Ex-VP, PDP fear regional divisions in S’East, North may work for APC candidate
Former Lagos gov moves to douse Muslim-Muslim ticket tension
The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate for the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, are mulling over the option of engaging the presidential candidates of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso, in talks on how to work together to defeat the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Obi, who is a former governor of Anambra State and Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election, and Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano State, were members of the PDP before they defected to their respective parties to actualise their presidential ambitions.
Findings by Saturday PUNCH, however, revealed that the PDP was considering how to enlist their support and form a formidable team to defeat the candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Meanwhile, in the APC, among other qualified persons being considered as Tinubu’s running mate are Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, both of whom are prominent northern Christians.
While efforts are on to avoid a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the party is also said to be considering Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who is a strong northerner, but a Muslim.
In the PDP, however, it is believed that Obi and Kwankwaso’s defections could affect the fortunes of the party in the February 25, 2023 presidential election.
There are concerns that Obi’s exit will further split the votes of the South, which is the PDP’s stronghold, while Kwankwaso’s exit will have a similar effect in the North, especially Kano State, which has bloc votes. If allowed to happen, the party fears it will work in favour of the APC, which already has more states in the North.
Obi, who had obtained the N40m presidential forms of the PDP before he defected, was said to have left the party due to the unfriendliness of one of the governors of the party in the South-South.
Kwankwaso, a former Minister of Defence, was also the foremost leader of the party in Kano State before his defection.
A former National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, told one of our correspondents in an interview that the result of the 2019 presidential election had shown that the PDP needed to get all the votes it could from all the states, especially northern states with higher numbers of voters.
He said, “In Kano State, President (Muhammadu) Buhari won in all the 44 local government areas with 1.4 million votes, while Atiku got 391,593 votes. Though the incumbent governor of the state, Abdullahi Ganduje, won the governorship election on the platform of the APC in 2019, it was a tight race between his party and the PDP. So, the PDP has prospects in the state, which is why it has to do what is necessary to get the maximum possible from the state.
“The 2019 governorship election results, which were a combination of the March 9 election and the March 23 rerun, showed the APC polled 1,033,695 votes, while the PDP scored 1,024,713 votes. With the above analysis, you will see that the PDP will need the cooperation of the two gentlemen to remain popular and win these states.”
However, Secondus refused to comment on what the party and Atiku planned to do to woo the two men, whom he described as “valuable persons” to the party.
The Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, also said there were possibilities that votes from the South-East could be split into three with Obi’s candidacy.
“We may have a situation whereby Obi will have some votes from there (South-East), then our party and the APC will get votes as well. We need to work against that. The South-East is our zone and we know the people and the voters there will not abandon us,” he stated.
This, according to findings, is the reason the PDP and Atiku are considering speaking with Obi and Kwankwaso to enlist their support.
A source privy to the planned discussions said, “We will talk to them. The battle ahead is not personal. We need to win the election and rescue the country from the bad governance of the ruling party. Thank God that we have about nine months ahead of us before the conduct of the general elections.
“We have enough time to engage people and solidify whatever agreement we want to propose. We should not allow this opportunity to slip from our hands.”
Atiku still consulting, says aide
When asked to confirm if moves were being made to engage Obi and Kwankwaso in talks, a media consultant to Atiku, Paul Ibe, said in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday that he could not say if such moves were being made, but that since his emergence, the candidate had been consulting stakeholders.
He added, “After he won the primary, he met with other aspirants, PDP governors, former ministers and other stakeholders. In this race, especially when you are contesting against a ruling party, everyone matters. These are extraordinary times and they require extraordinary measures.
“So, there will be alliances and the objective is to kick out the APC that has done nothing than to make Nigerians suffer, promote division and entrench a state of insecurity. But I can’t say if the party is reaching out to them (Obi and Kwankwaso).”
Obi won’t step down, says campaign DG
Meanwhile, when asked if the LP candidate would be favourably disposed to negotiating with the PDP, the Director-General of the Peter Obi Campaign Organisation, Dr Doyin Okupe, vowed that the former governor would not step down for any candidate, adding that the candidate and his supporters were focused on the task ahead.
“The support Peter Obi is getting across the country is too massive for anyone to ask him to step down for anyone. Nobody ever thought Obi could leave the PDP, but he left. The real third force is here with us. The coming revolution is beyond Obi. Peter Obi is a man whose time has come. The PDP and the APC have expired. They are no longer relevant in Nigeria’s current situation.”
Tinubu considers Lalong, El-Rufai, SGF, others
Similarly, the leadership of the APC has commenced the search for Tinubu’s running mate.
A chieftain of the APC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Nigerians were justified to express reservations about a Muslim-Muslim ticket. He, however, cautioned that people should be more concerned about competence rather than religious affiliations.
He said northern governors were working with the party’s National Working Committee to consider a list of options at their disposal, adding, “There is no cause for alarm. We anticipated that things could head this way, but the party is considering some candidates to neutralise the threat of an Atiku presidency.
“The party and the governors are mulling the option of Lalong; Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu; and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.”
He added that El-Rufai; Kano State Governor, Abdulahi Ganduje; and Mallam Kashim Ibrahim-Imam were also being considered.
The party’s NWC, led by the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and the Progressives Governors’ Forum, led by Bagudu, visited Tinubu barely 24 hours after his emergence as the APC candidate.