•No aspirant has stepped down — Okowa
•Delegates, others light up Port Harcourt, Hotels, pimps, call girls in brisk business
By Clifford Ndujihe, Egufe Yafugborhi & Dirisu Yakubu
PORT HARCOURT – THE stage is set for a tough battle among 12 politicians for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential ticket, today.
Chairman of the PDP National Convention Planning Committee, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, said yesterday that none of the 12 aspirants has stepped down, contrary to speculations in some quarters.
Addressing newsmen at the Adokiye Amasiemeka Stadium, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, venue of the convention, Okowa, who assured that everything was on course for a hitch-free convention, said: “There is a process for withdrawal from the race. We have 12 aspirants for now and none of them has stepped down.’’
Indeed, the aspirants were upbeat about their chances of picking the PDP presidential flag, yesterday. The men gunning for the PDP prized ticket are former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo; Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; former governors of Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa and Plateau states- Ahmed Makarfi, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Attahiru Bafarawa, Sule Lamido, and Jonah Jang; Senate President Bukola Saraki; immediate past Senate President, Senator David Mark; former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki; erstwhile lawmaker, Datti Baba-Ahmed; and Stanley Osifo.
To ensure a hitch-free exercise, Okowa said: “Accreditation of delegates is very sensitive, so, we are starting the accreditation process tomorrow (Saturday) at 7am. We are expecting a very good convention. We are working very hard to deliver a process that is credible, free, fair and acceptable.”
Hotels in Port Harcourt jammed, VIP convoys unsettling traffic
Meanwhile, reservations in all major hotels in Port Harcourt and environs have sold out to the extent that many delegates are said to have berthed at neighbouring Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital.
The Presidential Hotel, Port Harcourt, Saturday Vanguard gathered, had been booked tight over two weeks back and has been a beehive of various aspirants and their supporters since Wednesday.
The heavy presence of VIPs has also increased traffic in major motor ways in Port Harcourt as various convoys move in different directions to and from the Port Harcourt International Airport to the heart of the capital city.
Security is however heavier in Ikwerre locality between Omagwa, the airport location and Igwuruta-Aili location of the stadium where it would all happen today and tomorrow.
Tambuwal dreams victory
Earlier, at the Hotel Presidential, Director General, Tambuwal Campaign Organisation, Dr. Mike Omeri, boasted that Governor Aminu Tambuwal was ahead of other aspirants in the bid to clinch the PDP ticket. “We have had consultations in the last few months, our candidate has not just met the requirements of the delegates, but also we have seen the challenges Nigeria is facing that made people call him (Tambuwal) to join in the race. We have spoken to the delegates and they understand the need to return Alhaji Tambuwal elected, because they see the need of the country and that what Nigeria needs now is Tambuwal,’’ he said.
Also, Spokesman of the Tambuwal Presidential Campaign Organization, Dr Okey Ikechukwu, said that Nigeria’s best chance of a president that can unite Nigeria, restore a sense of community and give the nation 21st Century leadership is Tambuwal. Reason: ‘’He has taken pains to point out that the way forward for us and how to restructure the country. Some parts of the country see it as confederation, while others see it as regionalism, resource control and so on and that the entire thing boils down to the demand for equity, for greater autonomy of Nigeria’s federating units and for the full expression of our national character in everything we do. He insists that our diversity must be maintained, if we are also to have a polity that gives everyone a sense of belonging.”
All the other aspirants are equally confident. Atiku Abubakar is rated by many Nigerians as the most prepared for the Presidency. He has struggled to serve Nigeria as President for years. He is one candidate who already has a documented programme he hopes to implement, if he becomes President.
Wike welcomes PDP family
Welcoming aspirants and delegates, yesterday, chief host of the day, Governor Nyesom Wike, assured delegates of memorable stay in the state.
His words: “The good people of Rivers are most delighted and honoured to host the national delegates of our great party as we elect our Presidential flag bearer and collectively work towards rescuing our nation from the brink of collapse. As we gather for this all important convention, I assure all delegates of their security before, during and after the convention. Working with the security agencies and other stakeholders, we will ensure that your stay in Port Harcourt is memorable.”
Pimps, call girls in brisk business
As if taking advantage of the event, women of easy virtue and pimps are also busy swarming major hotels hoping to explore business opportunities.
A female student of Theatre Arts at the University of Port Harcourt, told Saturday Vanguard: “It’s serious business on and off campus for students here. The fact that this convention is happening on a weekend makes it convenient for our willing girls. Go to the girls hostels now, they are all empty. People are leaving for various hotel destinations to have fun.
“The benefits of the convention for our girls would be displayed in new dresses, handbags and fancy phones on campus by Monday. Hotels, car hire services are all in good business. Port Hacourt is bubbling.’’
Front runners emerge
As the statutory and elected delegates converge today in Port Harcourt, some of the candidates have emerged as front runners. One of them, a serving governor is banking on the support of three PDP governors. Atiku who is likely to win the support of Taraba and Bayelsa state delegates is also backing on the support of members of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, some of whom are members of the Atiku Presidential Nomination Council.
Findings by Saturday Vanguard revealed that a prominent contestant who joined the race a little over two months ago is rooting for the Sokoto governor.
Earlier in the week, he met with Tambuwal twice in his Abuja residence as part of the game plan to secure victory in Port Harcourt.
However, Atiku, a master of the game is digging dip into his vast pool of resources to clinch the much craved ticket. He has consistently kept the delegates within close range, interfacing with them in a bid get their votes today.
Although, Atiku denied picking holes in the choice of Port Harcourt before Wike threatened to teach the PDP a lesson, a source said that Wike aimed the veiled dig at the former number two man, believing he had moved to book a sizeable number of hotel rooms ahead of the convention.
The governors, 14 of them, are literally in control of the elected delegates and a good number of the statutory ones. At the end, they may turn out the major determinants of who emerges the PDP Presidential candidate.
How we will reshape Nigeria – Presidential aspirants
Saraki: – He said in 2019, Nigeria needs a bridge builder and leader who will utilise the energy of the youths. He said his government will be driven by “youthful energy” and promised to re-engineer the country’s infrastructure, reposition the economy and redesign the country’s “security architecture” and.l launch an anti-corruption campaign that will not be selective.
Atiku: – He sees himself as the only candidate that can beat President Buhari and the APC because of his support base in all parts of Nigeria. If elected, Atiku said he would get Nigeria working again by restructuring the country, and creating jobs and wealth for the citizenry through business opportunities.
Bafarawa: – Wants PDP Nigerians to beware of politicians who make fake promises and deliver hardship. If elected, Bafarawa said he would embark on damage control to right so many things that are wrong with governance in the country and put Nigeria on the path of prosperity. In 2019, he said Nigeria needs a president with democratic credentials and he is the best choice in this regard.
Kwankwaso: – On assumption of power, the immediate past governor of Kano State promised to offer positive change, lead Nigerians to create the future that we want by ensuring that ‘’the narrative of helplessness, buck-passing, division, poverty, insecurity, and hopelessness must change to turn to a new dawn of confidence in building a one well restructured Nigeria.’’
Mark: – Promised to address Nigeria’s myriad of problems with his economic recovery blueprint tagged DM 730. ‘’We shall focus on manufacturing, promote small and medium scale enterprises, agriculture, health and social services, reduce poverty, create wealth and generate employment opportunities for our teeming population.
Our team of young professionals would drive the process. We shall strengthen our educational institutions at all levels and make education truly functional. We will deliberately invest in the health sector, make health care delivery affordable to the people which, in turn, will reduce medical tourism. We will tackle the security challenges headlong and restore the hope and confidence of our people,’’ he said.
Tambuwal: – Tambuwal said Nigeria needs an urgent rescue, and promised to provide lasting solutions to the herders/farmers’ crisis, support agitation for restructuring of the country, and address the alleged lopsidedness observed in President Buhari’s government in terms of poor performance and failure of governance.
Dankwabo: – He said his candidacy will usher in a new dawn of undaunted economic breakthrough for Nigerians and Nigeria; his government, as a matter of top priority, will reform and restructure the current dysfunctional and ineffective Nigerian security architecture to meet the security needs of the country. ‘’We will disarm, immediately, all those bearing arms unlawfully in the country.
We will effectively police and secure our borders; and adequately strengthen the institutions primarily charged with the responsibility of providing security for Nigerians. Furthermore, my administration will establish a community policing programme involving neighbourhoods charged with the responsibility to monitor and gather intelligence for the different security agencies in their individual domains.’’
Makarfi: – Having managed a complex state like Kaduna and having got private and public sector experience, Makarfi said he is adequately equipped to address the problems of the country, if elected. For me, I have known governance for sometimes at state level. ‘’I served Kaduna for three years as Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning. I came in from the private sector. I have private sector experience, especially banking.
I governed this complex state for eight years. I have legislative experience, having been in the Senate for a two term of eight years. I got a bonanza when the party leadership fell on my laps, to know about managing political party. If you cannot manage your party, even if you are elected, you will have problems governing. If you can’t manage the legislature and build cordial relationship such that key legislations that can take this country forward are passed, then governance becomes complex for you. If you cannot manage complex society such as Kaduna, which is a mini Nigeria, you cannot manage Nigeria. God has so designed that one has passed through all these processes,’’ he said.