The emergence of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has placed the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the crossroads, making the leaders of the ruling party cautious of their next steps.
The APC leaders are weighing two options on who to put forward for the contest, Bellnews can report.
This is just as impeccable sources at the leading opposition party said shopping for a running mate for Atiku has commenced.
Top shot of the camp of Atiku said they are considering paring a serving governor from the South-South geopolitical zone with him.
After months of hide-and-seek by the two political parties on zoning their presidential tickets, the PDP on Saturday conducted its presidential primary and picked a northerner from Adamawa State.
Twice the ruling party had postponed its presidential primary. The party was blamed for the postponement of the June 3 deadline for the conduct of the parties’ primaries for the 2023 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday.
Seven days to the new date fixed for the APC presidential primary, Daily Trust reports that activities for the exercise have not commenced.
Party leaders, aspirants, and other stakeholders of the party are at crossroads over choices to make. The screening of the 23 presidential aspirants of the party slated for last Monday was postponed indefinitely.
Bellnews reports that the National Working Committee (NWC) under the leadership of a former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, has neither fixed a new date nor constituted a committee to carry out the exercise.
Out of the 23 aspirants, stakeholders in the party are looking in the direction of National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President Ahmad Lawan and former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
“It is either we dare the South and pick our candidate in the North or we throw open the race and risk its outcome,” a source in the party said.
Bellnews had on May 17 exclusively reported the heightening of the push for the retention of the party’s presidential ticket in the North.
The emergence of Atiku has amplified it. But a section of the power brokers in Abuja is said to be still rooting for former President Goodluck Jonathan as a possible flag bearer of the party.
The northerners in the race for the ticket are; Lawan; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Jigawa State Governor, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and former Zamfara State Governor, Sen. Ahmed Yarima. A former governor said the emergence of the former vice president has completely changed the dynamics.
He said; “Apart from some charlatans in the Villa dropping Buhari’s name and claiming that he has endorsed Amaechi, the emergence of Atiku has completely changed the dynamics.
“Apart from Tinubu, is there anyone who can match Atiku toe-to-toe across the nation and repeat the MKO success story when he defeated the late Bashir Othman Tofa in Kano?”
“Surely, Atiku is banking on northern votes. Kwankwaso will cut off some from North West. So a good running mate from North will square him off. And of course, attacking his home base of northeast is the deal.”
But a former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, yesterday said the emergence of Atiku has shut the doors on the southern contestants in the APC.
Kalu, the Chief Whip of the Senate and one of the promoters of Lawan, urged President Buhari to pick his successor.
“For our party the APC, it is no longer feasible to talk about southern candidates except the APC wants to go on political retirement.
The Abia senator also urged the party’s leadership to zone APC presidential ticket to the North East.
“I call on President Buhari to pick a successor from the North East and that will be the equity the South East needs.
With the North East, the cycle will be closest to completion of regions producing the president of Nigeria,” he said in a statement.
But the Talban Bauchi, Tahir Ibrahim Tahir, in an article tagged, “APC’s bitter but puissant pill,” said Tinubu is the only aspirant that can match Atiku.
“APC must honour its unwritten agreement of power shift, in the spirit of federal character and rotation. Tinubu as a southerner is the only politician that has exhibited the northern brand of inclusiveness in politics,” he said.
A coalition of chieftains of the APC in the South West has urged President Buhari not to breach the trust and agreement he reached with the leaders of the party in the region before his election in 2015.
The group in a statement issued yesterday by its National Convener, Mr Fatai Bola Adekunle, said Buhari was morally bound to support and ensure that a party member from the South West region succeeds him in the office next year.
Adekunle maintained that anything short of the aforementioned demand would amount to betrayal from President Buhari and his supporters to the people of the South West who he said helped him (Buhari) greatly to get into office in 2015.
“We are appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to reciprocate the gesture of the people of the South West to him in 2015 by making sure that one of our sons emerges to succeed him in 2023 as a token of appreciation for the gesture of our people towards him.
“All of us were living witnesses to the roles played by our sons and daughters to ensure the emergence of Buhari as the president of the country. It is no gainsaying the fact that without that alliance between the South West and the North, the Buhari presidency that we have today would not have been possible”, they said.
They further cautioned the party leaders against the rumoured moves to foist former President Goodluck Jonathan as a presidential candidate.
Contacted, an aide of the president said Buhari was not part of a plot to draft Jonathan into APC presidential race.
He said on Sunday that instructions had been given that there shall be no public release of photos of any meetings between the former president and the incumbent at this time.
The president, it was gathered, did not want such images to be used to confer any modicum of support to the plot to get Jonathan into the race.
Bellnews learnt that the Presidency was worried that the aides of the former president were involved in keeping the “Plot alive in the media by releasing photos of his visits to the APC Chairman and Alhaji Mamman Daura, to insinuate that these two gentlemen are in support of the plot”.
Reliable sources at the PDP told this paper that the shopping for a running mate for Atiku has commenced.
At the 2019 general election, Atiku, who was the candidate of the party picked a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi as his running mate. They were defeated by President Buhari.
A source close to Atiku said before the primary, they had resolved to pick the running mate from the South-South geopolitical zone.
He said at their inner circle, the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, was being considered for the plum seat given his contribution to the emergence of Atiku.
“Except for last-minute change, we are looking at Governor Okowa for the position. He has consistently supported our camp despite all backlashes. He mobilised resources for us and ensured that all the delegates of his voted for us,” the source, one of the leaders of the campaign team said.
But another source in the party, who confirmed that they have resolved that the running mate be picked from the South-South, said the issue of Okowa has not been sealed.
“There is a division on it, some are saying him but others especially elders of the party, said Wike should be considered because of his performance at the primary,” the party leader said.
He also said that Governor Udom Emmanuel Akwa Ibom, who came fourth with 38 votes at the primary, has begun moves to be considered for the seat.
According to him, the main factor that led to the defection of Peter Obi was the decision of the Atiku’s camp to look elsewhere for the running mate.
Meanwhile, a former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, one of the presidential aspirants of the PDP, has expressed shock that the consideration by delegates during voting was based on the old primordial sentiments rather than on burning national issues and how to resolve them.
Anyim, who said this while reacting to the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries, however, congratulated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar for emerging the flag bearer of the party.
He said he was proud to have gone through the presidential race to the end, assuring that he would continue to stand tall “Until we birth the Nigeria of our collective dreams.”