The battle for the 2023 Presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has split the main opposition platform into three camps.
The division underscores the protracted disagreement over zoning, ahead of the primary.
In the first camp are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who submitted his presidential nomination form yesterday, and his supporters, including Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Fintiri and his Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki.
The second camp comprises aspirants pushing for a consensus presidential candidate.
The contenders are former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal.
The third camp is made up of Northerners and Southerners canvassing for power shift and zoning of the ticket to the South.
Led by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, the group comprises pro-zoning governors from the South and their Northern allies.
Other members of the third group include Enugu State Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom and his predecessor, Senator Gabriel Suswam.
However, the camps that other aspirants, including former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, Publisher Dele Momodu, and Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa belong to are not known yet.
Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel has been lukewarm, despite collecting presidential nomination form.
While the pro-consensus group visited Governors Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta) in Asaba and Obaseki in Benin yesterday to sell the consensus option to him, the pro-zoning camp paid a consultative visit to former military President Ibrahim Babangida and former Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar at Babangida’s Hilltop Residence, Minna, capital of Niger State.
Wike was accompanied to the meeting by Ikpeazu, Ugwuanyi, Makinde and Suswam.
The group first held a closed-door meeting with Abdulsalami, who followed them to Babangida’s house where the meeting continued for about 20 minutes.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Ikpeazu said they were in Minna to consult with the two elder statesmen and discuss pressing national issues.
“I have come with my colleagues, the governors of Enugu, Oyo, River and some members of the National Assembly to consult with the former Head of State and President and discuss national issues and the problems affecting our country.
“We commended him for his support for the unity of this country and the discussions went very well and we will take it from there,” he said.
When asked about the response of Babangida to their visit, Ikpeazu said the former military President expressed his preference for the younger generation to take up the baton of leadership and rescue Nigeria.
On Wike’s presidential ambition, the governor said it would be discussed later.
Saraki, Tambuwal and Mohammed met with Obaseki and Okowa separately in their states.
The aspirants are exploring the possibility of having one of the 13 aspirants as a consensus candidate for the 2023 presidential ticket.
The consultation is coming amid agitation by PDP stakeholders in the South to have the ticket conceded to the region.
The four PDP governors have aligned with the demand of the Southern Governors Forum for power to shift to the South in 2023.
Details of discussions between the three aspirants and the four governors were not disclosed.
The team had held a similar meeting with the Taraba State Governor Darius Ishaku in Abuja last week.
Obaseki said Nigeria needed a president with the capacity to rebuild and unite the nation.
He said: “Forty years ago, we had a big cake to share, but not today. That cake has disappeared. Whoever aspires to be president of this country must be somebody who Nigerians are ready to give ingredients to start to rebuild a bigger cake for us all.
“For us in Edo, we are ready for building a bigger, stronger and better Nigeria, as we cannot continue the way we are today. We are concerned that except the PDP comes out and rallies Nigerians around, it will be difficult to pull Nigeria back from the brinks.
“Things are really bad and difficult for our people. We have never had it this bad. We have never had the level of combination of poverty and inflation, as food inflation in Nigeria is pushing millions of people into starvation, coupled with the security challenges.”
Yesterday, Atiku submitted his nomination documents at the PDP national secretariat in Abuja.
The documents were submitted on his behalf by media mogul, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, who is the chairman of a technical committee in charge of Atiku’s presidential aspiration.
Dokpesi, while submitting the documents, declined comments on Atiku’s disposition to zoning.
“By the special grace of God, when we get to the bridge, we will cross it,” Dokpesi said.
He dismissed reports of disagreement among PDP stakeholders over zoning.
“I am not aware of any internal problems in the PDP. No crisis whatsoever. PDP is one big family. We shall all be together as brothers and sisters.
“Definitely, we have nothing against whatever the party will decide, but the zoning will not be against us,” he said.
The 37-member zoning committee chaired by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State is slated to hold its third meeting at the PDP national secretariat today.
The committee, which was given a two-week time frame, is expected to submit its recommendations this week.
Fintiri has backed Atiku’s presidential bid.
He declared his support for Atiku on Sunday on his return to Yola after about three weeks outside Adamawa State.
Speaking to reporters at the Yola International Airport, Fintiri said Atiku was the best option for the ticket.
The governor said he was confident that Atiku would get it.
He added that his team has already set machinery in motion to canvas for support across the country and ensure that Atiku gets the PDP ticket.
Fintiri said: “Politics is local. Whether you’re aspiring for the smallest or the highest position, you must have the base, which is home. This we have provided for our leader, the former Vice President, in his aspiration for the presidency of Nigeria for the 2023 general elections.
“We have started the scheming, working, and canvassing for support, and very soon, you’ll see him emerging as the flag bearer.”
He said with Atiku as president, the unity of Nigeria will be assured and insecurity will become a thing of the past.
He said: “Atiku has the experience and he understands the dynamics of this country and I believe he will be able to close the gap and bring us together as a nation and that will solve part of the security challenges we are facing in this country.”
Also speaking during the submission of the forms, a former senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaiye, described Atiku as a man with multiple competencies and a unifier.
Melaiye also said that God had revealed to him that Atiku would be president of Nigeria.
He added: “We are here to submit to you the form of a Nigerian with multiple competencies, indoctrinated with the art of civil administration and the rudiments of politics, the only unifier.
“Atiku was the first to pick his form and the first to submit his form.”
Ortom, who is supporting Wike, urged the aspirants to consider the big picture by elevating the collective interest of the party over personal interests.
He spoke in Makurdi, where he presided over the meeting of the Zoning Committee.
Ortom said if consensus or zoning fails, aspirants will test their popularity at the poll.