The last time ex-Vice-President Atiku Abubakar faced President Muhammadu Buhari in a political contest was in 2014 when he lost the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to Buhari who not only won the general election but also made history by being the first Nigerian politician to unseat an incumbent president.
But having secured the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a keenly contested exercise on Sunday, Abubakar is set to renew the political rivalry with Buhari. The 2019 is no doubt tougher than the APC presidential primary of 2014.
The delegates at Adokiye Amiesimaka stadium in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, would be settling down to other issues by now but winners and losers of the exercise are currently back to the drawing board thinking of what they did right or wrong.
Abubakar polled 1,532 votes to defeat Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto state, his closest challenger, who polled 693. There are those who have one thing or the other to gain or lose as far as the election is concerned. We profile six of them here.
Okowa doing what he knows best
The governor of Delta state is unarguably the man of the moment as he successfully chaired a peaceful and to a large extent, transparent presidential primary election. Devoid of rancour, delegates trooped into the pavilions earmarked for their respective states, while the 12 aspirants also went about their businesses. States voted concurrently and the officials gave the exercise their best shot.
While declaring the winner after the exercise, the University of Ibadan-trained medical doctor radiated like a winner too. As the chairman of the electoral committee of the party in Ekiti state, Okowa was said to have called the delegates out one after the other and did personal headcount as they lined up to cast their votes. One thing that stands out in his qualities as an electoral umpire is his penchant for orderliness.
Abubakar and Daniel at a strategic session
If there is one man whose efforts paid off with the outcome of the primary election, it should be Gbenga Daniel, former governor of Ogun state.
In May, Abubakar unveiled OGD, as he is popularly called, as the director-general of his campaign organisation. The former vice-president had said, “I am in no doubt OGD is a very positive and welcome addition to our campaign and I look forward to working with him as he leads our campaign to victory in February 2019.”
On Friday, while calling on the delegates to rally behind Abubakar, Daniel said the former vice-president could stand as shoulder-to-shoulder against Buhari. With the victory of the ex-vice-president, OGD is no doubt strategising on how to embark on another journey to the nooks and cranny of the country to secure the presidency for Abubakar come 2019.
Although not a member of the PDP, Al-Hassan, fondly called Mama Taraba, can be a considered a winner with the outcome of the convention. Even before Abubakar made his presidential ambition public, Alhassan who was minister of women affairs until eight days ago, never hid undivided loyalty to the former vice-president.
In 2017, as a member of Buhari’s cabinet, Mama Taraba declared support for Abubakar whom she described as her godfather. While some consider it an act of folly, it’s safe to assume that Mama Taraba occupies a special place in the heart of Abubakar since candour is a rare virtue in politics. Besides this, Alhassan would be happy that her godfather is ready to give Buhari a run for his money. The APC disqualified her from the governorship race in Taraba and her loyalty to Abubakar is believed to have contributed to this.
The governor of River state is undoubtedly one of the major influencers in the PDP. This could be seen in the way he threatened to teach the party a bitter lesson if it changed the venue of the convention. Moreover, he was said to have rooted for Tambuwal. During the exercise, he had openly displayed his ballot paper to indicate the he voted for the Sokoto governor.
His support for Tambuwal even pitched him against Abubakar. Although, he didn’t mention the ex-vice-president’s name, Wike had taken a swipe at him while attempting to defend the choice of Port Harcourt as convention venue.
“I don’t know why anyone who wants to be president will be afraid of a venue. Then you are not prepared for the election… you come here to deceive us about restructuring. Just that Rivers State is a venue, you fight it. Then, when you are there, what will happen? You think we are fools where you preach restructuring, then when you get the position, you abandon restructuring,” he had said.
Wike did not wait for the convention to be brought to a close before he exited the venue.
One issue political pundits have been discussing after the primary is the fact that the three top contenders in the race were in the All Progressives Congress (APC) when leadership crisis was tearing at the heart of PDP. Mocked, dejected and rejected, PDP was on its way down during the period. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo had taunted the party saying it was dead but while many politicians Makarfi helped in nursing life into the party. Sadly, he polled only 74 votes in the primary.
In a chat with reporters while the party was making preparations for the convention, Makarfi had said no other presidential aspirant had his pedigree and that he had confidence that he would pick the party ticket for the 2019 election.
“PDP has become a beautiful bride because of what I did. The party was considered dead until I came in as chairman of the caretaker committee and turned it round,” he had said.
But the delegates reasoned otherwise and Makarfi came 7th in the race contested by 12 aspirants.
In August, Okupe, a former senior special assistant on public affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, said if Abubakar becomes the president, it will take another ten years to recover from that.
Writing on Twitter, Okupe said while he disagreed with Abubakar becoming Nigeria’s president, it would be a different case with Senate President Bukola Saraki.
He tweeted, “If Atiku rules Nigeria for 1 day, it will take us 10 years to recover. If Saraki rules for a day, Nigeria will make history.”
Although he later deleted the tweet and attempted damage control, Saraki named him media head of his campaign.
With the former vice president’s victory and the loss of Saraki, Okupe stands out as one of the losers.