As the battle for the 2023 presidential election begins, the two major political parties are about now set for the battle Royale as to who becomes the party’s standard-bearer come 2023. For both the APC and PDP, the story is more or less the same. It is not clear yet who will pick any of the party’s presidential tickets at the various primaries scheduled to hold any moment from now. And as the days draw nearer, the plots by the parties’ heavyweights to outsmart each other and emerge as the chosen standard-bearer have begun to gather momentum. In a couple of months from now, the contest to choose who represents the parties at the polls next year will hit a fever pitch and the winners will eventually emerge. But between now and then, there will certainly be a lot of political fireworks going on in the two major and the PDP is no exception.
Presently in the PDP, there are about five political heavyweights eyeing the party’s presidential ticket. They are former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, former speaker of House of Reps and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and a few others. But presently, the fiercest battle for the PDP presidential ticket is between former vice president Atiku Abubakar and the current governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike. The fire-spitting Nyesom Wike wants the party to deny Atiku the party’s presidential ticket and give it to him, Wike. He feels he is the best candidate for the PDP right now in terms and offers them the best chance of winning the next presidential election. Not only does he feel he is a better and stronger presidential candidate for the PDP, he and other top members of the party believe the likes of Atiku have very little to offer the party anymore and would rather he takes a backseat and let other fresh and vibrant members of the party jostle for its presidential ticket. They have quite a handful of issues against Atiku, most of which form the basis for their insistence that he should bow out of the race for who becomes the party’s standard-bearer at the 2023 presidential election. These issues put a big question mark on the strength of Atiku as the party’s presidential candidate and raise concerns as to his chances of defeating the APC and winning the presidential election for the People’s Democratic Party.
One of the major reservations many of the PDP members have against Atiku Abubakar is his penchant for appearing and taking over the party when the election year approaches and disappearing when the election has been lost and won by another party. Governor Wike and other leaders of the party are miffed by this attitude often exhibited by Atiku. A few days ago when Wike officially declared to run for President, he expressed his displeasure against, not just Atiku, but also the likes of Bukola Saraki whom he sees as one of his biggest contenders for the PDP presidential ticket.
Wike took a swipe at former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former Senate President Bukola Saraki, who left the PDP ahead of the 2015 presidential election to join the APC. Both Atiku and Saraki have since returned to the PDP and have declared their intentions to run for President on the platform of the party in 2023. Wike accused them of being the reason why the party lost the election in 2015, noting that those founding fathers who ran away from the party and now want to be recognised have lost their shares. He said, “By the time you ran away, you sold your share as a founding father so you can no longer retain your position of founding fathers.
“I stood for this party. I have worked for this party since 1998. I have nowhere to run to and that’s why anything that happens to this party I take it personally. I have never relented. “In 2015, those who ran away made us lose the election. Today, they are crying but some of us stood and said PDP will not die. “Some people want to use Nigeria to buy back their personal business. They talk about the private sector – let them mention the private business that had survived.
“Is it banks that your father had? Everybody is an employer of labour; even in my house, I have 50 people who feed me. They should stop deceiving us. “I have performed as a governor and can carry my shoulders high anywhere. I have the capacity to face this evil government, give me the mandate. “I will speak the truth to power and nothing but the truth. I have the capacity to move this country forward.”
According to political analysts and from opinions expressed by some members of the PDP, the above sentiments expressed by Wike are not peculiar to him alone. Many other prominent members of the party share his sentiments. They despise Atiku especially for always dumping the party at will and returning only when it is convenient for him to do so, usually when election periods are drawing near.
Another issue some of these members have raised as one of their reasons for not wanting Atiku as the party’s standard-bearer is that they feel he exudes tons of arrogance when he relates with them. Atiku, it must be said, believes he is heads and shoulders above anyone else within the party, so when he speaks, he expects them to listen and fall in line. And indeed, he is probably right. He is by far the oldest leader and most experienced politician, and of course, his CV as a former vice president remains intimidating any day. But the members do not find this funny when he flaunts any of the aforementioned attributes to their face.
“He never listens to anybody, especially when it comes to making critical decisions in the party. He rarely listens to other people’s opinions. He believes he has superior knowledge than any other member ostensibly because he has been in politics much longer than anyone else in the party. And of course, he was a former vice president, so how can you even think of arguing with him?” said a member who spoke during a discussion programme on television.
One contentious issue that’s also likely to work against Atiku is the fact that a lot of the members who make up the party’s leadership do not believe Atiku has what it takes to win the presidential election for the party come next year. They feel he has been struggling to become president for over 30 years running, the closest he got was becoming vice president to Obasanjo. Can he win the presidential race next year if he gets the party’s ticket? They do not think so.
Also, they do not think Nigerians are ready for another president of northern extraction. Apart from the fact that there is still the debate as to whether the party would agree to zone its presidency and give the ticket to a southerner, like the opposition party, APC, has agreed to do, some believe Nigerians are not ready to tolerate another eight years of northern leadership after the calamitous rule of the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari. The expectation is that once Buhari leaves office, and a southerner takes over, killer herdsmen, bandits and terrorists will begin to look for new hunting grounds. And this is what Nigerians are waiting for. And fielding another northerner in Atiku may only infuriate people and leave them no other choice but to vote against not just Atiku, but the party as well.