By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
Barring an 11th hour reconsideration and recalculations, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will be nominated by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP as its standard flag bearer for the 2019 presidential election.
Atiku, a founding member of the PDP returned to the party last November after a sojourn in the All Progressives Congress, APC where he squared up against President Muhammadu Buhari for the party’s 2015 presidential ticket.
Multiple PDP sources who spoke to The source individually on Atiku’s chances confirmed the party has narrowed its search for a candidate strong enough to defeat president Buhari to three persons with Atiku coming tops.
One of the sources was emphatic that the PDP is now saddle with task of selecting a running mate for the former VP as the party has settled for him for the presidential ticket.
The party is considering former Anambra state governor, Peter Obi, former Ogun state governor, Gbenga Daniel, immediate past governor of Akwa Ibom state and Senate Minority leader,Senator Godswill Akpabio, outgoing Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose and Deputy Senate, Professor President,Ike Ekweremadu as Atiku’s running mate.
Atiku, the source, revealed, will most likely emerge as CUPP/PDP’s candidate through a consensus arrangement as talks to this effect are ongoing with other PDP presidential aspirants and stakeholders in the newly formed Coalition of United Political Parties,CUPP, a coalition over 30 parties, including the PDP put in place recently as a united platform to wrestle power from the APC and President Buhari next year.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state gave credence to the consensus arrangement recently while receiving one of the PDP presidential aspirants, Taminu Kabiru.He told the visiting presidential hopeful that since the party has zoned its presidential ticket to the North, the region should present a consensus candidate.
Ironically, Wike, the magazine was informed, hitherto did not buy the Atiku candidature. The Rivers state governor until recently was rooting for Sokoto state governor, Aminu Tambuwal for the ticket. This Magazine learnt that Wike has now seen reason to support the former VP’s candidature. Similarly former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is driving the anti-Buhari/APC coalition has reportedly soft-pedaled in his misgivings about Atiku’s candidature and eventual presidency. The change of hearts came about, according coalition insiders, when it dawned on the stakeholders after a careful study, that among all the PDP presidential aspirants angling for the party’s ticket, Atiku has overwhelming edge over the rest and is in a good stead to defeat the incumbent.
Apart from Atiku and Kabiru, the immediate past governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido, former Sokoto state governor,Attahiru Bafarawa and former governor of Cross River state Donald Duke have all announced their intentions to grab the ticket. Though officially still members of the APC, Sokoto state Aminu Tambuwal, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwamkwaso-all former PDP bigwigs before crossing over to APC in 2013-are also reportedly eyeing the PDP presidential ticket.
A member of PDP’s National Working Committee,NWC who spoke to the magazine on the condition of anonymity said in picking its presidential candidate, one of the criterion the party will consider is country-wide reach and acceptance, as well as deep knowledge of the dynamics of Nigeria’s delicate multi-ethnic and religious setting.The PDP bigwig say Atiku meets the attributes of the quality of presidential candidate party will field in 2019.
Essentially, apart from deep pocket and war chest to run a successful presidential campaign, one of Atiku’s edge of the rest of PDP presidential aspirants is name recognition. Unlike his fellow aspirants, the name ‘Atiku’ is easily associated with the Vice presidency of Nigeria, a position he held from 1999 t0 2007 under Obasanjo.Atiku also resonate loudly with the American University of Nigeria,INTEL and host of other business concerns linked to him.The import of this is that there is no part of Nigeria where the name Atiku Abubak is a strange to people.
Analysts postulate that the former number two citizen is urbane, liberal, can boast of country-wide reach, influence and friends across religious and ethnic divides.These attributes, they say, stand him shoulder high above other aspirants and even the incumbent President, Buhari.
Besides being a job and wealth creator on the account of ownership many income generating businesses, Atiku is also detribalized. He has a Yoruba and Igbo wives and easily blend in the gathering of non Northerners and Moslems.Most of his businesses are also sited in the Southern part of the country with Southerners holding key positions. The former VP’s supporters say he loves education and believes that no Nigerian child should be denied the benefits of quality education hence his establishment of Nursery, primary and secondary schools in addition to the American University of Nigeria.
With Atiku’s candidature virtually wrapped, The source has reliably gathered that in the coming days, the PDP/ CUPP stakeholders will be engaging in intense consultations to decide who pairs with Atiku as running mate. Though there is a strong push by South west bloc in both the PDP/CUPP for a Yoruba running mate to counter balance APC/Buhari’s likely re-monination of Professor Yemi Osinbajo as VP running mate even when the coalition has penciled down the South west for the Speaker of House of Representatives, majority of members of CUPP and good number of PDP stakeholders are rooting for the South east for the VP slot.Insiders told The Source that impressed by his sterling performance as Anambra Governor, Obi is widely favoured by pro-South east CUPP/ PDP chieftains to clinch the VP ticket.
Keen followers of the unfolding PDP/CUPP drive to oust Buhari next year posit that Fayose and Gbenga Daniel’s ambitions for the VP job have been severely abbreviated by two factors: For Fayose, the defeat of his candidate in the just concluded Ekiti gubernatorial election; and Daniel, his present position as the Director General of the Atiku Campaign organization.
Stakeholders say Professor Ekweremadu and Akpabio are strong voices in the Senate who the Coalition will need in the National Assembly to drive its policies.There are feelers that the two distinguished Senators are being prevailed upon to drop their VP ambitions and rather return to the Senate with the likelihood of Akpabio emerging Senate Leader.
Just like Atiku who has been described as the most prepared presidential hopeful in Nigeria, political analyst are of the view that Obi is the most prepared for the any higher political office, the VP job inclusive after his eventful tour of duty as Anambra governor.
Even out of office, Obi is still involved in human capital development efforts, dedicating himself to helping lift the quality of education by making donations running into millions of Naira to dilapidated schools and indigent students, especially in the rural areas. Initially, the former governor concentrated his education oriented philanthropy to the South east but he has since widened the scope to include schools and indigent students across the country. Recently, he visited schools in Sokoto where he gave out cheques for renovation of dilapidated ones in the state.
Political watchers say Obi’s keen intervention in the education sector across the country even as a private citizen has a political undertone. The magazine learnt that with sight set at the presidency or the Vice presidency, Obi’s country wide school interventions are geared towards stamping his feet across Nigeria as a detribalized Nigerian, urbane and pan-Nigerian enough to be entrusted with a higher national office.
His numerous liaison with high profile political office holders in Europe and United States, and fraternity with foreign diplomats, captains of industry, corporate bodies and Non –governmental organizations are also deliberate moves to make him visible in the international community preparatory to vying for a higher office after eight years as governor.
Meanwhile, political analysts say CUPP will be in a better position to dislodge the APC and President Buhari from power next year if the coalition coalesces into a single party rather than individual parties in the coalition adopting a single presidential candidate while still maintain their separate identities.