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Atiku, Kwankwaso, Saraki: How ‘big’ declarations will affect PDP

The recent declarations by some personalities to vie for the presidency under the platform of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has suddenly shifted…

The recent declarations by some personalities to vie for the presidency under the platform of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has suddenly shifted attention to the leading opposition party in Nigeria, raising issues like fears of implosion, division, and other possible effects. 


For now, the PDP has over 15 presidential hopefuls, and from their utterances, each of them believes he is best-suited to fly the ticket of the party next year. Amidst this confidence, insiders say almost all of the presidential aspirants decided to buy the nomination forms after they received the blessings, commitment, and assurances of those that matter in the party, including serving governors.

“Yes, we have almost fifteen aspirants now but the fact is that they were individually wooed into the contest,” a source who is worried with recent happenings in the party, told Daily Trust Saturday. “Handlers of the PDP wanted big politicians who left to return; so they promised each of them, at different times that they would give them the presidential ticket. So what do you expect after the primaries? All of us know that there can only be one candidate,” he said.

At present, only three of the many aspirants have formerly declared at elaborate events but it is obvious that others would follow in the coming days more so the party’s national convention where the candidate would emerge would hold soon. Those that declared include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and Senate President Bukola Saraki.

All three were originally PDP members before they defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of 2015 and then moved back to where they came from as the 2019 approaches even as they individually and collectively castigated the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government. And in the event any of them emerges, he would ultimately face Buhari at the general elections; a development that only the Nigerian voters would decide upon. 

Atiku, Saraki and Kwankwaso

Atiku Abubakar

Issues raised by Atiku while declaring his intention to contest for Nigeria’s presidency under the PDP have been greeted with mixed reaction from Nigerians. The rally held in Yola, the Adamawa state capital on 21 July 2018, was graced by PDP bigwigs including the party’s national chairman, Uche Secondus, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce and Dr. Umar Ardo and Atiku’s close ally, Koiranga Jada.

Atiku, a serial contestant with a sizeable financial war chest and vast political experience is contesting for the fourth time after failed attempts in 2007, 2011 and 2015 under the platforms of the PDP, the ACN and APC, respectively. His current clamour to get the PDP ticket is seen as his likely final outing considering his age and political equation in Nigeria which will move the pendulum to the South in 2023. Insiders say it is believed he would not take it lightly if PDP denies him the opportunity this time around.

Atiku, during his declaration, said he  believes he could do better than Buhari and condemned  the Federal Government’s response to Boko Haram insurgency and other security problems in the country, telling his supporters that if elected, Nigeria will be safe for all citizens.

On his part, PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, assured party members of victory in the next election, saying Nigeria must be rescued from the present leadership even though he was short of endorsing Atiku; but his presence at the campaign launch was seen by many as approval.

However, a politician and founder of ‘Bring Back Buhari and Bindow 2019’, Dahiru Hammadikko, said Nigerians know that Atiku is not sincere in his criticism of the Buhari administration.

Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso

A former governor of Kano State, Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso’s declaration and the salient issues he raised were also greeted with kudos and bashing by experts. The former Defence Minister, while formally announcing his entry into the race on Wednesday, in Abuja, also blamed the APC for not putting an end to Boko Haram and herdsmen killings in the country.

But before then, the ex-governor faced the hurdle of getting another venue, as the initial one, which was Eagle Square, was no longer an option. The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) denied him the venue on security grounds pointing out it was on a working day and the security forces would not be able to provide adequate security for the expected crowd. 

The development was met by hue and cry from sympathisers and political associates including the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) which comprises 39 political parties pushing for the PDP. Kwankwaso later declared at Chida International Hotels, in the Jabi area of Abuja, where he indicted the government saying, “There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for killings by Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen, crop farmers, kidnappers, human traffickers and abductors. We will provide an atmosphere where there will be security, safety, serenity and sanity.”

But analyzing Kwankwaso’s address on Boko Haram, a Security Expert and Political Analyst, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, countered the ex-governor’s submission, arguing that the terrorists have been defeated. “As a Security Expert, it is imperative to state that the insurgents have been defeated. When the present administration took over in 2015, the terrorists were still in control of some local government areas in the North East, but now the situation is different. Security should be the concern of all citizens and it shouldn’t be politicized for whatever reason. Politicians should stop politicizing security issues. Some of these statements are like energizing criminals to cause more havoc,” he said.

Ojo argued that the declaration by Kwankwaso and other contestants has not beefed up the strength of the PDP, adding, “When Kwankwaso was declaring in Abuja, a significant number of his supporters (Kwankwasiyya) defected to the APC in his home state of Kano on the same day.” 

On the claim by Kwankwaso  that the government has introduced harsh economic policies, Ojo said whoever said so does not care about the future of the nation, saying it was the anti-graft war of government that has made people to be uncomfortable.

Bukola Saraki

Senate President Bukola Saraki’s Thursday official declaration to contest under PDP will certainly add a new twist and shape the party’s politics in the coming days. He first dropped the hint a couple of weeks ago in an interview, where he said he was considering joining the race.

But watchers of the Nigerian political scenes ‎know that even before that hint, Saraki had been nurturing the ambition of becoming the number one citizen. When he was leaving the Government House in Ilorin in 2011, he had wanted to challenge the then president, Goodluck Jonathan, though he did not jostle for the PDP ticket then. He ended up being a senator.

In the last few weeks, Saraki had engaged in a series of consultative visits first to former Head of State Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and then to former president Olusegun Obasanjo. He went on to visit governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and Nyesom Wike of Rivers among others all as part of the consultations.

The Senate President seized an occasion tagged ‘Public Dialogue Series with Political Parties on Youth Candidacy and Party Primaries’ facilitated by the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ movement to tell the world about his presidential ambition. The stage was set and Saraki wasted no time in addressing the youth. “As a former two-term governor and currently President of the Senate by the grace of God, I believe I possess a unique blend of executive and legislative experience to push for and implement reforms that will deliver real improvements in the daily lives of our people. I know what it takes to create jobs and grow the economy,” he said.

However, the very youth that Saraki addressed and canvassed for support denied him few minutes after his address. The ‘Not Too Young To Run’ movement immediately issued a statement where it expressed disappointment at the Senate President for using their platform to declare his presidential intention. They equally distanced themselves from his ambition. “As noted earlier, the movement reaffirms its identity as a non-partisan citizen-led movement dedicated to the defence of democracy, political inclusion and transformative leadership. The movement restates its commitment to sustain its engagement with political parties to ensure youth candidacy and democratic party primaries.”

Saraki then said in a statement that the announcement was made in good faith to young PDP aspirants, partly as a symbolic act of encouragement.  

The Executive Director of the Civic Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, whose organisation has followed the activities of the National Assembly under Saraki in the last three years believes that the Senate President has a lot of political crisis that may dent his ambition. “The Nigerian constitution lists those who are qualified to contest for different categories of offices including presidency. Since he was a governor and currently a senator, I think he has the right to seek for election into the presidency. The issue is whether he has enough public support, integrity and capacity. If he believes, then let him test his popularity.”

Asked if Saraki has all it takes to be president, the CISLAC boss said: “I am not sure if he has the ability to accommodate different political views as seen in his leadership style which is very dictatorial with ‘ambush-and-elbow’ politics. He suspended elected members and showed total disregard of political party arrangements If PDP wants give a good competition for 2019, they need to have someone with less political crisis. Again, it may not be fair for other older PDP members who never left the party since 2015 election. Therefore giving the ticket to Saraki may cause disaffection.” 

On Saraki’s legislative contributions, he said: “Going by the legislative leadership crisis under Saraki, we have lost quality legislative contribution to enhance legislative effectiveness and contribution in the area of social, economic and political reforms. Key confirmation of appointments and boards, particularly anti-corruption agencies, have been undermined. We have also seen legislative rascality and extortion in the name of legislative oversight. We are witnessing constant Executive-Legislative ego and conflict. All these are not good legacies under the leadership of Senator Saraki.”

Another dimension

On his part, Faliya Cham, who is the National Coordinator, Vanguards for the Protection of Democracy in Nigeria, said all those contesting under the platform are afraid that they would never be relevant in the Nigerian political scene after Buhari’s second term, saying  Nigerians would never trust them. He described what they said in their declarations as empty and not in-tune with reality.

“Whenever these PDP politicians talk about Nigeria’s problems, one could be tempted to think their party did not rule this country for 16 uninterrupted years? Is it not funny and strange that Atiku Abubakar will say President Buhari has derailed and has not performed when just last week President Buhari commissioned the construction of a federal road to Jada, Atiku’s hometown – a road that was first billed for reconstruction when Buhari was chairman of PTF in 1998 but was completely abandoned from 1999 – 2015 during which he Atiku was Vice President for 8 years?”

On Kwankwaso’s Boko Haram angle, he said, “How could somebody whose own state  (Kano) has been rescued from the daily scourge of Boko Haram by the Buhari government now turn around to lie in broad daylight that the same government has allowed the scourge to fester if not outright mischief? Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso cannot stand in Kano today and say this lie without getting booed!”

On Saraki’s claim that he can do better than Buhari, he said: “His record as Kwara State governor for 8 straight years is appalling. There are no landmark infrastructural achievements to show, and neither has he done anything worthwhile to boost the state’s local economy and IGR. And neither is his record as Senate President any better. So, what’s he talking about? Finally, if we are to take the history of the PDP into reckoning, Nigerians should expect the party’s gladiators to go into further bickering amongst themselves after their presidential primaries. And with over 15 presidential aspirants, expect the bickering to worsen, further driving the party into the abyss of defeat.”

What the PDP says

PDP leaders had reportedly met on Wednesday and deliberated on the likely backlash of the presidential primaries. Led by Prince Secondus, the closed-door meeting reportedly resolved that the party  the party would conduct a free, fair and credible primary election. Secondus reportedly  assured aspirants that the NWC had no favoured ones, adding that the primary aim of the party is to sack the APC. He told them that the party and others leaders in the country would want the aspirants to cooperate with whoever emerges at the October 6 national convention.

It was gathered that though aspirants at the meeting had agreed to “cooperate with anyone that emerges as long as the process is credible,  free and fair,” another source said some of them would look for another platform to actualize their dreams. Those at the meeting included Saraki, Atiku, ex-Plateau governor Jonah Jang, Sokoto governor Aminu Tambuwal,  ex-Sokoto governor Attahiru Bafarawa, and a former chairman of the PDP Caretaker Committee, Ahmed Makarfi. Also in attendance were Kwankwaso, and Alhaji Kabir Tanimu Turaki (SAN).


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