With last Wednesday’s Supreme Court judgment, which drew the curtains on the 2019 presidential election, stakeholders in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have returned to the political chessboard to begin strategizing ahead of the 2023 presidential election. Huhuonline.com has learnt that the PDP is considering repeating the joint Northeast/Southeast presidential ticket model of the 2019 general election.
Although PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan addressed a news conference on Sunday in Abuja, where he dismissed media reports of the zoning arrangement as mere speculation, sources told Huhuonline.com that the idea of relaxing the party’s zoning law for the Northeast and Southeast came as a result of the new graph-plotting by the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), which is reportedly mulling the zoning of its 2023 ticket to the Southwest and Northeast. The case for the Northeast and Southeast is sustained by the clamor for a Southeast presidency by Southern and Middle-Belt leaders, who argue that equity demands that after eight years of Buhari, the presidency should revert to the two geo-political zones which have not produced the President of the country, either as an elected civilian or military head of state.
The idea, it was further gathered, was mooted to give a sense of belonging to both zones as there is the likelihood that the APC might zone its presidential ticket to either the Southwest or Northeast or allow it to remain fluid as a free for all challenge. To which end, the daggers are already out between supporters of APC national leaders, Senator Bola Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; even as the PDP tries to navigate the delicate balance of which zone the president will come from between the Northeast and the Southeast.
According to a top PDP source, the party has adopted a pragmatic approach which makes it more disposed to the president emerging from the Northeast, while the Southeast will produce the vice-president. “An official position on this has not been taken but it will not be far from what I have said. There is the likelihood the PDP presidential candidate will come from the Northeast. This delicate option would be used to assuage tension among some northerners who argue that after a combined 14 years of Obasanjo and Jonathan, it was just fair that the north should produce the next president to balance out the 10 years of Yar’Adua and Buhari administrations,” the source noted.
If the presidency is zoned to the Northeast, the most likely choice will be Ibrahim Dankwambo, former two time governor of Gombe State, who floated a presidential run in 2019 but stood down his ambition after it became evident that the PDP preferred Atiku Abubakar who had the financial resources and deep pockets to personally finance his own campaign. Clearly ahead of the jostle in terms of positioning, Dankwambo started the race for 2023 long ago, when after he gave up on his presidential interest in 2019. He already has a presidential campaign organization that only needs reactivation. Dankwambo makes his case that as an Accountant-General of the Federation under three presidents, he has acquired experience and he has “practicable solutions” to the problems confronting Nigeria.
Unlike the situation in the Northeast, the caliber of aspirants from the Southeast, who analysts say, have positioned themselves strategically for the run has become a source of headache which is already dividing the party. A PDP source told Huhuonline.com that even before the Supreme Court verdict that dismissed Atiku’s petitions, most of the political gladiators knew it would happen; and had sheathed their presidential ambition, waiting for the verdict to come as it did.
The PDP source also disclosed that if the vice-president’s slot is zoned to the Southeast, the battle will be between former Anambra governor and 2019 vice-presidential candidate, Peter Obi and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike. “The party is divided into two noticeable camps: the second term governors’ camp and the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s camp. The two camps are fighting deadly and bitter over the control of the party’s machinery.
“There is a fierce battle over the control of the party machinery between Wike and other governors, otherwise known as the second term governors of the party in Sokoto, Benue, Taraba, Ebonyi, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Enugu and Delta. It is a fact that Wike almost single-handedly installed the present national chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus. This is evident to any keen observer, where the leadership of the PDP belongs. Although all of them belong to the second term group, they are up in arms against their colleague from Rivers, ostensibly because of the 2023 elections,” the source added.
The source explained that the battle lines were drawn after other second term governors backed Ndudi Elumelu, who defeated Kingsley Chinda, the PDP’s chosen candidate backed by Wike; to emerge as House minority leader.
Huhuonline.com gathered from sources close to Wike that the governor believes that a PDP ticket led by a candidate from the Northeast will not fly in the seven hugely populated Northwest States of Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto; in a likely scenario where Kaduna governor and APC chieftain, Nasir El-Rufai will be on the 2023 APC ticket. The source said Wike envisages a Northwest –Southeast ticket, in which he, Wike, would be running mate to former House Speaker and second term Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal who lost the 2019 primary ticket to Atiku Abubakar at the PDP Port Harcourt convention. The standing view is that Wike, who was one of the main supporters of the presidential aspiration of Tambuwal, would likely support him again. That is the essence of the perceived plot by Wike to control the party machinery.
But another PDP source confided to Huhuonline.com that Atiku is playing his 2023 cards very close to his chest and he might still show interest in the 2023 race. But if he doesn’t; and if the presidency is zoned to the Northeast, the first term PDP governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, who is said to be interested in the 2023 election “if Atiku is not contesting” will be the outsider candidate, who can give Dankwambo a run for his money. If anything, the source noted Mohammed is certain to inherit the political structures of the Turaki, Atiku Abubakar; if he would not contest.
Within PDP circles, Mohammed is being prevailed upon by some former governors, most notably, former Edo governor, Lucky Igbinedion, who believe that the APC won the presidential election because of the personality of President Buhari and his Almajiri supporters. But come 2023, Buhari would not be on the ticket, having served out his constitutional two terms. Without the personality of Buhari, anyone put forward by the APC or any other party would be defeated by the PDP. So, in the permutations of the PDP, attention would be on anyone that has money to finance his campaign as Atiku did in 2019.
This is what the PDP will be looking out for in 2023 and why Atiku still stands a good chance considering his performance against incumbent Buhari in the 2019 election despite the lacklustre support from PDP governors, particularly Southeast governors, who spent their time negotiating backroom deals with the APC instead of campaigning for Atiku. But some reckoned that age would be a major determinant between Atiku and other aspirants. The former vice president will be 77 years old in 2023 and his close associates are telling him that it is over and that he should take up an advisory role in politics.