Defectors into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would not be given automatic tickets when the PDP meets to pick its candidates later this year for the 2019 elections, it was learnt at the weekend.
And this applies to the likes of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (who has already joined the PDP), and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso as well as Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State both of who are yet to join the party.
Established PDP members who are eyeing the presidential ticket include ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano); ex-Governor Sule Lamido (Jigawa); a former Interim National Chairman of PDP, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Governor Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti); ex-Governor Attahiru Bafarawa (who is under pressure to join the race).
Party sources said that the PDP turned down requests for automatic presidential ticket for some bigwigs in APC wishing to switch parties. Kwankwaso and Tambuwal are said to be testing the waters before making their next moves.
But the APC is not relenting in persuading some of its stalwarts, including Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, Sen. Aliyu Wammako, Sen. Danjuma Goje and Sen. Ahmed Sani Yerima, to remain within the fold.
Sources said Saraki and Dogara appeared to be in a tight corner because they feel the APC have not been fair to them.
The two leaders are said to be “patching” their stay in APC until what a source described as a “critical political stage” in a few months’ time.
It was gathered that some presidential aspirants from APC had given the PDP some conditions for them to defect, the most critical being “ceding the PDP presidential ticket” to them.
The high level party source, familiar with the development, said: “About five APC stalwarts have approached PDP for talks but their request centered on giving automatic presidential ticket to them.
“But the party leadership has said that while it is ready to welcome these leaders and new members to PDP, it cannot concede automatic ticket to any.
“I think the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and his National Working Committee members are being fair. There is only a ticket available; it will be difficult to promise five leaders the same ticket.
“The PDP may adopt the same method used by the APC in 2014 by allowing all the aspirants to go for primaries and whoever wins the majority of votes will be the presidential candidate of the party.
“This is the only safe and fair option available to us as a party now. We want to leave the race open for all to avoid any fresh crisis in PDP.”
The source said the PDP, at its last National Convention, foresaw the likely defection of some APC leaders and presidential aspirants.
“This was why we amended the constitution of the party which allows new members to come in within three months and aspire for any political office,” he said. “This concession is substantial.
“Some APC governors are in talks with PDP and we are also deliberately wooing some strategic leaders. At the appropriate time when we have reached appreciable agreement, we will let Nigerians know.”
Two out of the PDP aspirants may have suffered a little jolt but they still have enough time to recover. These are ex-VP Atiku Abubakar and Sen. Makarfi.
A former governor said: “We warned Makarfi against dancing to the tunes of governors to allow the South-South to produce the National Chairman of PDP. But he did so because the governors had an unwritten agreement with him to give him the presidential ticket.
“Now, it is apparent that the governors have really betrayed him. They are no longer keen on him. He is battling to consolidate his structure.
“As for Atiku, the exit of ex-President Jacob Zuma will affect the international dimension to his candidature. Having been very close, Zuma had been in the vanguard of selling Atiku’s candidacy to world leaders.
“The home front is also shaky for Atiku with the shift of loyalty to Buhari by Governor Jibrilla Bindow and the continuous defection of PDP leaders and members to APC in Adamawa State. The appointment of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, has shrunk Atiku’s base.
“It is not surprising that the President will be visiting Adamawa this week as part of his pulse-feeling shuttles to some states under the guise of commissioning of projects.
“The increasing interest of the First Lady in the politics in Adamawa State might further deplete Atiku’s camp.”
But it was obvious last night that the PDP governors might still play a crucial role in determining who will get the presidential ticket.
“These governors had their way with delegates at the last convention and the game may not be different during the presidential primaries,” another PDP leader said.
Investigation however revealed that since some parties may merge with PDP, some Northern leaders may insist on giving the slot to an underdog to clip the wings of some political leaders who have become “veteran presidential candidates.”
A key Northern leader said: “While the PDP remains a solid alternative to APC, we are also thinking along getting an underdog to break away from this cycle of ambitious presidential aspirants.
“We think the talks and negotiation on PDP presidential candidate may be broad based than what the party is looking at.
“And if you look at the pattern since 1978, the negotiation may not lead to the presidential ticket for any of these big names they are already peddling.
“It is not new to have an underdog as President. In 1978, ex-President Shehu Shagari wanted to be a Senator, he ended up as the presidential candidate of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN); the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua wanted the ticket of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) but the late Chief M.K.O got the slot and his election was annulled in 1993.
“In 1998, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo wanted only freedom from Yola Prison but he became the President against favoured leaders of G-34 and in 2007, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua secured PDP presidential ticket on a platter of gold. And the same luck was the lot of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011 and 2015.”
On its part, the APC has launched a counter-plot to also woo some PDP governors and leaders to its side.
The ruling party is battling to retain some of its match-makers like ex-Governor Aliyu Wammako, ex-Governor of Yobe State, Sen. Bukar Abba Ibrahim, ex-Governor Danjuma Goje; ex-Governor Saidu Dakingari; ex-Governor Bayo Alao-Akala and others.
A source in APC said: “As for Wammako, the exit of Governor Tambuwal will enable him to have his political structure back in Sokoto State and install his own man as the new governor. The perception is that Tambuwal is not loyal enough.
“But loyalists of Tambuwal have disputed any strain in the relationship between their boss and Wammako. They cited the renovation of Wammako’s house in Abuja by the state government, after an inferno, as a mark of his loyalty.
“Some forces are also trying to woo ex-Governor Attahiru Bafarawa who was one of the leaders that initially worked with the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and later APC.
“Contrary to assumption, there is no political alliance between Tambuwal and Bafarawa. In fact, Bafarawa has been begging the Sokoto State Government to pay his entitlements since he left office in 2007. He even sent a message some months ago but no action has been taken.
“Whatever may be the game plan, I think there is also a plan to make Wammako the Deputy Director-General of the Presidential Campaign Organisation of Buhari for the 2019 poll.
“As for Goje, he already has the APC structure back in Gombe State and this puts him in good stead for 2019 poll. But being a political ally of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, APC leaders are unsure whether or not he will leave the party.
“Concerning Sen. Bukar Abba Ibrahim, he practices politics without bitterness and the degrading of Boko Haram insurgency might make him to remain in APC. He is also consistent in not joining PDP since 1999.”
It was unclear last night where Saraki and Dogara are heading to.
A top source close to them merely said: “It is a bit dicey for them, they are still engaging in talks and some political permutations.
“I think we know what Saraki went through, especially his trials. He is not comfortable with APC because it can be worse if Buhari gets a second term.
“Also, Dogara is politically tied to the apron strings of Tambuwal who has not given a clear cut direction of his next step.
“Besides, the APC has not addressed the crisis of confidence between Dogara and the Governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar. Instead, the presidency identifies more with the Governor than the Speaker.”