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ANALYSIS: PDP presidential primary – Atiku, Saraki, Wike, Tambuwal in four horse race

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IN so many ways, the presidential primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 general elections is a continuation of the 2018 contest, where the party elected the candidate for its unsuccessful outing in 2019.

The primary election of the PDP for the 2019 presidential poll took place at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on October 6, 2018.

A former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal were the leading aspirants in the 2018 contest.

Atiku eventually emerged the winner, going on to fly the party’s flag in the 2019 presidential election, where he lost to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

About four years later, Atiku, Saraki and Tambuwal are again among the leading aspirants as the PDP gets set to elect its candidate for the 2023 presidential election, where the party hopes to wrest power from the APC after about eight uncomfortable years in the opposition.

Wike hosted the PDP presidential primary election in 2018 but in the 2022 edition, the Rivers State governor will join Atiku, Saraki and Tambuwal as the leading contestants for the party’s presidential ticket.

Until May 25, when a former Anambra State governor Peter Obi withdrew from the PDP presidential race after dumping the party, the contest for the party’s presidential ticket was a five-horse race.

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Now, it is a four horse race, between Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal and Wike.

Zonal advantages for leading aspirants

One advantage that the leading aspirants are likely to enjoy in the primary election is the support of their respective zones.

Atiku is expected to get the massive support of delegates from the North–East: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe states.

In the build-up to the 2023 presidential election, the North-East has been thrown into the conversation concerning regions that are yet to produce the country’s President, and who, as a result, deserve to be given the opportunity.

Atiku’s major opponent from the zone is Bauchi State governor Bala Mohammed, who is not expected to make a big impact in the primary election. Bauchi delegates are likely to line up behind their governor but votes from other North-East states are likely to go to Atiku.

Adamawa is 100 per cent for Atiku – he is a former governor of the state. Taraba is another North-East state that has always followed Atiku, who also has considerable advantages in Yobe and Gombe states.

Saraki is expected to have the backing of delegates from the North-Central: Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger and Plateau states.

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The North-Central is another zone that has featured in the conversation concerning geo-political zones that have not produced Nigeria’s President since the return to civilian rule in 1999.

For Saraki, Kwara, his state where he served as governor from 2003 to 2011, is certainly in the bag, and so is Nasarawa – to a large extent. Niger State is also expected to go with Saraki, same as Plateau and Kogi states.

Benue appears uncertain – the state governor Samuel Ortom has been championing the campaign for a power shift to the South in 2023. But he is also known to be on good terms with Saraki. Meanwhile, Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, a PDP presidential aspirant, can count on the support of a former Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam, who remains influential in Benue politics. But, ultimately, the zonal factor is expected to tilt Benue towards Saraki.

Wike should count on the support of the South-South: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers states – despite the presence of Akwa Ibom governor Emmanuel in the race.

Governors control delegates from their states and as a result, the contingent from Akwa Ibom is likely to go with Emmanuel.

Wike will expect the votes of a considerable proportion of delegates from Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Edo, in addition to 100 per cent of those from Rivers State.

Tambuwal will have considerable advantages with delegates from the North-West: Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states. Sokoto is in the bag already.

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The governor should expect a large share of the votes from Jigawa, Kano and Katsina states. It is expected that Tambuwal will face considerable competition from Saraki for votes from Kebbi and Zamfara. Kaduna is another North-West state that Tambuwal should count on but he should be wary of Atiku, who has a strong base in the state.

South-East, South-West votes are crucial

With Peter Obi out of the race, the votes from the South-East are, more than ever before, up for grabs. The same applies to South-West votes.

The aspirants that are able to sway a majority of delegates from the two zones stand a better chance of picking the PDP presidential ticket.

Wike appears to have an upper hand in the South-East: Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states.

The South-East has been a major stronghold of the PDP over the years. The South-East is still smarting from the PDP’s refusal to cede the presidential ticket to the zone and added to the issues surrounding Obi’s withdrawal, it is likely that the party will not enjoy the usual massive support from the zone in 2023.

But in the meantime, delegates will have to vote and Wike will be counting on Abia delegates whose governor Okezie Ikpeazu is one of his strongest allies in the PDP. Anambra was expected to go with Obi, but with the former governor out of the race, the state is up for grabs. Atiku’s ability to mobilise resources can prove decisive but Wike can also count on ‘Southern solidarity’ with Anambra delegates. The Rivers governor is also able to deploy resources to influence outcomes.

Wike will be expecting votes from Enugu delegates, now that Obi is out of the equation. However, Enugu governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is a staunch Tambuwal ally – right from their days in the House of Representatives and delegates from the state are known to follow the instructions of their governor. But, at the same time, Ugwuanyi is also an advocate of power shift to the South, a factor which may favour Wike, who also counts the Enugu governor among his allies in the PDP .

Imo State is seen as a battleground between Wike and Tambuwal – PDP national secretary Sam Anyanwu is Wike’s strong ally while the state’s former governor Emeka Ihedioha is Tambuwal’s man. Tambuwal and Ihedioha were Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives at the same time and have maintained a strong political alliance.

Ebonyi votes may not count in the scheme of things. The state’s delegates are expected to go with former Senate President Pius Anyim.

Votes from the South-West: Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states, will also be decisive in determining who picks the PDP ticket. None of the major aspirants is from the zone, meaning that no particular aspirant is likely to get bloc votes from delegates from the zone. However, Atiku, Saraki and Wike are believed to have the edge in the South-West states.

Saraki’s mother hails from Ondo, and that factor is likely to count in his favour with delegates from the state. The former Senate President is also an ally of Osun State PDP governorship candidate Ademola Adeleke.

Atiku, Saraki and Wike are also expected to have the upper hand with delegates from Ogun, Oyo and Lagos.

The leading aspirants have not concentrated their campaigns in the Federal Capital Territory and this is not surprising as Abuja, with the smallest number of delegates, is not regarded as a political stronghold that can determine the outcome of national elections. It is expected that FCT votes will be shared among the aspirants with Bauchi governor, Mohammed, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) having a comparative advantage. Among the leading contenders – Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal and Wike – the former Kwara governor is expected to have the edge among FCT delegates.

Flashback: How Atiku won PDP presidential ticket for 2019 election

By the end of voting in Port Harcourt on October 6, 2018, Atiku polled 1,532 votes to beat 11 other aspirants to the PDP presidential ticket. Tambuwal came second with 693 votes, while Saraki was third with 317.

About 3,274 delegates voted at PDP’s primary election for selection of the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections.

Just 811 delegates will elect PDP presidential candidate for 2023 general elections

While the May 28 and 29, 2022 presidential primary election of the PDP appears to be a continuation of the October 2018 contest, where the party’s flagbearer for the 2019 elections was elected, provisions of the new Electoral Act 2022 make the 2023 primaries a different ball game.

The Electoral Act 2022 did not make provision for the participation of statutory delegates in the primary election. As a result of this, the President, Vice President, members of the National Assembly, governors and their deputies, members of the state houses of assembly, chairmen of councils, councillors, members of the national working committee, amongst others, who all qualify as statutory delegates in political parties, will not be voting in the presidential election primary.

Just 811 adhoc delegates will vote at the PDP primary election, which will take place at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja.

The 811 adhoc delegates include 774 elected to represent their respective local government areas, and 37 people living with disability, who are representing the 36 states and the FCT.

In previous presidential primaries conducted under the old Electoral Act, more than 3000 party members, mostly statutory delegates, usually vote to elect a presidential candidate.

States with larger number of local governments have more delegates

With statutory delegates exempted from voting, the number of political office holders available in particular states and zones is no longer a factor in the outcome of the primary election.

In the current arrangement, as dictated by the Electoral Act 2022, states with larger number of local government areas have more delegates, and as such, will attract more attention from the aspirants.

Kano, with 44 LGAs, has the largest number of delegates, followed by Katsina, 34, Akwa Ibom, 31, Oyo 33, Osun, 30, as the top five states in number of LGAs/delegates.

A breakdown of states and number of LGAs is as follows.

Abia 17, Adamawa 21, Akwa Ibom 31, Anambra 21, Bauchi 21, Bayelsa 8, Benue 22, Borno 27, Cross River 18, Delta 25, Ebonyi 13, Enugu 17, Edo 18, Ekiti 16, Gombe 11, Imo 27, Jigawa 27, Kaduna 23, Kano 44, Katsina 34, Kebbi 21, Kogi 21, Kwara 16, Lagos 20, Nasarawa 13, Niger 25, Ogun 20, Ondo 18, Osun 30, Oyo 33, Plateau 17, Rivers 23, Sokoto 23, Taraba 16, Yobe 17, Zamfara 14, FCT 6.

The combined total of 774 LGAs in the country translates to 774 delegates. Each state and the FCT has an additional delegate, representing persons with disability – 37 extra delegates which when added to the 774 makes a combined total of 811 delegates.

The aspirant that will pick the PDP presidential ticket is the one that will get the highest number of votes from the 811 delegates.

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