BY OSCAR NWOGU
Datti Baba Ahmed, PHD, a consummate academic and founder of Base University Abuja believes that politics and academics are one and the same thing. And so he was among the early birds, if not the first that announced his presidential ambition for the 2019 general elections. Four months before the real battle started, the man mounted bill boards at strategic places nationwide and consistently placed advertorials in prominent national newspapers to announce his readiness for the presidential contest.
Today, Ahmed has taken the back seat. He has suddenly discovered that the presidential race is neither a kiddies’ affair nor that of the Lilly-livered. Political analysts are of the view that Ahmed was not a serious contender for the top job, but a mere pretender. But as the opposition party, Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, awaits their presidential primaries scheduled for 5-6th October, four key aspirants who are serious contenders are now calling the shots.
They include former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Senate President, David Bonaventure Mark and the Governor of Sokoto State Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. Other aspirants who political watchers describe as pretenders include former Kano State Governor, Senator Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso, former Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido and former Kaduna State governor Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
The remaining aspirants are the governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, former Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa and former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Relations, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki, (SAN). Both the contenders and pretenders have been busy criss-crossing all over the states, jostling for delegates at the presidential primary election. One thing noticed among the aspirants is their readiness to work together to defeat a common enemy, President Buhari and his All Progressives Congress in the 2019 presidential election.
They have also agreed to accept the outcome of the primary election in good faith and support the winner provided it was credible, free and fair. Prince Uche Secondus, chairman of the party had in a meeting held with the PDP governors and the aspirants on the way forward recently assured the aspirants that members of the National Working Committee of the party have no favourite aspirant among the presidential aspirants. Verbatim gathered that the leadership of the party had also ensured that all its presidential aspirants sign an agreement to support whoever that emerged presidential candidate after the primaries. This explains why some of the presidential hopefuls bought double forms for both Presidential, Senatorial and Governorship seat. Senate President, Saraki, former senate president, David Mark and former Governor Kwankwaso were all alleged to have bought both Presidential and Senatorial forms while the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal bought both presidential and governorship form of the party.
ATIKU ABUBAKAR: Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former vice president appears to be the man to beat at the primaries if his political antecedents and visibility is anything to go by. Unlike the other aspirants he has the experience and know-how to steer the ship of the nation, having been Vice President to Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. Atiku is well known both nationally and internationally. He also has the political chant and resources to navigate through the PDP presidential primaries. His support base across the country is huge and his business empire is spread to many parts of the country. His reach, influence and friendship across the country could count in his favour at the primaries, while his understanding of the job could also count in his favour.
AMINU WAZIRI TAMBUWAL: Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is one of the favourites to clinch the presidential ticket of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. Apart from being the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Tambuwal is from the North West, which many believe should produce the party’s candidate to face Buhari, the APC candidate who is also from the North West. Some analysts believe that Tambuwal’s emergence would be a plus for the PDP as they would share the 15million votes in the zone with the APC while swooping the votes in the areas the party has comparative advantage. He is also seen as the choice of some power brokers in the North and South, especially the caliphate.
Those in favour of a Tambuwal Presidency say that he is principled and have the love of the masses at heart, and has the wherewithal to surprise the APC candidate at the polls by coasting tovictory. He also has age on his side.
- BUKOLA SARAKI: Senator, Bukola Saraki is another top contender for the presidential ticket of the Peoples’ Democratic Party. Political analysts see him as the albatross to President Buhari and the APC. Every effort made by the president and APC to checkmate Saraki since his emergence as Senate President in 2015 has failed like a park of cards. Not even his arraignment before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on charges of false declaration of Assets could yield fruits as he was discharged and acquitted after almost three years. It was believed that Saraki was nursing a presidential ambition; every effort made to stop him backfired, making the senate president more influential and popular. Even when he was sidelined by the ruling party, he kept waxing stronger and this culminated in his ditching the ruling party and defected to the PDP under which platform he is seeking the party ticket. The former Kwara State governor is from the North Central and is believed to have the political clout to win the primaries as his popularity is on the rise across the country. Many also see him as the right candidate to give Buhari a fight for his money. The presidential aspirant said that Nigeria needs a president that is “mobile, digital and has capacity to plan for its people.”
Saraki said that Nigeria has never been as disunited as they are under the Buhari government, adding that Nigeria needs a leader that would unite the country and move it forward. Analysts believe that Saraki is a man of strong character and has the personality to lead the country past 2019. But whether, the party delegates would give him the mandate to have a shot at the presidency in 2019 remains to be seen.
SENATOR DAVID MARK: The former Senate President is among the presidential aspirants believed to have what it takes to lead the country. Those routing for David Mark say that he would also act in the interest of the entire country if he emerges president. They point to the invocation of the Doctrine of Necessity which the senate under David Mark invoked in 2010 that brought about the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. His firm believe in the restructuring of the country is also one of his strong points.
David Mark is from Benue State in the North Central zone, and is known for his stabilizing ability and never one to rock the boat. A retired Army General, Senator David Mark who is a five term senator believes he will give security top priority if he emerges as president and would only promise those things he will do for the people, unlike the APC whom he accused of making several promises for the Nigerian people before coming to power, but has failed to implement those promises since they took over power in 2015. He is also supported by many people including people from his primary constituency-military and those he endeared himself to as President of the senate. He is experienced and has been in the corridors of power since his early days as minister of communications and military governor of Niger State. Unlike former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, he is over 70 years of age, and it is yet to be seen if the delegates would prefer experience and old age to youthful and digital presidential candidate when the curtain is drawn on the presidential primaries on October 6th.
Next time we will bring to you the PRETENDERS