Had any other aspirant emerged Sunday as the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), many Nigerians would have considered the return of President Muhammadu Buhari a fait accompli, BusinessDay can authoritatively report.
The reason is simple. They believe that no other of the 12 aspirants possesses the astuteness and political wherewithal that Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president possesses.
An analyst, who spoke with BusinessDay shortly after the result was made public on Sunday, said: “That was a brilliant outcome. If it went otherwise it would have beenNunc dimittis or ‘to your tents O Israel’. PDP behaved well; they behaved maturely; nobody (among the contestants) pushed the other; they contested like brothers; I am so happy it went that way.”
According to the pundit, who craved anonymity, “Atiku’s emergence means a lot for 2019. The rate of literacy is much more lower in the north than in the south. The attitude of illiterates generally is to have somebody they think they have affinity with. In that case, if a southern candidate had been presented, Buhari would have had their votes enbloc, but now with Atiku’s emergence, the northern votes would be split on the basis of ethnic and religious affinity.”
Reacting to the development Sunday, an observer said: “The die is cast. Now we have a perspective, it would be a straight battle between the incumbent, President Buhari and Atiku who controls one of the best political machinery within the Nigerian isle, the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), an organisation founded by the late Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua.”
According to him, “Alliances would be formed; horse-trading would start in earnest. The electoral battle would be in the North. The ‘Wazirin’ needs help from others. He needs the Kwankwansiya movement in Kano; those five million votes must be shared. He needs the Governor in Sokoto; he must have a piece of the Northwest pie. He needs the North Central and the strategic inputs of Saraki. Benue, Plateau and Taraba must tilt towards his favour. He must realise it’s not a winner takes all. It’s team work that would create the winning strategy.
In July, Rabiu Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano State and senator, had advised the PDP to field a candidate from any of the three ‘K’ states of Kano, Kaduna and Katsina. It was his belief that “PDP needs someone from any of the ‘3K states’ to win the next election. That’s where the votes are. It would be difficult to win if they pick someone from any other zone…”
Tayo Oni, a statistician with a firm in Ibadan, Oyo State, said that with the seamless convention held in Rivers, the PDP could still win the 2019 presidential poll if all those who contested with Atiku should team up with him.
“My take is that with all that we have seen so far, PDP has a bright chance to win the election in 2019. If all the other 11 aspirants could team up with Atiku and deliver their states or divide the states and regions where the APC is known to exercise control, then you will be sure that victory is sure. Don’t forget that the sympathy is no longer with the APC as it was in 2015; things have considerably changed. I think where we are right now was the point we were when people lost interest in President Goodluck Jonathan administration and decided to vote him out. I am very sure that the APC is jittery over the outcome of the convention,” Oni said.
“If you ask me the significance of the development in Rivers, I would say that it has made 2019 interesting. Atiku is strong, popular and well known. He speaks the language of the people, which is money and because he is from the north, a lot of people will not see it as a religious or ethnic thing. I think that Nigerians should expect a serious contest this time around,” he further said.
Some months ago, Cromwell Gaius, an Abuja-based policy analyst, had, while describing the chances of Atiku Abubaker to clinch the PDP ticket, said: “I sincerely think, without belabouring the matter that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is the best bet for the PDP in the circumstance. Why did I say so? Atiku is well-received in many parts of the north; he has the money to run his campaign without relying so heavily on his party; he has friends and allies across the country. In fact, I must tell you that the man has more friends in the south than he has in his own region of north. If you are talking about or looking for a detribalized Nigerian, Atiku fits the bill.”
The emergence of Atiku may have enlivened the race for 2019 general election.
Before the National Convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Saturday, apprehension was high that the main opposition party was going to make a serious mistake. Pundits had argued that Atiku was the best candidate and raised the alarm that if the selection went any other way, PDP may have played into the hands of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Those who raised the concern based their insinuation on the rumours that made the rounds that Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto State, may have been anointed as the preferred candidate.
Atiku had a few days before the Convention lamented the role of the elite in depriving him the opportunity to serve the country in that capacity as president. He had said that the elite conspiracy had made it impossible for him to emerge president.
“It (reason why I have not been elected President) is what I call the conspiracy theory of the political elite; if you are not going to be used, if you are not going to satisfy their personal aspiration. Part of the problem they (elite) have with me, is that they say I am independent, principled and so on. Unfortunately, the Nigeria public is not politically sophisticated to override the conspiracy of these political elite,” he said.
So, when he made the observation, some analysts said it must have emanated from a “possible gang-up” and “determination in certain powerful quarters” to ensure he did not emerge the PDP candidate.
Recall that Atiku had allowed emotion to take the greater part of him recently when he wept openly while speaking to his supporters who had purchased the PDP nomination form for him. The former Vice President had looked into the condition of the country and wondered why some powerful individuals in the country would not allow him to administer his antidote.
“I have been in politics for the past three decades and in those three decades I have only been on the ballot for the presidential election only once and that was in 2007. But not once in those three decades have I received this much love from the people as you have done today by choosing to purchase nomination forms on my behalf,” he said.
According to him, “By this action, there is a pact between you and me that we are going to do this work together. Just as you gathered here together, we shall enter the race for the PDP nomination together and together also into the general election and by the grace of God and through your hardwork; I believe that we are going to win together.”
But in Port Harcourt, the 12 governors on the PDP platform decided there was not going to be any consensus, preferring that the 12 aspirant should test their popularity at the delegate convention.The governors had asked all delegates to go and vote for candidates of their choice.
There were horse-treading, wheeling and dealing, in the end however, sanity prevailed.
Analysts speak in tandem that the former vice president may have invested more than any other aspirant to the presidential ticket. They noted his journeys across the country, visiting some states more than once; travelling abroad to sensitise Nigerians in the Diaspora, among other engagements. He had spoken passionately about restructuring of the country, a sensitive subject that many prefer to keep quiet on; he has talked about what he would do with the nation’s unviable refineries and his approach to the economy generally.
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