Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, dumped Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike as his running mate over the weekend, despite the recommendation of a special panel set up by the party.
Despite the fact that the committee tasked with selecting the party’s vice presidential candidate, which included representatives from former governors, incumbent governors, the NWC, and the Board of Trustees, agreed to allow Wike, who finished second in the presidential primaries held in Abuja last month, to run with Atiku, the former vice president chose Delta State governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate.
Daily Independent gathered that the development has caused a great wedge in the party as some governors loyal to Wike are unhappy with Atiku’s decision, causing them to shun Okowa’s unveiling as vice presidential candidate last week.
Also in Rivers State, residents of the state and political appointees who viewed Atiku’s action as a rejection of the state are waiting for directives from Wike who has refrained from making any comment on the issue. Speaking with Daily Independent on Sunday, an associate of Atiku said they advised him against the danger in picking Wike as his running mate.
According to him, they all believed that picking Wike as running mate may jeopardise his chances in the election especially in the Northern parts of the country.
“Wike is a very blunt leader but as a politician, you don’t just talk carelessly. You need tact, strategy and diplomacy when dealing with diverse people. Do you think those politicians who are acting like fools are fools in the real sense? But even before the presidential primary, Wike has been abusing everybody”.
“Everything Wike has been saying and some of his actions are as if he hates the Northerners.
He has been saying things like the North thinks the rest of Nigerians are slaves and he is not a slave to the North. Don’t also forget the issue of the alleged demolition of a mosque in Trans-Amadi in Port-Harcourt. Even though the governor has denied it, those living there said there was a mosque there that was demolished and many Northerners believe them.
“You will agree with me that this is most likely the Turaki’s last chance in contesting the presidential election and so he cannot afford to risk anything or take chances. Atiku has calculated that Tinubu will get majority votes in the South-West.
“So, Atiku’s hope is to get majority votes in the North and some votes in South- South and South-East which are PDP strongholds.
But with Wike as running mate, the North will rather give their votes to the APC”.
Also speaking, a member of the PDP’s National Working Committee (NWC) who played a major role in Okowa’s emergence said Atiku did not breach any rule in his choice of running mate as he alone knows the best person to help him actualise his dream.
He also said based on Governor Wike’s utterances especially allegedly against the North on the issue of power shift, choosing him as running mate may jeopardise Atiku’s chances in getting votes in the Northern part of the country.
“Let me correct an impression of some Nigerians who have been saying Atiku rejected the recommendation of the committee set up by the party leadership to source for a running mate.
That is not true. “The national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, said it on the day of the unveiling of Okowa that the committee’s role is to prune down the number of nominees and then present three candidates to Atiku for his consideration.
That was what they did and Atiku chose the person he wanted from the list. If you listen to him on that day too, he also denied that there had been a vote by the PDP panel which had earlier recommended Wike for the position.
The committee never recommended Wike as running mate. They only listed three names and Wike was number one on the list. Being number one on the list doesn’t mean he is the person to be picked for the position.
“Another factor is that Governor Wike is not complaining to anybody over the issue. During the campaign before the presidential primaries, he publicly said he doesn’t want to be vice president to anybody and all he wanted is the presidency. That is why he has not said anything since Atiku announced his choice. So why are people crying more than the bereaved?”