Exactly seven months to the period fixed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for political parties to conduct primary elections to pick their presidential candidates, the battle for political relevance is reaching new heights among aspirants within the political platforms.
In the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where optimism about the possibility of returning to power after an unprecedented 2015 loss is on the high side, the current internal maneuvers, scheming and intrigues among the power brokers would, in the next couple of months according to sources, would reveal the direction the party will follow.
The party had already zoned its presidential slot to the northern part of the country in a bid to undo the damage of 2015 when the bulk of the region, which felt shortchanged because of the alleged refusal of former President Goodluck Jonathan to honour a one-term agreement, voted against it.
The death of Jonathan predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, denied the North of an opportunity of a full term after the South, through Olusegun Obasanjo, had earlier completed a two-term tenure.
Apart from dousing the tension created by the 2015 presidential campaigns, which demarcated the country along ethnic and religious lines, the choice of a northern candidate for the PDP is also to give incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who is also from the North, a run for his money.
The president’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which got into office catching the imagination of Nigerians with its change agenda and the persona of Buhari as a disciplined and Spartan politician who will fight corruption and insurgency to a standstill, has no doubt lost a lot of the goodwill that cleared its path to the Presidency.
The economy has not reflected the high expectations of Nigerians and the assurances of government for better deal while traces of dictatorship, evidently of Buhari’s past reputation as a maximum ruler and allegations of ethnic bigotry, continue to taint the administration.
Lately the Buhari Presidency has to contend with allegations of incompetence and complacency or even complicity in the handling of herdsmen attacks on farmers across the country, the latest being the massacre in Benue and Adamawa States.
Although the PDP, which hopes to reap maximally in the seeming loss of confidence of Nigerians in the APC administration, could not be described as a credible alternative because of revelations of its high graft while in office, the electorate appears to be caught between the devil and the blue sea.
However with expectations of restitution borne out of realization of past mistakes and commitment to chart a new course, the PDP could still, with genuine commitment to the country’s development, regain the confidence of Nigerians.
While the exact number of those eyeing the party’s top ticket is not yet known, four names, Atiku Abubakar, Sule Lamido, Ahmed Makarfi and Ibrahim Dakwambo, are already in the public space as PDP’s presidential aspirants
Former Vice-President Atiku, a Fulani from Adamawa, is a household name in Nigeria’s politics having been on the scene as far as during the aborted Third Republic when he narrowly missed being the presidential candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). He lost the ticket to Chief M.K.O Abiola, the billionaire business mogul who went ahead to win the election on June 12, 1993.
At the dawn of the current dispensation in 1999, Atiku, one of the pillars behind the PDP, won the governorship of his home state, Adamawa before being oicked as Vice-President to President Olusegun Obasanjo with whom he had, and still has, a frosty relationship borne allegedly out of his ambition to undermine his boss in his request to occupy the presidential seat.
Atiku who has done more cross-carpeting in this dispensation than any of the aspirants had defected to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and APC in the quest to fulfill his ambition and has only recently rejoined the PDP, a fact that may stand on his way from picking the ticket.
Although it is on record that the Waziri Adamawa was there in defence of democracy when the institution was being threatened by the illegal third term project of Obasanjo, though many alleged it was only to protect his own ambition, Atiku has become the symbol of perseverance in political persecution especially in the latest face-off with the APC where it was alleged that his business concerns were being decimated.
He has also created wealth in abundance and through that, employed thousands of Nigerians and expatriates in his various business and educational concerns.
While during his recent message to Nigerians he appealed to the youths to support his dream, it is doubtful if at 72, he would have his way with a population carrying the burden of the incompetence of a 74 (or is it 75?)-year old President.
Former governor of Jigawa State, Lamido is a left-of-the centre politician right from his days as a young member of the defunct Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in the Second Republic between 1979 and 1983 and later became the National Secretary of the SDP where he was alleged to have played some ignoble role in the acceptance of the illegal annulment of his party’s June 12, 1993 victory.
At the time Atiku emerged as the Vice-President, Lamido was made the Minister of Foreign Affairs after he lost the governorship seat of Jigawa which he won four years later and got a two-term tenure.
Unlike Atiku, Lamido has not moved an inch away from PDP and had remained consistent with the party even when the northern establishment dumped it in the preparations for 2015 elections. As a close ally of Obasanjo, he refused to follow his former boss in his journey of destroying the party’s membership card.
As a governor, he is on record to have performed excellently well in the governance of Jigawa, which he transformed and repositioned for development. His supporters believe he would repeat the development strides in Jigawa in the whole of Nigeria if given the opportunity to rule the country.
However, with a baggage of allegations of corruption which allegedly involved him and two of his sons and his advanced age, which would be 71 next year, Lamido hardly looks like the best candidate the PDP can put forward in the next round of poll.
A two-term governor of Kaduna State, Makarfi, after his tenure he was elected, also for two terms, as the senator representing Kaduna North Senatorial District, all on the platform of the PDP. Prior this, he had served in the Executive Council of the state as Commissioner of Finance and Economic Planning having being a banker with the defunct Nigeria Universal Bank, where he rose to the rank of Assistant General Manager.
The former governor who is a trained accountant and he is educated to the level of Master of Science degree in Accounting and Finance had also served as a member of the Board of Trustee and the Director of Finance and Administration at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Abuja.
He is the immediate past caretaker Chairman of the PDP having being appointed at the Port Harcourt Convention and one of his major political achievements was the successful conduct of the elective National Convention of the party that produced Prince Uche Secondus as the National Chairman.
At 61, Makarfi has no known graft case against his name but his modest achievements in Kaduna, compared to the likes of Lamido in Jigawa, may be his major undoing.
His handling of the delicate politics of PDP when the party was going through crisis, during which he may have stepped on some big toes with his open ambition even while he was the umpire, could also be a minus.
Incumbent second-term governor of Gombe State, Dankwambo won the 2011 gubernatorial poll on the platform of the PDP and repeat the feat in 2015 thereby securing one of the few presences of the party in the northern part of the country.
During the Obasanjo era, Dankwambo was the Accountant-General of the Federation when he handled the country’s accounts between 2005 and 2011 before resigning to contest his state’s governorship seat where he was hitherto the State Accountant-General.
A thorough professional, Dakwambo had an illustrious career with Coopers & Lybrand, now PriceWaterHouseCoopers as a Chartered Accountant from 1985 to 1988 before moving over to the
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where he worked from 1988 to 1999. He is a member of seven professional bodies.
He is reputed to have transformed Gombe to a rapidly developing state in Nigeria. The state is one of the few in the country that does not owe workers’ salary despite its low receipt from the federation account.
Dankwambo has revolutionized agriculture, health and education delivery in Gombe and has built several higher educational institutions as well as rebuilt and equipped all state-owned hospitals. The state is said to have the best road network in the country and has the best International Conference Centre.
His major advantage over others is the fact that he is a relatively young man. He is only 55 years of age making him the youngest amongst the aspirants. He is also not known to carry any corruption baggage, as there is no case filed or charges against him by any of the anti-graft agencies.