The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the bastion of hope for Nigerians to achieve economic growth; the only party with national clout and capacity to defeat the All Progressive Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 presidential election. The odds are in favour of the PDP which has been tipped to win the 2019 presidential election, however its choice of presidential flag bearer is crucial.
The Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), the consulting arm of The Economist magazine (which endorsed President Buhari in 2015) and a global bank HSBC released reports which categorically stated that that Mr Buhari would lose to PDP in 2019 election and a re-election of Mr Buhari means decline for Nigeria’s economy in the next dispensation respectively. Before these reports, major mainstream media, specifically New York Times, The Guardian UK, DW Germany and The Economist have all lamented the failure of the Buhari administration to deliver on it's campaign promises and bring economic growth to Nigeria.
Consequently, the PDP finds itself once again on the threshold of history just like in 1999 when it was instrumental to restoring Nigeria’s democracy. Despite the antics of the current administration to rock the boat of democracy, it is evident to Nigerians more than ever that for Nigeria’s democracy to thrive the PDP - its major progenitor in the fourth republic - remains the best and most viable option for a democratic multi-ethnic and multi-religious Nigeria.
When Prince Uche Secondus was elected as the PDP chairman, there was skepticism and dissenting voices especially from some regions which felt schemed out in the party’s affairs. His election coincided with a period when the PDP was literally speaking, comatose, but to the amazement of all members of the party and millions of Nigerians who still have regard for the PDP. Prince Secondus has through an all inclusive and democratic leadership begun to make the PDP appealing to Nigerians once again, restoring it as a beacon of democracy. An excellent performance so far so good.
However, wisdom is necessary in electing the flagbearer of PDP to square up to President Buhari in the 2019 presidential election. While it is important for the party leadership to remain neutral among the various aspirants, the focus should be on the most viable candidate who will ensure the party reclaims Aso Rock in 2019 to offer Nigerians a better deal. Therefore, no other goal for the party supersedes the choice of its presidential flag bearer as it is critical to the sustained resurgence of the party going forward. The task is more daunting given the numerous qualified candidates PDP delegates have to consider in its primary election coming up on October 6th 2018. Party delegates must avoid any blunder which would prove fatal and hand APC victory on a platter of gold and send PDP into oblivion despite being the best party to rescue Nigeria.
The sizeable number of aspirants indicates that PDP has leaders who are confident and competent enough to challenge the status quo, men who are courageous enough to take the bull by the horn and defend the Nigerian people. The bigwigs with cult of personality following in their constituencies are political heavyweights known across the length and breadth of Nigeria, though some are more prominent and consequential than others. What PDP needs is to galvanise this tremendous force behind one candidate.
Recall that the defection of most of the aspirants from PDP boosted APC’s electoral capital prior to the 2015 election. Amongst these aspirants are eloquent and articulate speakers, politically savvy Machiavellian tacticians, unfazed, presidential bureaucrats, technocrats, dogged, youthful, erudite, tenacious, experienced, well lettered Nigerians with many years of public service. What the PDP needs however is one man who can fit this profile comprehensively with ease. A candidate who has a well articulated position on the economy, security, power, education, agriculture, healthcare, restructuring, infrastructure, legislations, continental/international trade and other areas of the polity.
Categorically, there is no other candidate that fits this profile other than Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki (CON), the Waziri Ilorin. Dr Saraki has proved to be a thoroughbred leader, with an imposing persona who possesses the astuteness required to pull PDP out of the doldrums. He has proven his mettle as a looming gladiator in Nigerian politics, on the side of the people and has validated his manliness and tremendous value to nation building. He aligned with the PDP in a win-win cross-party coalition in 2015 during the Senate leadership election, gave PDP the lifeline which was one of the major pivots that ensured it was not emasculated by the Buhari administration and APC which were out to ensure the demise of the party. That hand of fellowship which he offered by conceding deputy Senate president to PDP is a gesture which should be reciprocated by delegates.
To engineer the resurgence of PDP, the party needs a presidential candidate which will give it victory in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and expand its horizon to win more states. The election is more crucial for PDP than APC and approaching the election pragmatically requires choosing a candidate with a victorious profile. The PDP cannot afford to take chances.
Dr Saraki has presided over the most successful Senate of the fourth republic, and has outwitted opponents who have thrown every dart and arrows at him to stall the progress of the Nigerian Senate as it carries out its legislative duties. His admirable leadership has enabled him to enjoy the support of senators across party lines. Even in the face of threats of impeachment and calls by the APC for Dr Saraki to step down, a greater number of senators have stood with him through thick and thin. Such resilience is what the PDP needs in its presidential flag bearer.
There is no doubt his political career in the Senate, previously as chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum, governor of Kwara State for eight years, positions him as the most appealing to delegates. Dr Saraki’s fame has spread like wildfire since he hinted to Bloomberg news and formally declared his intention. He is the most popular politician in the country currently and age is gracefully on his side. He will be 56 in 2019 and given the desire by Nigerians for younger presidential candidates and a paradigm generational shift in leadership, he is the best choice.
Public sentiments are in favour of rejuvenated political leadership and governance in Nigeria. Many have opined in different forums that we require youthfulness in running the affairs of Nigeria. A president who will be youthful enough to approach the tasking job of running Nigeria with vigor which is one of the challenges facing President Buhari who has been bogged down by old age and illness spending months on medical tourism abroad.
Undoubtedly, Dr Bukola Saraki represents that democratic, charismatic, situational and transformational leader PDP and Nigeria needs. He represents the cosmopolitan, urbane, innovative and fresh leadership which Nigeria is in dire need of. He has been on a tour of states in Nigeria sharing his message of #GrowNigeria, which encapsulates his grand vision for Nigeria. Traversing the length and breath of Nigeria speaking to PDP delegates and soliciting their votes to elect him as the party’s flag bearer. From the news and images coming out of his campaign, his acceptability has soared. Thousands of party members throng venues to hear him speak. He has been the most vocal in outlining his vision for the country which is premised on GROWTH and prosperity for all Nigerians.
In the South East, he reiterated his resolve to fight for all Nigerians, a promise he has kept even as incumbent Senate President. Nigerians are all witnesses to his determination to reform our oil sector through the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill and electoral amendment bill which makes card readers compulsory in elections. He started that he is 100% in support of restructuring of the federation, a position which is unanimously supported by the entire Southern Nigeria despite being from North Central.
In the North Central, he assured delegates that a vote for him is a vote for transformation of agriculture in the region which is the mainstay of the region’s economy. He also vowed to end the conflicts which has ravaged the Middle Belt unabated. With his experience in large-scale commercial farming as governor of Kwara state and having learned from the Shonga Farms models which revolutionised agriculture in his home state, he would bring such knowledge and experience to better the fortunes of the region which is the food basket of the nation. He visited IDP centers in the Middle Belt and brough message of hope to displaced citizens. In Plateau state, he decried the state of the nation where many feel alienated and assured the people of state that he will “give a sense of belonging” to every Nigerian and also reminded the people of North Central that producing the president is their turn, a sentiment which is widely popular in the region.
In the South South and South West, he pointed out to the delegates that the National Assembly under his leadership has been at the forefront of protecting Nigeria’s democracy and spoke out outrightly against the insensitivity of President Buhari who in recent times appointed a new DSS director which has generated aghast from Nigerians who expected diversity and frowned at flagrant respect for federal character in appointments. He reiterated his support for restructuring as imperative for economic prosperity, a position which has been on the front burners in the South. He is still in the South West and his campaign has berthed in Lagos state where he was given a rousing welcome.
He was well received in Kaduna, Kastina and in the North West and North East. It is important that the PDP leadership and delegates consider the Saraki brand as the best route to Aso Rock and present him as the party’s presidential flag bearer who will eventually bring glory to the party with victory over President Buhari and APC in the 2019 presidential election.