The polity was astir, yesterday, over the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the presidential standard bearers of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, respectively.
While President Buhari was handed a re-election ticket with 14.8m votes in the APC's direct presidential primaries, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar won the PDP's presidential primaries in Port-Harcourt with 1,532 votes. His closest challenger, Aminu Tambuwal got 693 votes.
The duo's emergence elicited excitement in the polity yesterday, as President Buhari boasted that he was heading to victory in the 2019 election. The APC declared its readiness to square-up with the PDP in the campaigns. But Atiku in his victory speech said with the APC's failure the PDP could not afford to fail Nigerians after winning the 2019 poll.
Those who spoke on Atiku's victory yesterday included Senate President Bukola Saraki, who lost to Atiku at the primaries; Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa)and Darius Ishaku (Taraba); House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare; Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori; Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF; and Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA among others.
Meanwhile, following the primaries that produced Atiku, which his opponents applauded, some of them, sources said, are exploring other political options. Those who lost to Atiku Abubakar included serving senators Saraki, David Mark, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Jonah Jang; Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe).
There were indications yesterday that Tambuwal would be fielded as the PDP governorship candidate in Sokoto while Saraki, Tambuwal, Kwankwaso, Mark, and Dankwambo would get senatorial tickets.
Horse-trading that threw up Atiku
The emergence of Atiku Abubakar as PDP 2019 presidential candidate was achieved after a constellation of interest groups overwhelmed the unwavering determination of the convention host, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
The forces, including retired generals helped break the ranks of the governors so that Governor Wike's speculated project of enthroning Governor Aminu Tambuwal as presidential candidate did not materialize.
The geo-political inclination of the South-East which heavily backed Atiku on the premise that he would serve one term was also a major factor in the overwhelming victory of Atiku in the PDP presidential nomination convention that ended yesterday afternoon.
Unarguably the most competitive nomination convention in the 19-year history of the party, it also turned out to be the most transparent party primary ever organized by the party so that at the end of the convention the losers walked up to Atiku to embrace him.
Atiku emerged winner of the primary with 1,532 votes well ahead of Tambuwal, who polled 693 votes and Senate President Saraki who scored 317 votes.
One time favourite, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso scored 158 votes, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State got 111 votes, Sule Lamido, 96, Ahmed Makarfi, 74, and Tanimu Turaki 65.
Others were Attahiru Bafarawa, 48, David Mark, 35, Jonah Jang 19 and Datti Baba Ahmed 5.
There were 68 voided votes. A total of 3,221 delegates participated in the exercise.
Ex-Generals weigh in on Atiku's side
Atiku's strong bounce, Vanguard gathered yesterday emerged after the governors shunned supplications to rally round one of their own -- Tambuwal -- who was heavily backed by the Rivers State delegation. The decision of the governors, one source said, was that it would be unwise to back one governor against another, that is, Dankwambo. They also said that it was unwise to back Tambuwal as there were even former governors also involved in the contest.
However, beneath the surface was also the lobby by some retired generals to the governors not to heed Wike's advances given the consideration by a select group of generals including three former heads of state that Atiku has the best credentials to fight off President Buhari.
That point was reiterated just before the convention commenced on Saturday morning when a former National Security Adviser, apparently acting on behalf of the generals met with the aspirants and governors at Le Meriden Hotel, Port-Harcourt.
The generals, Vanguard gathered, had passed the message that since Wike was given the free hand to produce the PDP national chairman in the person of Prince Uche Secondus, they would not sit back with Nigeria in crisis and allow a plan to salvage the country collapse on the ambitions of the Rivers State governor.
"These men may not be members of the PDP, but they still have the influence and reach to influence governors and other prominent Nigerians," a source privy to the development confided.
It was partly because of this that the governors did not buy into the Tambuwal project. Indeed, as many of the governors arrived Port-Harcourt on Friday and Saturday, the tradition of governors having breakfast with the host governor before going to the convention ground did not happen, one source said.
Several of the governors, it was gathered, gave their delegates the liberty to make independent choices and many of them persuaded by the message of Atiku inclined themselves towards him.
At several opportunities, Atiku spoke with ease on his job creation credentials, singling out the performance of a Micro Finance institution he floated a few years ago mainly to grant financial loans to women and local income earners. According to him, the bank took 45,000 women out of poverty in the past few weeks.
Some of the governors, it was also gathered were able to throw some votes towards Tambuwal for the sake of peace.
The exception was Ekiti State, which voted overwhelmingly for Tambuwal on the guidance of Governor Ayodele Fayose, himself a close political buddy of Wike.
Atiku was also ahead of the pack in building bridges in the APC-controlled states.
While Tambuwal initially relied heavily on the support of governors elected on the platform of the PDP, Atiku vigorously courted delegates from APC strongholds, many of whom settled for him eventually.
Atiku's success is down largely to hard work and deep understanding of the intrigues of the game.
Ahead of the exercise, the former Vice President secured decent accommodation in choice hotels in the heart of Port Harcourt metropolis, leaving his rivals to settle literally for what can pass for "left overs."
Atiku was also especially projected in the South-East by his earlier promise to serve for one term, a promise many South-East political gladiators saw as likely to help realize the dream of having a president of the country from their region.
Yesterday, as the reality of the Atiku candidacy dawned on the crowd and other aspirants, his fellow aspirants took time to congratulate him and to restate their promise to support him in the forthcoming presidential election.
Atiku on his part was generous in victory, paying homage to his fellow contestants and to former President Olusegun Obasanjo for his political tutelage.
An obviously elated Atiku thanked the delegates and the leadership of the party for the confidence reposed in him and promised to work with the 11 other aspirants to work for the victory of the party in 2019.
"Today, we are witnessing a landmark event because the re-branding of the PDP and the return of democratic governance in this country, we are witnessing the most credible, transparent and fairest primaries. I am prepared to listen to you, to take your advice so that together we can be part of the success. I believe we have learnt our lessons and we shall continue to improve on this," he said even as he thanked Governor Wike and the government and people of Rivers for playing a good host to Nigerians while the convention lasted.
Atiku said the PDP "cannot afford to fail Nigerians who having seen the failure of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and are now prepared to return the PDP back to power."
Rounding off his speech, Atiku said: "On a personal note, I wouldn't have been standing where I am today if my former boss, President Obasanjo had not made me his Vice President. Under his tutelage, I learnt quite a lot and I believe the experience I have got is going to impact on how I eventually govern this country. I wish to pay my special tribute to him."
Saraki, other aspirants congratulate Atiku
Speaking on behalf of other aspirants, Senator Saraki thanked and congratulated members of the convention planning committee for coming out with what he called "the most credible primary election in the history of the nation.
He pledged the readiness of all the contestants to work with Atiku to bring victory to the PDP.
"We are confident that come May 29, 2019, the green, white, red colours of the party will be hoisted as we take over power in our country," he added.
On his part, the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to learn from the convention exercise, saying the party has shown that free, fair and credible elections are still possible.
PDP speaks on transparency of process
The PDP yesterday charged the ruling APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to borrow lessons from the conduct and transparency that marked the PDP presidential convention, chaired by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
In statement issued by the party's spokesman, Kola Ologbodiyan, the party said the exercise shows that citizens, irrespective of their individual and group interests, are capable of holding peaceful and credible elections that meet global standards.
He said: "The success of our Presidential primary followed our strict adherence to democratic rules and principles of transparency and fairness, which has eluded the nation since President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration assumed office. Simply put, in the PDP Presidential primary, every vote counted.
"Nigerians are no longer in doubt that our compromised electoral umpire, under the Buhari administration, is ostensibly culpable for injecting rancorous situations that create openings for violence, manipulations, inconclusive polls and outright rigging of elections. We invite the whole world to note that the PDP conducted its Presidential primary and a clear winner, Atiku Abubakar, emerged, without any form of disagreements or reliance on heavy security, showing that Nigerians are peaceful, orderly and desirous of credible processes at all levels of political engagement.
"The PDP charges INEC to stop blaming voters, accept responsibility for its failure to conduct credible elections and learn from our presidential Primary, as we approach the 2019 general elections."
PDP running mate
Meanwhile, party elders were last night locked in meetings on how to come up with a running mate ahead of last night's deadline. Whereas Atiku had in the past been alleged to be inclined towards the South-East, a source in the Atiku campaign said yesterday that all options were open.
"What are you going to throw towards the South-West? You must give them an understanding of why they should lose number two and still vote for you."
Among the names being mentioned as vice-presidential candidate yesterday were former Governor Peter Obi, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and Osita Chidoka, the erstwhile Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Commission.
I'm moving on to victory in 2019 - Buhari
Accepting his nomination by the APC to fly its ticket in next year's presidential elections, President Buhari assured his party men that with his accomplishments, victory was sure.
In his acceptance speech at the end of a special national convention which began on Saturday and ended Sunday morning in Abuja, the president also thanked other presidential aspirants in the party who deferred to him by not contesting.
"The result of the presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress this time is different because I am the only candidate. I thank all other eligible candidates who deferred to me in the interest of our party unity and over-all national stability", he said.
The president also spoke of his multi-sectoral accomplishments saying while he has been able to bring succour to Nigerians, the international community now has greater confidence in his leadership of the country.
"We are very proud of our record from 2015 to date: We have arrested and checked the slide to anarchy on the security and economic fronts. Boko Haram is reduced to dastardly attacks on soft targets. Normalcy has returned to much of North-East and neighbouring North-West states. Our currency has stabilized. Our reserves are now $44 billion, a lot higher than we had in 2015. Power generation capacity has reached 8,000 megawatts against less than 4,600 when we came into office. As we invest in new power generation infrastructure we are strenuously working to address the legacy deficiencies and challenges of transmission and distribution networks across the country. We are executing Independent Power Projects in nine federal universities to deliver uninterrupted power supply and we intend to expand to a total of 37 universities.
"We have revived most of our capacity to produce fertilizers locally. The Government through its Anchor Borrowers Programme and other incentives has empowered more than two million farmers to go back to the land. We now produce 80% of our rice requirements. Many farmers who nearly lost hope are now millionaires. We have introduced primary school feeding programmes to encourage attendance and enrollment. We also have introduced the conditional cash transfer to help small and medium businesses, the men, the women and young people who drive our economy. We have repaired and are repairing major arterial roads and starting major railway projects with the aim of linking the 36 states with efficient road and rail transportation systems. We are attacking corruption head-on. With international support we are recovering Nigerian stolen assets and applying them to infrastructural developments. Today the corrupt are facing the wrath of law and leakages have been generally blocked.
"Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, Members of the APC. We can be proud of our achievements. Change has come. Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow Nigerians, think how much PDP Governments earned between 1999 to 2015. Think what they did with it. Infrastructure down! Security down! 18 local governments of Nigeria under control of a hostile army of insurgents, Reserves depleted! Bankruptcy around the corner. What did they do with your money?
"Internationally, Nigeria is now respected. My inter-action with foreign heads of state and government has been very encouraging. The international community is very supportive of our efforts to put our country in order. Ladies and gentlemen, Members of APC. I thank you deeply for your support and confidence in me. I will not let you or the people of Nigeria down. On to victory in 2019!", he declared.
Polls 14.8m votes
In affirming President Buhari's candidacy,the Returning Officer for the presidential primaries which was held on September 28 across the federation, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said Buhari polled 14, 842, 072 million votes.
According to him, "that gives you a pointer to what we are going to have in the 2019 elections. This is the registered voters of the registered members of our party. We are not talking about other Nigerians who will vote for the president in the general elections", he said.
Buhari too mild with opposition
In his speech, National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole accused the president of being too mild with the opposition, saying while the APC was in the opposition, the then ruling PDP deployed the machinery of public office to intimidate them at will.
He was quick to however concede that the president needed not copy the evil styles of his predecessors.
"But let me remind the opposition when they accuse us of abusing federal powers. Mr President, if there is any complaint among APC leaders, it is that Mr President has been extremely mild. Even myself, sometimes I feel Mr President is too mild compared to what we went through. Mr President, as a sitting governor in Edo state, I was denied the use of a federal airport. I went to the airport, I could not fly. My brother from Rivers state... a Commissioner of Police blocked him and detained him in Government House and said he could not leave the Government House. Mr President, your predecessor, the former president used seven people to impeach a sitting governor in Bayelsa. Seven people to impeach a governor in Plateau state. Even myself, I was to be impeached. I had to remove the roof of the House of Assembly to survive. My brother in Rivers, he was to be impeached... he had to do battle and fight like a thug but I know he is a gentleman because he is a Catholic but he was almost turned to what he is not. They fought us, they harassed us, they intimidated us and they charged us for no reason. But Mr President, tough times don't last, tough people do. That is why we are standing. I am not about to suggest that you should copy them. We cannot copy people who have no character. You must resist the temptation, even the pressure from some of us who feel that you are mild. I think that, that is the price of leadership but I need to remind them that they laid the foundation for do-or-die politics. It is PDP that had a president who told Nigerians, and it is on record, that elections were a do or die. Mr President, you have never said anything like that. So, when they talk the way they do, you wonder if they have forgotten their past", he said.
We're ready for the campaigns, APC tells PDP
"My last word is to the opposition. We are ready after today's convention for the 2019 electioneering campaigns and we believe we have a lot to sell to Nigerians. I cannot wait for the campaigns to begin. Our opponents are going to produce their candidates and we will look at their records. If they are former governors, we will go to their states; and we will go to their people to show us the evidence of what they have done in their states because if you cannot manage your house, you cannot manage a community. If you cannot manage a community, you cannot manage a state. If you failed as a state governor, you cannot possibly win as a president. We will stick to those records, we will look at their arguments, we will look at their background and we will compare them to your own, Mr President and the Nigerian people will decide," said Oshiomhole.
Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Bakare welcome Atiku's emergence
Speaking on the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the PDP candidate, Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly and former running mate to Buhari, Pastor Tunde Bakare, said it would strengthen the 2019 election.
Also, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum congratulated Atiku and his emergence is a breath of fresh air to the democratic project in Nigeria.
Bakare spoke at a state of the nation broadcast on Nigeria's 58th Independence Anniversary held at his church premises, Ikeja.
The cleric, who spoke on the theme: 'The Road to 2019: Quo Basis (what next) Nigeria', said: "I am not an advocate for Atiku. But of all the aspirants that contested to seek the PDP ticket, he was the most cosmopolitan and experienced.
His words: "He inherited something's from late former President, Musa Yar'Adua that he had kept all these years. He has been a businessman with better acumen. He has better exposure but that isn't what qualifies him to win next year. I can't say he will win or lose.
"I can say categorically that his emergence has made the issue more robust. It will not be the eagles and eaglet but eagles Vs eagle. After their fight, those of us that will mop-up the floor will emerge because Nigeria must not be allowed to destruct.
"I wish Buhari all the best ahead of 2019. He has the power of incumbency. I am sure he will do his best in order to win the poll, and don't forget that Atiku will not take no for answer. I pray that the grass (Nigeria) will not suffer."
Don't forget your restructuring vow, Southern, Middle Belt leaders tell Atiku
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum urged Atiku not to rescind his commitment to restructuring.
In a joint statement by Yinka Odumakin (South-West), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South-South), Prof Chigozie Ogbu (South-East) and Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle-Belt), the forum said: "It is never too early to remind the Presidential candidate of the clear commitment to the fundamental issue of restructuring he has made overtime and which the former Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the Party, Senator Makarfi adumbrated as a party agenda. It is clear today that no amount of good governance programs can get Nigeria out of the woods without a proper structure that can restore Nigeria to productivity under federalism.
"For the PDP, they have shown that they have learnt some useful lessons by organizing the best and freest primary we have seen in this season .We enjoin the INEC to take useful tips from the PDP Convention and know that our courts will not be filled with petitions nor would there be post-election violence if elections are transparently free,fair and credible.
Now the country can look forward to a robust and healthy competition for the soul of Nigeria in February 2019."
Go, provide needed leadership for Nigeria to move forward, Dogara tells Atiku
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara expressed confidence that Atiku Abubakar would provide the right leadership that would revive Nigeria and stimulate growth.
In a congratulation message, he charged Atiku to unite with other aspirants towards the success of the party.
Dogara in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Turaki Hassan said that with proper strategies and consensus, the PDP will win the 2019 elections and break the chain of bad leadership in the country
He said: "One would not be entirely wrong if we say that the problem of Nigeria, or the bane of development of this country is bad leadership. Not even the challenge of infrastructure, not the bloodletting we are witnessing in different parts of Nigeria from Zamfara, down to the Middle-Belt states of Taraba, Benue, Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Adamawa and the rest and sundry acts of kidnapping across this country."
Why PDP must woo IPOB - Ugochukwu Uko
Meanwhile, Secretary of the Eastern Consultative Assembly, ECA, and Deputy Secretary of the Igbo Leaders of Thought, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, has urged leaders of the PDP to get the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to rescind its decision of boycotting the 2019 election, if the party wants to win the presidential election.
Commending the PDP for what he described as a credible, transparent and impressive presidential primaries that produced Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as winner, Ugochukwu-Uko, who is also founder of the Igbo Youth Movement, IYM, said: "But the PDP will not win the presidential election if its leaders did not go to IPOB and plead with them not to boycott the election. The IPOB is the most popular movement in Igbo land and the old Eastern Region as shown by their various sit-at-home exercises. If IPOB boycotts the election President Buhari will have a second term."
Atiku has what it takes to lead PDP to victory- Oborevwori
Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, said Atiku Abubakar has what it takes to lead the party to victory and commended Governor Okowa Ifeanyi for conducting a peaceful and credible National Convention of the PDP.
Oborevwori in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Dennis Otu, also congratulated Atiku and urged members of the party to rally support for the PDP Presidential Flag bearer, in the presidential election.