The opposition Peoples Democratic Party will on Thursday screen nominees to select a running mate for the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
According to The PUNCH, a chieftain of the party said contrary to reports, three candidates were shortlisted for the position, not one as reported by some newspapers.
According to him, those shortlisted include Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa; his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike and the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel.
This came to the fore on Wednesday as supporters of Okowa and Wike disagreed over the party’s VP slot.
There were reports on Wednesday that a committee headed by the PDP Deputy Chairman, Ambassador Umaru Damagun, had on Tuesday nominated Wike as the running mate of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar when 13 out of the 17 members voted in favour of the Rivers State governor.
When contacted on Wednesday, the PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, told The PUNCH that the nomination of Wike remained a rumour.
He stated, “The party is going through its processes. When it comes in a name, it will be announced. We don’t rely on rumour, we don’t work on that, in the next couple of hours or probably just before the expiration of the time, we will come out with a position and the name will be announced.”
But a member of the PDP advisory committee disclosed to one of our correspondents on Wednesday that three names were recommended by the panel.
According to the source, the three aspirants who were recommended would face the screening committee of the party before the party’s final decision would be made known to the public.
The source said, “The matter is not in the hands of Atiku yet, When the committee members are done with their job, they will report back to the leadership of the party.
“That committee recommended three people, not just one as is currently being speculated in the media.”
But according to the Coalition of South-South and South-East Youth Forum, Okowa remains the best man for vice-presidential slot.
The Coordinator of the group, Mr Eziwomano Ighoegwu, in an interview with The PUNCH, stated, “Governor Okowa is a man with proven records that can deliver peace and unity to Nigerians, adding that his good work of transforming the state and ensuring peaceful co-existence among indigenes and non-indigenes of the state, can be attested to.
“The decision of endorsing Okowa is to ensure that Atiku has a running mate who would support him in rescuing the country from the insecurity and social vices that have hit Nigeria under the Buhari–led administration.”
On their part, the Executive Assistant to the Governor on Communication, Mr Fred Oghenesivbe, and the Chairman of Warri South Local Government Area, Dr Tidi Michael, said Atiku needed a trustworthy, incorruptible, competent, wise, good listener, intelligent and experienced politician to be by his side as Vice President.
A top government official and chieftain of the party, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said Okowa had the population of Christians on his side.
“When you talk of national structures, acceptability, give it to Okowa. The relationship between Okowa, CAN and PFN is very cordial compared to Wike.
“He can woo the Christian community for Atiku. He does not talk too much but thinks faster and his role in national assignments over the years gives him an edge over Wike.
“In terms of voters, there is not much difference between Delta and Rivers’ votes, so it is not an edge for Wike over Okowa. We are talking of acceptability among the six geopolitical zones,” he said
The Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said the PDP would unveil Atiku’s running mate on Thursday, adding that the report on Wike’s nomination was a rumour.
Also, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, stated, “It is the party and the candidate that pick VP. It is not a contest or race. Nobody buys a form for it rather the party and the candidate take decision who to pick based on good performance.”
But a PDP and former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Ogbonna Nwuke, said picking Governor Wike as vice presidential running mate would be the right choice.
Nwuke, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Atiku and Wike would make a good pair, as they both had political structures and leadership acumen.
He said, “If we were to look at what transpired during the PDP presidential primaries, we will all agree that Wike ran a strong race for a newcomer.
“Therefore, if Wike and Atiku’s political structures are brought together, it will be in the best interest of the PDP. We are happy that a great majority of people in the party believe that Wike indeed has what it takes to be the running mate to Atiku.
“We are aware a committee has been constituted and a final report will come and we are very hopeful.”