The Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will on Monday meet with the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over the selection of his running mate and strategy for winning the February 25, 2023 presidential election.
A ranking member of the BoT confided in one of our correspondents that even though the law allows the candidate to choose a running mate, the board would make an input to ensure that the best person emerges as the vice-presidential candidate.
Atiku, who emerged as the presidential candidate of the party last Saturday, polled 371 votes to defeat 13 other aspirants. His closest challenger, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, polled 237 votes; a former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, got 70 votes, and was followed by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, who scored 38 votes.
Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, scored 20 votes; a former Senate President, Pius Anyim, got 14 votes, while a former President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa, polled only one vote.
Other aspirants like former governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State; publisher of Ovation International Magazine, Chief Dele Momodu; Diana Teriela, the only woman in the race; Charles Ugwu and Chikwendu Kalu had no vote recorded against their names.
Earlier on the day of the convention, a former Managing Director of FSB International Bank, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen, withdrew from the primary, while Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State stepped down for Atiku shortly before voting began.
Since Atiku’s emergence, many politicians in the South, where Atiku will pick his running mate from, have been jostling for the slot.
Prominent among the names being touted as possible running mates are Wike, Udom, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa; and a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, who is an ally of Tambuwal.
The ranking BoT member told Saturday PUNCH, “The party is aware of the sensitivity of the choice of a running mate and we want to be extra careful, because it can easily create a problem for us. The main party we are facing in the election is the ruling party (All Progressives Congress), so since we have a formidable candidate already, it’s only wise to complement that with a very formidable running mate.
“That is why we don’t want to leave anything to chance, and that is why the BoT wants to meet with our candidate on Monday. The idea is to celebrate the successful convention, discuss with him (Atiku) over the running mate and how to go about our campaign to win the election.”
Another member of the BoT and former National Secretary of the party, Prof Wale Oladipo, confirmed to one of our correspondents that the BoT would meet with Atiku on Monday.
He said, “I congratulate our National Chairman (Senator Iyorchia Ayu) and the National Working Committee for organising a hitch-free convention that produced a wonderful detribalised Nigerian as our presidential candidate. The next phase is the choice of a viable running mate, who will naturally come from the South and will be a Christian.
“The PDP is a structured party and it has all the structures and organs in place. We did not postpone our national convention, unlike some other parties that keep postponing theirs. We have all our organs in place, unlike some parties that do not even have a BoT. We have the BoT, National Executive Committee, national caucus and of course the NWC.
“Our party will summon meetings of all these party organs, because in our usual manner, it’s a family affair. We will consider all the variables and in consultation with the candidate, we will collectively choose an appropriate person as the running mate.
“What the law says is for the presidential candidate to choose a running mate, but in our party, it’s always a collective exercise. We all sit with the candidate and choose a running mate who will be acceptable to all Nigerians. We will do it in a timely manner and even beat the INEC deadline. I can tell you that work is going on in that direction.”
Asked about the agenda of the meeting between the BoT and Atiku on Monday, Oladipo said it had yet to be released but that it would not be out of place for the board to discuss the issue of Atiku’s running mate.
“The BoT will meet with the presidential candidate on Monday and we will review our activities for the forthcoming elections. Luckily, our presidential candidate is a member of the BoT. He will brief us on his thoughts and we will have some inputs as elders of the party. Remember that the BoT is the conscience of the party,” he added.
On the likely choice among the names that have been mentioned, Oladipo said all of them were qualified persons as long as the individual would be a southerner and a Christian, saying this was necessary to balance religious and ethnic considerations.
“All the persons that have been mentioned are eminently qualified, but the most basic criteria is that the running mate will be a Christian from the South. We are asking God to give us the best,” Oladipo said.
Another member of the BoT, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, stated that it was crucial for the party to get it right.
He added, “The candidate will have to surrender himself to the wishes of the party members; the BoT and all opinion leaders must be consulted. The issue of the vice-presidential candidate is very crucial. If you make a mistake about it, you have already destroyed the chances of the party winning the election. So, our party should in the interest of this country ensure that the best person emerges.
“All I know is that anybody who intends to marginalise the South-West should have a rethink, because we are very difficult to handle. We analyse situations before we commit ourselves, and we do not joke with the welfare of our own people.”
Jibrin to step down as BoT chair in January
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the BoT, Walid Jibrin, has said he will step down from his post seven months from now.
When asked how the party intends to ensure regional balancing since the party’s chairman, presidential candidate and BoT chairman are all northerners, Jibrin said he would soon step down and that his successor would “definitely” be a southerner.
Jibrin, who hailed the peaceful conduct of the convention, told one of our correspondents on Thursday, “I will step down in seven months and a southerner will emerge. The PDP is a party that believes in order, equity, fairness and justice, so once I step down, somebody from the South will step in.”
Asked about the meeting with Atiku on Monday, Jibrin said the information was strictly for the BoT members.
On the criteria for selecting Atiku’s running mate and the names being considered, Jibrin said, “I will only tell you that the running mate will be someone acceptable to all Nigerians.”
Ayu’ll only resign as party chair if Atiku wins – Source
There are clear indications that Ayu will remain as the party’s national chairman until after the 2023 presidential election.
There have been calls for Ayu to step down since the presidential candidate of the party is also a northerner. He has also been accused of being partisan in the emergence of Atiku after he described Tambuwal as the hero of the convention for stepping down for the presidential candidate.
Speaking on the issue, the ranking BoT member said Ayu would remain in office till after the presidential election and would only step down if Atiku wins.
“Senator Ayu will remain as the party chairman to oversee our campaign and lead the party to victory. If Atiku wins, which we believe will be the case, he will step down and a southerner will replace him. But now, it’s hasty to ask him to resign and I can tell you he won’t do that,” the source stated.
Reacting to this, Oladipo stated that the issue would be resolved in line with the constitution of the party.
“We had a national convention that produced Iyorchia Ayu as the chairman. We had another special convention that produced the presidential candidate. There are guidelines in our constitution and the Electoral Act for resolving such issues. I can assure you that it will be amicably resolved at the appropriate time in accordance with the law,” he added.
On the fate of the South in the PDP given that the three key positions are being occupied by northerners, Oladipo said, “We need to first rescue our country and have a functioning democracy before we talk about regional balancing. In a democracy, our wish may not necessarily translate to reality immediately, but it eventually will. We only need to be patient.”
On calls on Ayu to resign Babatope said he would not subscribe to such, noting that the party would find a way to redistribute the offices.
He said, “I don’t quite subscribe to asking Iyorchia Ayu to resign. The main subject of the complaint is that one region has dominated political positions in the party. That should be examined and redistribution made. But one must study the underlying factors of this situation.
“In the first instance, the last President before Buhari was Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner. That Ayu became the chairman is not by his design or creation, it was the party’s decision. Don’t forget that the party is supreme. What I can say is that we should do what we can to rectify anomalies in the system.
“It doesn’t sound so good to the ears to have the party chairman, BoT chairman and presidential candidate from the same region. That doesn’t sound well, but it’s not the fault of anybody.”
Ayu, others can only step down when PDP wins – Nwodo
A former national chairman of the party, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, has faulted those calling for the National Chairman and Chairman of the BoT resign their positions.
Nwodo said, “He (Ayu) cannot step down until we win the election. If we win the election and the party in its wisdom says now the President is in the North, then the chairman should come from the South. That is the way it has been, but then we haven’t got a president yet.
“If we don’t win the election and we change again, it is not ideal. We have to go through the election first before that matter can come up.
“On the BoT chairman, he has a five-year tenure, which should expire next year. So, why are they creating tension? People should have patience. Let the party win the election first.”
Call for Ayu’s resignation, a distraction, says Oyedokun
Another member of the BoT, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, said the party should not disrupt the present arrangement of the NWC for now.
Speaking in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, Oyedokun stated that the task before the party was how to dislodge the sitting government, saying the party should not allow itself to be distracted by the call for the national chairman to step down.
He added, “We are now in an election year and we have a body that has organised a very successful, free and fair presidential primary. We want to deliver by mobilising the party for a frontal onslaught against the sitting government. Is that the time we need any disruption?
“I believe the NWC, led by Dr Iyorchia Ayu, should remain. I will appeal to all our members and stakeholders to remain calm and let us work together in unity to take power from the sitting government. Thereafter, it can be considered whether we are going back strictly on the principle of zoning or we will continue with this.
“My emphasis is that nothing should be done to set aside a team or a leader that has worked so hard so far with what the result has portrayed. This is the time we need unity. Should we now say the chairman should be removed and we should start looking for a new chairman with all the troubles it will bring?”
Atiku-Wike best option to defeat APC – Olaka-Wogu
A PDP chieftain and former senator representing Rivers South-East, John Olaka-Wogu, has described Wike as the best choice for a running mate if the party must wrest power from the APC in 2023.
Olaka-Wogu, said to be an ally of Wike, told Saturday PUNCH in an interview that the governor’s emergence as the first runner-up was an indication of his nationwide acceptance and the belief that he had something to offer the country.
He said Wike’s aspiration was to be the President but that he could be convinced to accept the running mate slot.
He added, “Our principal (Atiku) has contested several elections before. He needs to get it right this time and he needs the best team going forward. Nobody will deny the fact that an Atiku/Wike combination will be a good ticket. However, some convincing still needs to be done. We have to convince Wike to change his position and accept it for the sake of the people and the party. There is nobody better than Wike to add that winning touch with some degree of certainty.”
He said Tambuwal’s withdrawal from the race was part of what changed the outcome of the primary, while describing Wike as a team player with passion for the party.
Asked if Wike would submit himself to authority if chosen as Atiku’s running mate, Olaka-Wogu said, “He’s a man who works with people and he understands authority. This country will not go forward if we keep thinking the weak ones are the loyal ones. We will remain where we are. We have to get out of that perception and look at capable hands that can add to our ticket and our leadership. If I were Atiku, I would not be afraid of Wike.”