Anxiety is spreading within the top hierarchy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as pressure mounts on delegates to the forthcoming national convention to pick the party’s presidential candidate from the Northwest.
Proponents of a northwest candidate say it is the only way the party can stand a reasonable chance of defeating President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Buhari is from Katsina State, one of the seven states that make up the zone.
The zone has the largest voting population of about 18 million.
However, some other PDP members say there should be no micro-zoning the ticket to any zone as doing so will automatically foreclose the aspiration of the likes of Senate President Bukola Saraki (from Northcentral), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (Northeast), Chief David Mark (Northcentral), Senator Jonah Jang (Northcentral) and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo (Northeast), and generate bad blood ahead of an election they need to contest as a united front.
Also currently causing unease in the party is the venue of the national convention.
The Nation gathered that the convention might come up on Saturday, October 6 in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Many governors elected on the platform of the PDP see the host governor, Nyesom Wike, as a strong backer of one of the presidential aspirants, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal.
They fear that Wike might unduly influence the process of the party’s primaries in favour of Tambuwal.
Some of the governors met in Abuja during the week and have been exploring ways of checkmating Wike from imposing a presidential candidate on the party.
The issue of consensus candidate has been discarded all together by the 12 PDP presidential aspirants with all of them fully focused on the primaries.
The aspirants are Atiku, Saraki, Mark, Jang, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, ex-Minister Tanimu Kabiru Turaki, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, Dr. Datti Baba-Ahmed, ex governors Sule Lamido and Dalhatu Attahiru Bafarawa.
A governor elected on the platform of the party admitted that there has been pressure from power brokers in the party, PDP stalwarts and strategists to shop for a candidate from the North-West against Buhari.
His words:”Without prejudice to other presidential aspirants, there is pressure on PDP governors to zero in on the North-West for our presidential candidate.
“The argument of those pro-Northwest is the need for PDP to take the battle to the stronghold of Buhari where he commands cult followership.
“It is taken for granted that the Southsouth, the Southeast and a part of the Northcentral might be controlled by PDP.
“I must confess to you that most of us in the PDP Governors Forum are buying into the idea because with the exception of Atiku from the Northeast (whose nomination might split the party) no other aspirants could match Buhari in the North.
“We have a challenge with Atiku, Saraki, Dankwambo and others who are insisting that the primaries should be left open.
“Before some of these aspirants defected to PDP and even prior to the emergence of the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, our party had commissioned a research which favoured ceding the presidential ticket to the North with our target on the Northwest.”
Responding to a question, the governor said: “The danger of not micro-zoning the presidential slot in PDP is that the money-bag aspirants will use their huge cash to buy over delegates which might lead to the emergence if a weak candidate for our party.”
On the suspicion that Wike has bias for one of the presidential aspirants, the governor said: “We know Wike might want to use his political influence in favour of his preferred aspirant but we are battle ready to checkmate him.
“We want the best for PDP, we will not allow imposition by Wike who is showing a suspicious interest in the presidential primaries.”
On the choice of Port Harcourt, the governor said: “We learnt that Rivers State was the first to indicate interest than others because of the high cost implications.
“Also, it is a honour for Prince Uche Secondus who is from the state. Some members of the National Working Committee said the PDP cannot hold its convention in Abuja because it will clash with that of APC.”
Separate sources confirmed that most of the PDP presidential aspirants have lost interest in the idea of a consensus candidate.
It was gathered that the Board of Trustees (BOT) was unable to convince the aspirants to buy into the idea.
All the aspirants have insisted that they want delegates to determine their fate.
When contacted, the Director of Media and Publicity of Tanimu Kabiru Turaki Campaign Organization, Mr. Sola Atere said: “I thought the party has gone beyond that (consensus) because there was no agreement at the last meeting. The BoT chairman is raising a committee
“For our campaign organization, we have always been loyal, this is why our aspirant never defected.
“He was one of those who rescued the party from mercenaries. If they say consensus, it is fine with us; if they say primaries, it is well with us.”
Most of the aspirants have intensified their shuttles to delegates in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Findings also confirmed that some of the aspirants have set up full-fledged campaign structures.