jonathan did in 2015. This is an indication that there are every indices that he would lose the Presidential election to the Candidate of the Opposition PDP