Intrigues as Atiku battles 13 others for PDP presidential ticket

All is now set as 14 aspirants jostle for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

They will test their political might at the primary election slated for Saturday, in Abuja.

Observers said that going by the build-up, the event promises to witness intense intrigues, horse trading, last-minute lobbying of delegates, who will determine the fate of the candidates.

They also said that if reports from the elections conducted to elect candidates for state House of Assembly, National Assembly and Governorship are anything to go by, the presidential primary promises to show another display of money by those with “deep pockets,” who will attempt to pay their way to victory.

Out of the 14 aspirants participating in the primary election, holding at the Moshood Abiola Stadium (formerly National Stadium), only one will emerge victorious.

Out of the initial 15 that scaled the screening exercise, 14 are now in the race following the last-minute decision by Peter Obi, the 2019 PDP vice-presidential candidate and former Anambra State Governor, to dump the party on Wednesday.

Seventeen aspirants had purchased the party’s presidential forms including the 2019 presidential candidate of the party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; and Aminu Tambuwal, former Speaker, House of Representatives, chairman of PDP Governors Forum and the current governor of Sokoto State.

Others include Bukola Saraki, a two-term governor of Kwara State and immediate past president of the Senate, and Pius Anyim, former president of the Senate and former secretary to the government of the federation; Bala Mohammed, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory and current governor of Bauchi State; Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor; Udom Emmanuel, Akwa Ibom State governor; Ayodele Fayose, a former Ekiti State governor; Nwachukwu Anakwenze, a United States-based medical doctor; and Dele Momodu, a media guru.

Others are Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, an investment banker and economist; Sam Ohuabunwa, a pharmacist; Cosmos Ndukwe, a former Speaker of Abia House of Assembly; Charles Ugwu, Chikwendu Kalu and Diana Tareila, the only female aspirant in the race.

Ahead of the Saturday’s presidential primaries, almost all the aspirants have toured and visited all the states of the country, wooing delegates for votes.

Ndukwe and Anakwenze had earlier been disqualified from the race.

Before the exercise, allegations of compromise of party leaders by some “favoured” aspirants and other hanky-panky dealings had continued to trend.

Obi resigned on Wednesday, alleging manipulation of the process.

In his letter of resignation, he said: “It has been a great honour to contribute to nation-building efforts through our party. Unfortunately, recent developments within our party make it practically impossible to continue participating and making such constructive contributions.”

Civil society organisations and notable Nigerians have urged the delegates to avoid “mortgaging the future of the country and their children’s future by selling their votes to the highest bidder.”

Awwal Ibrahim, executive director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, speaking ahead of Saturday’s PDP primary, said: “Nigerians should have by now, learnt lessons, having gone through the level of economic crises the nation went through in the last seven years.”

Ibrahim charged the Nigerians electorate not to select candidates on the basis of sentiments, but to critically examine past records of service in public office.

He said: “If we choose on the basis of performance, character and competence, I am sure we would be able to make a clear departure from previous methods.

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On the use of money to buy votes, Ibrahim believes that if those who have the responsibilities of implementing the laws do their jobs, open display of money at election venues will be a thing of the past.

“We have a law in place that prohibits vote buying. If those who should monitor the use of money spent during elections are doing their work, they should by now have arrested those who openly bought delegates with money during these ongoing primaries. But unfortunately, they are not doing their job; that will be very bad. It means the elections will continue to be commercialism.”

He urged the electorates to critically assess the rate of naira to the dollar, issues of insecurity across the country, cost of fuel, the absence of electricity, which has kept larger parts of the country in darkness, as well as unemployment level, and who can transform the country, before picking their candidate.

“As you can see, a large part of Nigeria is in darkness. We are told that the national grid has collapsed, you cannot travel from any part of the country in safety.”

Ibrahim said: “If you look at the education sector, our children are at home, because ASUU has been on strike, but the children of these politicians are in the best schools abroad, while Nigeria has become the world poverty capital.

“So, will it not amount to a suicide if you collect money and vote for incompetent people? I believe that there is a lot of work to be done in Nigeria, which means, we must select the best out of them all.”

Also speaking on the PDP primary, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Francis Obalim, however, said “delegates can collect the money but should still vote according to their conscience.”

He described Saturday’s primary as “an open contest.” “For me, it will be an open contest, but Nigerians are hoping for the best candidate to emerge. My advice is that the delegates should vote according to their conscience, even if they are enticed with money. They can collect the money but vote for the best.”

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