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Atiku’s Emergence as PDP Flag Bearer Puts Pressure on APC

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The emergence of former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer for the 2023 presidential election, has put pressure back on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which postponed its own convention until next week Monday, 6th of June.

Atiku who defeated Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, Akwa Ibom Governor, Udom Emmanuel and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has some momentum going forward, with the main task before him being to immediately unite the PDP behind his candidacy.

For the APC, the emergence of a PDP Presidential flag bearer from the Northern part of Nigeria may throw a spanner into its own calculations ahead of its presidential primary.

“The Northern APC elite consensus is that power needs to return to the South. However, with the emergence of Atiku, things are not so clear now,” a Kano based politician told MoneyCentral.

Before voting commenced on Friday at the PDP presidential primary election in Abuja, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal stepped down for Atiku, showing that some horse trading to consolidate votes from the North is already being undertaken by Atiku.

The major front runners in the APC for the presidential ticket are all from the South including former Transport Minister Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and former Lagos State Governor and APC leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is also said to be in the running for the ticket.

“The strongest contenders for the APC ticket was between Amaechi and Jonathan. We shall see next week if the emergence of Atiku changes anything,” a second political source close to the APC told MoneyCentral.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who is from the North East geo political zone (same as Atiku), and a candidate for the APC presidential primary election may become the biggest beneficiary if the party decides to retain the ticket in the North to counter Atiku.

Sen. Sani Musa (APC- Niger East), a member of the Lawan campaign team, said last week that Lawan’s candidacy would serve as a saving grace for APC in the 2023 general elections.

“What the country needs is stability and what APC as a party needs now is a candidate who can win the presidential contest in 2023 through the required votes where they are. Lawan’s candidacy fits into that and will be a saving grace for the party from being pushed into opposition,” Musa said.

Meanwhile, cracks have emerged in the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling (APC) as some members are not on the same page with the national chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu ahead of the party’s presidential primary slated for June 6, 7 and 8, 2022.

A national vice chairman, North West, Salihu Mohammed Lukman, in a letter addressed to Adamu, with the title, “Rebuilding the APC:  Need for New Initiatives,” stressed the need to avoid past errors in the administration of the party.

He alleged that the new NWC under Adamu was gradually toeing the old path of the leadership style of Comrade Adams Oshiomole and Mai Mala Buni, where decisions are taken but left unimplemented and members not carried along in the scheme of things.

“Presidential aspirants are yet to be screened. The official explanation is that you are awaiting final consultation with President Buhari. At the risk of sounding agitated, this is unfair to the president because to the best of my understanding, it is an attempt to use his name to give excuses for failure,” Lukman said in the letter dated May 27, 2022.

“I find it necessary to send this letter to further appeal to you to review our approaches under the current NWC under your leadership,” he said.

Following his emergence over the weekend as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar pledged to unify the country following his victory in the party’s primary poll. 

Atiku, a former vice president, polled 371 votes to beat his closest rival and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who scored 237 votes during the exercise held on Saturday in Abuja. Saraki polled 70 votes. Emmanuel (38), Mohammed (38), Anyim Pius Anyim (14), Mrs Tari Diana Oliver (1), and Sam Ohuabunwa (1) shared the remainder of the valid votes.

“I pledge to unify this country,” he said in his victory speech. “That’s why I refer to myself as a unifier.

“The reason I feel that unity is important is because APC has disunited Nigerians completely,” the PDP chieftain added. “I will work to restore unity and bring a sense of belonging to all Nigerians.”

The Adamawa-born politician accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of mismanaging the country but promised to fix the economy and tackle Nigeria’s security challenges.

“The PDP made Nigeria one of the most prosperous countries in Africa,” Atiku said. “We implemented economic reforms. The APC wiped out all those gains.”

Atiku also called on fellow contestants to work with him and ensure the PDP retakes power in next year’s presidential election.

Earlier, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State had withdrawn from the race, asking his supporters to back Atiku.

“I have come to the conclusion – to the glory of God Almighty, seeing millions of Nigerians suffering and the need for us to close ranks in the party and as one of the leaders in this party – I have come to a patriotic conclusion to step down my aspiration,” the former lawmaker told the gathering.

“And not only that, I have appealed to my supporters to take this in good strides and for national unity and patriotism – not only that, those who are delegates here – should vote for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.”

The 2023 election will be the 75-year-old’s sixth attempt for the Nigerian presidency.

Since his entry into politics in 1993, Atiku has unsuccessfully contested five times for the Office of President of Nigeria in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.

In 1993, he contested the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential primaries losing to Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe. He was a presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC) in the 2007 presidential election coming in third to Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and Muhammadu Buhari of the ANPP.

He contested the presidential primaries of the PDP during the 2011 presidential election losing out to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. In 2014, he joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2015 presidential election and contested the presidential primaries losing to Buhari.

In 2017, he returned to the PDP and was the party presidential candidate during the 2019 presidential election, again losing to incumbent President Buhari.

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