Port Harcourt 2018: Can PDP Settle For Baba-Ahmed As A Dark Horse Presidential Candidate?

By Akanimo Sampson

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that is quite anxious to uproot the All Progressives Congress (APC) regime from the Presidential Villa in 2019, is facing a serious crisis of sorts. It is a crisis of recruiting its presidential standard bearer from the crowd of the political heavy weights.

PDP’s presidential primary and National Convention will be holding this Friday, October 5 through Saturday, October 6 in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, and of course the capital of Nigeria’s oil and gas.

There are no fewer than 12 presidential aspirants scrambling for the PDP top ticket including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State. They are regarded as the top runners for the ticket. They are all well known and the Nigerian people are generally familiar with their politics.

With the caliber of people battling for the ticket, it has not been quite easy for the PDP to settle for a compromise candidate. Without the doubt, recruiting electoral candidates for elections is a major goal of political parties and a major function in democratic systems. With the negative effects of the Buharinomics, an economic crisis that is not translating into tangible positive changes, is a seeming golden opportunity for the PDP to throw up a presidential candidate who can effectively ulter the voting patterns in 2019.

Who is that PDP presidential aspirant that can make the citizenry use the 2019 elections to punish the coalition in government for their roles in economic miseries of the electorate? Perhaps, only a dark horse like Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, could.

According to the Encyclopedia.com, a dark horse candidate is usually substantially colourless with respect to current issues, unidentified with party factions, and unobjectionable in his public and private life. In 1844, James K. Polk became the first of such presidential candidate when Martin Van Buren, the expected Democratic choice, rendered himself unpopular to many in his party by arguing against the immediate annexation of Texas. In 1852, Franklin Pierce followed in the dark horse tradition. Other more recent examples of dark horses include James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, and Warren G. Harding.

In the mean time, Saraki is is said to be leading Atiku in an online poll on twitter ahead of the Port Harcourt 2018. The poll which was posted on the twitter handle @PDP_RIVERS called on Nigerians to vote for the candidate whom they want to win the primary election and be the flag bearer of the PDP in the 2019 Presidential Election.

The poll read thus: ‘’It is settled, that the @OfficialPDPNig primaries will hold in Rivers State On Saturday 6th October 2018. Who do you think should be the best candidate to defeat President Buhari of the failed APC in the 2019 presidential election’’.

The poll listed only four aspirants: Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal and former APC presidential aspirant in 2015 and Kano Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso. As at the weekend, a total of 1788 people had voted and Saraki was in the lead with 41 per cent of the votes, followed by Atiku with 30 per cent of the votes, then Kwankwaso with 21 per cent votes while Tambuwal trailed with 8 per cent of the votes. The poll however did not end at voting as many of those who supposedly voted went on to argue their points in the comments session of the tweet.

Though Baba-Ahmed did not feature in the poll, this PDP presidential aspirant is an economists and a respected politician. He is the Pro-chancellor of the elite Baze University. He has a rich experience in public service. He was elected in April 2003 to the House of Representatives for the Zaria Federal Constituency, Kaduna State. He ran on the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) platform, one of the coalition parties that make up the APC.

Baba-Ahmed holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Westminster, United Kingdom. He worked in the Security Printing and Minting, Lagos before getting into politics. In 2006, while a federal legislator, he earned the title of Doctor of Philosophy when he successfully completed his PhD studies at the University of Westminster.

His political associates say he was popular for his principled activism. During the seeming command administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007) Baba-Ahmed was prominent among legislators who stoutly opposed the Obasanjo life presidency dubbed ‘’third-term’’. In May 2006 he declined to run for reelection because no action was taken to probe allegations that lawmakers were handsomely bribed to support the constitutional changes needed for the Obasanjo life presidency project.

In 2007, the mercurial Baba-Ahmed showed his radical side again when hhe took the Independent National Electoral Commission to court over conduct of past elections. He was known for speaking out against corruption. As the count down to the Port Harcourt National Convention of the PDP begins, history is beckoning on the party like in the aborted Second Republic.

Before the inception of that republic, the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had an intimidating list of political potentates like the late Maitama Sule and Adamu Ciroma vying for the party’s presidential ticket. The defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) settled for the legendary Obafemi Awolowo, the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) had the iconic Nnamdi Azikiwe, the emancipator ofm the masses, Aminu Kano, ran for the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and the grandmaster of Politics Without Bitterness, Abubakar Waziri, was on the presidential turf for the Great Nigerian Peoples Party (GNPP).

Apparently not intimidated by the profiles of these political potentates, the NPN threw up a largely unknown Grade Two teacher, Shehu Shagari, to ‘rubbish’ the potentates at the polls and went ahead to succeed Obasanjo at the Dodan Barracks then in Lagos. By all standards, Shagari was a dark presidential candidate. He made history. And so, with the array of presidential aspirants racing to Port Harcourt for recruitment as the PDP Presidential Candidate, the party could take the NPN route, and recruit Baba-Ahmed as its political ant to make the APC’s Buhari dance naked in the 2019 political market square.

Perhaps, it is instructive to note that it was the Buhari military dictatorship that short-circuited the Shagari presidency in December, 1983. The PDP therefore, needs to be assiduous in its permutation of upstaging the creeping anti-democratic tendencies in the country next year. How far the party will go, will depend on the outcome of the Port Harcourt events.

Email: [email protected]