By Mumini AbdulKareem
The presidential primary of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lived up to its hype on Sunday as former Vice president; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar defiled all odds to emerge the candidate of the party for next year’s presidential election.
The former vice president defeated eleven other aspirants of the party in a process that has been described as one of the most peaceful despite the concerns initially raised because of the arrays of political gladiators that went into the race polling 1,532 votes.
At 72 and despite competing with much younger and equally very influential politicians, Atiku was able to get the votes of the majority of the delegates at the Port Harcourt stadium venue in an exercise that lasted two days with over 3,000 delegates from across the country.
But how was Atiku able to emerge the party’s flag bearer in the complex situation that played out at the convention with all of them refusing to step down as initially demanded by the party?
For many political observers and top politicians, the former vice president was threading on a familiar path after several failed presidential contests in the past. The experiences that he has garnered as a veteran of presidential primaries were hugely deployed this time around to pick the ticket.
In 1992, during the Social Democratic Party (SDP) convention held in Jos, he lost the party’s ticket to Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola. He however continued in that same tract and went on to emerge the presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC), having quit the PDP on account of his issues with former president, Olusegun Obasanjo at the twilight of their tenure in 2013.
He lost the election, placing third after late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP and Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Atiku’s quest for the ticket continued as he again joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and sought the party’s ticket in 2014. He however lost to President Muhammadu Buhari at the primary held in Lagos.
But he defected again in May to PDP when feelers emerged that the APC will endorse Buhari. On Sunday in Port Harcourt, Atiku deployed all these to bear against some aspirants who are coming into the arena for the very first time.
Atiku’s game plan in the South West were he reportedly picked block votes during the convention, according to sources entailed maximising his “cordial” relationship with influential social cultural group like the Afenifere leaders who have since keyed into Atiku’s gospel of restructuring.
Coupled with this fact was his appointment of former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel as his campaign Director-General who helped him to consolidate the southwest lock down which was sealed by his Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) structure in the region. Atiku was a founding member of the movement which comprises of influential politicians across the country.
In the south, Atiku who has been in politics since he retired as customs Deputy Director in April 1989 reportedly had the overbearing influence of former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ononafe Ibori who was among his foot soldiers that secured second term VP slot for Atiku from Obasanjo.
For his southwest calculations, Atiku contacted former governors like Peter Obi of Anambra and Achike Udenwa of Imo states to deliver and they did not disappoint. The former is being rumoured to be highly favoured to pick the running mate slot all things equal. But much more was his promise to spend just one term in office which the delegates of the region fancied as their surest way to achieving an Igbo presidency in 2023.
Also, while leaving the APC at the height of his problem with the party, Atiku was able to keep his structure very much on ground in Adamawa State and in the North East that fronted successfully for him during lobbying process.
All these factors, together with his financial war chest that saw him dolling out as much as $5, 000 per delegates proved irresistible to many delegates who came back millionaires from the dollar rain at the event.
At the end of the exercise on Sunday, Atiku did not only win, he won convincingly with a score that almost doubled that of other aspirants put together. His closet rival, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State scored 693 votes.
With the win, Atiku Abubakar would have to face incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari of APC and Donald Duke of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and others in the February 2019 presidential election.
About 3,274 delegates were at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt and took part in the primary which produced the following results.
Aminu Tambuwal – 693
Bukola Saraki – 317
Sanator David Mark – 35
Sule Lamido – 96
Kabiru Turaki – 65
Donald Jang – 19
Datti Ahmed – 5
Attahiru Bafarawa – 48
Ibrahim Dankwanbo – 111
Ahmed Makarfi – 74
Rabiu Kwankwanso – 158
…5 Persons hospitalised as delegates stampede
Five persons were rushed to Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium clinic due to rush for entry into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) convention venue, the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt.
The situation was said to have arose from the rush at the entry /exit point of the convention arena.
The security personnel had a Herculean task preventing hoodlums from taking advantage of the over crowdedness at venue, to enter into the arena.
The hoodlums unwittingly made things difficult for the genuine delegates to gain entry into the venue and this led to rush every now and then.
Reacting, the Special Assistant to Gov. Siriake Dickson on Public Health and State Emergency, Dr Malcolm Brisibe, who is at the venue with his medical team, said that out of the cases, some were treated at the clinic and discharged.
Brisibe said that the serious ones with complications were referred to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) for further medical attention.
Brisibe, who declined mentioning how many patients were referred to UPTH, said that his primary function was to take care of Bayelsa delegates.
”I came here (convention) to take care of the Bayelsa delegates but when the health challenges escalates, I opted to assist in the medical sub-committee’s work at the convention.
”Definitely in a gathering like this, there is bound to be casualties because of the presence of people with different health challenges
”But our primary function is to take care of the any health issue of delegates from Bayelsa,” he said.
Many ambulances were positioned at strategic points at the venue of the convention in case of emergency.