Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress, the two major political parties in the country, are stepping up their efforts to find presidential candidates for their respective candidates, but from all indications it is not going to be an easy task
| By Olu Ojewale | Sep. 29, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT |
SURELY it is clear by now that President Goodluck Jonathan is the favourite to clinch the presidential ticket of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The president’s foot soldiers and unofficial campaigners appear bent to ensure that the president suffers no surprise defeat during the party primaries slated for November. To ensure President Jonathan’s victory, it was gathered that some governors in the PDP Governors Forum led by Governor Godswill Akpabio had started to lobby their other colleagues and party leaders to work for the adoption of the president as a consensus candidate of the party. The group was said to have argued that the measure would keep “the PDP united to confront the opposition in 2015.”
The same argument was said to have sold to all the zonal rallies of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, by the governors to gauge the consensus option. But a source said: “With the exception of Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, all the PDP governors are really working towards automatic adoption of the president for second term as PDP’s consensus candidate. They want to make the presidential primaries mere formality at the national convention of the party.” The PDP national convention is slated for November 26, while the president’s declaration for a second term bid in office is expected in October. “I think we have almost agreed that he should continue in 2015; there is no doubt about this,” a source said.
Agreement on adopting the president as a consensus candidate was expected to be cemented at a meeting of the PDP governors being hosted by Akpabio in Uyo, Akwa ibom capital on Wednesday, September 17.
Some ministers were also said to have signified their support for the consensus option being built around the president. In supporting the idea, a minister argued: “Ideally, even in the United States, once a sitting president discloses his intention to run for second term, everyone must fall in line. This thing applies to all the structures in the party.”
If the consensus agreement goes through, that may leave Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, who has shown interest in the presidential race in limbo and perhaps frustrated as he seems to be the only PDP governor showing interest in the plum job.
Besides, despite the opposition of some northern leaders, Labaran Maku, minister of information, on Saturday, September 13, assured the president that the entire northern region of the country was set to retain him in office in 2015. The minister who spoke during the North-Central rally to garner support for the president’s 2015 ambition organised by the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, a pro-Jonathan group, described the few opposing elements from the region as insignificant. He called babblers with no serious programme for the region. Maku said: “Everyone knows the north is ready to give the president a chance without quarrel or struggle. Everyone knows that the power shift in Nigeria is eight years. It is only the South-South that has not been in power before; all other zones in Nigeria have been in power. So why should we say their son should not serve for eight years when others did. These are the people who are keeping our economy going, people who wants national unity and stability.
“President Goodluck Jonathan is entitled to four more years and the north is ready to give it to him without quarrel or struggle. The North will vote for Jonathan in 2015 and wherever the north central goes, that is the way Nigeria goes. North central will vote for President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015 overwhelmingly.”
Also addressing the rally, Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, said that the Presidency of Jonathan had been a uniting factor and that the country would still need him to further unite the country. Aliyu faulted those using insecurity as an issue against Jonathan’s re-election saying that the president was doing his best to bring the situation under control. “People are planning to use insecurity as an issue against us. We know it is an issue, we are concerned about the devastation on a part of the nation but we are trying to ensure that insecurity is surmounted within the shortest time. God has used President Goodluck Jonathan to unite Nigeria and He would continue to use him to bring this nation forward,” Aliyu said.
Anyim Pius Anyim, secretary to the government of the federation, who collected the register of more than 1.2 million signatures of those calling on Jonathan to contest 2015 in the north-central zone, said the signatures cut across party line.
While President Jonathan appears to be enjoying the support of the PDP to get the party’s presidential ticket without being made to sweat, candidates of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, are not promised an easy ride. Already, the presidential ticket of the party is already fraught with problems. Apparently suspecting some foul play, Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, has kicked against giving an automatic ticket to any presidential aspirant to be the party’s candidate in the 2015 election. Abubakar, who contested the presidential ticket of PDP in 2010 and lost to President Jonathan, described those canvassing for APC automatic ticket, especially for the presidential election, as anti-democratic forces. “I think those canvassing for automatic ticket are scared of contest. There is nothing to be scared of in a contest in a democratic setting. How can you canvass automatic ticket in a democratic process? There is nothing like that. These are people who are afraid of contest,” Abubakar said while speaking to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday, September 16. The former vice-president also dismissed zoning within the party, insisting that there is no provision for the arrangement in the party’s constitution. “We don’t have zoning in the constitution of the APC. So, the race is open for everybody. That is why you hear that Rochas Okorochas is also contesting. So, we don’t have zoning in the APC like the PDP. It is entrenched in their constitution which has been violated as far as zoning is concerned,” he said.
Abubakar is billed to flag off his presidential campaign on September 24.
Indeed, supporters of General Muhammadu Buhari, former Head of State and a presidential aspirant of the party, recently embarked on a subtle campaign asking the APC leadership to give automatic ticket to the former military ruler. The situation was acknowledged by a senior member of the party who recently told journalists that the manoeuvres by certain forces in the APC to make Buhari the party’s presidential candidate for the 2015 presidential election without going through an election was causing division within the party. He disclosed that supporters of Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, Bukola Sraki, former governor of Kwara State, Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher of Leadership newspaper, and Abubakar, who have also declared their interest in the party’s presidential ticket, were already up in arms to frustrate such move. According to the senior party man who did not want to be named, because he had no authority to speak, however, admitted that any attempt to impose Buhari on the party as the presidential candidate would destroy the foundation and the credibility of the APC. He alleged that the Buhari camp was already insisting that the emergence of Buhari as a candidate a settled matter.
But a political ally to Buhari said what the group was agitating for was a consensus and not automatic ticket. “What we are asking for Buhari is not automatic ticket but making him our consensus candidate and this is within the law. The Electoral Act allowed it and recently, some the PDP leaders gathered at Owerri and were asking the party to make President Goodluck Jonathan the consensus candidate. What we like is to honour Buhari by making him the consensus candidate. We see nothing wrong in it. Those who are making noise about it are not being sincere,” the ally who did not give his name said.
It is believed that Buhari himself caused the controversy when, in an interview with Rariya, an Hausa newspaper, and which was culled by some other national newspapers, publicly disagreed with the modified open direct primaries which the APC adopted. The general’s position was expanded upon by Osita Okechuku, spokesman of the Buhari Organization, TBO, who said: “Given all the indices, the APC already has a de facto presidential candidate in the person of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.). If you go through the constitution of the APC, under Article 20, it says for nomination of candidate either for party offices or presidential election, you first explore consensus. If an agreement is reached through consensus, it has to be affirmed. If we go through that method, though we have a lot of good quality people in the APC, I do not know of any person who the leadership of the APC would tell Buhari to step down for.”
But whether that will be enough to cause other aspirants to drop their ambition is yet to be seen. In the meantime, only President Jonathan appears to have been assured of his party’s ticket while others are made to wait in the wings.
By the Electoral Act 2010, Section 31 (1), “Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for the general elections under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission in the prescribed forms list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.” The electoral guidelines issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, provide that the sale of presidential forms shall take place between November 4 and 11, while the campaigns would kick off on November 30.