Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has continued to battle internally to get the key influencers together, over his choice of the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election.
The crisis in the party took a new dimension in June after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar announced Ifeanyi Okowa as the running mate without due consultation and consensus agreement with other potential vice presidential candidates.
The party’s messy situation came to light after the news of River State Governor- Nyesom Wike reportedly travelled to France to hold a meeting with the APC presidential aspirant’ Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Other party faithful who have given their entire political life to the party is also joining suit and reportedly plotting to work against the party flagbearer. A source within the PDP who revealed the true picture of the crisis stated that the problem started in 2021 when Iyorcha Ayu emerged as the party Chairman based on the decision of a powerful few.
“When Iyorcha Ayu was picked as the consensus chairman of our great party without consulting widely with key figures in the party we knew the decision will spell doom in the future. In PDP there is an hierarchy of importance and relevance and much credence and respect is accorded to those who have remained in the party from the very first day until now. Some of these people include Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose. Once Ayu assumed office, he disregarded the arrangement he inherited and started working for the emergence of Atiku, who is seen as his close political ally, to emerge as the candidate. Despite attempts by governors and other leaders of the party to prevail on Ayu to respect the agreement that he inherited, the former Senate President remained adamant.
Fast forward to the party primaries. It was reported that Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal stepped down in favour of Atiku and gave him an edge over Wike who came second in the primaries.
After the primaries and in the bid to meet up with the deadline of INEC Atiku consulted the 14 State Governors to come up with a list of possible running mates and they all converged in Abuja. At the meeting..three names were put forward and Wike got 8 votes of the governors. The other two names include Ifeanyi Okowa and Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom and in that Order; Wike came first Okowa came second and Udom came third.
The result was presented to the party’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and the media who got wind of the information tipped the Rivers State Governor to be the running mate that they have all been waiting for. In the euphoria of the result. Governor Wike took to his Twitter handle and posted “002” which gave Nigerians the clue that he is the chosen one to run with Atiku. To the surprise of the governors. Wike and the media…Atiku skipped the top name and went for Ifeanyi Okowa as his vice-presidential candidate. This got every key figure of the party and the governors furious.
Benue state governor..Samuel Orton who spoke on Seun Okinbaloye’s Politics Today held nothing back as he stated categorically that the Governors were undermined after they gave Atiku the list.
He stated that the right thing for a leader to do in that situation was to meet with the governors if he wishes to pick another name and also meet with the two other recommended candidates. Atiku unilaterally picked Okowa and discussed it with no one afterwards. A press statement was made and everyone moved on. Recall that Asiwaju took another round of tours to visit members of the APC after the primaries to mend fences; those who are with him and those against him. With the decision of Atiku in the vice-presidential pick, he has now pitted six PDP governors, predominantly from the South, against his presidential bid.
These governors are Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Samuel Ortom of Benue State; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Ishaku Darius of Taraba and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, as they are now unwilling to support Atiku’s bid. Ortom had, during the week, said he might not work for the actualisation of Atiku’s presidential bid.
He said: “All that was needed even before the pronouncement, after we did our recommendation, Wike would have been reached out to, he is a human being.
”This is a man who has built the party today in PDP. He has fought all night and all day to see that this party remains together. So, he would have been reached out to, to say that this is the decision we are taking and this is the reason we are taking this decision, and I think he would have understood.”
“When it was obvious that Ayu wasn’t ready to listen and zone the presidential ticket to the South, Governors and other leaders decided to leave the contest open. But they agreed to support a Southern aspirant, but people like Okowa, Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and other people, especially from the South-South, started working to ensure that a Northern candidate emerged,” he narrated.
Another source narrated how Governor Wike has spent more than 20 years in the party and has given so much to the party more than anyone since the tsunami that hit the party in 2015. “He has sacrificed his time and resources and has held the party together for many years. If not for Wike’s ruggedness perseverance and patience..all the prodigal returnees won’t have a party to return to.”