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PDP PRIMARIES:NO DONE DEAL YET

By NBF News

Nwodo
With five key political figures now in the presidential race, the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remains open, and the tide may flow in any direction. Likely postponement of elections till April next year as demanded by stakeholders may even make the race more pulsating.

Gladiators who have thrown their hats into the ring include former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, President Goodluck Jonathan, Kwara State governor, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and immediate past National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau.

As each candidate declares his ambition, the political configuration changes in the states, with loyalties swinging back and forth.

At a grand ceremony in Eagle Square, Abuja, on September 18, President Jonathan confirmed what most Nigerians had long suspected. He would present himself for the 2011 presidential contest.

As the clock ticks towards general elections, the PDP ticket seems still up for grabs. Who will get it? The first declarant, Atiku Abubakar? Babangida? Jonathan, with the enormous advantage of incumbency? Saraki, with the clout of the PDP governors behind him? Or Gusau, who ran in 2006, and came second? The weeks and months ahead would unravel the jigsaw.}

Recently, research report by the London based International Institute for Political Research (IIPR) indicated that the race for the PDP ticket was open, as a large number of the delegates were still undecided. Between then and now, Babangida, Jonathan, Saraki and Gusau have formally declared. How has this affected the scenario?

Findings by Daily Sun indicate that till the very last minute, it might be presumptuous for any of the aspirants to think he's home and dry.

Traditional turfs and strongholds keep changing hands, and this may likely persist till the very end of the primaries. According to the timelines released by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP, the authentic candidate was to have emerged October 23, and the name forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by October 30. Now, it appears the Electoral Act will be amended, and elections postponed till maybe April 2011 as being demanded by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and some political parties.

Political pundits say the presence of 27 governors at President Jonathan's declaration 10 days ago does not automatically translate to landslide vote by the delegates. Sure, he has a strong foothold in some states, particularly the ones where former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has tremendous hold on the governors. But even in his native South-South, only Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states may be definite. Babangida, Atiku and Saraki would surely make deep cuts into the votes of the delegates from the other states within the zone.

In the North-West, President Jonathan can expect a tidy number of votes from Kaduna State, where his deputy and running mate, Namadi Sambo, was governor till early this year. At least 80% of the delegates will vote for the Jonathan/ Sambo ticket.

If the sole candidate option being mooted by the North does not work, then Babangida and Gusau will surely undercut each other in some states. In Zamfara, Gen Gusau is a native, while the governor is son-in-law to Babangida. In which direction do the delegates go? The days ahead will provide the answer. In the North-West, Zamfara and Kebbi could go for Babangida, while Katsina and Jigawa may back Atiku. Kano would be split down the middle by the two.

Much of the South-West still smarts over the June 12, 1993 election annulled by Babangida, and except Olagunsoye Oyinlola's Osun State, the former military president is on quicksand in the zone. Atiku Abubakar and President Jonathan would make a good showing here. The former vice president's quest is particularly buoyed by the recent waiver granted him to contest by the PDP.

Since that development, his political camp has been re-energised, and his supporters nationwide are in an upbeat mood. It's been like a political shot in the arm, and a lot of supporters and political heavyweights are gravitating towards the Abubakar camp. The mammoth crowd that welcomed him in Sokoto last week is a good indicator.

North-East is a stronghold of the former vice president, while Babangida can sleep easy over Niger and a few other states in the North-Central.

Except if Bukola Saraki had a firm commitment from the PDP governors (he was chairman, Governors' Forum) before he joined the fray, his scope of influence may not go beyond Kwara State, where he's been governor for almost eight years. But then, in politics, as they say, anything can happen in a matter of hours.