The 2023 presidential elections present the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with a golden opportunity to wrestle power from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). However, the PDP faces a daunting challenge in how to utilize this opportunity. To do this, the PDP needs to present a common interest from the party’s wide, and sometimes, varying interests so as to secure for the party, sufficient internal and external support during the elections.
PDP got its calculations right. The All Progressives Congress (APC) picked its presidential candidate from the South, especially the Southwest- Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, is APC’s presidential candidate
The emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate for the main opposition party —– (PDP) was a product of three things. The party has settled for someone who has the national outlook; the party wants to outwit the ruling All Progressive Congress ( APC) in one of the latter’s strongholds— the North, and lastly, the party needs a strong war-chest for the 2023 presidential elections.
Atiku’s emergence was smooth, despite the political intrigues that occurred before and during the presidential primaries. The selection of Ifeanyi Okowa as Atiku’s running mate had appeared also a smooth one. But two weeks after, it is causing dangerous stirs in the PDP camp that had appeared united, initially after the primaries. Former Governor Ayo Fayose scratched the ‘ old-wound’ of the call for a southern presidential candidate, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state is fuming, while Governor Nyesom Wike’s camp is causing more ‘commotion’ within the party by threatening the much-needed unity in the party.
To be nominated or selected as a Vice Presidential candidate, the person must bring something to the table —votes, a daring war chest, well-established political structures, or influence in the political party.
Had Atiku picked Wike, the PDP would have appeared to opt for someone that will bring a massive war-chest and “home votes”. At the same time, the PDP would appear to have succumbed to pressure and tried to calm ‘a bull in a china shop’.
The APC, on the other hand, would have been happy, if Wike had emerged as the PDP vice presidential candidate. Firstly, it would have ‘balanced’ its controversial Muslim-Muslim ticket. Secondly, the APC would have used Wike’s candidacy to consolidate its votes in one of its strongholds — the North. In the 2019 presidential elections, the APC used Peter Obi’s Vice Presidential candidacy to de-market the PDP in the north. Peter Obi’s deportation of northerners was massively used against him. Like Peter Obi, Wike doesn’t have longtime friends, political associates or structures in the north, to defend him. However, to be fair to Wike, during the campaign for the PDP presidential primaries, he was able to tour the country, thus making some new networks and contacts. Furthermore, if Atiku had picked Wike, the former would have had to work extra hard in the north, because Wike will be a good recipe for APC’s strategy in the North. With Wike as VP, those people who are unhappy with APC or have not decided, may not want to thumbprint a ballot paper with a “Wike.”
The selection of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as Atiku’s running mate is a product of PDP’s strategy to consolidate its footings in its strongholds—the Southeast and the South-South while not jeopardizing its attempt to strike the APC in the North Okowa is controversy-free and the north will not have any issue with him.
Any person in Governor Nyesom Wike’s shoes will certainly feel hurt and demeaned — he has been a pillar in the PDP when the party was ‘deserted’ and he’s among the very bigwigs that have never left the PDP to another party. Furthermore, Mr. Wike polled 16 votes to defeat Mr. Okowa who scored three votes in a shadow election by a committee set up by the PDP to pick a running mate as reported by many media houses in the country. Moreover, whether one likes or dislikes Wike, for sure, he has something to offer the PDP.
That window created by Atiku for the PDP to setup a committee to select for him the Vice Presidential candidate, was an error on Atiku, so to say. The selection of a running mate is the absolute right of the flagbearer. Since Atiku already had someone in his mind, that committee was unnecessary. Though, it appears it was an honest attempt to bring everybody on board in making or taking a decision.
When it comes to elections, every political party has its own strategy. Had Atiku accepted the choice of the ‘VP Selection Committee’, it would have been the first time in the history of Nigerian politics, that a political party will solely determine the VP candidate for its presidential candidate. Though the PDP said, it was Atiku that requested the party to recommend to him, a VP. Atiku has the final say!
Atiku Abubakar is a master in negotiations, give and take and reaching out to people, including adversaries. Atiku should sit down with Wike, one-on-one, to resolve all the issues. It’s politics. It’s all about winning!
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Abuja, 08036070980, email@example.com