Shortly after the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after a keenly contested primary at the main bowl of Adokie Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, he has narrowed down his search for a Vice president from South East.
PDP candidate is said to be considering a technocrat with political pedigree as his running mate and the likes of former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state and Deputy Senate President, Prof Ike Ekweremadu is toping list of 50 names shortlisted.
Our source said , the PDP in the South-East through the Atiku campaign organization has submitted 10 names each of people likely to be considered as running mate of its candidate.
And the rumour that some states have been foreclosed was standing the truth on the head as Atiku wants the best man standing without any sort of scandal on his or her former position as his running mate.
But Punch had earlier reported that Anambra, where Senator Ben Obi who was a former running mate to Atiku hailed from, was said to have been disqualified.
The reason, according to authoritative sources, was because the state had produced two former speakers, two former presidents of the Senate, one vice president and a President.
Also, Enugu State which is a PDP-controlled state, was said to have produced a former national chairman of the PDP.
It was also reportedly argued that the state had produced the deputy president of the Senate for the past seven and half years.
For Imo State, the argument for its non-consideration was that it had produced a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and had also produced a president of the Senate.
The race, according to sources close to the party, is between Abia and Ebonyi states.
South-West not foreclosed
However, another source said the search for a suitable running mate had not been completely taken out of the South-West.
He added that the party would not impose any candidate on Atiku, saying that the PDP would only serve as a guide, by “putting into consideration all political variables that would enable us win in 2019.”
However, in the election, Atiku polled 1,532 votes out of total of 3,221 votes, representing almost 50 per cent of the entire delegates’ votes.
His closest rival, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State scored 693 votes, while the President of the Senate, Olusola Saraki, came third with 317 votes.
A former Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, scored 158 votes; a former Governor of Jigawa, Sule Lamido, polled 96 votes, while a former Minister of Special Duties and Inter Governmental Relations, Alhaji Kabiru Turaki (SAN) scored 65 votes.
A former National Caretaker Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, polled 74 votes; a former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, scored 48 votes; a former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, polled 35 votes; a former Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, scored 19 votes, while Dr Datti Ahmed scored five votes.
Facts have emerged that Atiku won the primary through block votes from the South-East, some states in the South-South and North-East.
It was also gathered that there was no state in the country where Atiku did not score considerable number of votes.
It was learnt that Atiku was not the favourite of some governors in the South-South who had a soft spot for Tambuwal, to become the standard bearer of the PDP.
It was, however, gathered that the alleged gang-up against Atiku from emerging the candidate of the party was thwarted by delegates’ votes from some of the states from other regions, apart from the South-South.
The National Legal Adviser, Peoples Equality Congress for Atiku Abubakar, Mr Agu Aguma, and a leader of PEC, Chief Bestman Festus, said Atiku had proved that he was an experienced politician who understood political intrigues and horse trading.
Aguma said Atiku who knew that some persons were working against his candidacy decided to engage states without PDP governors to drive his ambition.
The legal practitioner said it was good that Atiku won the PDP primary, noting that he was the most qualified and experienced to defeat the candidate of the All Progressives Congress.
He said, “Although some interests, including governors, had wanted an alternative candidate, the programme Atiku outlined for the socio-economic development of the country, his restructuring agenda, coupled with his good plans for the youth, job creation, stood him out.”
Investigations by our correspondents revealed that nearly all delegates from Ebonyi State voted for the former Vice-President.
It was also learnt that Atiku and Tambuwal shared the votes of the delegates from Enugu State.
However, Atiku beat Tambuwal in the allocation of the votes of delegates from Imo, Abia and Anambra states, according to sources among the South-East contingent.
One of the delegates, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tambuwal’s closeness to some governors in the zone was what prevented Abubakar from recording a clean sweep of the votes of the South-East delegates.
“Most of us from the South-East cast our votes for Atiku Abubakar, I know for a fact that Ebonyi delegates voted massively for him.
“Atiku got the backing of majority of the delegates from the other states in the zone, although Tambuwal was able to record a considerable number of votes.
“One of the governors (in the South-East) has a close relationship with Tambuwal and that had a major influence on the way delegates from the state voted, otherwise Abubakar would have recorded a clean sweep of the votes from the zone,” the delegate said.
He added that alleged cash inducement of the delegates by the aspirants before the commencement of voting had no effect on the outcome of the convention.
Why Tambuwal failed
Investigations by one of our correspondents showed that Tambuwal, who had been projected to win, was rejected at the convention by the delegates because of the alleged overbearing attitude of the Governor of Rivers State, Mr Nyesom Wike.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives was also said to have failed to break into the ranks of the Board of Trustees of the party.
“When the BoT asked its members not to ally with any presidential candidate, Atiku appointed some members of the board into his campaign organisation,” a member of the board told one of our correspondents.
Another source said that the insistence by Wike that the convention must hold in Port Harcourt despite opposition by some members of the National Executive Committee of the party, made those opposed to Tambuwal to increase in number.
It was learnt that some delegates and their sponsors, extended their anger at Wike to Tambuwal.
The source said, “Some believed that Wike wanted to impose a presidential candidate on the party.
“Some northern delegates met and vowed not to allow southerners to impose a candidate on them.”
A source also said that his ability to stand against the ruling All Progressives Congress and his deep purse to finance the presidential election worked for Atiku.
A top source said, “We all know that Atiku can considerably finance the campaign with little donations from party members. We don’t think Tambuwal has such capacity.”
Nigerians yearning for PDP, says Atiku
Meanwhile, in his acceptance speech, Atiku, said Nigerians were now aware of the capabilities of the APC.
The presidential candidate explained that the APC administration had mismanaged the economy of Nigeria, adding that the PDP must be more committed to the country’s growth.
Atiku expressed the need for the party to be committed to solving the challenges facing Nigeria as a country.
He said it was not enough for the PDP to identify the problems plaguing the nation, adding that there must be commitment towards resolving them.
Atiku said, “Nigerians are now yearning for the PDP to return to power because they have been able to test the APC and they know the difference. We have been able to identify the challenges afflicting the people and we must proffer solutions to them.
“It is not only one man’s job and that is why we must work together to achieve our goal.”
Maintaining that the PDP must not be intoxicated by power should it win the presidential election in 2019, the candidate said he had garnered experience after working as the vice-president to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
According to him, “I will not be standing where I am today if my former boss (Olusegun Obasanjo) had not made me the vice-president. All the experience I got then will impact on our government when we win. I give tribute to him (Obasanjo).”
Jonathan, Ekweremadu, SMBLF, others hail Atiku
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu; the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, and the PDP have hailed the emergence of Atiku as the presidential candidate of the PDP.
The PDP in a statement on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said that the orderliness, transparency and credibility of its presidential primary should serve as a lesson to the Independent National Electoral Commission and the APC on how elections should be conducted in present day Nigeria.
The party said the process showed that the INEC had been responsible for the electoral crises in the country.
Ologbondiyan said the process through which Atiku emerged also showed that Nigerians, irrespective of their individual and group interests, were capable of holding peaceful and credible elections.
He said, “The success of our presidential primary followed our strict adherence to democratic rules and principles of transparency and fairness, which has eluded the nation since President Muhammadu Buhari-led licentious administration assumed office.
“Nigerians are no longer in doubt that our compromised electoral umpire under the Buhari administration is ostensibly culpable for injecting rancorous situations that create openings for violence, manipulations, inconclusive polls and outright rigging of elections.
“We invite the whole world to note that the PDP conducted its presidential primary and a clear winner, Atiku Abubakar, emerged, without any disagreement or reliance on heavy security, showing that Nigerians are peaceful, orderly and desirous of credible processes at all levels of political engagement.”
Atiku is Nigeria’s next president, says Ekweremadu
While congratulating Atiku, Ekweremadu said the PDP presidential candidate was the next President of Nigeria.
The Senate deputy Speaker, who congratulated other aspirants and the PDP on the primary which he described as “crucial and rancor-free,” noted that all the aspirants were qualified to lead the nation.
The senator, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, said, “I join our teeming party faithful and supporters to congratulate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the incoming President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by God’s grace, on his nomination as the standard-bearer of the PDP in the 2019 presidential election.
“This is a watershed and a momentous occasion for the PDP and indeed the nation. More important in the race was the transparent, free, fair, credible, and peaceful process.”
Dickson, Ortom, others hail PDP candidate
Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson and the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, also congratulated Atiku on Sunday.
A statement by the Special Adviser to Governor Dickson on Media Relations, Mr Fidelis Soriwei, said the governor made the comment while speaking on the emergence of the former vice -president as the presidential candidate of the PDP.
The statement read in part, “Let me congratulate the former Vice President and now the Presidential Candidate of our great party, (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, for his resounding victory in a free, fair, transparent and credible primary election.
“Let me also congratulate the National Chairman and all members of the National Working Committee of our party, and Dr Ifeanyi Okowa and his team for their hard work and the good job they have done.
“He (Atiku) can build bridges of understanding and unity and form a great team to address the challenges that are facing our country. We look forward to working, collaborating and supporting him in that onerous responsibility.”
Also, Ortom said the credible conduct of the presidential primary election was a confirmation that the PDP was a party that truly practised transparency and internal democracy.
In the same vein, a former National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ray Nnaji, said with Atiku’s emergence, the PDP could defeat the incumbent Buhari.
Speaking shortly after the announcement of the results, Nnaji said, “With Atiku’s emergence as PDP presidential candidate, Buhari will face a stiff battle in 2019.
“Atiku has all it takes to defeat him – he has been in the party (APC) before and I am sure he still has his people there.”
Victory well deserved – Saraki
Also, Saraki described the presidential primary that produced Atiku as the best since the inception of the PDP, adding that the former VP’s emergence was well deserved.
Saraki, who came third in the exercise, promised that the former aspirants would work with Atiku to ensure that the PDP won the 2019 election.
In his comment, the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, called on INEC to learn from the PDP.
He said, “We invite INEC to lift from this template and know that elections can be conducted without intimidation and harassment. We will carry out the most civilised campaign in this country to reclaim power.”
Meanwhile, Governor Wike on Sunday congratulated Atiku after he was announced the PDP candidate.
The Rivers State governor assured Atiku and other PDP stakeholders that he would continue to work for the success of the party while commending the PDP delegates for ensuring a successful convention.
Atiku’ll take Nigeria to greater heights – Jonathan
Also, former President Jonathan congratulated Atiku, describing him as a man who had the capacity to take the country to greater heights.
Jonathan, in a text message to Atiku, said “I congratulate His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, and by the grace of God and the votes of Nigerians, the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Our party members have spoken and have nominated you as the candidate for the forthcoming presidential election.
“I am convinced that you have all it takes to take Nigeria to greater heights and transform her into a hub for prosperity and happiness. Congratulations.”
The PDP National Legal Adviser, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, also said Atiku would take power from Buhari.
Enoidem, who said Atiku was the most experienced aspirant in the race, added that he was the foundational leader of the present democratic experience in Nigeria.
Also, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State said Atiku would leverage on his track record as an entrepreneur and an employer of labour to grow the nation’s economy.
The governor in his goodwill message to Atiku on Sunday by his Chief Press Secretary, Charles Aniagwu, said the ex-vice-president’s victory was victory for the party and Nigerians.
Learn from PDP, SMBLF tells INEC
Reacting to Atiku’s victory as the PDP candidate, the SMBLF enjoined INEC to take a cue from the opposition party’s convention, saying the courts would not be filled with petitions and there won’t be post-election violence if elections were free, fair and credible.
The forum in a statement on Sunday by Yinka Odumakin (South West), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South), Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (South East) and Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), reminded Atiku about his commitment to the restructuring of the country.
The forum said, “The election of Atiku from a keenly contested primary election in what is generally seen as a free and fair process is a breath of fresh air to the democratic project in Nigeria which appeared threatened by manipulation of processes in intra-party conduct and general elections.
“It is never too early to remind the presidential candidate of the clear commitment to the fundamental issue of restructuring he has made overtime and which the former Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the Party, Senator Makarfi confirmed as the party agenda.
“It is clear today that no amount of good governance can get Nigeria out of the woods without a proper structure that can restore Nigeria to productivity under federalism.”
Buhari’s aides tackle Atiku
But some aides of Buhari on Sunday took to the social media to tackle Atiku.
Shortly after the declaration of the result, Buhari’s Personal Assistant on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie, took to the social media where she claimed that Atiku’s emergence had made the job of the president’s team easier.
Onochie claimed that the Vice-President ran away from the All Progressives Congress to avoid contesting against the president in the primary.
She also alleged that Atiku spent more money than his co-contestants before he emerged the winner of the contest.
She wrote, “Alhaji Atiku Abubakar outspends Saraki, Tambuwal and others, wins the PDP presidential ticket for 2019.
“Congratulations Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. You have outspent the rest. You have a new toy. But believe it, it is only a dream.
“Bearing in mind that you can’t go to America to represent us at the United Nations, nor meet with Nigerians in America, our job is made easy.”
Also, the spokesman for the Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organisation, Mr Festus Keyamo, said with Atiku’s emergence, Nigerians would choose between a candidate with credibility crises and one with an unblemished record.
Keyamo posted the message on his Twitter handle.
“We welcome H.E. Atiku Abubakar to the 2019 campaign trail. Nigerians will now decide between a candidate with a history full of credibility crises, damning reports on corruption, both home, abroad and from his former boss and another candidate with an unblemished record in public service,” he wrote.
Jubilation in Taraba
But there was jubilation in Jalingo the capital of Taraba State on Sunday following the declaration of Atiku as the presidential candidate of the PDP.
Hundreds of youths and women took to the streets with posters of Atiku Abubakar singing and dancing.
One of the jubilant youth, Collins Bonzena, told one of our correspondents that Atiku’s position on restructuring, security and job creation was the basis for their support for him.
He stated, “Atiku has the experience and the capacity to rule Nigeria. Remember he was the vice president of this country for eight years and his experience in the private sector will make him a good President.
“Atiku has a blueprint on how to grow Nigeria, tackle insecurity and restructure the country to give us true federalism which is key to our development and that is what we need at the moment,” he said.
Also reacting, the National Coordinator of PDP Loyal Group, Mr. Dennis Shima, called on Nigerians to support Atiku’s candidature for a better Nigeria.
Ijaw’ll support candidate planning restructuring – IYC
The Ijaw Youth Council has said it will support any presidential candidate that plans to restructure the country and remove the marginalisation of the South-South people from the oil and gas benefits.
The IYC President, Pereotubo Oweilaemi, on Sunday stated this while congratulating the presidential flag bearers of various political parties in the 2019 general elections.
Oweilaemi said the Ijaw’s stand on restructuring was intact, calling “for the federating units to control natural resources in their respective domains and let them in turn pay royalty to the centre as practised by America and other advanced democracies.”
He said, “The IYC, which is the umbrella body of Ijaw youths worldwide, will mobilise its men and women to support any presidential candidate that supports restructuring of this country that is currently being managed with resources from the Niger Delta while our people are treated with disdain.
“The present situation is where our people are wallowing in misery while those who do not know the colour of crude oil are living in affluence. The IYC will no longer support any government or leader that tries to treat our people like second class citizens.”
We will still decide who to support – Afenifere
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said it would sit down and decide who it would support for the presidential election.
The group, which had earlier hosted Atiku in Akure, the Ondo State capital, had promised to support any presidential candidate that believed in restructuring.
Speaking with our correspondent in Akure on Sunday, the Secretary General of the Afenifere, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa, described Atiku as a politician who had paid his dues in Nigerian politics.
He, however, noted that there was a need for the opposition to come together to defeat the ruling party.
He said, “When we compare Atiku with others, you will see him as somebody who has paid his dues. Among politicians and our former rulers, Atiku has made his marks.
“Before the PDP primary, Atiku came to Afenifere and promised to restructure the country; and we have said that anybody who wants to restructure with all seriousness, such a person will be our candidate. Now that he is in, Afenifere will still sit down to decide.”