All eyes are on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, following the
successful presidential primary election that produced former vice
president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the party’s standard bearer in the
scheduled February 16, 2019 election.
The excitement that greeted the victory of Atiku was so sensational that
one would think it was the actual presidential election that the Jada-born
political warhorse had tucked in his kitty. Regardless, that sense of
animation was understandable on two scores.
First was the quality of aspirants with whom he jostled for the ticket. A
majority of the twelve aspirants were uniquely qualified to be the party’s
standard bearer. The primary election was tension-soaked while the
politicking that presaged it was down to the wire. In the corollary, one
of them was expected to emerge as the candidate and he did.
Second, although the eventual winner was predictably located among the
trio of Atiku, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and former speaker of the
House of Representatives and governor of Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal, the
emergence of Atiku would appear to tally with reasonable expectations of
the vast majority of the party members and Nigerians, judging by their
divergent and nuanced reactions.
Indeed, the dimensions of reactions to Atiku’s candidature from within the
party and, more especially, from the governing All Progressives Congress,
APC, have not diminished the magnitude of his persona. Rather, there is a
sense in which millions of Nigerians have appropriated the Atiku
candidature and approximated it as the face of Nigeria’s presidency in
Evidently, the 2019 presidential election promises to be predominantly a
two-horse race between the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku.
Both men are ready for the poll. As the founder of Latter Rain Assembly,
Pastor Tunde Bakare, said, “It is going to be a battle of eagle versus
eagle.” He had gone ahead to describe Atiku as a “cosmopolitan wazobian”.
Many others had already drawn some comparisons between the two leading
candidates for the nation’s plum position: the fact that they are both
core northern Fulani Muslims. To that extent, the northern masses would
understand that power is not leaving the regional enclave for the southern
region of Nigeria. But the divergences in their individualities are
potential moot points that could be dilated by the elite for political
expediencies in order to achieve some damage.
However, it would appear that such voyage could become impotent and
counterproductive, given the current dispositions of the masses about the
hunger in the land purportedly inflicted on them by the administration of
President Buhari. The comparative individual divergences do not,
therefore, present as a hurdle before Atiku. He appears good to go. Both
Atiku and the PDP apparatchiks are happy that they are now capacitated to
upstage the applecart of Buhari’s presidency.
What, however, is the only hurdle to cross in the race through the
homestretch for the ultimate price is the choice of a running mate. Which
zone of the southern region should the PDP look towards to pick a running
mate for Atiku? Or put differently, what will Atiku tell the PDP
leadership guard and other stakeholders in the Coalition of United
Political Parties, CUPP, working with the PDP for a grand alliance to
dislodge Buhari, about a running mate that he expects to work with in
terms of qualities, capacities, national visibility and acceptability?
The issue of a running mate is what is presently engaging the attention of
the leading opposition party. And, this is as critical as the presidential
ticket. If I were to advise the PDP or Atiku on this sensitive matter, I
will simply suggest that they look towards the southwest. My reasons may
not appear far-fetched, but I believe they deserve some introspective
Now, this is the rationalisation for my take on the issue: the 2019
presidential election will be keenly contested. The figures of votes cast
and won will play a decisive role. Whoever gets the highest number of
votes and the required spread in twenty-four states, representing
two-thirds of the states of the federation and the FCT, wins the election.
Buhari’s northwest zone has registered voters in excess of 18 million
while Atiku’s northeast zone has a little over nine million registered
voter population. Arguing simplistically, by choosing its candidate from
the northeast instead of northwest, the PDP has left the northwest for
Buhari and the APC to explore and exploit as much as possible.
Assuming the same goes for Atiku in the northeast, then Buhari and the APC
will still have an excess of about nine million votes to, as much as
possible, harvest from in order to stay ahead of Atiku. The southwest is
next to the northwest with registered voter population in excess of 14
million. Cumulatively, both northwest and southwest zones account for 32
million votes, leaving the remaining four zones with a cumulative figure
of about 38 million registered voters.
Remember that Buhari’s running mate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is from the
southwest zone. Besides, he represents Bola Tinubu’s singular most
formidable political camp in the zone. Osinbajo’s vice presidential
ticket thus represents a bragging right and a justified basis for Tinubu
to flaunt in the faces of leaders and people of the zone as a sense of
entitlement to the presidency on behalf of the Yoruba race.
Therefore, I do not think that the PDP and Atiku should leave the
southwest open to the APC. That will be politically dangerous and
electorally counterproductive in the circumstance. It is a notorious fact
that whoever wants to win the presidential election must lock in the
massive votes of the northwest and the southwest. The PDP and Atiku must
search for a credible running mate from the southwest in order to up the
ante of the presidential contest.
Once that is done, the PDP stands a good chance of running neck and neck
or possibly defeating the APC in the zone, depending on how they go about
picking the running mate, in addition to some other factors well
considered. I expect that the Yoruba leaders, under the auspices of
Afenifere, and acting in concert with the CUPP that enjoys the buy-in of
former President Olusegun Obasanjo, should play a prominent role in the
process so that whoever is picked enjoys groundswell support that will be
able to discount the enormity of Osinbajo’s vice presidential candidature
in the zone.
The idea of picking a running mate from the southeast should be shelved in
the circumstance. The Ibo can be assuaged in the interim with the
speakership position, given that the PDP has resolved to retain the senate
presidency in the north central zone. And, this is where Atiku’s promise
of a single term presidency should kick in forcefully to assure and
reassure the Ibo that the presidency will move to the southeast in 2023.
As someone said, the pledge should be well documented through the
instrumentality of a court affidavit and given the widest publicity so
that the entire world is aware of the existence of such a pact. This is
to ensure that the southeast, with a voter population in excess of eight
million, delivers the votes to the PDP.
The south-south already has the national chairman; and being a traditional
stronghold of the PDP, it is expected to lock in massive votes in the
zone. The strategists in the PDP may have a superior permutation, but
significantly, it is not advisable to allow the APC to use the majesty of
its presidential and vice presidential candidates to smoothly dance to
victory with bulky votes in the northwest and the southwest zones
respectively without deliberately “disrupting” the ballot in Yoruba land
through the choice of a running mate to Atiku from there.
Ojeifo writes from Abuja via email@example.com