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General News of Tuesday, 14 June 2022


PDP: Wike, Okowa, Udom battle for VP slot

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike

As the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) finalizes on the running mate to its presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, today, the party may be considering picking a sitting governor for the Vice President slot ahead of the 2023 presidential election.

After clinching the ticket, Atiku was expected to nominate a running mate who will be acceptable to all segments of the party, one with the capacity to mobilise resources and sell the party in regions where he has influence.

Since the presidential convention of May 28, 2022, many had expected that naming a running mate would be as easy as walking into a grocery and picking items off the shelf so long as cash is in the pocket, but it has proved daunting for the party and its candidate, just as it is with other parties because of what is invested in the process to get it right.

While the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is walking on tenterhooks over the delicate prospect of a Muslim-Muslim ticket amid the avalanche of opposition to the move, in the PDP, a source close to the process told The Guardian that the choice is narrowing to serving governors in the Southeast and South-South regions.

The party has nine governors in the South: Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia.

Of the lot, the governors of Rivers and Akwa Ibom contested the presidential primary alongside Atiku, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim, former Speaker and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

Top contenders in the race were: Atiku, Wike, Tambuwal and Saraki, but in the last bend on the way to rounding off the race, Tambuwal stepped down and surrendered his delegates to Atiku, thus, altering the balance and yielding centre stage to the former Vice President, who gained momentum and coasted home to a resounding victory. Wike came second and he bellowed his misgivings, suggesting betrayal.

Efforts have since been on to assuage ill feelings arising from the primary, part of which is to ensure that the party seizes the opportunity to repair and heal bruises. On that note, the committee put in place by the party to assist Atiku in selecting a running mate is working on the broad template to take onboard all segments, particularly to search among serving governors.

A source told The Guardian that PDP does not want to repeat the mistake of 2019, when it went for a VP, Peter Obi, who had long left office as governor and was at loggerheads with his incumbent, Willie Obiano.

Apart from Obiano’s matter, the first set of opposition to the emergence of Obi as running mate was from Southeast governors, who openly showed antagonism towards that joint ticket and refused their usual blanket support for the PDP.

This time, the source said they were narrowing down to three governors – Wike, Okowa and Emmanuel. Besides Makinde, who is about to prosecute his second term in office, Diri, who is in his first term and Obaseki, who still has more time in office, the rest of the governors from the region have already opted to go to the Senate and have secured the party’s Senatorial nominations.

It was gathered that the party is not too keen on going Southeast despite cries of marginalisation. The Southeast has sounded a note of warning that it will not accept playing second fiddle this time around, but that position may not be cast in stone when intense negotiation is reached.

A further narrowing showed that Wike and Okowa may be in the front row, with Wike gaining upper hand despite his rambunctious style. In both Wike and Okowa, the party hopes to redeem the Southeast debt because the two are marginally Ibo if they are not core.

It appears the party leaders have seen intrinsic capacity in Wike to mobilise, apart from his strong loyalty to the brand. The party may also have considered his financial support of the past and what he could muster in the task ahead.

But members of the PDP caucus of the House of Representatives are looking beyond Wike. At a parley in Abuja yesterday, the caucus included Anyim and Senator Ken Chimaroke Nnamani as potential running mates to Atiku.

The group had earlier planned the meeting for the endorsement of Wike, but it was gathered that they had to shift grounds after two members of the caucus, Iduma Igariwey and Nnolim Nnaji made case for the inclusion of Anyim and Nnamani.

The lawmakers, who deliberated on their inclusion, subsequently conveyed their stance to Atiku for his consideration.