With the presidential primary of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) a few days away, signs are beginning to emerge about the chances of the 12 aspirants locked in the race for the ticket.
The front runners appear to be Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Also in the race are Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, Alhaji Kabiru Turaki (SAN), Senator David Mark, Senator Jonah Jang and Dr. Datti Baba Ahmed.
Atiku who has assembled a formidable campaign team, looks strong in the Northeast where he hails from, and the Southwest from where he picked the Director General of his campaign organization, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, a former governor of Ogun State.
Also supporting him from the Southwest is Chief Olabode George.
Coordinating his presidential campaign is business mogul, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu. Others in the train are ex-governors, Idris Wada (Kogi), James Ibori (Delta), a former Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Maina Waziri; members of the PDP Board of Trustees, BoT, including Professor A.B.C Nwosu, Senator Stella Omu, Vincent Ogbulafor and Chief Tom Ikimi.
Others are former Imo State governor, Achike Udenwa, former Katsina State governor Ibrahim Shema; Colonel Bala Mande (rtd), Senator Ben Murray Bruce, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, Chief Raymond Dokpesi; ex-ministers between 1999 and 2007; PDP stalwarts in the North-East, South-East, South-South; ex-DG NOA, Mike Omeri, Dr. Auwalu Anwar and Dr. Baraka Umar from Kano State.
The dust raised by his campaign organization about Port Harcourt hosting the national convention may however work against him.
Dr. Saraki enjoys the support of Senate Deputy President Ike Ekweremadu who is from Enugu State.
He also has the backing of a good number of senators and members of the House of Representatives from his native Northcentral, Southeast and Southwest.
Gov Abdulfatahi Ahmed of Kwara State, ex-Gov Babangida Aliyu (Niger); some serving governors and ex-Minister of Power, Mohammed Wakil are also among his main supporters.
Saraki’s recent appointment as the National Leader of PDP has added value to his quest.
The ex-Minister of Special Duties, though from the Northwest has made in inroad into the Southsouth, Southeast and Southwest.
He counts among his main supporters, associates of ex-President Ibrahim Babangida, strategists of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, political associates of ex-VP Namadi Sambo, loyalists of ex-NSA Aliyu Gusau, former associates of ex-VP Atiku Abubakar, three former military administrators including Col. Habibu Shuaibu who was until recently the Chief of Staff to Gen. Babangida, Forum of Ex-Ministers, ex-governors Boni Haruna and Ibrahim Idris (Adamawa and Kogi); ex-Chief of Army Staff, Ishaya Bamaiyi, political associates of Chief Tony Anenih, including former Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal may split votes coming from the Northwest with ex-Governor Bafarawa, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso; Sule Lamido and Kabiru Turaki. He is being backed by Governor Nyesom Wike and five other governors; two top northern Emirs; a few associates of ex-President Babangida; Gov. Samuel Ortom, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Senators, Reps, Dr. Okey Ikechukwu, and his long standing friend, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Party sources said a good number of delegates from the Southsouth and Southeast could vote for him.
Tambuwal can count on the support of Emeka Ihedioha who was deputy speaker of the House of Reps under him (Tambuwal).
He has only Atiku to contend with for votes from the Northeast.
Some votes from the Southwest may go his way by virtue of his friendship with Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State.
Some other PDP governors may also support him.
The former Senate president may be looking up to Senators, Reps and other delegates from Northcentral for votes as well as support from Middle Belt leaders like Gen. T. Y. Danjuma. It is believed that Mark is in the race to negotiate a better deal for the Middle Belt.
The former Kano State governor is strongly suspected to be favoured for the ticket by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo under whom he served as Minister.
Some Senators, Reps, and governors could also rally in his support.
His votes are likely to come from the Northcentral, especially his native Plateau State.
The ex-Jigawa State governor is being backed by some associates of ex-President Obasanjo; ex-Minister of Justice, Musa Elayo; PDP leaders in the Northwest, some former governors and ex-ministers. His trial alongside his sons may have hindered his influence in the party.
The former Interim National Chairman of PDP is highly respected in the camps of former Nigerian leaders and wields influence among PDP governors who want the pact with him honoured.
He is also loved by party leaders and delegates for restoring the glory of the party during its most turbulent period. Some PDP leaders from the Northwest, Southsouth and Southeast may vote for him.
The main backers of the ex-governor of Sokoto State are some PDP leaders in the Northwest, and ex-NSA Sambo Dasuki.
Datti Baba Ahmed.
He has some Senators, Reps, and royal fathers in the North as backers.
The aspirants are intensifying their campaigns across the country having received the breakdown of delegates per state.
“We are all doing our calculations on how and where the votes will come from,” one of the aspirants said.
The aspirant explained that the intrigues on vote-seeking made him and his colleagues allow Governor Nyesom Wike have his way at the National Executive Committee meeting of PDP on Friday on Port Harcourt as the venue of the National Convention.
“We allowed the sleeping dog to lie after Wike apologized for threatening to bring down the party,” he said.
“Some of us did not confront Wike because he had introduced ethnic sentiments into venue issue and rejecting Port Harcourt might prove suicidal to our ambition.
“But for the first time, we put Wike on the spot and it was a signal that he cannot try nonsense in Port Harcourt. The PDP is greater than him and the 2019 project of the party cannot be toyed with.”
Five factors are likely to determine who carries the day.
•The influence of PDP governors.
•Ex-Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Goodluck Jonathan, ex-Chief of Army Staff, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma, ex-National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau all of whom have the ears of those who matter in the party.
•A huge war chest.
•Micro-zoning at the National Convention if there is any stalemate.
•External factors especially the interest of some foreign countries and forces.
A presidential aspirant said: “whether these leaders are in partisan politics or not, we have all been reaching out to them for assistance on our aspirations. Some of us have made more than two or three shuttles to these leaders.
“And we have embarked on consultative trips to these leaders because a few of them came out openly to make a strong case for a new government to replace the APC administration in 2019.
“Definitely, Obasanjo, Babangida, Gusau, Jonathan and a few business moguls might advise the party appropriately.”
Investigation also revealed that the PDP governors hold the ace in determining the party’s presidential flag bearer.
According to a top PDP source, the governors control a large number of delegates from their states.
“The emergence of the PDP candidate depends on the disposition of the governors and strategic party leaders,” the source added.
One of the PDP governors who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “None of the aspirants is willing to step down or allow the consensus option to be adopted. They have all rejected consensus. “Even PDP governors are also divided because of what is at stake in 2019. What we have resolved is to leave the fate of the aspirants to the delegates to decide.
By creating a level-playing field and leaving the race open, the governors felt they won’t be accused of bias.
“I am quite sure that by the time we get to the National Convention in Port Harcourt, the horse-trading might take a different dimension because vested interests will now inter-play.
Responding to a question, the governor said: “The choice of PDP governorship candidate is not what a governor can determine, no matter how influential he is.
“PDP is the biggest party in Africa, it has many players behind-the-scene than what you are seeing. You have witnessed how one of us was rattled on the convention venue. This has confirmed that no one is in charge of this party.
“All the governors have interest in some aspirants but because we are polarized, we have kept our choices to ourselves.
“What each governor is doing is to consolidate the block votes from his state for a good bargain. No governor will underrate presidential influence, we all want to play a key role in the choice of our candidate for post-2019 politics/ power game.”
The PDP Constitution says: “There shall be a National Convention of the party which shall consist of
(a) the National Chairman of the party, who shall be the Chairman of the Convention and other members of the National Executive Committee.
(b) the President and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who are members of the party.
(c ) members of the National Assembly, who are members of the party.
(d) State governors and Deputy Governors, who are members of the party;
(e) all gubernatorial candidates of the party, who shall be automatic delegates to the Convention.
(f) members of the State Houses of Assembly, who are members of the party;
(g) members of the Board of Trustees.
(h) members of the Zonal Working Committee and state party chairmen and secretaries, including those of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
(i) State Women and Youth leaders, including those of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
(j) one national delegate from each Local Government Area to be elected at the Local Government Area Congress for the purpose.
(k) all elected local government council chairmen, who are members of the party.
(l) former members of the National Working Committee who are still members of the party and.
9) former Deputy Presidents of the Senate and former Deputy Speakers of the House of Representatives who are still in the party.
It was also gathered that foreign missions in the country have set up desks for the monitoring of the PDP primaries.
A diplomat said: “Democracy is about choice, our country is more interested in who gets the PDP presidential ticket than the APC which is predictable.
“Nearly all the embassies have taken keen interest in the development in PDP than APC. We are monitoring events and some of us already have teams in Port Harcourt.”