Opposition to the nomination of former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, as running mate to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, is largely fuelled by personal interests of some leading politicians of Igbo ethnic stock, THISDAY has learnt.
This, however, the paper further learnt yesterday, might jeopardise the South-east chance of clinching the vice presidency in 2019 should the ruling party have a rethink and ask its flag bearer to look to the South-west that seems poised to pick the slot, particularly because of its superior potential accruable votes given its over 14 million permanent voters registration.
But the party hierarchy and former President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday moved to save the situation, appealing to critical stakeholders, who had expressed reservations over Obi’s nomination to accept it in good faith.
Atiku, had on Friday picked Obi as running mate, drawing the ire of South-east Governors’ Forum, which protested the decision on the grounds that it was not consulted.
The Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party had also been reported to have complained that it was also not consulted before the decision was made.
THISDAY, however, learnt that whereas it was true that the complaint of lack of consultation was true, the National Chairman, Mr. Uche Secondus, was, however, carried along.
A source told THISDAY last night, “The presidential candidate did not do enough consultation before making the decision. Although the national chairman was consulted, he did not take the decision through the organs of the party as we normally do.”
The source said Atiku actually nominated three persons, namely the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd); Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; and Obi.
“After settling for Obi, he failed to formally inform the party before going public,” the source said.
THISDAY, however, gathered that while the complaint about lack of wide consultation appeared plausible, some of Igbo politicians feel their political career would be jeopardised by Obi’s emergence.
According to sources, Ekweremadu’s position as deputy president of the Senate would become untenable once the party wins the 2019 general election as the South-east zone could not possibly have the vice president and retain the deputy Senate presidency.
Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, who announced the region’s governors’ objection, is said to be masquerading his personal interest under governors’ platform as he is believed to harbour presidential ambition and is suspected to be working with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Known admirer of Buhari, Umahi is said to be working for his friend to throw spanner in the works of the opposition party so that once Buhari finishes his second term he could be backed for the presidency by Buhari in 2023 when it is presumed the Igbo would be conceded the presidency. “An Obi vice presidency would endanger that calculation,” a reliable source told THISDAY.
Also in the anti-Obi campaign is Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State. Though an All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) chieftain, he is said to have an old score to settle with Obi and feels threatened that should the former state governor become vice president, he might be run out of town.
But speaking with THISDAY yesterday, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that at this critical period, the country needs a team that understands the Nigerian economy and can revive it and appealed to all stakeholders to accept Obi, who he said had the requisite finance background to assist Atiku.
According to him, “We are appealing to all members to accept the choice of the vice president. At this crucial time in our nation, we need a team that understand the economy of our country and how to make a turnaround of it. We are appealing to all members to accept the choice of the vice president.”
Ologbondiyan added, “No doubt Obi is an appropriate choice because of his rich background in finance and economic management.”
He said efforts were being made by the party hierarchy to talk to aggrieved stakeholders and win them over to the ticket.
Speaking on a Federal High court judgment delivered in favour of Senator Buruji Kasamu faction of the PDP in Ogun State, Ologbondiyan revealed that the party had already appealed the judgment.
A Federal High Court in Abeokuta had last week Tuesday ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the national leadership of the PDP to accept the list of candidates and delegates submitted to them by Kashamu.
The PDP had expelled Kashamu and his key supporters from the party.
The court, which ruled in favour of the Adebayo Dayo-led Ogun State PDP executive committee, ordered that recognition should be given to the delegates’ conference organised for the purpose of the 2019 general election.
Ologbondiyan said, “The decision of the court has been appealed by the party.”
Also, speaking on the current problem in the Kano PDP chapter, he said that the national leadership of the party is talking to all interested parties in Kano PDP, stressing that the matter will soon be resolved.
Also intervening on the side of Obi, former president, Jonathan, appealed to the leaders of PDP in the South-east to support Atiku’s choice of Obi as his running mate, to ensure victory for PDP in the general elections. Jonathan in a statement yesterday counseled against insisting on obtaining a zonal endorsement for a vice presidential nomination, adding that it was the prerogative of the presidential candidate to select the candidate he believes will help him to achieve his vision and goals for the nation.
A statement issued by Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, the former president’s spokesman quoted Dr. Jonathan, “I therefore want to directly appeal to my brothers and sisters from the South-east zone who are members of our party to reconsider their position and allow the presidential candidate of the PDP to select a candidate he thinks he can work with to be able to achieve the party’s development goals.“Since Atiku has already nominated Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate, I am pleading with my party members from the zone to accept his choice.