As delegates of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) prepare to elect a presidential flag-bearer today, Saturday, October 6, 2018, in Port Harcourt, supporters of former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, are mounting pressure on governors of the party to support his emergence as the candidate of the party, in the 2019 presidential election.
But the governors of the party, especially those in the South-South region, are believed to favour one of their own — Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State — to clinch the ticket. Tambuwal has been a long-time friend of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who is hosting the convention. Moreover, Governor Wike has not hidden his preference among the presidential aspirants, as he has repeatedly advocated a young presidential candidate for the party.
Tambuwal, 52, is the youngest of all the 12 aspirants. Atiku is 71 while Saraki is 55.
Although Tambuwal is largely considered an elite politician who has no considerable political influence in the North, his alliance with Senate President, Bukola Saraki, may be the Joker that will get him the PDP presidential ticket.
Saraki and Tambuwal have reportedly agreed to support whoever between them picks the party ticket, with Saraki, reportedly asking to be given Senate Presidency if Tambuwal emerges and wins the 2019 presidential election.
But supporters of Atiku and some notable Northern elders are believed to be putting pressure on the governors, who control many of the delegates, to support the emergence of Atiku.
The Northern political elite opposed to the second term ambition of President Mohammadu Buhari, are said to be interested in who the PDP wants to present, to challenge Buhari.
One of the Northern elders who spoke in confidence on Friday, said Tambuwal does not have political influence and appeal in the north, and may not be able to upstage Buhari in the presidential election.
Atiku, on the other hand, is a well-known name and has the political war-chest to rout the ruling APC and Buhari, in the North.
“As it is today, Kwankwaso is no longer in serious contention because of what he did in Kano, by imposing his brother-in-law as governorship candidate of the PDP.
Many of his supporters in Kano have abandoned him. It is now only Atiku that can fight Buhari in the North and defeat him,” said a party chieftain, in Kano.
Although the party said it zoned the presidency to the North, Saraki is not considered a bona fide Northerner, to earn the support of the North. Kwara State, where he comes from, is in North Central State.
Moreover, many in the North say that even though Saraki is more visible and has more political clout than Tambuwal, he suffers from the same lack of grassroots appeal as the Sokoto State governor.
Northern political leaders in the PDP have been telling the governors of the party that Saraki would not stand any chance of defeating Buhari in the North, and neither would Tambuwal.
But Saraki does not appear yet to be backing down. Only two days ago, he asked for a level playing field at the convention, to enable the best candidate emerge.
But a last-minute calculation could make Saraki, who wields a lot of influence as the leading opposition politician in the country, support Tambuwal, to stop Atiku getting the ticket, especially if Wike and the other governors prevail on him.