2023 Presidency: Wike, Okowa in last minute battle for Atiku’s VP, to face PDP screening panel today

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will on Thursday (today) screen nominees for the vice-presidential position.
A chieftain of the party, who confided in one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said contrary to reports, three candidates were shortlisted for the position, not one as reported by some newspapers.
According to him, those shortlisted include Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa; his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike and the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel.
This came to the fore on Wednesday as supporters of Okowa and Wike disagreed over the party’s VP slot.
There were reports on Wednesday that a committee headed by the PDP Deputy Chairman, Ambassador Umaru Damagun, had on Tuesday nominated Wike as the running mate of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar when 13 out of the 17 members voted in favour of the Rivers State governor.
When contacted on Wednesday, the PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, said that the nomination of Wike remained a rumour.
He stated, “The party is going through its processes. When it comes in a name, it will be announced. We don’t rely on rumour, we don’t work on that, in the next couple of hours or probably just before the expiration of the time, we will come out with a position and the name will be announced.”
But a member of the PDP advisory committee disclosed to one of our correspondents on Wednesday that three names were recommended by the panel.
According to the source, the three aspirants who were recommended would face the screening committee of the party before the party’s final decision would be made known to the public.
The source said, “The matter is not in the hands of Atiku yet, When the committee members are done with their job, they will report back to the leadership of the party.
“That committee recommended three people, not just one as is currently being speculated in the media.”
But according to the Coalition of South-South and South-East Youth Forum, Okowa remains the best man for vice-presidential slot.
The Coordinator of the group, Mr Eziwomano Ighoegwu, in an interview with The Punch, stated, “Governor Okowa is a man with proven records that can deliver peace and unity to Nigerians, adding that his good work of transforming the state and ensuring peaceful co-existence among indigenes and non-indigenes of the state, can be attested to.
“The decision of endorsing Okowa is to ensure that Atiku has a running mate who would support him in rescuing the country from the insecurity and social vices that have hit Nigeria under the Buhari–led administration.”
On their part, the Executive Assistant to the Governor on Communication, Mr Fred Oghenesivbe, and the Chairman of Warri South Local Government Area, Dr Tidi Michael, said Atiku needed a trustworthy, incorruptible, competent, wise, good listener, intelligent and experienced politician to be by his side as Vice President.
A top government official and chieftain of the party, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said Okowa had the population of Christians on his side.
“When you talk of national structures, acceptability, give it to Okowa. The relationship between Okowa, CAN and PFN is very cordial compared to Wike.
“He can woo the Christian community for Atiku. He does not talk too much but thinks faster and his role in national assignments over the years gives him an edge over Wike.
“In terms of voters, there is not much difference between Delta and Rivers’ votes, so it is not an edge for Wike over Okowa. We are talking of acceptability among the six geopolitical zones,” he said
The Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said the PDP would unveil Atiku’s running mate on Thursday, adding that the report on Wike’s nomination was a rumour.
Also, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, stated, “It is the party and the candidate that pick VP. It is not a contest or race. Nobody buys a form for it rather the party and the candidate take decision who to pick based on good performance.”
But a PDP and former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Ogbonna Nwuke, said picking Governor Wike as vice presidential running mate would be the right choice.
Nwuke, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Atiku and Wike would make a good pair, as they both had political structures and leadership acumen.
He said, “If we were to look at what transpired during the PDP presidential primaries, we will all agree that Wike ran a strong race for a newcomer.
“Therefore, if Wike and Atiku’s political structures are brought together, it will be in the best interest of the PDP. We are happy that a great majority of people in the party believe that Wike indeed has what it takes to be the running mate to Atiku.
“We are aware a committee has been constituted and a final report will come and we are very hopeful.”
On his part, another party chieftain and Chairman of the Ikwerre Local Government Area, Samuel Nwanosike, said the choice of Wike would be good for the party.
He said Kano, Lagos and Rivers are three important states anyone wishing to pilot the affairs of the country must win.
Nwanosike stated, “You must win Kano, Lagos and Rivers. If you look at our sister party, the APC that has brought us the worst state of insecurity and destruction of lives and property as well as the destruction of our resources because of their inability to understand the Nigerian nation and lack of capacity to deliver the dividends of democracy, you will see that the candidate they choose has a hold on Kano because of his relationship with the Governor, Ganduje.
“Because of that relationship, you can take it to the bank that the APC will win the Kano votes.
“In Lagos, you don’t need to be told that Tinubu has a stronghold there. So, the only state left is Rivers State. So if the PDP didn’t take this decision, the answer is what you and I know,” he stated.
Efforts to reach Mr Kelvin Ebiri, the Special Assistant on Media to Governor Wike, proved abortive as his mobile telephone was not connecting as of the time of filing this report.
In a related development, the PDP NWC led by its Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, on Wednesday received the report of the advisory committee.
The NWC was handed the report on Wednesday during a meeting with the Vice-President Advisory Committee in Abuja.
It was learnt that the party had presented the report to a committee headed by a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi, who would screen the three nominated candidates at the party’s headquarters on Thursday (today).
(The Punch)
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