ATIKU ABUBAKAR’S INTERVIEW, aired recently, on Arise Television, and monitored by Business & Tourism Times, takes the veil off, the untold and controversial stories of his choice and preference of Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, as his vice presidential running mate, in 2023 election; and “rejected” the popular preference of Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State – both in south-south Nigeria.
First, Atiku said choosing his vice president was his prerogative and constitutional choice to make, on who runs with him on the same ticket. Second, it must be someone who he can work with. Analysts said this could mean less controversial person, bridge-builder, someone focused on issues and not despising others, someone with share vision, and someone with unflinching loyalty to his boss and country.
Third, Atiku said the committee that screened his vice presidential candidates, was at his instance. The committee recommended three names, without voting who came first, and the choice of who to pick was opened to him. Atiku said the report of the committee submitted to him stated no order of voting. And urged the critics of his choice of Ifeanyi Okowa, to be fair to him.
Governor Samuel Otom of Benue State, north-central Nigeria, who was the chairman of the Committee, blew the lead on the controversy. He told Nigerians that his party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, were not fair to Nyesom Wike, who he said came “first” in the committee’s consideration and recommendation for the vice presidential slot, out of the three candidates.
Analysts said if Atiku’s explanations were the facts, Otom threw-up a twist that unleashed strong ill-feelings and division, especially, on the ranks of the party’s governors. They said Otom’s “unguarded comments” as chairman of the committee were “undiplomatic” and “unstatesman”, and capable of derailing the party ahead of 2023 elections.
ON MONDAY, JULY 25, at Benue State PDP stakeholders meeting, Otom changed gear. The turnaround, analysts said was expected and necessary. An indication that Otom must have realised how explosive his comments were ahead of the party’s 2023 presidential race. Wike last Saturday, after Atiku’s interview was aired, said he would speak on what he described as the “truth”, about the problems in the party soon.
Many observers feel further outburst from Wike on the PDP crisis, could widen the gap of reconciliation within the party. Wike, analysts believe, appears to hold the swing on future political outing of the PDP. They had thought, that without Wike, the recently concluded Osun State Governorship election, that PDP won, may go APC’s way. But that did not happen.
Wike has on his side a number of PDP decision influencers, including serving and ex-governors on the platform of the party. Who believed that Wike, as vice president to Atiku Abubakar, would be a huge asset in mobilizing massive vote for the party in 2023. And believed that Wike was unfairly treated on the issue of the party’s vice presidential ticket.
Otom, however, told the Benue PDP stakeholders, that “I will not contradict Atiku on what he said. He is my candidate and I am behind him”. He said Atiku’s emergence as the party’s candidate at the presidential primary May 28, and his choice of presidential running mate should be a thing of the part. That he is now behind Atiku as his candidate.
Otom said the party has “strong institution” and “self-correcting mechanism” to solve its challenges. His words: “Whatever happened in the course of the primaries and the nomination of presidential running mate is past and gone. PDP is a strong institution and family and we will always settle our matter in-house. Otom’s rebound, from his previous position, analysts say, is a formula for smooth reconciliation.
OVERSTRETCHING MATTERS, that is how other political analysts, see Wike and his political allies’ actions. They argued that having repeatedly insisted, during his campaign to States in Nigeria, seeking the support of PDP delegates to vote for his candidacy, during the presidential primary; and that he would resist attempts to graft him for a vice presidential slot, he could not turn around and make big issues, of the choice of another candidate for the vice presidential ticket for the party. Wike had stated that he would resist attempts to graft him for vice presidential ticket. That he was in race for the presidency. And nothing else.
In Benin City, Edo State, south-south Nigeria, while canvassing support from the PDP delegates, in April 2022, Wike said: “I’m not coming out to negotiate to be vice to anyone, I’m coming out to contest for the number one position in the country”. And added: “Give me the ticket and have your confidence that we will take over power in May 2023. Don’t allow anybody to disabuse your mind from voting for Wike”.
Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa State, and a member of Atiku’s vice presidential screening committee; while reacting to Wike’s vice presidential saga, said Nyesom Wike, clearly stated that he was not in the presidential race to become vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 general election. He said Atiku Abubakar was not obliged to the committee’s advice. But was free to make informed decision on his vice presidential candidate.
Lamido’s words: “I was on the panel. Now, the criteria the members of that committee might have used might have been confined within the walls of the PDP, but they chose somebody for Nigeria not for the PDP. If the whole thing is going to be centered on the PDP, by the time we have an in-house thing, we may lose the election, no problem, but then, whatever we do, we are going to bring it outside and tell Nigerians that this is what we are giving them, that was what we did.
“Therefore, Atiku is not obliged to pick our own recommendation. We gave him three names to choose from. In any case, (for) those who are ranting, Wike said he didn’t have the aspiration to run for vice president, and that he was running not for any negotiating purposes. He said so. He made it very clear. He said whatever he did was purely for that purpose and will not use his aspiration to negotiate for anything”, Lamido further stated.
Political observers proposed that Wike should embrace reconciliation, and eventually, earn his respect and place in the party, the PDP; which he has tenaciously and committedly, rebuilt during some challenging times of the party in the past; and not to be seen as a “political warlord”, in the PDP.
Lamido dismissed suspicion, of Wike’s possible defection to another political party. He said though Wike has been aggrieved about the situation, people around him were “crying more than the bereaved”. He said “No, he’s angry, he’s just like a boiling pot. When the pot boils over, it will spill over and what will happen? It (the spill) will mess up the body of the pot.
“Now, for those who love Wike, people like me, we should make sure we remove the log from under the pot which is the fire. When that is done, the temperature of the pot will come down first. For people who think that they love Wike more than we do, beyond these emotional things, what can they do? I’ve been saying, can any of them, Fayose and Ortom, take him around Nigeria and support him to win the election, can they?