2019: Tension in PDP over presidential ticket

Delegates to the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have started converging on Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital for the all-important national convention that would produce
the party’s presidential candidate for the February 2019 general election.

The delegates are arriving Port Harcourt amidst tense moments that has gripped the camps of the Presidential hopefuls as well as the delegates.

At least five of the one dozen aspirants have been identified as swing characters in the race for the most important presidential ticket outside the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

They include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; former Governor of Kano state, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso and a former Governor of Kaduna state, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. Though there are a dozen aspirants out there, the race is threatening a three-horse race and at best a five-horse race.

Other aspirants on the ticket include former Senate President, David Mark, former Governor of Plateau state, Jonah Jang; former Governor of Jigawa state; Sule Lamido, former Sokoto state Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; Businessman and founder of Abuja-based Baze University, who was also a former member of the House of Representatives, DattiBaba-Ahmed; Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dakwambo and a former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki, SAN.

The long list of aspirants is an issue in the PDP, since it hadalways adopted what is called the “family affair.” Before now, itscandidates have always been a fraction. Even when there were many indicating interest in one position, its weeding process proved to be effective most of the times. The loss of power might however have changed things as it was unable to clearly weed the long list of aspirants at its national convention of December last year.

The tense moments are being fuelled by indications that the host Governor, Nyesom Wike is strongly supporting Tambuwal as the preferred candidate. Other governors of the party are however largely divided along the lines. There are those supporting Atiku, some are backing Saraki and some Kwakwanso and Makarfi.

There are 13 governors on the ticket of the party and two of them are in contention for the presidential ticket.

With lack of unanimity among the governors and members of the Board of Trustees, the ticket could go the way of any of the trio of Atiku, Saraki and Tambuwal.

National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan said on Friday that the party has addressed all sources of tension among aspirants by ensuring that each aspirant would nominate two associates to the screening and accreditation committee as well as electoral
committee.

The fact that the delegates from states without governors of the PDP are more than the states with PDP control is giving much of the aspirants some concern as the delegates are out there to make their choices.

While the delegates appear to be basking in the euphoria of their freedom from what is seen as the overbearing influence of the Governors, the camp of the Governors under the auspices of the Governors Forum is however said to be seeking to ensure that the candidate endorsed by them emerges at the end of the day.

Sources in the camps of the key aspirants said that things are looking up for Atiku, Saraki and Tambuwal, while aspirants like Kwakwanso and Makarfi are said to be trailing as the delegates count per state heats up.

It appears that the states of the South West are being shared between Atiku and Saraki with Tambuwal trailing in the zone but that the states of the South South would be shared among Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal and Makarfi. States, such as Rivers and Edo may largey go with Tambuwal with Atiku having a strong showing in Bayelsa and Delta. Saraki is expected with good showing in Akwa-Ibom and Cross Rivers. Makarfi and Kwakwanso are however expected to pick fractions of votes in that zone.

The North central would be a straight fight between Saraki and David Mark, with Jang also picking votes from his home state, Plateau.

The battle is expected to be hot for North West and North East, the two zones that account for nine of the twelve aspirants, with each of the aspirants seeking to control his home state. The battle would be
fierce in Sokoto, which parades two aspirants as well as Kaduna with the same number. Kano is there for Kwakwanso which controls the structures, while Jigawa will also go the way of Lamido, same for
Kebbi with Tanimu Turaki, SAN.

The battle for delegates would however become more intense in the North East, with Atiku and Dakwambo slugging it out.

Party sources however said that a number of aspirants will step down before the actual voting commences on Saturday.
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