The People Democratic Party (PDP), may have kicked started the journey to 2023 with the recent whistle-stop to the South West embarked on by Governor Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, even as the imposing stature of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar still looms large over those eying the party’s plum ticket.
Last week, the speaker of the 7th House of Representatives visited former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his Hill top Presidential Library, Abeokuta.
The meeting, which was held behind closed doors with its agenda unknown to many, Sunday Telegraph learnt, was “the first tentative steps at attempting to reposition the PDP” ahead of the titanic battle to reclaim the keys to Aso Rock in three years’ time.
A source close to a former governor in the South West confided in the newspaper that Tambuwal’s visit was to ask Obasanjo to galvanise his own people with the view to repositioning the opposition party to mount a formidable challenge to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023.
Our source said: “We believe the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is now a discredited party especially after they have bungled the leadership of this country.
It is time PDP is rebranded, refocused and reengineered so that it will be seen as the much better alternative in 2023.” Sunday Telegraph learnt that some powerful forces in the PDP believe that the only way this can be achieved is for sacrifices to be made by all in the overall interest of the party.
Although, with three years still to go to the presidential election, the situation is still very fluid, however, presently, some influential persons in the party are already trying to make a case for a Southern presidential candidate, which means the current set up of the National Working Committee (NWC) will have to be tinkered with.
“To be able to do this, some persons in the National Working Committee (NWC) will have to go in order to bring in a Northerner as the Chairman of the party and a southerner to become the party’s presidential candidate in 2023.”
On why no one from the South West is currently in the picture, our source said: “The person might not necessarily be a current member of the PDP. We do not want to unnecessarily expose our candidate. The only party that has the clout and wherewithal to confront the APC is PDP.”
However, the camp of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not backing down. Another source said what the presidential candidate of the party in 2019 general election and some of his backers are banking on is that he has the wherewithal and the financial muscles to still mount a formidable challenge for the party’s 2023 presidential ticket.
But if those pushing for a southern candidate ultimately have their way, then it means that that will be the end of a seventh bid by Atiku to become the nation’s number one citizen, haven contested in 1993, 1998, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019, prompting sources close to him to dangle the carrot of serving only a single term. Our source explained: “So what he will sell to them is that he would do only one term of four years after which a southerner will take over.
“This is his last chance and if he does not get it this time, that will be the end as age is not on his side.” However, another highly placed PDP member told Sunday Telegraph that the party was determined to get it right ahead of the next elections because with the situation of things in the country, it was obvious they were in pole position to benefit from APC’s lapses.
“Look as things stand with the economy in shambles, unemployment so high and hunger in the land, everybody can see that people are completely fed up with the APC; so this is the best time for us as the most formidable opposition party to capitalise of this disquiet amongst Nigerians. But the only way we can do this is for us to ensure that we get it right with our selection process for our presidential candidate.
“By the way, there is nothing saying that if the APC presents a candidate from the South we must do same. After all, don’t forget that the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has already said that we are ready to do whatever it takes to ensure that we win the election, which means that we will all have to make sacrifices. After all only one person can contest to be president of this country,” he explained.
Sunday Telegraph h also learnt that the outcome of the forthcoming elections in Edo and Ondo states will go a long way in further showing the strengths or otherwise of the different power blocs in the party jostling for position ahead of 2023. From what we gleamed each bloc is working hard to ensure that at the end of the exercise they will be able to boast that it was their effort that paid off.
However, when contacted, Mr Paul Ibe, Head of the former Vice President’s Media Office, downplayed his principal’s 2023 plans, insisting that right now, what is upper most on Atiku’s mind was how to ensure that the PDP does well in the Edo and Ondo elections coming up soon.
“I can tell you that what concerns his Excellency right now is making sure that the party does well in both the Edo and Ondo elections; 2023 is still far away and is presently working fastidiously with party officials at both state and federal level to make sure that PDP triumphs,” he told Sunday Telegraph .
But when pressed to espouse his principal’s position on 2023, Ibe would only say that when the time is right, they would make their position known.