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The real losers and winners of the PDP presidential primaries

The presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), held in the twilight of May 28, 2022, set off fireworks of mixed feelings in different parts of the country. For veteran presidential contender, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his supporters, it has been an all-night dance of victory. His overwhelming victory at the elections held in Abuja speaks strongly of his eternal political relevance and, for some people, an unrelenting strangulating influence within the PDP.

On the other hand, there are expected to be long faces in the camps of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on the one hand, and Bukola Saraki, former Senate President, on the other. Supporters of these candidates would either be jubilating or mourning by now for different reasons.

Long before the contest, those who know the PDP and the dynamics of the Nigerian political environment had predicted a victory for Atiku Abubakar. With money freely thrown around and Nyesom Wike of Rivers aping the giant frogs of the creeks on land with his gratingly raucous voice, it was clear to watchers that the only candidate that could stop Atiku was Atiku himself. This conclusion was spiked with the departure of Dr. Peter Obi from the race, allegedly after learning of a gang-up by the north to mobilise for the return of one of their own.

Atiku will be 76 during the coming elections in 2023, and should he win, will finish his constitutionally entitled two terms at 84. Atiku is a veteran in the struggle. He had his first shot at the presidency while still serving as Vice President to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and by 2014, he tried his luck with the APC, having been locked out of the PDP by his former principal.

His return to PDP after being thrashed by President Buhari during the party’s primaries in Lagos set the stage for a continued battle that has now seen him emerge as the presidential candidate of the party for two consecutive election cycles.

But this article is actually not about Atiku’s staying power in presidential contests despite serially failing in the past. Atiku’s victory has left in its wake, crowds of wailing losers and jubilant winners. Because of the sheer weight of the losers, when compared to the winners, I will start by discussing the latter before the former.

The losers

  1. Rivers State: While Nyesom Wike’s guttural voice was pitching his now vanquished candidature to the delegates of his party at the Eagle Square, Abuja, thousands of hungry Rivers State indigenes were gathering at an event in Port Harcourt, where a pastor was giving free access to food and other groceries. It was reported that despondently hungry people had started gathering at the venue a day ahead of schedule and before the organisers arrived to share the vouchers for the event, strangely dubbed, “Shop for Free,” these desperate Nigerians stirred a volcanic stampede that left as many as 50 people dead.

Wike announced his arrival at the convention grounds in Abuja with sickening, Nollywoodish aplomb. A convoy of 36 busses was captured on video, driving into the arena of his convention, its sheer length and intimidating dark green branding screaming of the governor’s intention to bully and intimidate his opponents.

Wike’s show in Abuja became a nefariously insensitive obscenity with the deaths of people in search of food at the church event. When he has wasted in the wild good chase could have made a significant difference in the lives of his people. Let us explain this with some arithmetic.

Those buses in that convoy, would not cost anything less than N20 million each unless they are fairly used buses. This means that those 36 would have cost about N720 million. Add that to the dollars the governor allegedly doled out to delegates and the “kola” he had been dropping at party offices while stomping the country in search of votes. Let us also believe the credible rumours that the governor had voted $20,000 for each delegate. This means that there was more than $16 million circulating among delegates while Rivers State people were stampeding to death. That’s more than N10 billion! It is not as if this governor is a Dangote or some other billionaire. The only business he has ever done is politics, meaning that the only money he has ever managed is public money. Such obscenity

  • North Central Nigeria: Each political cycle in Nigeria highlights the country’s obnoxiously centrifugal underbelly, reminding us that the frequent chants of unity, even among people from the same regional politico-cultural bloc are like the whited sepulchers hiding death and decomposition.

Senator Bukola Saraki was rated as one of the top contenders and spent a greater share of his campaigns in the north. For him, the block votes from the north were enough to give him victory. He did not worry so much about the Southeast and Sough-south (save for Edo State), where it appeared Nyesom Wike had held sway.

But Saraki, like his later father before him, had been reminded that there is a difference between the northerners from the north-central and those from the politically so-called “core-north.”

Media reports of a meeting held by the northern elders’ forum point to an agreement to produce a candidate of northern extraction and that was what informed the withdrawal of Governor Aminu Tambuwal from the race. It was reported he was asked to step down for Atiku to strengthen the chances of the former Vice President.

What this means is that the “One-north” we all hear in the larger political scheme of things extends only from the left to the right of the map and does not descend anywhere downwards.

  • The Peoples Democratic Party: At 75, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should be on a steep descent in his wit, strength, presence of mind, and everything it takes to govern a country as complicated as Nigeria. President Buhari is having a torrid time on the job as it were. By electing Atiku to fly its flag, what PDP is saying is that there has not been any generational shift in its leadership since 1999. Vice President Atiku Abubakar has been at the top echelon of the party for over 23 years. It means that the person that was born on May 29, 1999, when Atiku was first sworn in as Vice President of Nigeria is already qualified to run for office.

The emergence of Atiku is reflective of PDP across the country. From Sokoto to Bayelsa and from Lagos to Borno, it is the same set of leaders that were at the helm the very day the party was formed that still struggle to control things.

This speaks of a political party that is aging, or has aged and I doubt if, without intentional regeneration, there will still be a PDP after the next eight years, and even that is dependent on if Atiku wins the presidency in this cycle. An opportunity for a generational shift has been lost.

  • The Southeast: The moment Peter Obi was squeezed out of the PDP, everyone that has followed the politics of the southeast knew it is nunc dimitis for this zone. The unwritten zoning arrangement of political parties in Nigeria clearly favors the southeast and hopes were high that the party was going to remain faithful to this by allowing a southeasterner to fly its flag. The dirge to this dream started slowly, then crystallised into what looked like an agenda of other regions, including the south-south which got 100 percent support during the era of Goodluck Jonathan, to ensure the east was denied. If there was anything Nyesom Wike accomplished during his campaigns, it was to insult, hound, and excoriate Peter Obi. He was so successful in this enterprise that the two remaining governors of the party in the zone joined him to show contempt and indifference to the aspirations of one of their own, an aspiration that was supposed to be elevated as that of the entire region.

Years of loyalty to the PDP have not rewarded the southeast. In the years to come, it does not even look like it will.

  • The Nigerian youth: Not too long ago, the “Not too Young to Run” catchphrase assumed a policy form in Nigeria, and expectations were high on the possibility of younger people nurtured to take high political offices by this term. Well, the ages of all the 14 people that squared up at the Abuja Convention speak of how high up the youth has risen in the ranks and estimations of the PDP.

Like it or not, we are still on the gerontocratic path, even if the PDP takes the baton from APC come 2023.

The Winners

  1. Atiku: Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has proved beyond doubt, that he is strong, indefatigable, and possesses the staying power and resilience to remain a force to reckon with, despite his serial failures in Nigeria’s presidential contests. This may be a quality that might work well for him, and perhaps for the country. His level of dedication and consistency is second to none. The calculation is that with block votes from the north, and especially if the ruling APC fails to handle its own succession with tact and care, Atiku might have an easy ride to the presidency this time around.
  • The North: The north is increasingly looking like it is eating her cake and having it, in Nigeria’s political selection process. The emergence of a candidate from their zone is likely to fuel the belief that they hold the aces as far as who emerges as Nigeria’s president.

This feeling is however being tempered by the tiny voices of younger, more egalitarian segments of the population, whose cries might torpedo the current leadership structure for a more balanced Nigeria.

But loud as this voice might get, there is not any likelihood that they would ever find fulfillment in the PDP.

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Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Ezeh Chidiebere

    We the southerners need to put on our thinking caps.  Has anyone wondered where and who the South Eastern delegates voted in this Pdp primary elections? Do you know the south east aspirants cumulatively got 17 votes ? Where did the remaining approximately 80 votes from Anambra , Enugu , Ebonyi,  Imo and Asia States go to?

    Why did Tambuwal that Wike died for four years ago in his presidential bid decided to betrayal him and chose his brother Atiku?

    PO ticket in pdp would have been a game changer because,  the imminent aggrieved members of APC big wigs will port over in alliance to prove a point.   But with Labour Party ticket it will be difficult but not IMPOSSIBLE,  we all need to do extra work you by ensuring we get our PVC’s and VOTE.
    Great post primaries analysis….the south must put on their thinking cap….it’s now or never.

    May 29, 2022 at 2:25 pm Reply
  • Ugwu Chijioke

    Congrats on another informative piece.

    The emergence of a candidate from there will fuel nothing much as it would be a clearer prove of a fact that they determine what and who holds what in our political scene. It’s not a surprise to me and can never be judging from the imbalance in our numbers and the political attitude of the south. Difference in the the number of delegates per states is there for study hence the need for restructuring and another census exercise. Sadly but true.

    Finally, one-north is a factor and strategy that call sfor study by the south should they really desire a change in their favor.

    May 29, 2022 at 2:51 pm Reply
  • Ikenna Nelson

    I really think that the ones who really won in the just concluded primaries are the delegates. They are the ones who can go hon and sleep with two eyes closed. Atiku and the North knows that even though this is a good omen, the journey has just begun and still very unpredictable. 2023 will be such an interesting time.

    May 29, 2022 at 3:08 pm Reply
  • Ikembuchukwu Fabian Asadu

    Thank you Ikem once again. Always beaming the right intensity of light at the focal point of the perspective. PDP lost focus, one year after formation. This loss of focus was as a result of G34 or so (the Dr Alex Ekwueme late, group of men of focus) permitting the atiku group to become part of the PDP, they never recovered their original direction.

    On the loosers like you sounded with enough pitch (yes pitch which is your 2nd name) that the deaf could hear, south east lost it from the day they shifted from APP for Ekwueme’s believed chances at the Jos convention of the PDP, he never got it and south east became visionary wanderers in PDP. Throwing in everything, but getting not year round, still believing each election year, that they would get something.
    The concept of youth has never been the life line of the PDP.

    The PDP certainly is winding up to a close and end. If am not mistaken, there is more to atikus loss than his victory next year. Just like the Floyd murder in America was a window for Trump to look through, he rather spat through the window, depositing the spit, right in the eyes of half of his supporters, atiku in same manner has handled the murder of the young Debora, by deleting his initial comment on the girls brutal killing.

    I am convinced that 2023 will birth early, strange events that would throw the power brokers off balance.

    Ikem kudos.

    May 29, 2022 at 3:59 pm Reply
  • Henry Aladiume

    Nigeria is facing dark days as the corrupt political elite have kept a stranglehold on power. With the unending corruption, the social fabric is breaking down and Nigeria has entered a vicious cycle of hope and despair.

    May 29, 2022 at 6:00 pm Reply
  • Chibueze Onah

    Very aptly crafted, it highlighted all the key issues that are worthy of note in the PDP convention and also gave expression to some salient points that should be taken very seriously especially when national party politics is at play. I hope it receives the benefit of a wider circulation for more political education/ awareness in Nigeria .

    May 29, 2022 at 10:25 pm Reply
  • Manny

    My greatest happiness is the fact that Wike lost after all the noise and money spent. Both PDP and APC will lose in 2023.

    May 30, 2022 at 9:13 am Reply
  • Onyinyechi

    Well written Sir.

    May 31, 2022 at 6:34 pm Reply

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