With the return to the party of Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has found itself with a crowded field of presidential aspirants for next year’s election.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbodiyan, confirmed to Saturday Tribune in Abuja on Friday that the PDP would wait for Nigerians to “signpost” the best among the aspirants before deciding who to use among them.
He affirmed that having been a victim of impunity and imposition of candidates, the party would not go back to that attitude but ensure that there is a free, fair and credible process for the emergence of a candidate acceptable to most Nigerians.
“We are listening to Nigerians because we don’t want to be victims of impunity and imposition.
“Our responsibility as a party is to ensure a free, fair and credible process. It is not our duty to narrow down the contestants. We will signpost the one Nigerians want, that personality that will form government to replace this incompetent and helpless administration of President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
Formally received by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the main opposition party on Thursday, the former chieftains of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) are expected to join in the race for the PDP ticket against former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, himself a relatively new defector from the APC; Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo; a former chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and a former Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Turaki (SAN).
Others already in the race are a former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido; a former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau; a former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; educationist, Dr Ahmed Datti and the outgoing governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, even though he is outside the area the post has been zoned to.
All the aspirants have been moving around the country to curry the favour of political stakeholders, particularly those in positions to exert influence in the PDP.
Atiku was perceived in some quarters to be the leading candidate in the race for the party’s ticket until the arrival of the trio of Saraki, Tambuwal and Kwankwaso, whose return to the PDP has changed the dynamics of the race.
While Atiku, an advocate of the country’s restructuring, has immense personal resources, he is also thought to have a vast political network in the southern part of the country but seems to enjoy less popularity in his North East geopolitical zone and the rest of the North.
As a septuagenarian, his critics say the tide could also go against him in an era where people are yearning for a young and dynamic president to emerge.
But his supporters argue that rather than count against him, his age and wealth of experience as a former vice president and a successful entrepreneur make him the best placed aspirant to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari and hand victory to the PDP in the presidential election.
Also campaigning very hard are Lamido, Turaki, Shekarau, Makarfi, Dankwabo and Datti who have since officially notified the party that they are interested in its ticket.
Even though speculation point to the fact that they will contest for the PDP’s presidential ticket, Saraki, Tambuwal and Kwankwaso have yet to officially inform the PDP leadership.
However, the leadership is keen to show that it wants to ensure a free, fair and credible process that will throw up the most acceptable candidate among the contenders for its ticket.
The party is likely to gauge the sentiments of Nigerians to understand who they are likely to favour among the aspirants before possibly showing its hand in the race.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, has, however, assured aspirants of freedom to indicate their interest in the race, saying they are guaranteed level playing field even if they have only recently joined the party.