The Peoples Democratic Party on Thursday stepped up moves to choose running mates for their presidential candidates.
A committee comprising its governors, the National Working Committee and the Board of Trustees members as well as former governors was set up with the mandate of picking its vice-presidential candidate.
The committee met on Wednesday and Thursday in Abuja. The PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, confirmed the setting up of the committee to The PUNCH last night.
It was gathered that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his Delta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa, had intensified lobby of the PDP stakeholders as part of moves to clinch the post.
On his part, the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Thursday, began the search for his running mate with a meeting with northern governors.
As Tinubu met northern governors, the Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday gave parties June 17 deadline to submit the names of their presidential candidates and running mates.
The commission had on May 27 extended the deadline for parties to conduct primaries from June 4 to June 9.
It also fixed June 17 as the deadline for parties to submit lists of their candidates.
At the PDP primary held on May 29, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who emerged as the presidential candidate, polled 371 votes while his closest challenger, Wike, came second with 237 votes.
On Wednesday, Tinubu defeated aspirants including a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
It was earlier reported that Atiku met with the PDP governors as part of efforts to pick his running mate.
Ologunagba in the interview with The PUNCH, indicated that the PDP would announce its vice-presidential candidate next week.
He, however, declined to reveal the names of those being considered as the running mate.
He said, “Yes, we have set up a committee on the running mate; when it comes out with its decision, it would be announced. We don’t do things by speculations. There is a process, we don’t work without planning. We would follow due process, we consult, that’s what we are doing.
“When we are done with consultations, you would hear the outcome. Whether they met today (Thursday), whether they didn’t meet, that’s not relevant. When they have done their work, you would know the outcome.”
When asked about the names of the committee members, Ologunagba stated, “You don’t need the names. All the organs of our party are represented: the National Working Committee, the Governors Forum, the Board of Trustees, and the Former Governors Forum are all represented. All the organs of the party and relevant stakeholders are involved in the consultations.”
On the efforts to reconcile the aspirants who lost during the primaries, the party said a reconciliation process was ongoing.
It was gathered that Wike and Okowa had reached out to their fellow governors as part of efforts to clinch the post.
A close source to Wike told The PUNCH that the governor was in Abuja lobbying to be named Atiku’s running mate.
The source stated, “The governor is not in town as we speak. It is not out of place if he is pushing to become the running mate of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
“But it will be unfair if he (Wike) is not picked as Atiku’s running mate going by his contributions to the party, both in terms of finance and other levels of support.
“Don’t forget that he came second in the PDP presidential primary in Abuja, so that tells you his pedigree,” he stated.
Kelvin Ebiri, the Special Assistant on Media to Wike kept mum over the choice of running mate for Atiku.
When contacted by one of our correspondents if his principal should be picked as the vice presidential running mate, although Ebiri picked his call, he did not speak.He also did not reply a text message sent to him
On his part, the Chief Press Secretary to the Delta State governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, confirmed that the governor was one the people being tipped as Atiku’s running mate.
Ifeajika said Okowa was eminently qualified for the post. He said, “Yes, they (governors) met yesterday and today, Thursday, in Abuja. Of course, it is no longer news that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is among the people being tipped as the running mate.
“Okowa is one of those being considered. He is not only eminently qualified but acceptable by all. If there is an election, all governors, even those in the APC, will attest that Okowa is the best man for the position. He has worked hard for it.”
A source close to the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, told The Punch that the governor believed the party should pick somebody who could mobilise votes for the party.
Meanwhile, the PDP presidential candidate on Thursday met with some former PDP governors.
Those who attended the meeting included Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Emeka Ihedioha (Imo); Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun); Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu); Achike Udenwa (Imo); Theodore Orji (Abia); Celestine Omehia (Rivers); Ibrahim Idris (Kogi); Sam Egwu (Ebonyi); Fidelis Tapgun (Plateau), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta); Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara); Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Boni Haruna (Adamawa)
Others were Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) Lyel Imoke (Cross River) Jim Nwobodo (Enugu); Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto) and Babangida Aliyu (Niger).
The meeting which was held at Jimmy Carter, Asokoro, Abuja, focused on how to strengthen the opposition party amidst the crisis rocking some state chapters of the party.
According to The PUNCH, Atiku was also scheduled to meet with former ministers who served under the PDP administrations as part of moves to present a formidable front and get the input of stakeholders on the choice of a running mate ahead of the 2023 presidential poll.
Atiku’s spokesman, Mr Paul Ibe, confirmed to newsmen that the Thursday night parley was part of the ongoing consultations by the former vice-president to build a formidable party ahead of the polls.
This publication could not confirm if the meeting slated to hold at the Legacy House in Abuja started at 8pm as planned.
Meanwhile, a PDP chieftain, Chief Bode George, has said the running mate would be an individual that could assist the party to garner votes.
He said, “Definitely, it (running mate) must come from the South; South-West, South-East and South-South. They will be looking for the best man that will be able to assist the party; who will have character, respect for the rule of law and be fair to Nigerians.”
On the choice of the running mate, a PDP presidential aspirant, Sam Ohuabunwa, said the party would choose someone who could give the party leverage.
He added, “PDP will choose whoever they want between the party leadership and candidate; they will choose whoever they think will give them best electoral leverage, that’s what I think.
“I don’t understand who they will pick; my consideration is whoever will give them electoral leverage to win the election because it has to do with what will make them win the election in 2023.
A former PDP National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi said Governor Wike as the running mate to Atiku would guarantee the party’s victory in the 2023 presidential election.
According to him, Wike could rally support for the party in the South-East, South- West and the South-South where he hails from.
Odeyemi said, “I will be categorical with my comment. The best bet for the PDP is to pick Wike. Apart from the fact that he is capable and has shown intention, he is the only one that can assist the party. I am very sure he will get votes in the South-East, South-South and South-West. Their combinations would be good not only to get victory for the party but to also bring development to the country.”