Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Ahead of the June 17 deadline by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to presidential and governorship candidates to nominate their running mates, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his Delta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa, have intensified lobby for selection as the running mate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential flag-bearer, Atiku Abubakar.
This is as the PDP has raised a panel to pick a befitting running mate for Atiku to ensure the party’s victory in the 2023 poll.
Similarly, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Ahmed Tinubu, has been consulting with APC Northern Governors and stakeholders from the North with a view to picking an acceptable running mate for him.
The two major parties do not want to leave anything to chances in their bid to win the 2023 elections.
PDP’s committee comprises its Governors, the National Working Committee, and the Board of Trustees members as well as former Governors of the party, with the mandate of picking its vice-presidential candidate.
Ikengaonline gathered that the committee met on Wednesday and Thursday in Abuja.
Further findings revealed that Wike and Okowa have intensified their lobby among PDP stakeholders for nomination.
Wike has relocated to Abuja to lobby both his fellow PDP Governors and some allies of Atiku to speak in his favour.
Okowa, on the other hand is said to be reaching out to his fellow Governors too as well as some King makers in the North.
Some stakeholders are said to be favourably disposed towards Wike as a reward for his heavy investments in the PDP, but some northern power brokers are said not to be too comfortable with the idea of Wike who they say is ambitious and independent minded.
Their fear is that Wike is too powerful to be controlled.
Other likely names being bandied include Gov. Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, and his Bayelsa State counterpart, Gov. Diri.
A source close to Wike confirmed that the Governor was in Abuja lobbying to be named Atiku’s running mate.
“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.
Meanwhile, 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 Wednesday and Thursday, in Abuja. Of course, it is no longer news that the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is among the people being tipped as the running mate.
“Okowa is one 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.”
But further investigation by Ikengaonline revealed that the South-East is not in the consideration of the two major political parties for their running mates.
Atiku who selected his running mate from the zone in 2019 when he ran with Mr. Peter Obi, now the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, does not seem to be looking the way of the region again.
Some people had suggested some names like former deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Governor of Imo State, Chief Emeka Ihedioha; former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; presidential aspirant and technocrat, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, as ideal running mates for Atiku from the South-East.
Abia lawmaker, Hon. Chukwudi Apugo, had in a recent interview, advised Atiku against choosing his running mate from outside the South-East.
He said that the only way the PDP could assuage the South-East which was aggrieved for not conceding the presidential ticket to the zone, was to cede the Vice Presidential slot to them.