Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was yesterday elected the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2019 general election. With his emergence as the standard bearer of the major opposition party in the country, Atiku is President Muhammadu Buhari's major opponent in the forthcoming presidential poll.
While the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) had on Saturday affirmed Buhari as its candidate at a non-elective national convention at the Eagle Square in Abuja, the PDP, at its national convention in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, held between Saturday and Sunday, declared Atiku winner of the keenly contested presidential primary. Atiku scored 1,532 votes to defeat 11 other aspirants to secure the PDP presidential ticket, making it the fourth time he would be contesting for the presidency. While announcing the results, chairman of the PDP national convention planning committee and Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, said Atiku's closest rival and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, polled a total of 693 votes. According to Okowa, the next person on line is Senate President Senator Bukola Saraki who polled a total of 317 votes, while former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, scored 158 votes.
Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo came fifth with 111 votes, just as former Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, got 96 votes. Former Kaduna State Governor, Senator Ahmed Markarfi got a total of 74 votes; former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Kabiru Turaki, got 65 votes; former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, polled 48 votes and former Senate President David Mark got 35 votes. Also, former Plateau State governor, Senator Jonah Jang and founder of Baze University, Abuja, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed got 19 and five votes respectively, while a total of 68 votes were voided. In his acceptance speech, Atiku lauded other presidential aspirants who ran for the primaries with him, saying they did so because they have the interest of the country at heart. He said, "Today, we are witnessing a landmark event; landmark event in the sense that since the rebranding of our great party, the PDP, in fact, I dare say that since the return of democratic rule of governance in this country, we have witnessed the most credible, transparent and fair primaries. "Let me also commend my fellow compatriots or aspirants for displaying a sense of unity, a sense of purpose and a sense of commitment. This is a very rare event. My fellow compatriots have clearly shown that the interest of the party and that of the people of this country is paramount and more important than individual interests.
"I want to pay tribute to each and everyone of them and to assure them that I am ever ready to work with each and everyone of them for the realization of the victory of our party in the forthcoming elections. I cannot do it alone. I need your support, I need your assistance, I need your understanding and I need your participation. It is not a one man's job. It is a collective responsibility. "I am prepared to listen to you, to take your advice, to consult with you, to work with you and together we succeed and after we succeed together, we shall all be partners in that success." Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, congratulated Atiku, assuring that he will continue to work for the success of the PDP.
He thanked all PDP delegates and stakeholders for ensuring a successful and peaceful National Convention in Port Harcourt.
It's Now Eagle Vs Eagle -- Bakare
Reacting to Atiku's victory, the Convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Pastor Tunde Bakare, observed yesterday that the 2019 presidency will be a tough contest between eagle and eagle.
Bakare congratulated the former vice president on his emergence as the PDP presidential candidate, saying Atiku's victory would make the 2019 election keen and interesting.
The Senior Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, who spoke to journalists in Ikeja after making a speech on Nigeria's 58th Independence in his church described Atiku's emergence as a welcome development. Noting that the battle for the presidency would be a tough contest between President Buhari and Atiku, Pastor Bakare said Buhari and Abubakar are equal match and it is Nigerians who would decide between the two. He stated: "I congratulate him (Abubakar); he makes the issue in 2019 more robust. It is not going to be an eaglet versus an eagle but an eagle versus eagle: an old eagle versus new eagle and probably both of them old eagles. "I wish president Muhammadu Buhari the best in 2019. He has the power of incumbency and he will do his best to win the election, but Atiku is not going to take No for an answer when the two forces collide in the election".
Bakare said Atiku, just like Buhari, has the experience, the exposure and the acceptance expected of whoever must be the country's president. He, however, pointed out that having those qualities alone would not translate into the victory for Atiku, as the electorate would decide the parameters on which to elect the next president. The cleric continued: "I can't say Atiku will win or lose. You see, I am not advocating for him. Among all the aspirants who contested the PDP ticket with him, he is perhaps the most cosmopolitan. He is a Wazobia man. "He was Vice-President for eight years and he inherited something from late Yaradua that he had held on to so effectively. He has been a businessman with business acumen and he has the exposure. But you see, that is not what qualifies you to win. A lot comes into play, so again, I cannot say whether he will win or lose". Bakare said for the PDP to win the 2019 elections, it will need to demonstrate to the electorate that it is a regenerated party and "show repentance for the years of the locust they engineered".
He added that the opposition party has to convince Nigerians that they would not return to corruption, which he said was the way of life during its rule. On the chances of APC, Bakare said though the government was trying its best, there is the need for APC to do much more to win the next election. He said the country is facing a lot of challenges, which the government needs to offer solutions to in order to fast track the pace of development. The cleric said that performance and policies, and not necessarily incumbency factor, would guarantee victory for the APC in 2019. The SNG Convener said his comments about the Buhari administration from the beginning should not be interpreted to mean he is attacking the government, but that he is just raising issues needing attention. Bakare said Nigeria has the potential to be great with the right leadership and positive attitude of followers, even as he urged Nigerians to vote according to their conscience and elect leaders that mean well for the country.
Learn From Our Primary, PDP Tells INEC, APC
Meanwhile, the PDP said yesterday that the orderliness, transparency and credibility of its presidential primary should serve as a direct lesson to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the governing APC on how elections should be conducted in present day Nigeria.
The party in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbindiyan, noted that the process has shown that the electoral umpire, in its manifest compromises, has been responsible for the electoral crises at various levels of elections.
PDP added that the scenario also shows that citizens, irrespective of their individual and group interests, are capable of holding peaceful and credible elections that meet global standards.
The statement made available to LEADERSHIP noted: "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 licentious administration assumed office. Simply put, in the PDP Presidential primary, every vote counted.
"Nigerians are therefore 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".
Dogara Congratulates Atiku
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday congratulated former vice president Atiku on his emergence as the presidential flag bearer of the PDP.
The speaker noted in a statement issued by his special adviser on media and public affairs, Mr Turaki Hassan, that the task before Atiku is to now unite with other aspirants to work towards the success of the party in the 2019 elections.
He expressed confidence that with proper strategies and consensus, the party will win the 2019 elections, defeat and break the chain of bad leadership in the country.
The Speaker 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.
"Of course, we have the problem of infrastructure. Those of us delegates who travelled by road from our various states down to Port Harcourt for this exercise will bear an ample testimony to the fact that we are living in a country with decayed infrastructure.
"Obviously, the biggest challenge of them all is leadership. If we have the right leadership, education will not be a problem, infrastructure will not be a problem, and getting or inspiring our citizens to live in peace will not be a problem."
"With the right leadership, Nigeria will be the pride of not only the black man, but of the entire world and that is the responsibility that has fallen on the shoulders of the PDP delegates that we have here today. This is the responsibility that has been outsourced to us by our different citizens from across the states."
Dankwambo Pledges Support For Atiku
Also, the Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, yesterday implored all his followers to immediately back the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku, ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
Dankwambo, a presidential aspirant in the just concluded PDP presidential primary, said this is in compliance with the decision of the delegates and keeping with his promise to support whoever wins the primary election.
A statement from the Dankwambo Presidential Campaign Organisation signed by the director of media & strategic communications, Dr. Ayoade Adewopo, noted: "Our great party, PDP has just conducted the best primary election ever witnessed on the continent. It was free, fair, transparent, credible and rancour free. It was a triumph for democracy in Nigeria and Afica at large. Our party, the largest party in Africa, has once again showed the world that we are democratic trailblazers on the continent.
"Profoundly, I congratulate our candidate, His Excellency, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, GCON on his victory at the primary election. Together, we will surely make Nigeria great again".
Okowa Hails Atiku's, Congratulates PDP
On his part, Delta State, governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday congratulated former vice president Atiku Abubakar on his victory at the presidential primary election of the PDP.
Governor Okowa who extended his goodwill message to the former vice president in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu in Asaba, said Atiku's victory at the PDP presidential primary is a victory for the party and Nigerians.
He expressed optimism that having won the party's ticket, Atiku will leverage on his track record as an entrepreneur and great employer of labour to grow the nation's economy.
Okowa further applauded other aspirants who took part in the keenly-contested primary and urged them to uphold the values and philosophy of the PDP by coming together to support Atiku in the forthcoming general election, in a bid to ensure the party emerges victorious.
The governor noted that PDP values internal democracy, describing the success of the primary election as another testament to the party's democratic credentials.
He also assured members of the party and Nigerians that the party would not rest until it returns the country to the part of good governance, rule of law as well as security of lives and property.
He stated: "Congratulations to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on winning the PDP Presidential ticket to contest the 2019 general election. I have no doubt that Alhaji Abubakar's track record as an entrepreneur and great employer of labour will be replicated in growing the nation's economy, which will stand him in good stead in the elections.
"I would also like to commend all the participants in the keenly-contested Primary. I would like them to uphold the values and philosophy of the PDP by joining hands to support Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the forthcoming elections.
"As a party, the PDP is serious about internal democracy in the party, and the success of the Presidential Primary, with 12 aspirants, further validates our party's democratic credentials. Let me assure our party men and Nigerians that we will continue to work hard to lead Nigeria to the next level of its development journey".