The race for the running mate to Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s opposition candidate for the 2023 presidential election, is on.
The former Vice President emerged as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer last weekend in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Atiku, from Adamawa, was declared the winner after polling 371 votes to defeat closest rival, Governor Nyesom Wike.
The Rivers helmsman got 237 votes; ex-Senate President Bukola Saraki, 70; Akwa Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel, 38.
Bauchi Governor, Bala Mohammed scored 20 votes, while former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim secured 14.
Less than 48 hours after the primary, Atiku visited other contestants for peace-building and reconciliation.
The Wazirin Adamawa, accompanied by close associates, sought their support to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) next February.
In 2015, the party dethroned the PDP which had been in power since the return to democracy, resulting in the emergence of the President Muhammadu Buhari government.
The primary of the APC, also slated for Abuja, will be held in three days’ time. With all eyes on the ruling platform, the Atiku camp too is waiting to see where the ticket will swing.
The retired Customs chief, who could have again picked Peter Obi as his running mate, is looking towards the South-East and South-South.
Atiku selected Obi after the 2014 Port Harcourt primary but the ex-Anambra Governor is now Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate. He dumped the PDP days before the national convention.
Sources told THE PRESS that the former VP might have pruned his shortlist to three – Governors Emmanuel, Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), and ex-Imo Governor Emeka Ihedioha.
Both in second term, Emmanuel and Okowa are considered to have performed above average and would certainly get the support of their colleagues.
Not only that, they have a calm demeanor and are in charge of oil-rich states. This means they can go into the election with a massive war chest, a major plus in Nigerian politics.
However, the position may tilt towards Ihedioha, a former House of Representatives Deputy Speaker (DS), due to a number of factors.
First: Atiku may consider the South-East again. Second: No one from the region has been President or Vice since 1999. Third: Obi’s votes would split with an Igbo man as PDP VP hopeful. Fourth: Ihedioha is regarded as a politician with a clean record. Fifth: His time as a lawmaker and DS will enable him to liaise with the National Assembly.
But the sixth reason is perhaps why many pundits believe he may emerge. Ihedioha is Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s right hand man.
Their relationship dates back decades but blossomed between 2011 and 2015 when Tambuwal and Ihedioha were House Speaker and Deputy.
THE PRESS gathered that the Sokoto chief executive already shortlisted his friend as first choice running mate.
Tambuwal’s withdrawal at the primary helped Atiku clinch PDP’s 2023 ticket and it is unlikely that the flagbearer will deny him the slot if he insists.
In fact, who becomes the vice presidential candidate was reportedly part of the Atiku-Tambuwal decisive last minute pact at the convention ground.
“Ihedioha is very qualified to occupy any position in the land. He has built capacity, loyalty and competence around himself.
“He has also shown that he is a worthy friend. But for now, most of the things you hear are speculations. The right decisions will be taken at the right time”, a PDP chieftain said.
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