By Sunday Ani
Without mincing words, the two main parties whose presidential candidates will be competing for the presidential seat are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Party (APC).
Followers of events in the country are not in doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor must be either from his party, APC or the main opposition party, PDP.
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Critical observers argue that though there are upcoming parties like the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), it is doubtful if they will have a national appeal to upstage the main parties to produce the next president.
In the estimation of many, this is the reason the national focus is on the 38 people seeking the two presidential tickets of the two parties.
Among the 15 aspirants cleared to contest for the PDP presidential ticket at its national convention scheduled to hold at the Velodrome of the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, are former Vice President, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku; former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki; Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; and former Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi.
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Others include Akwa Ibom governor, Emmanuel Udom; ex-Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose; boardroom guru, Sam Ohuabunwa; former Managing Director of Nigerian International Bank (NIB), Mohammed Hayatudeen; Ovation Magazine publisher, Dele Momodu; Olivia Tarela, who is the only female among them; Charles Okwudili; Chikwendu Kalu; and Cosmos Ndukwe.
In the APC, the contestants who submitted their nomination forms before the closing date and will feature in the primaries billed for Eagles Square, Abuja, on May 29 are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President Ahmad Lawan; former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former Ogun State governor, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun; former Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonanya Onu; Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi; former Minister of State, Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba; and Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello.
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Others are ex-governor of Akwa Ibom, Sen. Godswill Akpabio; popular preacher, Pastor Tunde Bakare; Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi; former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badaru; former Zamfara State governor, Sen. Ahmed Sani Yerima; Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade; former Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, among others.
Many agree that despite the politics in the PDP that from the beginning of the presidential race, it has been clear the opposition party planned to go to the North in search of a candidate.
Perhaps that is why from the word go, Saraki, Atiku, Tambuwal, and Mohammed were perceived by some observers as the leading candidates.
However, the permutation since last week has narrowed this thinking to three aspirants: Saraki, Atiku and Wike.
Among some analysts, the race may have been further narrowed down to only two aspirants with permutations that one of them is not only the favoured choice of the top leaders of the party, a significant section of the governors, but also other ‘super delegates.’
The calculation in the PDP, analysts observed, is that using the mathematical principle of elimination and substitution, the race should continue to narrow down until it will get to the convention day.
There are those who contend that the two aspirants who are being considered as possible flag bearers are Saraki and Wike.
In their estimation, the elimination process has got to a semi-final stage where one aspirant from each of the two sections of the country, North, and South, is now being considered.
For Atiku, the odds against him, party faithful believe, are his age, agility, and past position on party issues. At age 75, he is perceived to have been too old to face the rigour of the job and provide the presence that the critical job of salvaging the nation requires. There are those who also believe that he has had his chance and that his best time was in 2019 when he was handed the ticket on a platter of gold based on the surreptitious intervention of the elders.
His critics also argue that his perennial failure to win and his lackluster attitude to pursuing the litigation challenging the victory of the incumbent has also become a piece of baggage for him. Many party elders and delegates are still unhappy at the way he abandoned the party after the loss of the 2019 election.
“When the party was in crisis in many of the states and even at the national level, he was nowhere to be found. He was aloof, staying in the United Arab Emirates. He failed to provide leadership. We do not think such a man should get our most prized trophy”, a highly placed PDP source told Sunday Sun.
But his ardent followers still believe that Atiku has the capacity to pull back the country from this present state of going down the precipice if elected president.
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Despite the odds against Saraki, he was chosen as the aspirant from the North who will be pitched against a Southern candidate for the party’s ticket at the convention.
Political observers argue that what counted most for the former Senate President is his affinity with the South and the decision of the northern elders and power brokers to compensate the northern minority from the North-central zone.
His supporters believe that at a time when the major issue is a threat to national unity and general instability, a man with his background is who the country needs.
His role in the party’s presidential campaign as DG Atiku Campaign Organisation in 2018/2019 and also as chairman of the National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee (NRSC) and his underground role in all the staggered elections that the party featured in, in the last three years are said to have counted for Saraki.
Many see him as capable, competent, and courageous enough to do the job. Some others mentioned that he is the only aspirant that has unfolded his plan that he will implement as soon as he is elected president.
The Rivers State governor is also a major force in the PDP. Many believe that having invested so much energy and resources in the party, he is now cashing and converting them to political capital.
He has also shown the capacity to provide funds for the campaigns and it is believed that his money and the number of people he has provided financial support to in the past are working for him. The odds against the Rivers governor is his confrontational attitude in dealing with political issues .
In the APC, the deal initially seems to have been concluded that the presidential ticket of the ruling party will go to the South in line with an old, unwritten agreement put together when the party was formed in 2014.
This was the reason that until about a week ago, all the aspirants in APC except for Kogi governor, Bello, are Southerners. It is also the reason all the bigwigs in the South in all the three geo-political zones are in the race.
However, the calculation changed when the APC failed in its determination to coerce or compel the opposition PDP to also follow suit in going South.
When it became apparent that PDP will not yield to the game of presenting an all-Southern candidates election, the APC suddenly changed gear. And guess who was first used to send the clear signal that APC may also join the PDP in presenting a northerner as its candidate? Another Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan joined the fray.
Some observers believe that Ahmad Lawan is the joker the APC has prepared in case PDP picks a presidential aspirant from the North. He is said to enjoy the support of the National Assembly caucuses, the presidency, and other stakeholders.
Many believe that Lawan is the establishment candidate said to have been propped up after an alleged secret opinion poll sponsored by some top elements in Aso Rock indicated that Saraki will likely win the PDP presidential primaries and go ahead to defeat any candidate from the South.
Sunday Sun gathered that the apparatchiks who are privy to the results of the opinion polls and the attached analysis then decided to move fast and create an opportunity to stage a return leg of the battle for the Senate Presidency in 2015.
It was said that the nation was denied the opportunity of seeing both men square up against each other when Saraki emerged because Lawan and his sponsors out-schemed themselves by being absent from the venue of voting.
It was also said that the game is now a draw with Saraki also forced out of the return leg by the forces that ensured he did not get re-elected in his constituency, to forestall his standing against Lawan in the 2019 race for the presidency.
The 2023 presidential election may be another race between the two gladiators, both former Senate Presidents, the incumbent, and his immediate predecessor, to slug it out for a higher post.