by Temidayo Akinsuyi, Lagos
Even though no official declaration has been made by Nigeria’s major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on where it will zone its presidential ticket for the 2023 presidential election to, political analysts believe that it will likely go to the North based on the utterances and body language of many stakeholders in the party.
Many chieftains of the party who have spoken in favour of zoning the ticket to the North have argued that it will be unfair for the South to produce the presidential candidate in 2023 given the fact that since the return of democratic governance to the country in 1999, the South was in power for 13 years out of the 16 years that PDP held sway as the ruling party while the North held sway for just three years.
A breakdown of PDP’s 16 years reign from 1999 to 2015 shows that former president Olusegun Obasanjo was in office for two terms between 1999 to 2007. Upon the completion of his tenure, he handed over to Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in May 2007.
Unfortunately, Yar’Adua who was battling ill-health even before his election succumbed to death on May 5 2010.
His deputy, Goodluck Jonathan took over and completed their tenure in 2011. Jonathan sought reelection which he won and governed till 2015 when he was defeated by the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
It appears the PDP members from the Southern part of the country are also in sync with this belief. This is because no serious contender for the presidential ticket has been identified so far.
However, many chieftains of the party are being tipped to replace Uche Secondus as the national chairman of the party in the convention slated for October.
Among prominent PDP members being tipped as national chairman are Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Chief Olabode George, Jimi Agbaje, Gboribiogha John Jonah , Liyel Imoke, Eyitayo Jegede and others.
The general belief among party leaders in the PDP is that if truly the PDP wants to win the 2023 presidential election, its ticket must go to the North and that will give it an advantage over the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). According to them, that was what gave the APC an advantage over the PDP in the 2015 presidential election.
Also, the party leaders believe the last President produced by the PDP (Goodluck Jonathan) is from the South and he spent six years in office.
Overall, they believe that going by zoning arrangement, the PDP should go to the North in the search for the Presidential flagbearer.
Based on this reality, the likely presidential aspirants in the PDP for the 2023 presidential elections are just four. They are Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President who was the PDP presidential flagbearer in the 2019 presidential election, Bukola Saraki, immediate past Senate President, Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto sate governor and Bala Mohammed, Bauchi State Governor.
Other likely presidential aspirants are Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom state; Nyesom Wike of Rivers state; Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia state Governor; Ifeanyi Okowa,Delta state Governor, Peter Obi, former Anambra state governor who was Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election.
On account of his age and the fact that he has been given the presidential ticket in the last general elections, Atiku appears the weakest among the four likely northern presidential aspirants.
This is because majority of the leaders in the PDP, especially the youth have made their minds not to field Atiku again.
They believe he has become a serial aspirant having contested consecutively since 2007. Many of them also believe he abandoned the party immediately after he lost the 2019 election and went out of the country.
He did not even attend the court sessions during the hearing of the election petitions filed on his loss of the election both at the tribunal and the appellate courts.
They argued that if he had provided leadership, the party will not be in the crisis that it is and would not have lost some of the key members.
Also, Atiku does not meet the requirements set by former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) in his recent interview with Arise Television which received commendation with politicians on all sides of the political divides.
IBB in the interview had said individuals in their 60s should be the focus of Nigerians as potential presidential candidates in the 2023 presidential election.
This resonated well with many people in the country especially with the young Nigerians who are tired of the older generation and are yearning for a new breed of leaders.
In IBB’s words “I have started visualising a good Nigerian leader. That is, a person, who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to and he knows at least one person that he can communicate with.
That is a person, who is very verse in economics and is also a good politician, who should be able to talk to Nigerians and so on. I have seen one, or two or three of such persons already in his 60s”.
Many analysts believed that even though he never mentioned any name, IBB has ruled out Atiku as a potential presidential aspirant as he would be 76 years in 2023.
Bala Mohammed who is currently in his first term had claimed that many of his loyalists are mounting pressure on him to contest for the presidency in 2023.
However, many stakeholders in the party believe he should go for second term and work to reinforce the party in his state and the entire North east zone, especially given the fact that the APC is doing all it can to reclaim back the state.
It is also believed that Bala Mohammed aside being popular in some parts of the North does not have a national appeal in the Southern part of the country.
The Sokoto state governor contested the 2019 presidential primaries of the PDP where he came second after Atiku Abubakar, the eventual winner.
Many believed that he stands a good chance now given his position as chairman of the PDP Governors Forum. Aside the fact that Tambuwal has age on his side (57 years in 2023), analysts believed that he has network of friends across the country given his position as a former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Saraki, a former two-time governor of Kwara state and former Senate President has a huge followership of youths as shown on his social media handles and many of them have been clamouring for him to run as president in 2023. He also has a vast network of contacts in Nigeria and beyond,
His leadership of the 8th National Assembly between 2015 and 2019 is still a reference point among many Nigerians today who see the current 9th Assembly as ‘rubber stamp’ lawmakers.
Many Nigerians see him as a bold and courageous leader who stood firm and served out his term as Senate President when many had thought he won’t last up to six months in the position.
Saraki also has a strong political base especially in his home state of Kwara and across the country. His position as a former Senate President and former chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) also gave him an edge as many of his colleagues, both former and serving still hold him in high esteem across the country
Another advantage Saraki has is that he has no baggage hanging around his neck. The Supreme Court in 2018 discharged and acquitted him of all criminal charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Many Nigerians, including elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai were indignant few days ago when the anti-graft agency invited him and later turned around to claimed he was detained, ostensibly to paint a bad image of him.
Yakassai bluntly said the EFCC was targeting him because of the 2023 presidential election.
In conclusion, political analysts believe that the 2023 presidential ticket of the PDP may be a straight fight between Tambuwal and Saraki, even though Atiku can still pull a magic just like he did in 2018 presidential primaries of the PDP.
They also argued that if it is about geo-political factor and the core- North origin, Tambuwal is favoured because he is from North- West while Saraki is from North Central.
However, if it is about competence, capability, capacity and courage, the 4Cs, then Saraki may just be the right man for the PDP and Nigeria in 2023.
Nigerians who are disenchanted with the performance of the APC since coming to power in 2015 see the PDP as an alternative in 2023. However, it remains to be seen if the PDP is ready for the huge tasks ahead given its current leadership crisis and how best it conducts it national convention.
Most importantly, the candidate it fields as its flagbearer for the presidential election will be the ultimate decider in its quest to regain the power it lost in 2015.