The possibility of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) settling for a replacement for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo from the Southeast and intrigues by politicians jostling to be chosen are some of the reasons the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) standard bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, might delay the announcement of his running mate till the last minute.
Shortly after Atiku clinched the first position in PDP presidential primary election last Sunday in Port Harcourt, a lot of players from both the Southeast and Southwest began making serious moves and sending representations to the party’s substantive presidential candidate seeking to be considered for the vice presidential ticket.
Although sources within the Abubakar Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation confided in The Guardian that the PDP presidential candidate has not penciled down a prospective running mate, it was gathered that some names have started popping up now and then as possible candidates.
The Guardian learned that considerations as to whether the presidential running mate would come from Southeast or Southwest brought a new twist to the search as well as the strategic need to accommodate the inputs of some critical stakeholders that oiled the machinery for Atiku’s eventual emergence as the PDP numero uno.
“Recall that former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku’s former principal, had mooted the idea of Southeast having a shot at the Presidency in 2019,” a source within PDP said. “But somewhere along the line Baba argued for a presidential running mate and even went further to suggest the name of Mazi Osita Chidoka.
“Chidoka’s eventual exit from the United Progressive Party (UPP), on which platform he contested the November 2017 gubernatorial election back to PDP should not be treated lightly. But, other suggestions have been made for a technocrat with international pedigree to pair up with Waziri Adamawa.”
But no sooner had Chidoka’s name escaped Obasanjo’s lips than many foundation members of PDP, who have eyes on the 2023 presidential election, began clandestine lobbying for a technocrat to be paired with the former vice president.
It was against that notion that names of former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Prof. Barth Nnaji surfaced, ostensibly to push back on the considerations being given to the immediate past governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi.
Those who are pushing for Okonjo-Iweala argue that her Delta/Abia combination origin based on paternity and marriage achieves the Southeast/South-South solidarity in addition to her clout in the international community.
Meanwhile, pressures are said to be mounting also from the Southwest, which claims that ceding the presidential running mate to the zone would go a long way to mitigate the loss of the national chairmanship during last December national convention.
The name of incumbent President of African Development Bank (AfDB) and former Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, is being touted as a feasible candidate on the score of Southwest accommodation and buy-in of the international community.
Southwest lobbyists are also waving the flag of speculated plots by the Presidency to fetch Osinbajo’s replacement from the Southeast as running mate for President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s election to convince the region of its sincerity of ceding power to the zone after Buhari.
While the Southeast and Southwest push their arguments for PDP to select the next vice presidential candidate from their zones, multiple sources told The Guardian that Atiku was moved by the fact of Senator David Mark’s position on gender balance to consider Okonjo-Iweala in addition to her knowledge of international finance and development issues.
Senator Mark had, while addressing PDP delegates at the Adokie Amasiemeka Stadium, Port Harcourt, last Saturday, noted that he was the only presidential aspirant among the one dozen to appoint a woman as Director General of his campaign organization.
It was also gathered that former President Obasanjo is excited by the likelihood of Okonjo-Iweala being adopted, which prompted his recent comments that a president knowledgeable in economic matters is what Nigeria needs to fix the damage done by the present administration to the economy.