Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has urged members of the Peoples Democratic Party to concentrate on strengthening the main opposition platform before the 2023 election cycle.
“Our preoccupation at this point in the @OfficialPDPNig should not focus on elections, but on rebuilding and strengthening our party for the challenges ahead of us,” Mr Abubakar, who was the party’s presidential candidate in 2019, said in a tweet Saturday morning.
Mr Abubakar said rather than playing politics when campaign season was still at least 30 months away, resources should be channelled towards bolstering the PDP structure, which has weakened consistently since it lost the centre after 16 years in 2015.
Mr Abubakar challenged President Muhammadu Buhari at the February general election, but lost by a few million votes. Mr Buhari’s victory was confirmed by the Supreme Court after a lengthy litigation.
Over the past few days, he has faced rumours of taking desperate measures to get the PDP’s presidential ticket again in 2023, when Mr Buhri would step down after the two terms permitted by the Constitution.
On Friday, media reports quoted Walid Jibrin, chairman of the PDP board of trustees, an advisory body of party elders, as alleging threats to his life because he declined to support an automatic ticket for Mr Abubakar in 2023.
“They said I should say Atiku is the man that I want because I am a leader,” Mr Jibrin said of some unnamed men who allegedly visited him to threaten him on backing Mr Abubakar, The Guardian reported. “They should not also forget that the party has a constitution and guidelines which say there must be primary for whoever wants to contest.”
Mr Jibrin was amongst the earliest backers of Mr Abubakar for the party’s presidential ticket in 2019. Given his role as a party leader who should be impartial in controversial matters like candidate nominations, Mr Jibrin’s overt support for Mr Abubakar pitted him against other members of the party ahead of its primaries in Port Harcourt last October.
But as focus rapidly shifts to 2023 following Supreme Court’s verdict in November on the 2019 elections, the major political parties are becoming increasingly drawn into arguments about who would emerge their respective presidential candidates in three years’ time.
Although Mr Abubakar, 73, has not expressed interest in running for office again in 2023, he has not dismissed the possibility or disown those drumming support for him. Perhaps more than anyone else in the main opposition party, he is widely seen as holding sufficient political and financial resources to contest.
But his influence appears to be waning. In publicly opposing Mr Abubakar, it is hard to tell whether or not Mr Jibrin was speaking only for himself or on behalf of a wider caucus whose elements would come out later.
Having supported Mr Abubakar during the primaries and through the general election, it was also unclear when the BoT chairman, who is a former senator from Nasarawa State, broke ranks with the former vice-president — or why. PREMIUM TIMES has asked him for comment.
Mr Abubakar’s spokesperson, Paul Ibe, was unavailable for comments Saturday morning.