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Tension as Rumbling Running ‘Mate-Saga’ Threatens Atiku/Okowa Presidential Bid



By Our Reporter

Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party’s quest to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appears headed for the rocks over lingering running mate face-off.

Rumours making rounds have it that Governors elected on the PDP platform, who felt slighted by Atiku Abubakar’s decision to pick Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate may have decided to distance themselves from the party’s 2023 presidential bid.

The party’s efforts to quash the discontent that greeted the Okowa’s shocked emergence appears unsuccessful so far. Signs that all was not well within the PDP since its May 28 presidential primary that produced Atiku as its candidate emerged on Wednesday when the PDP Governors shunned the inauguration of the campaign council for its Osun governorship candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke.

The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had on Wednesday, inaugurated its campaign council for the Osun state governorship election scheduled to take place on July 16.

The PDP had named Douye Diri, governor of Bayelsa, as chairman of the committee while Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo; Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto; Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia; Nyesom Wike of Rivers; Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu; Bala Mohammed of Bauchi; Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa; Godwin Obaseki of Edo, and Samuel Ortom of Benue were appointed as vice-chairmen.

But the governors including the designated campaign chairman, Diri failed to show up at the inauguration. Only Okowa, the party’s vice-presidential candidate and Darius Ishaku, of Taraba State were the governors present.

Party insiders say the governors shunned the event because they were still grieving the choice of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate contrary to their recommendation.

According to the source,about 14 out of the 17 members of the party charged with selection of a running mate for Atiku, were said to have favoured Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike for the position. But Atiku settled for Okowa, saying he did so after due consultations with stakeholders and in consideration of competence.

Atiku had claimed that Okowa satisfied all the qualities he had outlined, adding that he wanted a vice president with the qualities of a president, who could succeed him at a moment’s notice, that is, a president-in-waiting.

But rather than being convinced by the explanation by the former vice president, the governors interpreted the action as deceit and sending them on wild goose chase, given that it was Atiku that had asked them to shortlist candidates for him to select one.

Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who gave hint of the unfolding crisis in an interview with Arise Television, revealed that all is not well within the party.

Ortom had expressed disappointment that the party leadership was yet to address the concerns of members, making allusion to the selection of Okowa as a slap on his colleagues.

He said: “I was among the 17-member committee set up by Atiku and 14 of us in the committee said the person should be Wike. Unfortunately, Atiku picked Okowa in his wisdom.

“You cannot ignore the decision of a committee you set up yourself and expect people to be happy. For now, I have gone into hibernation.”

Asked if he would support the PDP candidate in the 2023 elections, he said: “I am in hibernation. I am praying. When I finish the prayers, whatever God directs me to do, I will do. We expect Atiku to do more but we are not seeing that.”

Wike, who has been at the centre of the impasse, has not come out to clear the air on his next line of action, giving room to suggestions that he may dump the party. He was rather spotted in a picture suspected to have been taken in Turkey with his Abia counterpart and supporter, Okezie Ikpeazu.

Equally, the National Secretariat of the Party, has not come out on the true state of affairs within it. The National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, has also not been around, fueling speculations that he may have been suspended.

However, the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, has dismissed the insinuation, describing it as completely false and a product of the imagination of mischief, stressing that Ayu was on short vacation abroad.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the PDP and the NWC is united and Dr. Iyorchia Ayu remains the National Chairman. Dr. Ayu took a well-deserved, two-week leave on 21st June, 2022. He will be back next week to resume duties, specifically on July 6, 2022”, Ologunagba said in a statement.

Despite the explanation by the publicity secretary, there are fears that the governors who feel slighted by Atiku in his choice of Okowa, may not cooperate with the party in 2023.

Regardless of claims by the players, those following the development believe the boycott of the Osun campaign inauguration was a tell-tale sign that Atiku and Okowa may walk down the 2023 presidential poll alone with the PDP Governors watching from safe distance, unless the party leadership finds a way to resolve the imbroglio.

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