•Senate president says quest not a betrayal of ex-VP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have to pick its presidential flag bearer in next year’s election from the Northwest geo political zone, The Nation gathered yesterday.
With over 18 million eligible voters as at last February, the zone has the largest voting population in the country.
It is followed by the Southwest with over 14million voters.
The Nation gathered that the main opposition party is taking notice of the situation and may settle for one of its presidential aspirants from the zone at its convention next month to slug it out with the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 2019 poll.
Buhari is on course to emerge as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate later this month.
Presidential aspirants of the PDP from the Northwest are Senator Ahmed Maikarfi, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, former Special Duties Minister Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, former Kano State governor Ibrahim Shekarau, former Sokoto State governor Attahiru Bafarawa and former Kano State governor Rabiu Kwankwaso.
The implication is that the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa in the Northeast and Senate president Bukola Saraki from Kwara State in the Northcentral stand a little or no chance of getting the PDP ticket.
Party source said yesterday that Saraki in particular may be facing formidable hurdles already from the PDP and the Northwest geo political in his bid to fly the party’s flag in next year’s presidential election.
Saraki formally declared his presidential aspiration in Abuja on Thursday, citing pressure from Nigerian youths.
However, party source told The Nation yesterday that the former Kwara State governor has a long chain of barriers to be broken to achieve his ambition.
One of such is the suggestion by some PDP members that the party’s presidential candidate has to come from the Northwest zone for the PDP to stand a good chance of defeating President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari is from Daura, Katsina State in the Northwest.
He commands a cult followership not only in the zone but across the northern region.
Pressure is mounting on the PDP leadership to narrow down its ticket to the Northwest as it is the only way to compete with Buhari.
Kwankwaso from Kano State in the Northwest is one of the leading advocates for the PDP presidential candidate coming from the Northwest.
Kwankwaso’s view is shared by many in the party.
Their argument is that the only way to whittle down the votes of the APC and its candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in the zone is for the PDP to pick a candidate from the same zone.
Several interest groups from the zone are now promoting the view point in the party.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja on Friday shortly after obtaining his nomination documents, Kwankwaso said: “everyone knows that the bulk of the votes come from the Northwest and it would not be wrong for anyone to suggest that the PDP candidate should come from that zone.
“You all saw from the last general election in 2015 the number of votes from Kano alone. So it’s just normal to expect the candidate to emerge from the Northwest. That is the only way to defeat them (APC). But this is my opinion because everybody has their different opinions”.
Another formidable obstacle to Saraki’s aspiration is the perceived disposition of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike who is seen by many as the de facto leader of the PDP.
Wike, chief backer of the incumbent national chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, is said to be the number one supporter of Tambuwal’s presidential ambition.
It is understood that there is an agreement between him and Tambuwal that he will be the Sokoto State governor’s running mate in the presidential race if he gets the ticket.
Wike’s disposition on the PDP presidential ticket is suspected to have informed Secondus’ hurried exit from the venue of Saraki’s formal declaration for the presidency in Abuja on Thursday.
Secondus had led other members of the national executive committee of the PDP to the event, at the invitation of the organisers unaware that Saraki had a different agenda.
It was gathered that neither Secondus nor the organisers of the event had the slightest inkling that Saraki was going to take advantage of the forum to declare his aspiration.
Apparently rattled by Saraki’s ambush, the organisers were forced to issue a disclaimer the following day, expressing their disappointment and embarrassment at the action of the Senate President.
Meanwhile, the Senate president is continuing his consultations with socio-political and interest groups across the country.
One of his aides who does not want to be named said yesterday that he met with the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) headed by Chief Edwin Clark, the Yoruba group – Afenifere -and a group of northern elders led by Prof Ango Abdullahi during the week.
He, however, did not venture comments on the outcome of the consultations, saying Saraki only briefed the groups and explained his decision to join the race.
“You don’t expect it (consultation) to be a one-off thing because you are required to lay all your cards on the table through sustained consultation over time”, the aide added.
My presidential ambition not a betrayal of Atiku, says Saraki
Responding to questions yesterday on Saraki’s ambition, his chief spokesman, Yusuph Olaniyonu dismissed speculations that Saraki betrayed former vice president Atiku Abubakar by joining the presidential race.
“No aspirant’s presidential quest is a betrayal of any others”, the office of the Senate President, Senator Olusola Saraki has said.
Some of Atiku’s supporters had expressed surprised that Senator Saraki is challenging Atiku who once helped to mobilize support for him to become Senate President.
He asserted that such assumptions are wrong, unjustifiable and baseless.
“Betrayal? How? Was there an agreement that ‘you will support me for this, I will support you for that?” Olaniyonu retorted yesterday when he met The Nation.
He added: “were they not in different political parties before?
“We know that some people have an agenda in all this; they have an agenda on everything concerning Senator Saraki and there is no point responding to whatever misinformation they wish to spread.
“There is no betrayal whatsoever between the two eminent citizens.
“Are Governor Tambuwal and Senator Saraki not even much closer than the relationship between the former Vice President and the Senate President?
“Governor Tambuwal and Senator Saraki are more of brothers but as true democrats, the two of them are in this race and they do not have any problem with one another over it; whoever wins the presidential ticket would get the support of the other,” he said.
According to the Senate President’s spokesman, all PDP presidential aspirants, including Senator Saraki are now working out an arrangement to ensure a rancour-free process.
e agreement that they are working on now is such that whoever wins the PDP presidential primaries, all of them will rally to support whoever wins.
“In fact, what all of the PDP presidential aspirants are concentrating on is that they will all work together and ensure that there is an open, free and fair presidential primaries.
“They are trying to ensure that the process is very free and fair for all and that whoever emerges will not be a source of bitterness because the outcome would have been the result of a genuine process.
“PDP presidential aspirants are working together to ensure that all of them forge a united front and that there will be no reason for the ruling party to see any of them as a potential ally.
“They are working for a credible process and all of them are going to support the eventual winner.”