The Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party 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.”