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The presidential primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has produced former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as a candidate for next year’s election. The All Progressives Congress (APC) is still dillydallying. EMMANUEL OLADESU highlights the lessons which the ruling party can learn from the opposition platform.

Nature was kind in Abuja at the weekend. The weather was benevolent. As the delegates stormed the Moshood Abiola Stadium, the venue of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primary, it was evident that they were not going into a war that will tear the party apart.

Collective agenda:

They were preoccupied with the fate of their party, its future, and its agenda for power shift. There was neither storm nor upset. Shortly before the commencement of voting, aspirants agreed to support the winner and mobilise for the victory of the party at the poll.

The elevation of collective interest over personal agenda was reiterated by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike when he addressed the delegates. “I will support anybody that emerges. I don’t have another party to go to. I love this party,” said Wike, who described leadership as the major national headache.

Another chance for Atiku:


At the end of the exercise, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a veteran contender, was elected as standard-bearer. It was his sixth time seeking the ticket. His first attempt was in 1993 on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). Analysts described him as a courageous person who was unfettered by past vicisititudes.

Atiku’s strategy of focusing on non-APC states worked for him. Also, he tried to court the foes of his main rival, Wike, who was resisted in some Northern and Southern States by those who perceived him as an aggressive, high handed and independent-minded politician.


Atiku’s 371 votes attested to his resilience. He was trailed by Wike, who got 237 votes. Saraki, who came a distant third, got 70.

As the national chairman, Dr. Iyorcha Ayu, Third Republic Senate President, presented the flag of victory to him, the majority of the delegates erupted in jubilation.


An experienced politician, Atiku’s acceptance speech was also conciliatory as he stretched his hands towards his rivals at the poll-Wike, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel and his Bauchi counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed.

An excited Atiku fired salvos at the All Progressives Congress (APC), saying its days are numbered in Aso Villa, the seat of power.

Yet, he was conscious of the unfinished business of reconciliation in many state chapters. As a founding chieftain of the party, who had become number two citizen when some of his co-contestants were just coming up, Atiku assured friends and foes in the party of opportunities for inclusion, in a bid to forge unity, cohesion, and a sense of belonging.

A transparent primary:


PDP has conducted a neat presidential primary; substantially transparent, free, fair, credible, and highly commendable. The delegate list was not doctored. Conscious of the challenge of 2023 polls, the majority of 767 accredited delegates picked a person who appeared to have a comparative advantage; an aspirant who can wade off threats to the opposition party by the ruling party on poll day.

Pretenders in the race, including former Senate President Pius Anyim, Udom, Mohammed, Dele Momodu, and Sam Ohunabunwa, were simply ignored by the delegates, who were selected based on one slot each at the local governments.


Many delegates said other aspirants were unknown to them, wondering why they bought nomination forms when they knew they had no sound footing in the party. No fewer than five aspirants were in this category.

Super or statutory delegates were absent. None of the aspirants voted. Party officers were also excluded. It was solely the affairs of commoners in the party who had to decide the fate of big party men.

Lennox Mall

Unlike during the recent APC convention that produced Senator Abdullahi Adamu as national chairman, no part of Abuja was grounded. No road was closed. Traffic control by police, traffic officers and other security and para-military agencies was superb.

There was effective crowd control. Only elected delegates, a few party officers, and leaders who were in charge of activities were allowed into the venue. Big shots without tags were denied entry by security agents.


The accreditation of delegates was orderly. It was a wide departure from the previous chaotic exercise. At the point of voting, the accreditation was made more transparent by what the Convention Planning Committee Chairman, Gen. David Mark. described as final accreditation. It was open and conducted through the physical counting of delegates.

Although some Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) men stormed the venue, allegedly due to the peculiar dollar and naira rain, no arrest was made.


The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), led by a National Commissioner, Prof Kunle Ajayi, a political scientist, monitored the primary, which was adjudged as democratic and an improvement, in contrast with the rowdy party gathering of the past.

The planning committee forbade the use of phones or any camera during voting at the spaced polling booths. There was no cause for anxiety, except for aspirants who inflated their egos and preferred to evade reality.

Violation of zoning:

Although PDP violated the zoning agreement made in 1999 by its founding fathers, the South could not swing the tide because it was divided. While the Northern Caucus of the PDP listened to the gerontocratic advice of the Generals and influential party elders who want the region to retain power beyond 2023, the Southern Caucus appeared to be in disarray. There was no Southern rallying point. Notable PDP figures from the South started scheming for the running mate slot, ahead of the primary, despite the resolution of the Southern Governors’ Forum on presidential rotation.


Tambuwal’s trick:

Thus, while the North, with its delegate numerical superiority, had their minds on the bigger issue of power retention in the zone, Southern elements were overshadowed by personal interests. As Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal withdrew for Atiku, the coast was clear.

But, while withdrawing, should Tambuwal have kicked off another campaign by asking his supporters to vote for Atiku? Was he not deliberately giving an undue advantage to the Adamawa-born aspirant? Did he not breach the rule on ‘five minute’s speech?’ By giving an advantage to Atiku at that hour, did he not breach the principle of fairness. When did he start the last-minute, emergency consultation that led to his withdrawal?

PDP putting its house in order:

Before the primary, Ayu said PDP had tried to put its house in order, although the recent governorship and parliamentary primaries attempted to reverse part of the successes recorded at building a united party.

The chairman nevertheless, gave the party a pass mark, although he agreed that there was much work to be done. “We have organised free, fair and credible primaries. We started in Ekiti and Osun. Difficult as they were, we organised them.

“We organised free and fair primaries in FCT. We won the elections in their entirety,” he recalled.

Ayu emphasised that the outcome of the elections attested to the misrule by the APC.

In his view, Nigerians want the PDP, which he described as an organic party, to return to power to resolve the challenges of poverty, unemployment, which now stands at 35 percent,  and the worsening insecurity, which now makes government to share territories with terrorists.

He added:” Nigeria has seen the limit of propaganda. Our focus is 2023. But, we will start with Ekiti and Osun. It will boost our morale.

“In December, when we took over, I urged you to keep hope alive; that PDP will come back. Today, I say to you again: don’t lose hope. PDP is coming back.”

Search for running mate:

In a few weeks, Atiku must announce his running mate, who will come from the South. In 2019, he picked a Southeastener, former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, who has defected to the Labour Party (LP). Will he pick a deputy from the Southeast, Southsouth, or Southwest?

Already, some names are being touted. They include Wike, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, and his Enugu counterpart, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

What lesson should APC learn from the PDP primary?

PDP appeared to have resolved the controversy over the membership status of its former leader, President Good Jonathan.  His name appeared on the brochure or programmed of events at the primary. To the opposition party, Jonathan has not resigned from PDP.

APC has built on its snail-like speed and lack of seriousness, as characterised by the postponement of the party convention for the choice of a National Working Committee (NWC). Many observers have chided the ruling party for avoiding the path to the presidential primary, as reflected in its disposition to the postponement of the exercise without justification.

It is significant to note why the ruling party again stormed the meeting of INEC with political parties to demand for more time to prepare for the primary, PDP, which had concluded arrangements for its primary, shunned the meeting because it was of no effect.

Lessons for APC:

As representatives of PDP converged on Abuja for primary, APC leaders were locked in a curious rift at the weekend, indulging in shouting matches and banging the tables at their secretariat.

There is a quarrel over the delegates’ list is also confounding. In the Nasarawa chapter, for example, there are allegations and counter-allegations about the alleged plot to tinker with the delegate composition.

But, the most instructive lesson is that PDP has tried to elect a candidate who they believe can deliver. While the majority of APC delegates want an experienced, intelligent, capable, resourceful, committed unifier and rallying point as flag bearer, a powerful clique is bent on derailing the process that can throw him up.

While APC is yet to complete its reconciliation, the activities of some leaders appear to be threatening the healing process.

Will APC emulate the PDP by organising a primary devoid of rancour and controversy?

Time will tell.

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