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By Dirisu Yakubu
It is barely two weeks to the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, tentatively slated for Port-Harcourt, where the party’s Presidential candidate is expected to emerge.
In the two weeks before the close of sale of forms, two leading politicians from the North Central zone, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and his immediate predecessor, David Mark shocked not a few Nigerians by declaring interest to run for the highest office in the land.
Last week, news reports had it that a rift had broken out between the two, in what appeared a clash of interest in their bid to shore up their respective support base.
Mark, a retired Army General and the longest serving Senator in the current democratic epoch, is one of the most colourful politicians in the country today. A former military administrator and erstwhile Minister of Communications, the lawmaker while reaching out to Nigerians has pledged to revive the Nigerian economy and restructure the federation to meet the yearnings of hundreds of millions of citizens, home and in the Diaspora.
The beginning of the rift, it would appear, began when Saraki while addressing PDP faithful in Lagos warned Nigerians to be wary of those who speak of restructuring as a simple task. According to the Senate President, no President, however influential can restructure the nation without constitutional amendments and appropriate legislative inputs.
In an interactive session with Saturday Vanguard, a member of the Saraki Presidential Campaign Council said PDP should leverage on the status of his principal as “The nation’s most outstanding opposition figure,” in arriving at it its choice of a Presidential candidate for the 2019 elections.
Although, he denied the existence of a “rift” between the two party leaders, the fellow who spoke on condition of anonymity noted that having governed a state for eight years and “stabilized the Senate even with pressure from the executive arm,” Saraki remains PDP most assured hope of reclaiming power at the centre in 2019.
“There is no fight as some reports are suggesting. His Excellency, the Senate President is out to salvage this country and having consulted with Nigerians across the North and South; he declared his interest to run for the Office of the President.
“Let me add also that what he is bringing to the table is the “now” factor. As President of the Senate, he has built bridges across the country. Across party lines, he is a man who knows how to reach out to people with ease.
“All these should come into play when our delegates gather to elect the man to fly the flag of the party in the election,” he said.
The North West which has the highest number of aspirants has been making frantic efforts to convince the party to settle for the zone to produce the candidate, to boost its chances in 2019. But Saraki insists that the trouble with Nigeria is one that must be fixed by a leader who knows his onions and ready to go the whole hog in search of solutions.
Mark has become a bit cold about his ambition, with little heard of him in the past few weeks. Yet, it appears stepping down for each other is not on the cards of the duo, as both camps insist their principal is the man Nigerians need to come out of its woes.
Other aspirants in the race for the sole ticket are former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Gombe state governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, erstwhile governors of Kano, Kaduna, Plateau Sokoto and Jigawa states, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Ahmed Makarfi, Jonah Jang, Attahiru Bafarawa and Sule Lamido respectively. Others include businessman and politician, Datti Baba-Ahmed, and a one-time Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki