2023: Atiku, Wike in tight race for PDP ticket

2023: Atiku, Wike in tight race for PDP ticket

After months of rigorous campaign, the 14 aspirants jostling for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s election will submit themselves for assessment today in Abuja.

Their fate will be determined by 811 ad hoc delegates of the party. A total 774 delegates, one per local government area, were elected at the local government congresses of the party weeks ago.

The 37 others, who are people with disability, were nominated by the state chapters and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Each state nominated a delegate in this category.

The party said last night that it would go ahead with today’s primaries regardless of the six-day grace granted all the parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct their shadow elections.

The ruling  All Progressives Congress (APC) last night decided to take  advantage of the window of opportunity offered by INEC by shifting its presidential primaries from tomorrow, May 29 to Monday , June 6 – Wednesday, June 8.

Barring any last minute withdrawal, the PDP aspirants contesting  today’s primary election are ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar; a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State;  a former  governor  of Ekiti State,  Ayo Fayose; and the only female aspirant, Teriela Oliver.

Others are Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); Bala Mohammed (Bauchi); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); and an investment banker and economist, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen.

Also in the race are a former Senate President, Pius Anyim; ex-President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa; the Publisher Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu; Charles Ugwu and Chikwendu Kalu.

All the aspirants were locked in marathon strategic meetings last night to earn more confidence and votes of delegates who have arrived in Abuja since Wednesday.

Determined to win, Atiku spent yesterday making calls to more than 80 per cent of the delegates with a plea to give him another chance.

Findings showed that seven factors have shaped the PDP presidential turf. They are:

Zoning formula which PDP left open

North-South dichotomy, especially agitation for power shift to the South

Incumbency factor of PDP governors

Old and new political alliances

Political relevance after 2023 polls

Huge war chest by some of the aspirants

OBI’S EXIT AND THE SOUTH-EAST

Although a source close to one of the aspirants claimed last night that the voting “algorithms change by the minute”, investigation by The Nation indicated that the race was neck and neck between Atiku and Wike. Saraki  may come  third if the equation at press time this morning remains unchanged before voting.

Other aspirants, findings showed, were struggling within their political territories.

An insider said: “The controversies that led to the sack of the erstwhile National Working Committee of the party, the installation of new national officials for the party led by Senator Iyorchia 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 today.

“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 the ticket of the PDP today and, barring all odds, one of them will be announced winner at the end of the convention.

“Against all previous projections, the race for the PDP presidential ticket is essentially a two-horse 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 Atiku and Wike.

“Between them, however, Atiku may have the upper hand. Other aspirants that are poised to pull surprises at the convention include Saraki and  Tambuwal.”

WHY PARTY THREW ZONING OPEN

Giving an insight yesterday into why the party threw its zoning policy open, a top official of the PDP said: “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, we are here to win elections; that is our primary purpose, of course. Where and how to allocate positions are not as important to a political party as who can win an election for the party.

“This is the enlightened self- interest of the PDP as at today. It is the reason why the leadership of the party did not yield to the clamour for zoning and that same interest will determine the outcome of our convention on Saturday (today).”

EXIT OF PETER OBI

Findings confirmed that the exit of Obi from the race has left the South-East open with Atiku and Wike slugging it out as the top contenders in the zone.

It was learnt that Wike’s campaign in the South-East was a “deliberate move to gain from Obi’s exit.”

But it was gathered that till Obi left PDP, he maintained a ‘cozy’ relationship with Atiku.

Another source said: “Wike has openly declared war on the Igbo race. There was a thinking before Obi exited the race that Igbo delegates would vote for him en masse. But for reasons best known to him, he has left the race and we are left with no other choice than to listen to aspirants from the North. I mean I will prefer someone like Atiku over southerners like Wike or Anyim (former Senate President from Ebonyi State).”

Checks showed that the scenarios differ from state to state following the conclusion of governorship primaries.

We’re set for presidential primaries – PDP

The PDP confirmed last night that it would go ahead with its presidential primaries today as scheduled.

Chairman of the PDP National Convention Organising Committee (NCOC), Senator David Mark, said in Abuja that arrangements had been made for a hitch free conduct of the primaries.

Mark, in a statement through his spokesman, Paul Mumeh, said: “We are prepared for the exercise; virtually all our delegates have arrived in Abuja.”

The PDP, according to him, will not deviate from its track record of conducting peaceful congresses and conventions over the years.

Mark who was addressing members of the committee asked them to brace up to the challenges to ensure a credible exercise, saying they must be absolutely transparent.

“If you have any interest or bias for any of the aspirants, you can excuse yourself from this assignment”, he was quoted to have said.