Atiku to consult Obi, Kwankwaso, Tinubu considers Lalong, El-Rufai, SGF, others

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Atiku Abubakar

The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate for the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, are mulling over the option of engaging the presidential candidates of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso, in talks on how to work together to defeat the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Obi, who is a former governor of Anambra State and Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election, and Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano State, were members of the PDP before they defected to their respective parties to actualise their presidential ambitions.

Findings by Punch, however, revealed that the PDP was considering how to enlist their support and form a formidable team to defeat the candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Meanwhile, in the APC, among other qualified persons being considered as Tinubu’s running mate are Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, both of whom are prominent northern Christians.

While efforts are on to avoid a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the party is also said to be considering Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who is a strong northerner, but a Muslim.

In the PDP, however, it is believed that Obi and Kwankwaso’s defections could affect the fortunes of the party in the February 25, 2023 presidential election.

There are concerns that Obi’s exit will further split the votes of the South, which is the PDP’s stronghold, while Kwankwaso’s exit will have a similar effect in the North, especially Kano State, which has bloc votes. If allowed to happen, the party fears it will work in favour of the APC, which already has more states in the North.

Obi, who had obtained the N40m presidential forms of the PDP before he defected, was said to have left the party due to the unfriendliness of one of the governors of the party in the South-South.

Kwankwaso, a former Minister of Defence, was also the foremost leader of the party in Kano State before his defection.

A former National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, told one of our correspondents in an interview that the result of the 2019 presidential election had shown that the PDP needed to get all the votes it could from all the states, especially northern states with higher numbers of voters.

Uche Secondus

He said, “In Kano State, President (Muhammadu) Buhari won in all the 44 local government areas with 1.4 million votes, while Atiku got 391,593 votes. Though the incumbent governor of the state, Abdullahi Ganduje, won the governorship election on the platform of the APC in 2019, it was a tight race between his party and the PDP. So, the PDP has prospects in the state, which is why it has to do what is necessary to get the maximum possible from the state.

“The 2019 governorship election results, which were a combination of the March 9 election and the March 23 re-run, showed the APC polled 1,033,695 votes, while the PDP scored 1,024,713 votes. With the above analysis, you will see that the PDP will need the cooperation of the two gentlemen to remain popular and win these states.”

However, Secondus refused to comment on what the party and Atiku planned to do to woo the two men, whom he described as “valuable persons” to the party.

The Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, also said there were possibilities that votes from the South-East could be split into three with Obi’s candidacy.

“We may have a situation whereby Obi will have some votes from there (South-East), then our party and the APC will get votes as well. We need to work against that. The South-East is our zone and we know the people and the voters there will not abandon us,” he stated.

This, according to findings, is the reason the PDP and Atiku are considering speaking with Obi and Kwankwaso to enlist their support.

A source privy to the planned discussions said, “We will talk to them. The battle ahead is not personal. We need to win the election and rescue the country from the bad governance of the ruling party. Thank God that we have about nine months ahead of us before the conduct of the general elections.

“We have enough time to engage people and solidify whatever agreement we want to propose. We should not allow this opportunity to slip from our hands.”

Atiku still consulting, says aide

When asked to confirm if moves were being made to engage Obi and Kwankwaso in talks, a media consultant to Atiku, Paul Ibe, said in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday that he could not say if such moves were being made, but that since his emergence, the candidate had been consulting stakeholders.

He added, “After he won the primary, he met with other aspirants, PDP governors, former ministers and other stakeholders. In this race, especially when you are contesting against a ruling party, everyone matters. These are extraordinary times and they require extraordinary measures.

“So, there will be alliances and the objective is to kick out the APC that has done nothing than to make Nigerians suffer, promote division and entrench a state of insecurity. But I can’t say if the party is reaching out to them (Obi and Kwankwaso).”

Obi won’t step down, says campaign DG

Meanwhile, when asked if the LP candidate would be favourably disposed to negotiating with the PDP, the Director-General of the Peter Obi Campaign Organisation, Dr Doyin Okupe, vowed that the former governor would not step down for any candidate, adding that the candidate and his supporters were focused on the task ahead.

Peter Obi

“The support Peter Obi is getting across the country is too massive for anyone to ask him to step down for anyone. Nobody ever thought Obi could leave the PDP, but he left. The real third force is here with us. The coming revolution is beyond Obi. Peter Obi is a man whose time has come. The PDP and the APC have expired. They are no longer relevant in Nigeria’s current situation.”

Nigerians will be disappointed if Obi returns to PDP, says aide

Also, Obi’s media aide, Valentine Obienyem, told one of our correspondents in an interview on Friday that his principal was content with being the candidate of the Labour Party.

Asked if his principal would be favourably disposed to working with Atiku if approached, Obienyem ruled out the possibility, saying that would dash the hopes of many Nigerians and leave them disappointed.

He added, “If today he (Obi) says he is going back to the PDP to be a running mate, I can tell you that if he walks on the street, many Nigerians will stone him and they will see him as a disappointment. Nigerians want him and the only thing we can do for him is to encourage him to answer the call of Nigerians. So, he will contest and I’m sure he will win, all things being equal.

“Today, Nigerians want change and Peter Obi has been seen as a symbol of that change, so the issue of structure people talk about does not arise. The last time they asked him about the structure of his party, he said Nigerians across the country were the structure and that is the greatest structure.”

On how Obi would match Atiku and Tinubu, reputed to be big spenders, the media aide said, “What is happening in Nigeria today is a peaceful revolution. Nigerians want to break away from the old order. Nigeria is ripe for a peaceful transition and Peter Obi is lucky to be at the forefront of that change.”

Asked how Obi would penetrate the North, Obienyem said Nigerians, including northerners, were desirous of good governance and that “what matters is that he has already penetrated the minds of Nigerians all over the country.”

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