Three ‘Waziris’ clash amid PDP’s spirited presidential primary

Bukola Saraki

Any of these men could emerge as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the party’s spirited primary tomorrow in Port Harcourt, Rivers State: Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, David Mark, Kabiru Turaki, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo and Sule Lamido.

However, out of those nine aspirants, a short list of seven could be said to be in hot contention. Atiku, Saraki, Makarfi, Mark, Tambuwal, Turaki and Dankwambo have certain advantages propping up their quest to fly the PDP flag in next year’s presidential election.

Yet, analysts conclude that the real battle is among the three Waziris in the contest.

As such, unless there is a major upset, a Waziri would end up as the standard bearer of the main opposition party to slug it out on February 16, 2019 with President Muhammadu Buhari and other presidential challengers.

Atiku Abubakar

There are certain considerations, which make Atiku stand out. In the 1991 transition to civil rule programme engineered by the then military president, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Atiku aspired to be president, selling his candidacy as the bridge across the various geopolitical divides of the country.

Within the space of 27 years after that initial quest, the Adamawa-born former customs officer has matured in political experience and exposure.

In 1998 when he won the election to become governor of Adamawa State, posterity catapulted him to the presidency where he served for eight years as vice president.

Playing great political and governance roles at Nigeria’s return to the path of constitutional democracy after a long military intervention, Atiku has built friendships and influenced the political progression of many Nigerians.

He is known to have assisted many governors, legislators and even the current president to prosecute their electoral challenges.

He is the second vice president, after the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme, to seek PDP’s presidential ticket.

Having denied Ekwueme the ticket on two occasions, PDP delegates might consider the fourth republic vice president as a form of political restitution to rebuild the democratic credential of the oldest political party in this dispensation.

He is the Waziri of Adamawa. Atiku’s highpoint is said to be ability to groom future leaders.

At a time when the country is clamouring for more youth involvement in politics and policy formulation cum implementation, Atiku comes across today as a strong bridge between yesterday and tomorrow.

He would make a good transition president to move leadership from the old brigade to the leaders-of-tomorrow!

Atiku has through concerted efforts and social engagements tried to simplify the idea of systemic restructuring of the country via devolution of powers and management of the resources of the country, thereby dispelling the apprehension that a restructured Nigeria puts the north at economic and political disequilibrium.

There is a sense in which this national dialogue redounds to Atiku’s political advantage.

The understanding among Middle Belt or North Central, Southeast and Southwest is a recent manifestation most likely to redefine the nation’s electoral map.

Among the half dozen, it is only the former vice president that would not get to the presidency as a first-time visitor or rookie.

If therefore there is anything like political gratuity, especially given the rainbow membership of his nomination committee, the odds could pile in Atiku’s favour at the Port Harcourt convention.

Dr. Bukola Saraki

IF there is any former member of the nPDP without a hangover of defection while in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), it was Senator Bukola Saraki.

He is about the only presidential aspirant that was born into a second republic political family. Saraki understands the power game.

Transitioning from the chairmanship of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), which he transformed to a unique and potent political force to the membership of the Nigerian senate after his eight years as governor of north central state of Kwara, Saraki bided his time.

After the first four years in the Senate, he moved in response to the northern sentiment of return of presidential power to the north, into the newly formed APC.

Riding on the crest of the slim majority, which the APC enjoyed, and falling back on the friendship and understanding that he built among members of the new opposition party, Saraki emerged as the President of Nigeria’s eighth Senate.

As Senate President, within the past three years Saraki has worked himself into national political reckoning, worming himself into the hearts of lovers of democracy and at the same time becoming the demon of the new dispensational leaders, who saw him as a stumbling block to their political schemes and betrayer of the change agenda.

Were he made of a weaker stuff; Saraki would have gone down in the many small political battles he continued to wage against entrenched political forces.

At each political challenge thrown unto his path, he jumped and moved on as if nothing happened, smiling good-naturedly as he maintained eerie equipoise.

It is the combination of his temptations, trials and triumphs that have made him a force to reckon with in the current contest for PDP’s presidential ticket. It is not his first. In the build-up to the 2011 general election, Saraki signaled his intention to be president of Nigeria.

In the search for a consensus northern candidate to confront the minority president created by a doctrine of necessity at the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Saraki was compelled to save his dance for another time as Atiku was picked.

In 2015, the Senate President declared that he had to forego his presidential ambition out of deference for President Muhammadu Buhari. Yet, somehow, Saraki was among the three nPDP politicians, whose presence in the APC was said to have made Buhari very uncomfortable.

Saraki is the Waziri of Ilorin, an inheritance from his father.

Being the President of Senate, the second person in Nigeria’s political leadership protocol, as well as being the leader of the main opposition party, Saraki could weave his political capital, including his maternal roots in the Southwest, to clinch the party’s presidential ticket.

Southwest is crucial to the making of Nigeria’s next president and among the over a dozen PDP presidential aspirants, only Atiku and Saraki have durable claim to Southwest votes: Atiku by marriage and long-time political association and Saraki through kinship and political affiliation as well.

The fact that Saraki continues to enjoy the confidence, goodwill and support of the majority of the members of the eighth Senate and the strong home base of his political family in Kwara, added to the understanding of most former NGF members, shows that he can pull a surprise at the Port Harcourt convention.

Only the Waziri of Ilorin that has the full complement of experience in the legislature and executive arms, having been a two-term governor and serving a second term in the upper legislative chamber.

Add to that he is young and connects with the various ethnic groups and geopolitical zones in the country.

Aminu Waziri Tambuwal

Governor Tambuwal is perceived in some circles as a possible surprise candidate to emerge from the PDP presidential primary due to a perceived understanding among state governors in the party brokered by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.

Tambuwal’s ascendance from the position of Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives was dramatic.

He had to disguise himself in a suit to attend the plenary and emerge Speaker after breaching the PDP zoning arrangement that favoured the Southwest.

In like manner, he had to defect at the tail end of his tenure to the APC from which platform he won the governorship seat of Sokoto State. Serving as a federal legislator for eight years enabled Tambuwal to play at the national level, particularly the four years as Speaker.

Coming back to PDP for Tambuwal seemed to be impelled by circumstances based on allegations that he schemed to be running mate to Prof. Yemi Osinbajo during the prolonged absence of President Muhammadu Buhari on medical tourism in London.

His emigration from PDP in 2014 alongside the then governor Aliu Magatakarda Wamako depleted the party’s strength in Sokoto.

But, on his return to PDP, the Senator Wamako train decided to remain behind in APC, thus robbing Tambuwal who is campaigning to be president on the promise of being a digital president and generational shift in leadership.

Ahmed Makarfi

SENATOR Ahmed Makarfi’s stint as the chairman of PDP national caretaker committee, revealed his level-headedness and team spirit.

It is the fund of national goodwill, which he generated during those heady days of the party that puts the former two-term Kaduna State governor into reckoning.

If the delegates to the PDP presidential primary would focus their search on a democrat, Makarfi would engage their serious consideration.

Just recently the former governor declined from anointing a preferred gubernatorial candidate for the Kaduna State chapter of the party when he was invited to do so.

Coming from Kaduna, which is somehow seen as the shadow political capital city of Nigeria, Makarfi’s efforts at peace building, which were largely displayed during his days as governor adds to his strong points.

His politics do not threaten the elites neither does his carriage and comportment disconnect him from the masses.

A product of Federal Government College, Enugu, the benefits of friendships forged across the various parts of the country in the unity school system could be harvested to shore up his vote haul, in addition to his former colleagues at the senate, who are part of the statutory delegates.

David Mark

He is the ‘Mack’ of Nigeria politics: Strong, resilient and determined. Yet simple and friendly!

The ageless Senator David Bonaventure Alechenu Mark has been a strong participant at different epochs in Nigeria.

His military background merges with his role-play in civilian regimes, such that he is seen as a leader of all times.

Aspiring for the presidency at a time of Middle Belt political insurrection against northern marginalisation, Mark’s detribalised carriage and military background recommend him highly to reap from a possible leadership transition.

Mark’s entry into the presidential race seems to diminish the aspiration of his colleague and former governor of Plateau State, Senator Jonah Jang.

Propelled by his military postings, Mark has lived in various parts of the country, which helped to bestow on him the pan-Nigeria image that could rebound in his vote tally at the presidential primary.

Mark changed the narrative of the Nigeria Senate, infusing the institution with stability and decorum after a spate of tempestuous relationship with the executive arm.

He would harvest the positive consideration of former Senate colleagues and above all Middle Belters who seek a strong leadership to arrest the pillaging and killings in the zone.

Mark’s candidacy also brings to the fore the agitation of northern minorities to be considered and supported for the leadership of the country.

It would be seen at the Port Harcourt PDP presidential primary who, between Saraki and Mark, would be the biggest beneficiary of the Middle Belt and Southern leaders’ political collaboration.

Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (SAN)

The sentiment within PDP is that the party needs a lawyer to knit Nigeria together on the rule of law and social harmony.

Turaki served as the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs in the immediate past administration.

Although some people complain that having not served as governor or elected to the Senate reduces KTT’s chances, his leadership of the guild of former ministers is a source of strength.

He believes that his “unassailable integrity, honesty, bridge-building capacity, diplomacy, competence and exemplary public and private track record place him at a serious advantage.’

Also the frontline presidential aspirant said he should be rewarded for his unalloyed service to the party, stressing that he stood by the party, during the trying times and prolonged litigation over the authentic leadership of PDP.

Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo

Governor Dankwambo was considered as an underdog in the PDP presidential contest. His track record of achievements as Governor of Gombe was said to have recommended highly to some eminent leaders who considered him as the best bridge to transfer leadership to the next generation.

However, the return of former PDP playmakers as well as the defection of his allies to the APC altered the calculations.

It was reported that some notable political figures in Northeast geopolitical prevailed on the former Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) to lower his campaigns in deference to the aspiration of the former vice president.

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