Saraki’s presidential challenge

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At the last count, at least ten persons have all declared to contest for president in the next general elections coming up in February.

Among those that have declared are a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Sule Lamido, Ibrahim Damkwanbo and several others. However, the entry into the race by the Waziri of Ilorin, Dr Bukola Saraki immediately altered the political contest. Hitherto, it was an all comers affair, but recently it has become a one or two horse race. The President of the Senate has drawn the public to himself and the strategy is working.

Just this week, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on whose platform the above named gentlemen will be contesting for the presidency revealed that the schedule for the primary election has been adjusted.

The primary will now hold between October 5 and 6 in a venue yet to be announced. Whoever the party picks will likely square up against the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Senate President, Bukola Saraki had announced his decision bid sometime towards the end of last month.

“I hereby announce my intention to run for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the coming General Elections in 2019 on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP. I do so with the firm conviction that I have what it takes to secure inclusive growth for Nigeria and Nigerians,” Saraki said during a meeting with young political aspirants in Abuja.

This comes as the former governor of Kwara State who only defected back to People’s Democratic Party late July, on August 14 said he was considering running against Buhari in 2019. He had revealed: “I am consulting and actively considering it,” Since then he has moved quickly to cover some grounds within the PDP by according respect to those that it is due. He has met with the erstwhile Nigeria president, Goodluck Jonathan and has also paid courtesy visits to former military presidents Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo amongst other notable politicians across the country since his defection.

However, to win the PDP ticket at the party’s primaries on Oct. 5 and 6, Saraki would need to beat another presidential aspirant, former Vice president Atiku Abubakar, who also defected from the APC last year and former Kano state governor, Rabi’u Kwankwaso, who had declared his ambition in Abuja; and to some degree, Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal. Political pundits contend that the battle for the PDP presidential ticket will be keenly contested by these four with no disrespect to the rest of the group.

As we enter the crucial weeks of the campaign for the party ticket it is fair to call on the PDP to ensure a level playing field. The party should not force the aspirant into a consensus arrangement except where all the aspirants make a firm and irrevocable commitment to abide by the outcome of such scenario. And by so doing, the candidates themselves should be the ones to enter into such discussions and come out to announce to the party what their choice may be. To this end, the delegates’ system adopted so far by the party should be open and unambiguous. By now, the aspirants must have known who the automatic delegates are while awaiting the elected delegates.

Having seen the aspirants and seeing the formidable opponent they will face in APC after the primaries, we hereby urge PDP party faithful to try the medical doctor turned politician. He seems to be the most versatile and experienced among all the aspirants as at today. Recall that Saraki joined politics as a special assistant to a former president; which means he has had experience on how the presidency works. He did not just sit around there; he initiated reforms that have endured till today in the way our fiscal policies are handled.

He went on to run for governor and defeated an incumbent. Later, he was elected chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum where he also reformed how that forum conducted its affairs. He has crossed over to the legislature and rose to become the head of the Nigerian legislature as President of the Senate. He is vast in experience. He is relatively young, urban and understands what to do to fix the country. He looks the part. And with his campaign slogan: “Grow Nigeria”, it is hoped that PDP gives him the chance because he stands a good chance against the incumbent.

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