There are indications that the forthcoming presidential primary of main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would present some tense moments for the party, following contentions between northwest and northeast geopolitical zones to produce the standard bearer.
Attempts by the northeast to have the ticket micro-zoned to it did not receive the consideration of the party, as the National Working Committee (NWC) maintains the position of the national convention, which zoned the position to the north in general.
In a bid to prune down the number of aspirants from the zone, the northwest has produced a shortlist, comprising former Education minister, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau; former national caretaker chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and former Presidential Adviser on Special Duties, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki.
A source within the northern stakeholders’ political assembly from the northwest, told The Guardian that they decided to embark on the shortlist as a containment measure to avoid post presidential primary recriminations that could hamper PDP’s chances at next year’s election.
Northwest has the highest number of presidential aspirants, including Sule Lamido, Datti Baba-Ahmed, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, in addition to the three aspirants on the shortlist.
The source disclosed that although stakeholders refrained from making the outcome of the screening and shortlist public to await the defection of some gladiators, some of who are interested in contesting the presidential poll, the shortlist has sparked off frenzied schemes among the presidential aspirants.
This is just as it was said that former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido began frantic efforts to speed up the return of former Kano State governor and Senator representing Kano Central in the Senate, Rabiu Kwankwaso, ostensibly to undercut the position of Shekarau.
The Guardian gathered that ministers that served under former President Goodluck Jonathan have increased their financial and logistic support for Turaki’s aspiration so as to further brighten his chances at the primary.
Attempts to get Lamido’s reaction to allegations that his insistence on Kwankwaso was to reduce the chances of Shekarau who came tops on the shortlist was not successful, as he could not reply short messages sent to his telephone set at the time of filing this report.
Based on the apparent moves to scheme out Shekarau, the Presidency through the Kano State governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, has continued to pile pressure on the former minister to return to All Progressives Congress (APC), with the promise to allow him nominate a running mate for the incumbent’s second term.
Another carrot being dangled before Shekarau is the possibility to fly the APC presidential flag in the event that President Muhammadu Buhari rethinks his second term ambition.
Meanwhile, Rivers State governor, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, who is privy to the shortlisted candidates by northwest stakeholders, has decided to reach out to Shekarau, contending that the former Kano State governor is also a former minister in Jonathan’s cabinet like Turaki (SAN).
On Friday, the Rivers State governor dispatched was said to have chartered aircraft to Abuja to fetch Shekarau, with whom he was said to have held “wide ranging talks” about developments in Kano and the forthcoming Presidential contest.
It was gathered that the former Education Minister, who took over from Wike complained that former ministers have been extending logistic support to Turaki despite the fact that he was also a member of the immediate past cabinet, even if he defected from the APC.
A source in Rivers State Government House said despite pleas by Wike to Shekarau to pass the night in Port Harcourt, the former minister insisted on returning to Abuja to keep a promise made to Taraba State governor to attend his son’s wedding.
It could not be established whether Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, would press on with his Presidential ambition and therefore swell the number of aspirants from the northwest, but sources in the zone that confirmed his planned defection to PDP said the strategy is to have a candidate from the zone that could share the votes with Buhari.
“The elders are also looking at age, acceptability and a candidate that has no corruption baggage. The popular belief among stakeholders is that northwest presents the best option to fight with Buhari for votes.”
It would be recalled that former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, recently visited Gombe State governor, Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo, to lobby for his withdrawal from the race to pave way for his eventual emergence as the consensus candidate of the northeast, with the hope that bloc votes from the zone in addition to ballots from Southeast, Southwest and South/south will give him the PDP ticket.
Apart from Atiku, Dankwambo is the only Presidential aspirant that has indicated interest in the PDP ticket from the northeast geopolitical zone. It is not known whether the governor has acquiesced to Atiku’s overtures, but a close ally of the Gombe governor told The Guardian that his principal was still in the race.
He said: “Governor Dankwambo is still in the race and some prominent politicians across party lines are holding consultations on his behalf. You know he holds the mandate of Gombe people till May 29, 2019, so he is trying to balance his ambition and rendering service to the people that elected him governor.”