Could David Mark become the PDP candidate?

In the last one week, there has been a lot of buzz around Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, the speaker of the House of Representatives, being given the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC). As of this moment, however, Tambuwal remains a member of the PDP, but there is every reason to believe this will change soon.

Tambuwal represents Sokoto state, which is now firmly in the APC camp. The current governor, Aliyu Wamakko, is one the governors who defected to the APC recently, along with Attahiru Bafarawa, the immediate past governor. In addition, Tambuwal attained the position of Speaker under his own power, back in 2011. That position was zoned to the PDP in the South West, but Tambuwal outmaneuvered Mulikat Akande-Adeola, who was the choice of the party.

It is ironic that Tambuwal became speaker by violating the same zoning formula that Jonathan violated by becoming the PDP candidate. That indeed is the cornerstone of the split inside the PDP, and the reason why the APC is possible. Zoning.

Nigeria’s Fourth Republic is founded on an agreement that power will rotate between North and South every eight years. That agreement was derailed, first by Yar’Adua’s ill health and eventual passing, and then by Jonathan’s insistence on running. Even that came at a considerable cost, with the fact that he had to outbid Atiku for delegates, and the subsidy regime that became a free for all.

He also had to make a pledge to be in office for only one term, and his refusal to officially honour that pledge is driving defections to the opposition party. The longer he stays silent, the more the defections will be. If the PDP in the North become dramatically weakened, the APC’s presence in the South West will be too high a mountain to climb. As per the rotation agreement, Northern politicians appear to have resolved that one of theirs becomes President again in 2015, PDP or not.

To this end, making Tambuwal the APC candidate makes sense. Buhari has had three or four pops at the highest office without success, and it is time for a new face. It also helps that Tambuwal became speaker under his own power, and as such has maintained a certain independence from the Presidency. For example, the probes into the oil industry in 2012 were done from the House of Representatives.

So, if we assume that Tambuwal becomes the APC candidate, we have to imagine what a response from the PDP might be. Note that this is very, very different from 2011. Then, the opposition were still consulting and holding meetings in the days before the Presidential elections, this time they have a merger in place and functioning, over a year to the elections. Needless to say, a year is a long time. It can be used to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet and prepped for the battle ahead, as well as sharing the posts that need to be shared to keep everyone happy.

The question then becomes: Does Jonathan decide to force through his candidacy yet again? Or does he save face by proclaiming himself a one term president and using the remainder of his time to push through crucial reforms? Or the third option: Does he go to a primary and lose, so that a Northern candidate can emerge?

In the event that options 2 or 3 happen, I think David Mark could become the PDP candidate. He is from the North Central zone, a Christian, and could split the Northern support enjoyed by the APC by getting minorities – who are mostly Christians – on his side. This also enables him to enjoy support in the South, making him quite competitive. However, it may not satisfy the ‘Core North’ who prefer a Northern Muslim.

So, does the PDP go with a person who is increasingly unpopular in a whole region, or someone who has a chance everywhere? All of this is just a thought experiment, and I am curious to see if anyone else thinks it is likely.

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