The political elite in Northern Nigeria are propping up former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of the region in the 2023 presidential election.
In this wise, former national security adviser, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd), is set to present Atiku Abubakar to former military head of head, General Ibrahim Babaginda tomorrow as the anointed northern candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
This follows Atiku’s emergence as the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate for the election over the weekend after defeating governor of Rivers State Nyesom Wike, Bauchi State governor Bala Mohammed, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and other candidates at the just concluded PDP primaries.
Top sources, who confirmed the move to LEADERSHIP, said some powerful northern elite, led by former military president Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and Gusau, met before the primaries and asked all northern candidates to step down and support the Atiku’s candidature, but that Bala Mohammed and Bukola Saraki insisted on going on with the election, which did not please the group.
It took the intervention of General IBB, who personally called the Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal to step down for Atiku and that was why it was done openly at the convention as a sign of allegiance to the group and the grand plan of having a united northern candidate for the 2023 general election.
The sources also stated that the group was annoyed with Governor Bala Mohammed and was determined to punish him by ensuring that he does not get an opportunity to go back to his position where a proxy had obtained a ticket for him.
Gusau was said to have been the middle man who negotiated and lobbied to ensure that all candidates from the North came together to support the candidature of Atiku Abubakar for the PDP general election in 2023.
Meanwhile, it was also alleged that Wike felt betrayed by his Southern counterparts who pushed him to contest for the election with the promise of voting for him. He also had high hopes mainly on Kano delegates, where he had lobbied a former governor to organise the delegates to vote for him.
The intrigues behind the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate also involved the collaboration of a majority of the northern groups as some of the delegates lists were even doctored to ensure that the delegates vote for the preferred aspirant.
However, after the convention, the group is currently working to ensure that Wike is given the choice of providing a running mate to Atiku Abubakar if he wishes not to contest himself. This is aimed at pacifying him to continue to support the party.
Other choices that may emerge if Wike refuses to contest as vice president include the governor of Enugu State Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who is a strong supporter of Wike, and the governor of Abia State, who has shown commitment to work with Wike. Delta State governor will also be a possible candidate for the vice-presidential slot. All the options will be discussed by the Northern elite in order to pick a suitable candidate that can ensure they win the election in 2023.
Meanwhile, Atiku yesterday moved to calm frayed nerves in the aftermath of his victory at last Saturday’s presidential primary as he met with some top contenders for the party ticket in Abuja. He met with Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, former Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Akwa Ibom State governor Udom Emmanuel and former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim.
The former vice president personally went to the residences of the aspirants in Abuja to plead for their support ahead of the main election.
He had shortly, after his emergence, met with former Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, to thank him for withdrawing from the race and urging his supporters to vote for him (Atiku).
Some of the aspirants, like Anyim, had lamented the voting pattern of the delegates even though he congratulated Atiku on his victory.
Atiku emerged PDP candidate for a second time in four years at the Velodrome of the MKO National Stadium late Saturday, scoring a total of 371 Votes to defeat his closest rival, Wike, who scored 237 votes.
Speaking on Atiku’s visit to the aspirants, Senator Dino Melaye, who served as one of the electoral officers for Atiku during the convention, said the visits to the aspirants was “cordial.”
Dino, while speaking on a political and current affairs programme on TVC named Journalists Hangout, also said he believes Wike, as a committed party man, would support Atiku to win the election, having promised to support whoever emerges as the party candidate.
He further dismissed insinuations that delegates voted along ethnic lines, revealing that Katsina and Kano delegates voted for Wike while Delta delegates voted for Atiku.
He accused the APC of masterminding the insinuation that delegates voted along ethnic lines.
“People voted their conscience at the convention. It was not a Northern affair, nor a Southern affair. There was no tribal or regional sentiment in the voting process,” he said.
Reacting to why the party refused to zone its presidential ticket, the former lawmaker said the 2023 election provided a peculiar situation where the party had to decide between winning or zoning.
Noting that the party settled for winning the election, he added that “it would be parochial and stupid to share what you don’t have.”