As expected, Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, and Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, fought the tightest battle for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket on Saturday. Together they received 83% of the 752 valid delegate votes. Atiku, with 371 votes, edged out Wike, with 237. Atiku beat Wike by a margin of 134 to become the party’s flag bearer for the second consecutive election.
Although the conventional wisdom has been that Atiku was the strongest candidate on the ballot, Wike garnered support on his national tour, prompting many analysts to predict a neck and neck race. Some even dared that he would win the ticket in the absence of a northern consensus candidate. But Atiku came well at the end of the day.
Here are the reasons Atiku won, gleaned from TheCable.
1. THE TAMBUWAL SHRINKAGE
Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, did the unexpected by deciding to stand down for Atiku just before voting began. It was a surprise because he had always refused, despite the efforts of Aliyu Gusau, a former national security adviser, and Attahiru Bafarawa, himself a former governor of Sokoto State. Tambuwal thought it was Atiku who should stand down and support him, being a younger candidate. He ran against Atiku in the primary in 2018, and despite massive support from Wike, he lost. Going into this year’s primary, Tambuwal had no less than 100 delegates from the North West on his side. IMO delegates, led by Emeka Ihedioha, Tambuwal’s former deputy in the House of Representatives, were also on his side. But the Northern leaders eventually convinced him that Atiku had greater circulation in all 36 states and that he should consider the Northern interest first. He succumbed hours before the convention began, boosting Atiku’s chances and possibly demoralizing other Northern delegates who had promised to support Wike.
2. DELEGATE CAMPSITE
Atiku, a veteran of the indirect primaries dating back to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1993, pulled another trick out of the bag when he re-encamped delegates at the Sheraton Abuja Hotel ahead of the convention. TheCable understands that he camped 275 “safe” delegates at the hotel and cut them off from all communication with the outside world, effectively isolating them from any influence from other aspirants. He still needed more delegates to be sure of winning the ticket, which he got when Tambuwal resigned and directed his supporters to the Atiku thumbprint. The “camping” tactic had been used to good effect by Atiku in previous primaries, but it didn’t work in 2015 when the All Progressives Congress (APC) insisted on hosting all delegates.
3. SAMUEL ORTOM’S DOUBLE GAME
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom was initially considered an associate of Wike until events began to unfold with the election of Iyorchia Ayu as the party’s national chairman last year. Ortom, TheCable understands, is the one who bragged about Ayu and assured Wike that the former Senate speaker would be “neutral.” However, Ayu is a well-known age-old associate of Atiku. He was removed from his post as minister by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006 in the heat of the clash between Obasanjo and Atiku. Ayu was the CEO of Atiku’s presidential campaign in 2007. While southern governors wanted the PDP to zone the presidential ticket south, Ayu worked against it. Ortom, who chaired the zoning commission, left the race open without making a specific recommendation. It was at this point that it became clear that Atiku was making his way into the party. David Mark, also from Benue like Ortom and Ayu, would be more comfortable with Atiku as the presidential flag bearer. He chaired the convention. Ayu would call Tambuwal “convention hero” the day after Atiku got the ticket.
4. NO “VOTE AND SNAP”
Although it is believed that a lot of money was shared by the top contenders to incentivize the delegates, with Atiku apparently offering the heaviest before and during the convention, the PDP leadership, through the election committee, has prohibits delegates from bringing their phones to the voting booths. . It was a masterstroke. Delegates are normally paid in part and pledged the balance after voting, taking a photo of their ballot and presenting it. However, the banning of phones meant that people could now vote for their choices without having to be accountable to anyone. This tactic also worked in Atiku’s favor – many Northern delegates would also have collected money from other midshipmen and were now free to show evidence of “delivery”.
5. THE ATIKU FACTOR
Atiku may not have managed to get elected president since he started trying 29 years ago, but he is one of the best politicians around. He has cultivated a vast network of loyal followers over the years in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. After serving as vice president for eight years, between 1999 and 2007, Atiku continued to be politically relevant despite Obasanjo’s attempts to obscure his light. Although he has fallen out with some of his associates over the years, he has always managed to keep in touch with them and easily rekindles old alliances. While Wike relied on his fieldwork and his war chest to secure the PDP ticket, Atiku worked behind the scenes on power brokers inside and outside the party to pull the strings for him. Getting Tambuwal out, however reluctantly, was perhaps the biggest deciding factor in his win.