The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP)
Former Nigeria Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, won the presidential primary election with 1, 532 votes.
Here are some of the lessons we drew from the entire political event:
1. The convention was well organised
From arrival of delegates to how delegates sat, from how aspirants were called to the podium to make a case for themselves, from accreditation to sorting, to voting, to counting of votes—all on live television—you have to say the PDP did itself a huge favour last weekend.
It was a near perfect, seamless, democratic exercise from a keen observer’s point of view and we’ve got to say well done to Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s convention committee and PDP Chairman Uche Secondus for proving that politicians can indeed behave themselves when everyone’s watching.
2. Democracy won last weekend
There were 12 aspirants with eyes on the PDP presidential ticket last weekend. All 12 held hopes of winning the grand prize until voting and sorting commenced.
This wasn’t an endorsement or affirmation exercise where other contestants are told to step down for a chosen one. From Datti Ahmed to Sule Lamido, from Aminu Tambuwal to Rabiu Kwankwaso, from Bukola Saraki to Atiku Abubakar, everyone gave it a go.
Unfortunately, they had to be only one winner. But all of the contestants and supporters should count themselves winners for the manner they conducted themselves until the final whistle.
The PDP convention was yet another case to be made for democracy in Africa’s most populous nation.
3. The man who dished out the most dollars probably won
At the 2014 APC presidential primary convention in Lagos, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar outspent everyone and dished out the most dollars to voting delegates.
The joke from that convention was that Atiku still came up short and didn’t even poll second to eventual winner Muhammadu Buhari, even though he made the dollars rain at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
In 2018, Atiku’s dollars would not be stopped. Some delegates have told Pulse that they received as much as $10,000 from some of the aspirants and Atiku’s never ending stream of dollars was cited as part of the booty.
To be fair, Atiku wasn’t the only aspirant who splashed out dollars for the culture. But the story from the Adokiye Amesiamaka stadium in Port Harcourt is that he outspent everyone.
When some aspirants heard of how much dollars competitors were shelling out, they increased their offering. But none could match Atiku’s “blessings” to delegates. The man has been in this game for years.
And unlike in 2014, Atiku had a lot to be thankful for this time.
4. The PDP could be the better for this
Some conventions can be the beginning of the end for political parties. Aggrieved contestants can bring the roof down, paint the entire exercise as a sham tailored to favour one aspirant and then spearhead an exodus of defections.
This was different or still looks different.
When Atiku’s numbers went past Tambuwal’s as Okowa counted aloud, all the other contestants flocked to Atiku's seat to congratulate him and wish him well for the battle ahead.
It was unity that was refreshing to see. Hours later, some of Atiku’s challengers issued statements to say they were going to give him all the support he will need against APC flagbearer Buhari.
The PDP emerged from the convention smelling of unity, camaraderie, brotherhood, team spirit and roses. This political party may just have made new friends for itself with its showing last weekend.
5. Online campaigns are good, but they aren’t everything
Senate President Bukola Saraki certainly ran the best social media savvy, digital campaign in the race for the PDP’s biggest prize.
Saraki assembled a team of young, smart, tech savvy Nigerians to oversee his communications and media arm of operations and tagged himself the “digital aspirant” ahead of the vote. His team was proactive, daring and in-your-face.
In the end, Saraki polled 317 votes, which is a decent enough showing in the final analysis.
Compare that to Tambuwal who didn’t float any memorable social media, digital campaign but who still harvested more votes—693—than Saraki.
Atiku shunned the social media and digital spaces altogether, preferring instead to run a relatively silent campaign on the ground. His was probably the best ground operation of a primary election campaign we have seen in recent times with money as par for the course. For his efforts, he emerged winner with 1, 532 votes.
Yes, social media may win you bragging rights and make you look smooth and sturvs, but when it comes to the brass tacks of delegates pledging their votes for you, you would need to go one better. Atiku certainly proved this with this convention.