The Peoples Democratic Party is planning to return former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as its candidate in 2023 as part of efforts to win the presidential election.
Top party sources told Sunday Telegraph that the PDP believed that it is better to repeat the 2019 formula, which it used to contest against President Muhammadu Buhari – an election which was deemed to be won by Atiku. It was learnt that within the PDP hierarchy, the belief is that Buhari did not win the election against Atiku, but muscled him out with the power of incumbency.
But in 2023, where Buhari would not contest, it is strongly believed that an Atiku candidacy would be able to beat any other candidate of the All Progressives Congress.
It was learnt that the PDP is still divided on the zoning of the presidency because of a battle between Atiku and the South-East Caucus of the party, who are strongly arguing that it is their turn to take a shot at the presidency.
But within the party, many believe that a ‘strong candidate’ like Atiku is needed to wrest power from the APC first before the case of the South-East would be considered.
It was further learnt that should the Atiku option fail to fly because of age and other factors, the party might settle for a former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as the second option.
The PDP presidential primaries held in Port Harcourt in 2018 ahead of the 2019 elections, Atiku beat Saraki to the third position while Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, came second.
But it was learnt that some powerful forces within the PDP are rooting for Atiku, following his strong showing against President Buhari in the 2019 election, which the party insists was lost to Buhari’s incumbency factor.
Although it was learnt that Tambuwal still has a strong interest in running for the president with the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, as his possible running mate, it was learnt that most governors of the party believe that an Atiku candidacy would be strong enough to battle the APC, which may settle for a candidate from the South, going by sentiments within the party.
The PDP has not hidden its desire to field a candidate from the North for the 2023 election.
In fact, the party’s 2019 Election Review Committee, headed by the Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, had recommended that the ticket should be thrown open to every interested Nigerian.
The committee submitted its report last week. It was learnt that the only major obstacle to Atiku’s candidacy is coming from the South-East, a region which feels marginalised and is seriously spinning with the party to be given the slot.
It was also learnt that the South-East caucus of the party is also negotiating that in the event that Atiku runs, he should do only one term.
He is expected to retain his running mate in 2019, Peter Obi, again, although some forces within the party are rooting for a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu as Obi’s replacement on the ticket.
However, a source at the party’s headquarters said the leaders of the party are not well disposed to the Ekweremadu calculation.
A party chieftain said, “A lot of governors in the PDP have made up their minds that it is either Atiku or nothing. So, definitely, PDP’s ticket is not coming to the South. It is not. Some forces within the party want to use former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to push out Peter Obi. Others said it can’t work. Ekweremadu is overambitious.
“He wants to be governor too in Enugu State, even as he is also chasing the Vice Presidential ticket. The powers in PDP are telling him to go for governorship.
“The major problem is that the South-East Caucus is pushing that Atiku should do one term. If he does one term, Peter Obi will come in.”