Over the past few days, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has been on some sort of momentum ahead of the primary election.
His public boost painted the picture of a man that already had the ticket to the party in his pocket. At the Moshood Abiola Stadium, the venue of the PDP national convention, all eyes were on Wike.
Around 8:30 pm, the dramatic step-down of Aminu Tambuwal halted Wike’s momentum and changed the trajectory in favour of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
In the ruling party, the camp of Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State and one of the leading Presidential aspirants of the APC, had eyes on the events at the convention.
The Special Assistant to Governor Babajide Sanwoolu, who is one of the prominent online supporters of the BAT movement, tweeted:
Imagine yourself as ATIKU and you hear that APC has 'given’ the ticket to a non-BAT candidate.. Won’t you be happy?
Answer with the fear of God.
"Anyways, welcome to my TEDTalk Isonu.”
The series of tweets by Mr. Gawat sparked hot debates among the supporters of different aspirants in the APC.
While these tweets may look like usual social media banter, snippets like this have become opinion samples by major politicians.
Hours later, Mr. Tinubu issued a statement, congratulating Mr. Atiku as the candidate and launching the first attack against the new candidate.
“I look forward to squaring up with him as a worthy opponent in the coming 2023 election." I have known the former Vice President as a formidable politician and a patriot who believes in the unity and progress of our dear country.
“Nigerians are yet to forget the national ruin and mismanagement of our country for sixteen years by successive PDP administrations, and this bad memory will dog the campaign of the PDP candidate.”
Why is Tinubu’s camp worried?
Sources within the National Working Committee of the APC informed Naijacrawl that the party postponed the convention to allow it to decide on the best candidate in the event that Atiku gets the ticket.
“The party is willing to pick a candidate from the South, but we are concerned that a strong northern candidate by the PDP could make the party reconsider its options." If you look at the way the emergence of Atiku happened, then there is a need to be worried.
“With Tambuwal stepping down and the North rallying around Atiku, that is a major reason for concern." Had he won without uniting the northern delegates, then there would be no reason to be worried. But it was like he had united the entire northern base. What if he repeats the same thing during the general election? Secondly, there was no outcry from the candidates from the South on the basis of rotation. So there is a need to be worried, "the source disclosed on condition of anonymity."
This disclosure also corroborated the claims in the letter by Salihu Lukman, the controversial ex-DG of the APC Governors’ Forum, who is now the APC Deputy Chairman, Northwest.
It would be recalled that Lukman, in a letter directed to the National Chairman, Abdulahi Adamu, revealed some of the reasons for the delay in the screening of the candidates.
He accused the National Chairman of the party of using the name of the president as an excuse not to conduct the screening of presidential aspirants.
The emergence of Wike would have been more welcoming for the Tinubu camp, as his brash nature could have polarised the party. However, Atiku has so far campaigned without being offensive against any of the aspirants.
The former Vice President will have unlimited options when it comes to picking a vice from the South. Several governors like Ifeanyi Okowa, Emmanuel Udom, Wike and others have been suggested, giving the Muslim/Christian combination.
However, Tinubu will be faced with the option of balancing the ticket. A Muslim/Muslim ticket may cost him votes in the South, while a Muslim/Christian ticket will cost him votes in the North.
Whatever the option, the party must decide in the next few days. Whatever it is, the dramatic movement of Tambuwal has changed the dynamics of the race.