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 of 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.
“The PDP has an array of eminently qualified persons to rule Nigeria. We carried out due diligence during our screening. I am confident that whoever emerges from the convention will reflect the wishes of our party.”
INEC extends deadline for party primaries by six days as APC considers shift
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had earlier yesterday caved in to the request of the political parties to adjust the timetable for the 2023 polls.
The Commission agreed to extend the deadline for the conduit of party primaries by six days.
The INEC management had met with the leadership of the political parties under the auspices of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) where the parties made afresh appeal to the Commission to reconsider its earlier position and alter the timetable.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee Festus Okoye, said the commission decided to allow the request of the political parties since the six-day period does not conflict with the next scheduled activity which is the submission of the list of nominated candidates or any of the subsequent timelines which remain sacrosanct.
It however stressed that “this request is granted in respect of outstanding primaries only without prejudice to those already concluded by political parties. The Commission will not monitor already concluded primaries.”
The APC last night announced that its presidential primaries scheduled for tomorrow in Abuja would now take place between Monday, June 6 and Wednesday, June 8 in Abuja.
National Publicity Secretary of the Party,Felix Morka who broke the news through a statement entitled “APC SPECIAL CONVENTION FOR PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY POSTPONED” said: “Following the Independent National Electoral Commission’s extension of deadline for the submission of list of candidates by political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) hereby postpones its Special Convention for Presidential Primary from Sunday, 29th – Monday, 30th of May, 2020 to Monday, 6th – Wednesday, 8th of June, 2022.”
At press time, preparations for a successful convention appeared to be lacking at the party’s national secretariat.
A party source told The Nation that postponement of the primaries was inevitable.
Wike alleges plot to pull him down
As the campaign for the PDP presidential primaries heated up yesterday, the camp of the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, raised the alarm over alleged plots to implicate him in activities bordering on economic sabotage.
The camp said it had uncovered plots by some political adversaries to link the Rivers governor to oil a bunkering syndicate, with a view to poisoning the minds of delegates against his aspiration.
A political ally in the governor’s camp, who spoke with our correspondent in Abuja, said the plot was being hatched to tar Wike’s rising profile in the race for the PDP ticket.
The ally, who craved anonymity because he was not officially mandated to divulge information on the matter, said sponsors of the smear campaign were jittery over the groundswell of support the governor has garnered for his aspiration.
Said he: “Impeccable sources have hinted that a well orchestrated ploy has been hatched to profile Wike as a bunkerer whose political spending is funded by proceeds of the illegal practice, by one of his closest rivals.
“Untenable as this may be against the backdrop of Wike’s relentless battle against bunkering and illegal petroleum refining across his state, hack agents of one of his opponents are unrelenting in trying to push this narrative.
“The intention is to cast him in the image of an economic saboteur who has been collaborating with European allies to perpetuate the act in the state under his jurisdiction.
“Part of the plan is to buy space in about five national newspapers hours to the presidential primaries, to plant phantom stories accusing Wike of complicity in oil bunkering activities within his domain.
“The intention is to discolour the PDP presidential frontrunner in the public eye, and reconstruct his subsisting profile of integrity as a public servant, fit to hold higher national office.
“It will also portray Wike as a hypocritical public officer, who destroys illegal refineries in the day time, and dines with bunkerers at dinner.”
Obasanjo: Hayatu-deen has knowledge to turn Nigeria around
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has described PDP Presidential aspirant Mohammed Hayatu-deen as someone who has the knowledge and dedication to turn Nigeria around and even despite its complexity.
Obasanjo spoke when Hayatu-deen and his team paid a courtesy visit to the former leader in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Hayatu-Deen’s campaign office quotd Obasanjo as saying that contrary to claims in some quarters, Nigeria is not a difficult country to manage.
He said the sky was not even the limit to which Nigeria could be taken if the right things were done. He said Hayatu-deen has shown that he could make a contribution and has also shown that he could be a team leader and someone who could reach out both internally and externally.
“I believe you have the knowledge, from what you have said you have the dedication also. You told me you have the innovation but let me add that Nigeria is a complex country and we need to understand the complexity of Nigeria,” he said.
In his remarks, Hayatu-deen said he had seen better days in the country and he was determined to take the country to those better days if given the opportunity to serve in the highest level in the country. He said as a technocrat, he has what it takes to return the country to its glory days.
Atiku promises revamp economy in new strategy plan
Former vice president Atiku Abubakar said his agenda is built around a well-developed strategy that will revamp Nigeria’s ailing economy and transform the polity.
To reform the private sector, the administration would move to liberalise and deregulate the economy in many sectors, provide efficient infrastructure to reduce production cost, and provide protection to priority enterprises.
He will also put in place Policies and Measures to Optimize the Growth Potentials of Real Sectors- including Agriculture, Manufacturing and MSMEs.
The five-point agenda was contained in a policy document released from the campaign office of the former vice President, and it detailed how the administration would, over the first five years, invest heavily in the needed infrastructure that would result in growth across several sectors.
Core among the infrastructure projects listed are 25000 MW of non-renewable energy (hydro, solar, nuclear) and other thermal fuels (coal, biofuel) in addition to natural gas; investing in oil refining infrastructure to double refining capacity to two million barrels per day by 2027; investing in the infrastructure of up to 5000km of modern railway lines; invest to improve transmission capacity of 10,000 to 15,000 Mega Watts over the short term with a target of 25,000 Mega Watts over the long-term.
Anyim raises the alarm over absence of Ebonyi delegates’ list
Former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim yesterday alleged the absence of Ebonyi State delegates’ list for today’s presidential primaries.
Anyim in an open letter to PDP National Chairman, Prof. Iyorchia Ayu, and Chairman of the PDP Special Convention, Sen. David Mark, said that he had gone through the list of delegates from states for the National Convention but could not find that of Ebonyi.
Anyim said that in spite of assurances by the party National Organising Secretary, the Ebonyi list was yet to be added, warning that the absence of Ebonyi delegates’ list would not augur well for the party. He is from Ebonyi State.