By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s victory in the People’s Democratic Party, PDP presidential primaries, has forced the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC back to the drawing board, The Source has been informed. Reliable party sources confided in the Magazine that APC strategists will, in the coming days; step up mudslinging of the PDP and its presidential candidate. According to one of the sources, APC’s fervent prayer was for Atiku not to win the PDP ticket. The source: “The party is quite aware that Atiku is the only one among the PDP aspirants capable of dislodging president Buhari from office next year…we are going to lay Atiku and PDP’s sins before Nigerians, but we are equally going back to the drawing board to fashion out more potent means of stopping him, his victory is bad for the APC”.
With 1,532 votes, Atiku’s dusted 12 other fellow aspirants to pick the PDP ticket. Governor Tambuwal came second with 693 votes, Senate President, Dr.Bukola Saraki is third with 317 votes. Senator Rabiu Kwakwaso scored 158 votes, Gombe state Governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwanbo got 111 votes, Sule Lamido 96 votes, Ahmed Makarfi 74 votes, Saminu Turaki 65votes, Attahiru Bafarawa 48 votes, David Mark 35 votes, Senator Jonah Jang, 19 votes and Datti Ahmed 5 votes.
The keenly contested primaries which held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, began on Saturday, October 6 and was concluded at some minutes past 1pm Sunday 7th October, 2018, about 11 hours to the end of INEC’s deadline for the submission of candidates’ names for the various elective offices by parties. Atiku’s victory confirms his camp’s emphatic declaration that he would carry the day in Port Harcourt. His loyalists had spoken to The Source few hours to the commencement of the convention, saying their principal would spring surprises at the end of the exercise.
Bookmakers had tipped Sokoto state governor and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal for the PDP presidential ticket as virtually all governors of the party were said to be supporting him. However, this magazine has learnt that political intrigues, critical permutations and stark political realities, were to dramatically tilt the contest to Atiku’s favour hours before the exercise commenced. Other sources who were at the convention and who followed Atiku’s campaign for the PDP ticket disagree. They insist the former VP’s sterling qualities and his unassailable edge over the rest of the aspirants got him victory.
Political analysts are of the view that delegates to the PDP convention took into cognizance the fact that Atiku has name recognition – his name easily connects among the generality of Nigerians across religious and ethnic strata. The delegates, according to analysts must have reasoned that a candidate that can uproot APC and Buhari from office must be one with a national outlook and deep war chest.
To many delegates, Atiku fits perfectly into the above description. His supporters told the magazine that apart from being detribalized, the PDP presidential candidate is also urbane. According to them, his cosmopolitan nature ensures that he has friends across culture, religion and even parties, in addition to being a creator of wealth, employer of labour and promoter of quality education.
The American University of Nigeria which he established in his native Adamawa state with auxiliary nursery, primary and secondary schools stands out as one of the elegant testimonies of Atiku’s contributions to the education sector. Many also point to INTEL, one of his companies employing hundreds of Nigerians with most top directors from the Southern part of the country as evidence of his job creation and pan-Nigerian traits.
While other contestants started the restructuring sing-song after they had declared their presidential ambitions, many pro-structuring advocates regard such promises as afterthought and halfhearted, Atiku had long before he returned to the PDP, been canvassing for the restructuring of Nigeria. Analysts, therefore, believe the former VP’s strong views on the issue of the restructuring of the country swayed Southern and Middle Belt delegates to cast their votes for him.
In his acceptance speech, Atiku praised Delta state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa who was the convention committee chairman for organising what he described as the freest, fairest and most democratic presidential primaries ever witnessed in Nigeria. The PDP presidential candidate thanked the delegates for choosing him and appealed for the closing of ranks to wrestle power from the APC next year. He also reached out to his estranged former boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, eulogizing him. According to Atiku, he learnt under the tutelage of the former leader, saying without Obasanjo, he wouldn’t have made any success in the political arena.
Unlike past PDP presidential primaries, the event in Port Harcourt was rancor free prompting all the aspirants to openly pledge to work for the election of Atiku as the next president. Dr. Saraki who spoke for the defeated aspirants said they were all ready to go to the field for Atiku.
Born 71 years ago, Atiku, a former Customs officer who was vice president under Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007, has a long history with the chase for presidential tickets and the presidency itself, spanning over 25 years. In the 1993 Jos convention of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP, he came third behind Babagana Kingibe for the party’s presidential ticket. Atiku became the beautiful bride in the ensuing run-off between the eventual winner, the late MKO Abiola and Kingibe. Abiola was to win the ticket after Atiku stood down from the race and asked his supporters to cast their votes for him.
As a sitting Vice President, Atiku in 2007, broke ranks with his boss, Obasanjo and the PDP to vie for the presidency on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, AC, losing to the PDP candidate, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. In 2014, he squared up against Buhari for the APC presidential ticket and lost, coming a humiliating third behind the then Kano State Governor, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso who incidentally was also his opponent in the just concluded PDP Port Harcourt convention.
With the PDP presidential ticket in Atiku’s kitty, the party and its presidential candidate are now saddled with selecting a suitable Vice presidential candidate. Behind the scenes maneuvers by certain interests in the South west to have the position zoned to the region notwithstanding, multiple party sources told this Magazine that the PDP has settled for the South east for the VP slot. “What is now being considered is between the trio of former Governor of Anambra state, Peter Obi, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala who is the most suitable to run with our presidential candidate”, one of the sources told The Source .
Another source was emphatic that former governor Obi has since been penciled down by Atiku as his running mate: “What attracted His Excellency to Obi was the former governor’s sterling performance while in office, especially his shrewd management of financial resources. I can confidently tell you that Peter Obi is Atiku’s running mate”, he said.
If former Governor Obi eventually emerges Atiku’s running mate, that will be the second time he would pair with an “Obi” in his quest for the presidency. In 2007, Atiku picked Senator Ben Obi, also from Anambra state, as his running mate under the AC platform.