Editor's note: Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, Olusola Fabiyi in this piece take a look at the power play within the opposition party Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and lists those who will play significant role in determining the party’s presidential candidate.
The National Publicity of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said Nigerians would determine the presidential candidate of the party in the February election. He may be partly correct because delegates who will vote at the party’s special national convention where the candidate will be elected are citizens of the county.
However, while the delegates will queue with ballot papers in their hands and the list of aspirants printed on them, they may not be there to exercise their personal conviction on who to vote. This is because each delegate is believed to have at least a godfather, whose bidding will be reflected on his choice of the party’s presidential candidate.
For the PDP and members of its coalition groups, the 2019 presidential election is too critical to be left in the hands of not too informed delegates.
A former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, expressed the seriousness he and his co-defectors associated with the election at the inauguration of the coalition’s national secretariat in Abuja on Thursday.
At the event, he warned his group to know that its key members would be dealt with by the ruling All Progressives Congress if President Muhammadu Buhari returns to power in 2019.
Oyinlola, a retired general, asked his co-travellers in the plot to know that what they are involved in is like coup plotting.
“Coup is not illegal when it succeeds, but when it fails, plotters are hounded up in jail and later killed. So, be ready and know the implications of what you are involved in,” he told his audience in a clear language.
Sometimes ago, when the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, led a delegation to visit former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the latter’s residence in Abeokuta, their host also sounded the same warning to his visitors.
To buttress his point, he was also said to have asked one of his personal aides to bring his already-packed bag, which he said contains his drug, few clothes and other essentials, ready to be arrested by the Federal Government over their decision to install a new President for the country in 2019.
“You know I’m used to it. I have been arrested before, I was tried for coup that never existed and I was jailed. Therefore, I’m used to it. It is you who are not used to it. I’m telling you this to let you know that they will come for us if we fail in this task,” he reportedly told his astonished audience.
Such is the seriousness in the camp of the opposition as the nation prepares for the 2019 general elections. They believe that politics is a serious business that will be too expensive to be left in the hands of one person. Though many notable politicians have come out to signify their readiness to fly the party’s presidential ticket in the February election, their fate may have to be determined by just a clique in and outside the former ruling party.
Among those who have signified their intention to run are a former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau; Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo; a former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi; a former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, a former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu (SAN ) and a former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido.
Others considered to be with the potent war chest to fight for the ticket, but who have yet to openly declare their ambition are a former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso; Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; and the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki.
While they are expected to traverse the length and breadth of the country to seek votes from the delegates, the deciders of their fate may nevertheless be a few, within and outside the party.
1. Olusegun Obasanjo
He’s been described by many adjectives. Some are complimentary while others could be full of disdain for the former military head of state and a two-term president. But instead of sitting by and get burdened with the comments of those who have resentment for him, Obasanjo has remained hardened in his unwavering conviction that President Buhari’s performance since he assumed office more three years ago, remain everything but unsatisfactory.
He has said that allowing Buhari to remain in office after four years will mean a reinforcement of failure. Like a soldier that he is, when Obasanjo is convinced about a cause, he puts in everything in him into it. That is why even though he has torn his membership card of the party that brought him into office, Obasanjo has returned to the political battlefield to strategise with other like-minds just to achieve their aim of getting a replacement for his junior in the army. With his involvement in the formation of the coalition that involves 39 other political parties and associations, it is evident that Obasanjo will be one of those who will determine the standard bearer of the PDP, which is the dominant political party in the coalition.
2. T.Y Danjuma
Like Obasanjo, Theophilus Danjuma is a retired general. He played a prominent role in the conspiracy that brought Buhari into power. He was said to be one of the major financiers of the APC campaign. The unabated killings in the country particularly in his native state of Taraba, is believed to have created a wedge between Danjuma and the Buhari government.
Recently, the former army chief openly expressed his frustration about the killings of his kinsmen when he alleged that there was collusion among the security agencies and the killer Fulani herdsmen. He told the people in an unambiguous language, to embrace self-defence.
Danjuma, who is believed to be stupendously rich, hardly talks but when he does, the contents are so heavy that he cannot be ignored. That was why even the Presidency and the army authority were forced to react to his allegations on the killings. While the Presidency waved the allegation aside and denied it, the army was forced to set up a probe panel to investigate it.
Danjuma seems not to care about the ranting of the military and the Presidency over that, as he is said to have joined the “brave patriots” to search for an alternative and acceptable candidate that will slug it out with Buhari next year.
3. Chief Olu Falae
He is not a member of the PDP. In fact, he is the national chairman of the Social Democratic Party. Naturally, he ought to be concerned on how his party would win the presidential election. That however is not the case. Falae, who was a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, played a prominent role in the formation of the coalition that was put together with the sole aim of removing Buhari next year.
He has asked all the political parties involved in the coalition to bury their individual ambition and join hands and present a single candidate for the battle. Going by his presentation at the inauguration of the coalition at its national secretariat last week Thursday in Abuja, and since the PDP remains the largest political party among the partners, Falae is expected to be carried along and also contribute on who would fly the PDP flag for the coalition.
4. Nyesom Wike
“Wike the wicked,” as he’s called by his admirers because of his frankness while speaking on national issues and politics in his home state, Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State, will also be a major player in the PDP presidential candidate selection. Apart from being a governor of an oil-rich state, Wike is also one of the major financiers of the party. He played a major role in the installation and the sacking of the erstwhile Acting National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff. Wike was also at the forefront of the election of the current National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus and majority of members of the party’s National Working Committee.
The former minister of state for education, is also believed to have close rapport with majority of the present and former leaders of the party. With his deep purse and involvement in the bid to rescue the party from the Ali-Modu group who had all defected to the APC, no discussion can hold on who will be the presidential candidate of the PDP and the name of Wike will not be mentioned. Some people are nevertheless speculating that he is nursing an ambition of becoming the running mate of one of the aspirants.
5. Ibrahim Babangida
A former head of a junta in Nigeria, Ibrahim Babangida, does not in any way, qualify as a democrat going by his past actions and records. Unfortunately, the self-styled “evil genius” is among those being consulted as the PDP begins its tortuous journey to get a credible presidential candidate.
His palatial home in Minna, Niger State has since become a Mecca of sort for politicians from the PDP, seeking relevance in the new dispensation. He is said to be in touch with some powerful people in the country to pick a candidate for the PDP, whose presidential ticket had eluded Babangida himself in the past.
6. Uche Secondus
They call him “total chairman” because of his alleged unalloyed loyalty to the party and his friends, Uche Secondus, the national chairman of the party will be saddled with the responsibility of taking a decision with others, in deciding the party’s presidential candidate.
Since he assumed office in December 2017, Secondus has carried on with his job meticulously. His style of leadership, which has been described as unique because of the silent way he carries out his job, has yielded many fruits. His ability to convince Obasanjo to back the PDP’s search for a presidential candidate has been described as unparallel diplomacy.
Such diplomatic moves that also made a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Bode George to reconcile with Obasanjo and bring them together, is expected to manifest in the party’s continued search for a presidential candidate.
Secondus will however be expected to carry members of his NWC along in this task. But going by the strategic post he occupies, the national chairman will not be asked to second the motion for the selection of the PDP candidate, he will be duly involved.
7. Seriake Dickson
The Governor of Bayelsa State is not seeking a re-election and this puts him in a good stead to navigate with other party leaders to search for a formidable candidate for the party. Besides, Dickson is also presiding over a rich state whose resources will be useful for the presidential campaigns.
8. Emmanuel Udom
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State is another PDP leader with a deep purse. Though he is said to be having a silent running battle with his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the governor is said to be a serious party man. While some of his fellow governors from the PDP who are hardly seen at the party events, Emmanuel has been one of the formidable forces behind the position of the party today as a formidable alternative to the APC. The selection team will definitely not asked him to excuse them when the final decision on the PDP presidential candidate is going to be taken.
9. Ifeanyi Okowa
A former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori may be involved by proxy. His state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, may represent his interest as the former governor has yet to begin to dabble into national politics since he returned from London where he served his jail term having been convicted for corruption. He, nevertheless, still determines the political direction of the oil-rich state and what happens at the party at the centre.
10. Aliyu Gusau
One of the prominent member of the military known in their circle as the “master spy,” Gusau, a former National Security Adviser, has remained a close ally of both Obasanjo and Babangida since he left service. He is said to be among the informal group searching for an alternative to Buhari.
There are others who are expected to also be involved in the search. These include the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminent Abubakar Sa’adu and the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido. Though said to be father to all, some analysts believe that there is no way Tambuwal would defect to the PDP and nurse a presidential ambition without consulting the Sultan.
For Emir Sanusi, the defection to the PDP by Kwankwaso has put him on the spot. This is so as Kwankwaso was the governor of Kano State who installed him as the Emir despite the stiff opposition to his emergence by the then ruling party.
The Governor of Ekiti state, Ayo Fayose, may fall to the category, but the defeat suffered by the PDP in the state governorship election may have deflated his ego. That notwithstanding, Fayose is still expected to be involved in the exercise.
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