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PDP Presidential Primary: Atiku, Saraki, Wike Emerge As Top Three Aspirants

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Ahead of the presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled for May 28 and 29 at Eagles Square, Abuja, the party has successfully pruned down its presidential aspirants from 15 to 3, Daily Independent has gathered.

Unlike the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) where the number of presidential aspirants continues to grow by the day, the PDP had already concluded formalities on who and who will contest in the primaries following the successful screening of the aspirants by the screening panel led by former Senate President David Mark.

According to Mark, although 17 aspirants purchased the expression of interest and nomination forms, only 15 of them will contest for the votes of the 3,700 delegates at the convention as two were disqualified by the screening panel.

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Mark refused to disclose the names of the aspirants barred from contesting in the primaries.

The original 17 aspirants included Atiku Abubakar, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Bala Mohammed, Aminu Tambuwal, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, Anyim Pius Anyim, Peter Obi, Sam Ohuabunwa, Nyesom Wike, Udom Emmanuel, Ayodele Fayose, Dele Momodu, Olivia Tarela, who is the only female among them; Charles Okwudili, Chikwendu Kalu and Cosmos Ndukwe.

With less than three weeks to the national convention where the delegates will cast their votes, sources at the weekend indicated that top party elders, leaders and decision makers in the leading opposition party in the country have embarked on careful sifting of the pack and the general opinion among these opinion leaders is that only three of the remaining 15 aspirants have the chance of becoming presidential candidate and flying the party’s flag in next February’s election.

Speaking with Daily Independent, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) said the top three names being considered are Atiku Abubakar, former vice president and the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections; Bukola Saraki, immediate past Senate President and two-term governor of Kwara State and Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor.

According to him, PDP stakeholders in their analysis believe that eventually though Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, emerged alongside Saraki as consensus candidate of the PDP, he may eventually step down to seek re-election so as to enable him serve a second term as governor which is more realistic.

“The elders pointed that Mohammed had given the indication of his likely dropping off from the race when he said he would not pursue his presidential ambition to the end if President Goodluck Jonathan is contesting. No serious presidential candidate desirous of winning will say that.

“The governor already knows that it is good for him to go back and consolidate his achievements in Bauchi. He is believed to have taken the gubernatorial form by proxy, through one of his commissioners”, our source said.

On why Governor Aminu Tambuwal was not considered among the first three aspirants, Daily Independent gathered that the presidential ambition of the Sokoto State governor is not flying at all, even in the North, and among serious PDP leaders.

“First, many of the Northern elders were not happy the way he tried to rubbish them over the consensus arrangement after he joined Mohammed, Saraki and Hayatu-Deen in inviting the elders to arbitrate on the choice of the consensus candidate, only to back out when it was clear he would not win.

His efforts to paint the elders black has seriously backfired and diminished his rating by the elders.

“Aside being a former Speaker of the House of Reps and current chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Tambuwal is not popular in most parts of the North, not to talk of the Southern part.

“Also, for the same reason he was not selected as consensus candidate, the PDP elders believe that after Shehu Shagari in the Second Republic, Umaru Yar’Adua between 2007 and 2010 and now, Buhari, who is set to complete a second term of eight years, it will be fool-hardy for the PDP to select another candidate from the North-West in 2023.

“It is believed that Tambuwal has seen the handwriting clearly on the wall that he cannot get the support of the PDP delegates at the convention.

He is said to have secretly purchased a senatorial election form which some in Sokoto State said is held for him by a trusted loyalist, Hon. Aminu Bala Bodinga, who was commissioner for land and housing in the state until recently.

Tambuwal may eventually negotiate to return to the National Assembly and bid for an influential office of presiding officer”.

On the fate of Southern aspirants in the race, our source said that it is almost certain that PDP will take a presidential candidate from the North because its leaders want to pay back the APC for what it did in 2015 to gain advantage over the ruling party.

The PDP’s decision is further emboldened by the fact that the APC having seen that it has not been able to force PDP to toe its line of zoning the presidency to the South where the ruling party has comparative advantage over the PDP, is now mulling the idea of throwing the presidential ticket open to all from any of the six geo-political zone.

“The seeming preference for a Northern candidate may have affected the chances of Southern candidates like Anyim, Obi, Wike, Emmanuel, Momodu, Ohuabunwa and others who are from the South.

Top Southern aspirants are also said to be likely running mate to the eventual flagbearer.

It is believed that aspirants like Anyim, Obi, Wike and Udom will most likely be selected as running mate to the eventual presidential candidate.

“Another non-presidential aspirant said to be high in consideration as possible feature in the presidential ticket is Ifeanyi Okowa.

The Delta State governor is seen to be well loved and has preserved himself for future top post by not joining the presidential race.

“Right now, in top PDP circles, Atiku and Saraki are seen as the leading presidential aspirants from the North, while in the South, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, whose pocket is the deepest among the aspirants is also being considered. Wike has emerged as the biggest spender in the party. Wike’s strength is just the money that he has and is deploying to get people to listen to him or to buy support”.

“While the leaders are not comfortable with Wike and are not ready to trust him with the ticket, they believe he has to be factored into the consideration for the convention or primaries.

“The elders believe that as at today, the PDP has three leading aspirants, one of whom will emerge. They are Atiku, Saraki (both from the North) and Wike. They believe the three men are the ones they have to make up their mind on who to back and sell to the super delegates who will then spread the message down to the other delegates”.

“As at today, the three men are the leading aspirants in terms of their reach, acceptance, name recognition, exhaustive campaign and influence among delegates. The leaders also believe the three men are the ones the undecided delegates are thinking about making up their minds on what to do and where to vote”.

“The delegates should have the next 18 days to make up their mind and decide which of the three men that will fly the flag of the party”, he said.

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