Opinion

2023: Front runners for PDP’s presidential ticket

By Chukwujekwu Amamchukwu

The expectation in the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is that its candidate for the 2023 presidential election may come from the north, however, the reality will be clearer after the national convention of the party which is expected to hold in October.

This is because a lot of other party leaders are of the opinion that for the interest of equity and justice, the South-East should produce the presidential candidate of the party, being the only major ethnic zone yet to occupy Aso Rock since the present dispensation.

Another school of thought also thinks that the North East should be allowed to produce the candidate.

This is because no other zone in the North can boast of more membership of the PDP and has three state governors.

Dr Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner was the last president from the PDP to have occupied the presidency and the Northern elements in PDP are strongly contending that the zoning should be in their favour. This is notwithstanding the fact that the present occupant, President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner is on his second lap of eight-year tenure.

PDP has however said that for the party to have any chances of retrieving power soonest, it will not be restricting the candidacy to any zone and that it is throwing open the contest to all zones of the Federation.

By tradition of the party, the national chairman of the PDP and its presidential candidate should follow the North/South understanding of power equation.

The implication is that if for instance, the PDP elects a national chairman from the South, the North will be expected to produce the party’s presidential candidate, and vice-versa. It is however safe to assume that the permutation on the zoning will be a clearer perspective after the October convention.

But notwithstanding the contestation and debates, a good number of aspirants have already shown more than cursory interest towards the exalted office. Though as usual, there will certainly be contenders and pretenders but at least about five top contenders have so far emerged. Among them are:

Bala Mohammed

Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed is one presidential hopeful who has everything going on well for. He came into prominence in 2007 with his election into the Senate to represent the Bauchi South senatorial district.

He was a leader of the Unity Forum, a group of senators that mobilised support for the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan during the protracted infirmity of late President Umaru Yar’Adua. The Bala group had mounted a support campaign for Jonathan against the backdrop of opposition perceived to have been inspired by a cabal within Yar ‘Adua’s kitchen cabinet.

Jonathan eventually became President after Yar ‘Adua’s death in 2010. He appointed Bala Mohammed as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

Bala abandoned his seat in the Senate for the ministerial position. He held the position up till 2015 when the PDP lost the Presidency to the APC. After a four-year break, he contested for the governorship in 2019 on the platform of the PDP and won the election.

As a minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Jonathan administration, Bala had gained tremendous experience as a consummate administrator who was exposed to international politics as the Mayor of Abuja whose duty also included welcoming all diplomatic corps and personalities and in which most cases he personally honoured some of them with diplomatic citizenship.

The leadership of the PDP had appointed him as chairman of the party’s committee charged with a responsibility to review the factors that led to the party’s loss in the 2019 election and to make recommendations for the way forward. One of the highlights of Bala’s committee report, which he submitted a few months ago, had called for the jettisoning of zoning of the PDP presidential ticket for the 2023 poll.

The report, however, added that the committee received numerous memoranda from diverse groups and interests calling for the party’s joint presidential ticket to be zoned to the Northeast and the Southeast.

There is presently a clamour that the next president of Nigeria must be someone from the younger generation of Nigerians with vast political and administrative experience.  Bala, a former journalist is believed to be one of the emerging political forces from the North, particularly the North East where PDP is incidentally gaining ground and popularity. He has within his service years gained so much as a lawmaker, minister, and now as the executive governor of Bauchi State.

So, far, he has not confirmed or denied rumours in the media space linking him to the 2023 race but a Bala presidency is certainly one project that will fly should he throw his hat into the ring. Bala Mohammed, 62, is presently serving his first tenure as governor and may seek reelection if his rumoured presidential bid fails.

Peter Obi

The former Anambra state governor was the PDP’s Vice Presidential candidate in the 2019 general election. Along with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the candidate of the PDP, Obi showed his classy touch in governance particularly as it concerns the solutions to the economic quagmire, Nigeria has been grappling with recently.

Born in 1961, Obi graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1980 with a degree in Philosophy. He spent better parts of his life in the board rooms of many companies and conglomerates. He was elected governor of Anambra State under the Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu led-All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) where he spent eight years and seven months as the governor. He was sworn in as governor of Anambra State on 17 March 2006.

However, on 2 November 2006, he was impeached after seven months in office. He took the matter to court, he won and was reinstated on 9 February 2007.

Another election took place in 2007, that brought in Andy Uba. Obi went to court to argue that he didn’t complete his four-year tenure, the court agreed with him and said his tenure ought to end on March 2010.

After his dramatic first term, Obi contested for the position of governorship again and won a second term in office, which ended on the 7th of March 2014. He left APGA for the PDP but not after he had successfully worked for the emergence of Willy Obiano as his successor in Anambra.

He was later appointed the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission by former President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2015. He remained very influential and probably the best ever presidential material from the South East. He is reputed to be the only governor in the history of Nigeria that left billions of naira in the coffers of the government, and without putting the state into debt. He ran a frugal administration and built a reputation for himself as a politician who would rather work for his people than engage in the primitive acquisition of wealth for which most of his colleagues have been accused of.

It was that quality that endeared him to Atiku in 2019 and the qualities will certainly speak for him should the presidency be zoned to the South East.

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (popularly known as “Gburugburu”) was born 20 March 1964. He was first elected to the House of Representatives of Nigeria in 2003 where he served as Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport. A third term Reps, who later contested and won the governorship election in 2015 under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He is currently in his second term in office.

Under his leadership,  Enugu state has achieved tremendous transformation in the area of rural development where he commissioned several landmarks and legacy projects- projects that impact directly on the people. Never before in the history had the state witnessed so much tranquillity, a situation where all political actors had to subsume their interests all for the greater good of the state.

Because Enugu city still holds the honour of being capital of the South-East zone, the governor has however continued to play prominent roles in the South-East politics where he is incidentally not just a unifying decimal but also played the chief host in several meetings where the issues concerning the zone are decided.

This calm, resourceful, humane, agile, dynamic and development-driven governor most often prefered not to be seen or heard but most assuredly has proved to be factor in the quest for a united Ndigbo. In spite of the political and ideological differences of most governors and leaders in the state, Ugwuanyi has continued to exhibit a unique personality as someone who appears not politically ambitious or hungry for power. He is also seen in quarters as not being flamboyant, and as a colourless politician, however, it appears that these qualities are turning out to be his strengths on which it is being speculated that he could be the best presidential material from the South East. Like every other possible aspirants, Governor Ugwuanyi has not made any pronouncement on his future ambition but when he eventually does, he will certainly be a strong contender and will certainly not lack support from the South-East.

Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is one Nigerian who has shown his thirst for the presidency since the inception of the present dispensation.

Atiku played key roles in the enthronement of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 whom he served as his vice. It could be said that he was packaged as a natural successor to Obasanjo in 2007 before both men fell apart over a plot by the then-president to trigger a tenure elongation.

Efforts by Atiku to climb into Aso Rock as a substantive leader have repeatedly failed. First, he contested under the AC ticket in 2007 but lost to the late Umaru Yar’Adua who ran on the platform of the PDP. Atiku returned to the PDP shortly after Yar ‘Adua’s death and struggled in vain for the party’s presidential ticket in 2011. Jonathan picked the PDP ticket and went ahead to win the election. In 2013, he joined many other prominent PDP bigwigs to dump the PDP for the then newly formed mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He lost the party ticket in 2015 to Muhammadu Buhari. He returned to PDP, though he picked the party’s ticket but he lost again to Buhari in the 2019 general election.

Though, he had been away from Nigeria for what he claimed was for academic reasons but he has since returned and is seen playing host to his numerous supporters, visiting states and participating in most party activities lately.

Born November 25, 1946, Atiku will be 77 in 2023, a factor that may militate against his presidential ambition as most Nigerians appear to be rooting for a younger generation of leaders.

Similarly, not a few have come to tag him a “nomadic politician” for his numerous defections from one political party to the other in the course of his political career. However, it’s a plus for him that his home state of Adamawa is in firm control of the PDP.

Though he has not made his political intentions public, but it is believed that with his huge political capital and financial war-chest, Atiku will definitely attempt for the ‘last’ time to hit the bull at the eyes.

Aminu Waziri Tambuwal

The Sokoto State Governor may turn out to be one of the strongest contenders in the race for the party ticket. He has been able to maintain a relatively baggage-free outlook in his political career so far. His conciliatory approach to politics has continued to endear him to many stakeholders in the opposition party.

Widely perceived to be temperate and level headed, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives has continued to build political bridges across the six geopolitical zone right from his days in the federal legislature. Seen by his colleagues in the PDP Governors Forum as a team player, Tambuwal’s contribution to the relative stability in the PDP may count for him when the chips are down.

Party sources have continued to credit the 55-year-old politician with a sense of balance between his ambition and the common good of his party.

He is widely acknowledged by the various contending groups and interests in the party for his stabilising role in the ongoing efforts at resolving the leadership crisis rocking the PDP at the moment.

As chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Tambuwal, who is currently serving his second and final term as governor, is seen by many of his compatriots as a stickler for objectivity in all situations.

Under his leadership, the PDP Governors Forum has become a force to reckon with in tackling the ruling APC over its obvious poor performance and the administration’s abysmal failure to tame the hydra-headed security challenges ravaging the land.

Tambuwal has also played a key role in steadying the turbulent wave of crisis in the PDP, a situation which is currently threatening the ones famous umbrella.

Tambuwal started his political career as a member of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the PDP before he emerged as Speaker in 2011.

He was a member of a group of disgruntled chieftains that formed the “rebel” nPDP that defected to the APC in 2013.

He got elected governor in 2015 on the platform of the APC but dumped the ruling party and returned to the PDP in 2018 alongside a few others who defected to the APC about the same time.

He joined the race for the presidential ticket of the PDP in 2018, but came second, losing the slot to Atiku. He sought re-election as governor in 2019 and got re-elected for a second term.

He is no doubt a force to reckon with and having passed through both legislative and executive tutelage and alongside boasting his social capital across the party borders, Tambuwal will be a choice which if PDP decides to make, will be huge thorn in the flesh of other opposition parties.

*Chukwujekwu Amamchukwu is an executive member, Future Nigeria Movement (FUNIMO) and writes from Port Harcourt

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