Last week’s zoning of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman to the north, which brightened chances that the presidential ticket of the party could go to the south, has thrown up five possible presidential frontrunners. And they are unapologetic to any vested interest or godfather.
The five PDP presidential hopefuls are the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike; former Senate President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Ayim Pius Ayim; Oyo State Governor, ‘Seyi Makinde; Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel and his Delta State counterpart, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa.
These candidates have no blemish, nor have they been charged for corruption, which some analysts believe is a good thing that will give the PDP a clean start from all the corruption allegations its previous leaders faced in the hands of the All Progressives Congress when it took over from the PDP in 2015.
Should the parties zone the tickets to the south as the mood of the nation suggests, a likely scenario is that the two major parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP – would have candidates like these to compete for the tickets in their respective parties.
With the presidency most likely coming south at least following PDP’s decision last week to zone Chairmanship to the north, these frontrunners have begun to see themselves as potential candidates for the PDP ticket.
For instance, a match-up from the two parties could throw up Nyesom Wike of the PDP versus Kayode Fayemi of the APC or Nyesom Wike versus Yemi Osinbajo of the APC or any of the other potential candidates.
Unfortunately however, a former Vice President and PDP presidential hopeful, Atiku Abubakar, might have been blocked in the party going by feelers from the PDP race and will be most likely unable to form another party, with what is currently on the card.
Relatedly, the APC might also field a southern candidate and whoever wins it, the seat goes south.
According to a top figure in the PDP who does not want his name in print, “The point, is that PDP wants to choose one of its own from the south as a candidate. The north has indicated that it is not against power shift to south. So there is growing realisation that power will have to come to south.
Since the zoning of the PDP chairmanship to north, there have been talks among PDP leaders for a southern candidate and many of them believed they didn’t necessarily need a northern candidate to win the presidency.
Even though that narrative was being pushed by Chief Raymond Dokpesi, and other interested parties, who had their eyes set on the big prize – the presidency and had increasingly seen themselves as candidates from the north.
But the eventual zoning of the chairmanship to the north, has technically changed the equation, and illuminated the chances of these five southerners from the PDP.
The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has since assuming office in 2015, established himself as a force to reckon with. Not only is he considered a major financier of the party, he has been dubbed as Mr. Project, owing to his record of performance as governor of the oil rich state.
A major factor in the battle to have a southern president, Wike did everything humanly possible to push out his own man, Uche Secondus, who was PDP’s national chairman until a Rivers court sacked him and paved the way for the current calculations in the party. Wike has proven himself worthy of the job, both in terms of politics and governance.
The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, has shown capacity since he took over from his predecessor and Minister for Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio. This even became evident after he ‘parted ways’ with Akpabio, who joined the ruling party, allegedly in search for ‘security and staying power’ in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
With a stellar record of performance and a good hold on the politics of his state, Emmanuel, a banker-turned politician, boasts the kind of scorecard required for the nation’s top job. He is currently serving out his second term of eight years.
Ayim Pius Anyim
One of the most experienced horses from the southern hemisphere is Anyim Pius Anyim, a former Senate President and erstwhile Secretary to the Government of the Federation. He stands a good chance, from different vantage positions, including his network of friends across the country.
Having held key positions in both the executive and legislative arms of government, Anyim, a South-easterner, comes to the table with loads of experience, age, maturity and the temperament for the job. Besides, he was a major arrowhead for the Southern presidency and indeed, headed the group that insisted the chairmanship must be zoned to the north.
A former senator, the Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has been under intense pressure to run for the presidency, even before the PDP eventually brightened the chances of southerners by pushing its chairmanship up north.
Although he has been discreet and quiet about such pressure, he also comes to the table with combined experiences of both the legislature and the executive. Quiet and self-effacing, Okowa commands the mien and maturity to lead a nation in search of identity and unity of purpose. What more? His leadership in Delta also speaks for him.
The only PDP governor from the South-west, ‘Seyi Makinde, has acquitted himself well in the politics of the party, thus clinching a place others have considered immutable in the scheme of things.
He was prominent in all of the scheming that culminated in the eventual zoning of the party’s chairmanship, switching as regularly as possible to suit what best answered the yearning of the south.
Curiously, Makinde is the only first time governor amongst those in this category of PDP frontrunner for the presidency. He has, however, invested enough in the machinations and extrapolations that have shored up the chances of the south and therefore, found him a spot in the 2023 equation.