On Sunday, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Iyorchia Ayu, described the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, as the hero of the party’s presidential convention where on Saturday a former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, was elected the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections.
Mr Ayu was referring to the stepping down of Mr Tambuwal for Atiku shortly before voting started, a development observer said decisively swung the contest and saved the party the tension of a close race and possible deadlock.
However, reports obtained new information on Mr Tambuwal’s actions shortly before he withdrew from the race. Our findings indicate that Mr Ayu was one of three persons the governor consulted on the convention ground before he made the announcement.
The governor had, like other aspirants, taken his five minutes slot to address delegates during which he appealed to them to vote for him.
But after the last aspirant spoke, Mr Tambuwal suddenly rose from his seat, called a former governor from the north-central, and calmly walked with him to one of the northern aspirants, Bala Mohammed, to inform the Bauchi governor that he had come to a decision to step down for Atiku.
According to a party official who attended the convention, a bewildered Mr Mohammed, apparently shocked, stared at his colleague governor and his witness for a moment, before regaining his composure to demand from Mr Tambuwal the reason for the last-minute decision.
According to the source, Mr Mohammed tried to dissuade the Sokoto governor but the latter told him that his mind was made up and that there was no going back.
Immediately after his conversation with Mr Saraki, Mr Tambuwal immediately dashed to where Mr Ayu was seated, a witness said. He then told the party chairman he was quitting and that he had put his two other colleagues (Messrs Saraki and Mohammed) on notice.
Mr Ayu reportedly sighed in relief and patted Mr Tambuwal on the back. The Chairperson of the party’s convention committee was then notified that the Sokoto governor had an important message to deliver to delegates before the commencement of voting.
The governor then returned to the stage to announce his withdrawal from the race, saying he was doing so as a patriotic duty to his party and country.
Before his sudden withdrawal from the contest, Mr Tambuwal was said to believe he had support from a majority of party leaders and delegates in six of the seven North-West states (Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa, Katsina and Kaduna) as well as from Imo, Taraba, Anambra, Nasarawa, Kogi, Ondo and Benue and therefore in pole position to win the primary with sprinkles of votes from other states of the federation.
The North-West had the largest number of delegates (193) and Mr Tambuwal banked on this in considering himself one of the frontrunners until he asked delegates to switch their votes to Atiku.