By Ehichioya Ezomon
However their posturing and positioning for attention, the crowded field of aspirants for the president in 2023 will be streamlined in a matter of weeks, to separate the pretenders from the contenders. The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), like its counterpart, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has tens of aspirants for the Office of President of Nigeria, who, alternatively present themselves for the post of president or vice president.
Similarly, their pairing for a joint ticket is not limited to one aspirant, but a gambling with multiple choices, to avoid being caught off guard whenever the issue of rotation of the presidency is settled between the North and South in the 2023 election cycle. Until the field is weeded, the list below summarises the match-making in the PDP that’s few aspirants in the North – perhaps due to the number of state governors on the party’s platform in the region – unlike in the South that has a suffuse of such aspirants.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a governor-elect of Adamawa State, who traded the position for a vice presidential slot in 1999, and won the presidency along with former Head of State, retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, remains the number one contender at the PDP primaries, and at the general election beginning in February 2023. A serial presidential candidate on several platforms, Atiku has a wide berth to choose a running mate in Southern Nigeria, among whom is his joint ticket holder in the 2019 polls, Mr Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State.
Other aspirants that can pair with Atiku are former Senate President, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim and Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Godwin Obaseki of Edo, and former Governor Segun Mimiko of Ondo State.
Mr Obi stands out as the foremost contender in the PDP if the presidency were to shift to Southern Nigeria, and to the South-East. If otherwise, he can pair with Atiku, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State or Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
Chief Anyim, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and an early jumper into the ring in the South-East, bolstered by a high-profile birthday bash in Abuja lately, has garnered momentum and popularity to pair with Atiku, Governor Mohammed, Governor Tambuwal or former Governor Ahmed Makarfi of Kaduna State.
Mr Tambuwal, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who tested his mettle in the PDP primaries in 2019 and fell short to Atiku, is being matched with Mr Obi, Chief Anyim or Governors Wike, Ugwuanyi, Okowa, Makinde, Emmanuel or Obaseki. Governor Wike, reputed as the PDP major financier and trouble shooter, was a shoe-in as running mate to Tambuwal had the latter gained the ticket in 2019. But he’s switched his support, first to Governor Mohammed, whom he describes as “overqualified” for president in 2023, and now to any Southern candidate under PDP.
Even as Wike has warned Atiku about misjudging the support of Southerners in the 2023 electoral runs, all Northern PDP aspirants, including Atiku, Tambuwal, Mohammed and Makarfi want to give their all to be on a joint ticket with him.
Governor Ugwuanyi, a quiet operator, outwardly concerned with rolling over the APC in the coming local government poll in Enugu, is using the campaigns for the candidates to ask the PDP hierarchy to look how he would garner votes if handed the party ticket. And a group of “Northern Elders” has endorsed his candidacy to pair with Atiku, Mohammed, Tambuwal or Makarfi.
Governor Makinde, the stand-alone PDP governor in the South-West, is positioned to clinch the ticket or the running mate position. He can also pair with either Atiku, Mohammed or Tambuwal. Governor Okowa, an unassuming personality, hasn’t been overly sensitive to the post of president. Still, he’s eminently qualified not only by reason of his training as a Medical Doctor, but also his experience as a former Senator and Secretary to the Government of Delta State. So, he’s good to go on either way of the presidential calculus with Atiku, Mohammed, Tambuwal or Makarfi.
Governor Emmanuel is the first State Chief Executive to broach a successor for 2023, and free himself of any local encumbrances, as he buys the urging of support groups to give the presidency a shot, and pair with Atiku, Mohammed, Tambuwal or Makarfi.
Governor Obaseki, in the APC, would’ve had the blessing of President Buhari, who reportedly regards him as a “worthy son” even as he’s in the PDP by circumstance of being denied the APC ticket in the 2020 governorship poll in Edo. That said, he stands a good chance, as other aspirants in the South, to couple with Atiku, Mohammed, Tambuwal or Makarfi for the presidency.
Senator Makarfi, a former Caretaker Committee chairman of the PDP, was a viable presidential material pre-2019 elections, but declined to test his acceptability at the primaries. He hasn’t also been forthcoming in the lead-up to 2023, but stands a chance to run with Governors Wike, Ugwuanyi, Okowa, Emmanuel or Obaseki.
Dr Mimiko, a two-term governor of Ondo, has sojourned in several political parties before returning to the PDP, where he can run for the president with Atiku, Mohammed, Tambuwal or Makafi.
Dr Abukakar Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara and Senate President (2015-2019), has long courted the presidency, which he’s sure is within reach in 2023. But the zoning of PDP’s chairmanship to North Central (Middle Belt) may’ve punctured his ambition that could flourish pairing with any of the Southern aspirants.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State is also caught in the web of zoning the PDP chair to North Central. Otherwise, pundits were positioning him with his roaring friend, Governor Wike, in a Christian-Christian ticket they’d predicted would scale through.
Mr Dele Momodu, a journalist and publisher of Ovation magazine, has surprised pundits, as he forges ahead with his presidential ambition after defecting to the PDP, and blasting the APC administration of President Buhari that he’d staunchly supported. Momodu’s seriousness is gleaned from his homecoming to Owan, Edo State, to get the blessings of his community people, and the wide consultations with power brokers across the country.
He’s selling a mantra of “I’m the right man for the job,” arguing that having hobnobbed with heads of governments in many countries, and with local mandarins in Nigeria, coupled with his experiences in journalism and business, he’s the answers to Nigeria’s problems. So, he can pair with any of the contenders from the North.
As the presidential field expands, so are the chances shrinking for aspirants to clinch the PDP (or APC) ticket either as the candidate or running mate in bruising primaries, and in the February 2023 polls featuring serving or past governors with loaded war chests.
* Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.