The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has started the process of identifying a candidate that can give President Muhammadu Buhari a run for his money in the 2019 presidential poll, should the president get the ticket of his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to run for a second term.
The party is searching for a Nigerian, from the North, with an unblemished record and one who could be acceptable to all parts of the country, it was reliably gathered.
The person that the PDP will support for the race may be somebody with no political inclination but with a record of selfless service to the country and attributes that can easily match those of Buhari or even surpass them.
Also, the candidate should be a household name that could resonate well with an average Nigerian.
Stakeholders in the PDP believed that getting the right candidate for the contest will also help burnish the party’s image, which took a hit after its 16 years in power that ended in 2015.
Sources disclosed to Daily Trust on Sunday that the consensus among key leaders of the party is that the crop of presidential aspirants who have indicated their interest in the party’s presidential flag, may not able to match Buhari stride for stride in an election.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former Governor Sule Lamido, Governor Hassan Dankwambo and Senator David Mark are said to be gunning for the PDP’s ticket.
Consultations are currently ongoing to shop for the right individual.
The move is enjoying the blessings of the national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, and some governors and lawmakers under the party, a leader of the party who does not want to be named told Daily Trust on Sunday.
The member said the party has already settled for an individual from the North-West and would make public his name as soon as he was contacted.
“The group is actually mindful of the fact that only a personality with an unblemished track record and widely recognized as a detribalized Nigerian could defeat President Buhari,” another party member said.
Confirming the move, a PDP senator, who wants to remain anonymous, said 2019 would be a serious contest for the party, which explains why they are ready to go to great length to seek a candidate that “would be accepted by Nigerians as an alternative to Buhari.”
Most of the presidential aspirants could not be reached for comments as to whether they are aware of the plan to bring a neutral candidate from outside.
However, Senator Makarfi who responded to a text message, said, “It is the party leadership that is in a position to answer that question.”
Also, former Governor Lamido denied knowledge of the plan in a text, saying: “I’m not aware of that.”
But a founding member of the PDP from the North-East, Alhaji Aminu Yakudima confirmed to Daily Trust on Sunday that the thinking of the top echelon of the NWC is to bring someone outside the party to field as presidential candidate, saying such a move would be resisted.
Alliance to win
The PDP plans to actualize its presidential game-plan by either going into an alliance with other political parties or dissolving into one of the parties in the country, it was gathered.
On the top of the list for the parties the PDP is seeking to join forces with, are the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Labour Party (LP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Going into an alliance with the three political parties will strengthen the party’s support base in parts of the country where the parties are based.
Although APGA has only one governor, in Anambra, and one senator to show in the whole of the country’s political landscape, the PDP believes that the party will make inroads in the South-East in the general elections next year. It believes that a marriage between the two parties can wrest control of Imo State from the APC in 2019 and galvanize votes for their joint presidential candidate.
However, observers are of the opinion that whatever arrangement the PDP may enter with APGA, it would be difficult for the two parties to take over Imo State from the APC.
The PDP is approaching LP and SDP to use their platforms to gain a foothold in the South-West and the South-South. The LP once had a governor each in the South-West and the South-South, while the SDP is seen to be gaining grounds in the South-West. PDP analysts predict that a combination of the three parties in the South-South and South-West will draw votes from the region its way.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the party hopes that a combination of a saleable candidate and alliance will provide it with the silver bullet to kill APC’s ambition of a second term of remaining in power beyond 2019.
The PDP first made its intention for alliance public when Secondus announced at the 79th Emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party, held on April 19, 2018, in Abuja that the party was in talks with other political parties, senior politicians and ex-presidents in order to initiate strategies that would help the party regain power.
He made the statement few weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari announced his interest to go for a second term under the platform of the APC.
While acknowledging that they have lost many members for obvious reasons, credible sources in the PDP said they were still reaching out to aggrieved leaders and other chieftains to rejoin.
Spokesman of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, confirmed this in a telephone interview with our reporter.
A former governor from the North told Daily Trust on Sunday that members of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), serving governors, PDP senators and House of Representatives members, state chairmen, former ministers, ex-governors, NWC members and the Reconciliation Committee headed by Governor Seriake Dickson, are now approaching various individuals and groups for alliance.
Apart from wooing “disgruntled” members in the APC, our reporter also learnt that the PDP leaders are in talks with about 30 other political parties under the aegis of Coalition for a New Nigeria (CNN).
The CNN has the national chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Alhaji Abdulkadir A. Salam, as chairman and Barrister Godson Okoye of the United Democratic Party (UDP), as Secretary.
The CNN handlers said they are different from Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo has since ruled out working for the PDP or the APC.
The CNN Spokesman, who is National Chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr. Yunusa Tanko, confirmed to our correspondent in a telephone interview that the PDP has approached them for a deal ahead of the general elections.
“They have actually been reaching out to us,” he said.
The political parties that formed the CNN include, Alliance for Democracy (AD), African Democratic Congress (ADC), National Conscience Party (NCP), Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA), Democratic People’s Congress (DPC) Labour Party (LP), People’s Party of Nigeria (PPN) Action Alliance (AA); Democratic People’s Party (DPP), People’s Democratic Change (PDC), Better Nigeria People’s Party (BNPP), National Action Council (NAC), United Democratic Party (UDP) and Democratic Alternative (DA) among others.
The National Secretary of the SDP, Alhaji Shehu Musa Gabam, in a telephone interview said of the planned alliance, “Naturally in politics, there are coalitions for strategic interests. There is nothing wrong in political parties coming together to protect the democratic institutions. So we must rescue Nigeria by stopping those who want to collapse the nation’s political space.”
Similarly, the National Secretary of the Action Alliance (AA) which is a party in the coalition, Vernimbe A. James, told Daily Trust on Sunday in a telephone interview that “We are committed and determined to join forces with any party or group of political parties to sack this failed APC-led Federal Government come February 2, 2019 and restore hope to Nigerians.”
APGA rules out merger with other parties
However, the national chairman of APGA, Dr. Victor Oye, yesterday denied being consulted for merger with any party.
“How can we join 30 other parties when we are the third largest political party in Nigeria? Nobody has consulted us on the so-called merger,” Oye said.
Also, the National Director of Publicity of the party, Mr Ifeanacho Oguejiofor, said: “We are the credible alternative to the failure of the APC and PDP. We are contesting all the elections and we are not merging with any party.
“We are also not in alliance with any group, other parties can come and merge with APGA,” Oguejiofor said.