The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party and its presidential candidate for the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar are said to be under pressure to woo the presidential candidates of Labour Party, Peter Obi, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso back to the party.
Obi, who is a former governor of Anambra State and Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election, and Kwankwaso, a former governor of Kano State, were members of the PDP before they defected to their respective parties to actualise their presidential ambitions.
It was learnt that PDP, perturbed by Tinubu’s emergence as APC candidate, believes that the return of the stalwarts back to the party will brighten its chances in the 2023 elections.
Obi’s exit, it was believed, will further split the votes of the South, which is the PDP’s stronghold, while Kwankwaso’s exit will have a similar effect in the North, especially Kano State, which has bloc votes. If allowed to happen, the party fears it will work in favour of the APC, which already has more states in the North.
Obi, who had obtained the N40m presidential forms of the PDP before he defected, was said to have left the party due to the unfriendliness of one of the governors of the party in the South-South.
Kwankwaso, a former Minister of Defence, was also the foremost leader of the party in Kano State before his defection.
A former National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, had explained that the result of the 2019 presidential election had shown that the PDP needed to get all the votes it could from all the states, especially northern states with higher numbers of voters.
He said, “In Kano State, President (Muhammadu) Buhari won in all the 44 local government areas with 1.4 million votes, while Atiku got 391,593 votes. Though the incumbent governor of the state, Abdullahi Ganduje, won the governorship election on the platform of the APC in 2019, it was a tight race between his party and the PDP. So, the PDP has prospects in the state, which is why it has to do what is necessary to get the maximum possible from the state.
“The 2019 governorship election results, which were a combination of the March 9 election and the March 23 rerun, showed the APC polled 1,033,695 votes, while the PDP scored 1,024,713 votes. With the above analysis, you will see that the PDP will need the cooperation of the two gentlemen to remain popular and win these states.”
The Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, also said there were possibilities that votes from the South-East could be split into three with Obi’s candidacy.
“We may have a situation whereby Obi will have some votes from there (South-East), then our party and the APC will get votes as well. We need to work against that. The South-East is our zone and we know the people and the voters there will not abandon us,” he stated.
This, according to findings, is the reason the PDP and Atiku are considering speaking with Obi and Kwankwaso to enlist their support.
A source privy to the planned discussions said, “We will talk to them. The battle ahead is not personal. We need to win the election and rescue the country from the bad governance of the ruling party. Thank God that we have about nine months ahead of us before the conduct of the general elections.
“We have enough time to engage people and solidify whatever agreement we want to propose. We should not allow this opportunity to slip from our hands.”
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Peter Obi Campaign Organisation, Dr Doyin Okupe, vowed that the former governor would not step down for any candidate, adding that the candidate and his supporters were focused on the task ahead.
“The support Peter Obi is getting across the country is too massive for anyone to ask him to step down for anyone. Nobody ever thought Obi could leave the PDP, but he left. The real third force is here with us. The coming revolution is beyond Obi. Peter Obi is a man whose time has come. The PDP and the APC have expired. They are no longer relevant in Nigeria’s current situation.”
On his part, Kwankwaso said he would not withdraw for any candidate as his victory is certain in 2023.
“I won’t be stepping down for anyone; our party is popular across the country and we are sure of victory at the polls.
“Our candidacy is based on capacity and performance. People are looking for those who have done it better in the past, and people who are trusted. Nigerians want someone who can unite Nigeria, improve the educational system and end insecurity.
“We will defeat the two major parties at the polls in 2023. The Kwankwasiyya Movement is very popular, and we will win even in the North-East. I’m happy that the Electoral Bill was signed into law, and that will make it difficult for anyone to rig us out as they have always done. Once there is a free and fair election, it will be difficult for anyone to defeat us.”