By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Dirisu Yakubu
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was, last night, running into a three-horse race after the party’s governors decided not to force a consensus among their 13 presidential aspirants.
In that event, the pack of 13 aspirants was narrowing down to three of the more formidable aspirants, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Governor Aminu Tambuwal, projecting themselves as frontrunners. Tanimu Turaki and others, to a lesser extent, were also pushing themselves.
The decision of the governors not to endorse any of the aspirants, Sunday Vanguard gathered yesterday, as the National Convention of the PDP, holding in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, to elect its presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections got underway, flowed from the fact that it could be unfair given that two serving governors (Tambuwal and Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo) were in the contest. A number of former governors, namely Saraki, Ahmed Makarfi and Attahiru Bafarawa, are also in the contest.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that all the 12 aspirants jostling for the PDP ticket have agents ready for the primary election while the list of delegates to vote for the contenders was made available to them about five days ago.
Another effort at building consensus through a meeting, yesterday, between a former National Security Adviser and the aspirants did not yield result. The former NSA, acting as a proxy for three former heads of state, was said to have met the brickwall upon the dithering procrastination of former President Olusegun Obasanjo for Atiku.
Nonetheless, party Chairmen from the different states were in several zonal caucuses where decisions on who to support were articulated.
The South-East was said to be pushing for Saraki and Atiku while delegates from the states in the region were expected to take independent decisions between the two men.
Saraki was said to have been inching ahead in the North-Central with the notable exception of the
Benue State which is said to be fully backing David Mark.
Saraki, Sunday Vanguard gathered, is also pushing his part Yoruba identity to challenge Atiku who entered the convention ground as the leader in the South-West. Saraki is telling everybody that his mother is from Owo and that he also has ancestry from Iseyin in Oyo State.
The Senate President, it was gathered, would as well sweep Ondo State and make some gains in Oyo,
but the majority of the delegates from the Southwest were still inching towards Atiku. Atiku’s first wife, Titi, is from the South-West while another wife, Jeniffer, is from Anambra State, a decision that would also have helped him with the Southeast delegates.
The South-South was still a battle ground as at convention night with Saraki, Tambuwal and Atiku dividing the spoils.
Edo is especially divided with Tambuwal being projected by the party Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, and Mr. Kenneth Imansuagbon. However, Saraki is being pushed by Senator Matthew Urhohigede while Atiku is being pushed by Senator Odion Ugbesia. Tanimu Turaki is being pushed by former Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Ononelemen.
Rivers State was solidly behind Tambuwal while Bayelsa was said to be moving between Atiku and Turaki.
Saraki also got the endorsement of people with special needs. All 37 of them, with one representative from each state and Abuja, endorsed the Senate President because they said he was the only one that came to see them.
At press time yesterday, the delegates were about coming out from their respective hotels after the series of visits by the aspirants.
The major aspirants came with money, some in dollars. One aspirant reportedly gave $1,000 per delegate, another was said to be giving $2,500 per delegate and yet another was giving a uniform amount of money in bulk, N50 million per state.
The convention was yet to kick off at press time.