•Okowa tops list of contenders as odds favour South-south
• APC considers Lawan, Lalong, Bagudu, Buni, Badaru, Amina Mohammed, three others
•Afenifere, Ohanaeze, MBF, PANDEF await decisions of parties on running mates
Chuks Okocha, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
Barring any last-minute changes, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will on Tuesday unveil the party’s vice-presidential candidate for the 2023 general election, THISDAY has learnt.
This is as the All Progressives Congress (APC) is considering the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, from Yobe State; Governors Simon Lalong of Plateau State, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State; and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, from Adamawa State, for the position of the running mate to its presidential candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu.
Also being considered by the ruling party are the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Ms. Amina Mohammed from Gombe State; former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, also from Borno State. A source privy to the horse-trading told THISDAY that a committee had been set up to carefully examine the chances of each of the candidates and make recommendations to the party.
The source disclosed that Tinubu has said that he has not thought of it.
For the PDP, THISDAY gathered that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State tops the list of contenders for Atiku’s running mate as the odds favour the South-south geopolitical zone following concerns that the emergence of a former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) will swing the South-east votes in favour of LP.
This is coming as the apex Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; the pan-Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and their counterparts in the Middle Belt and the Niger Delta – the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) are awaiting the decisions of the political parties on their choices of running mates before declaring their support.
Some chieftains of the ruling APC have argued that religion should not be a factor in determining the party’s vice-presidential ticket.
The leadership of the PDP had after the emergence of Atiku as the presidential candidate of the party set up a high-powered committee to drive a rancour-free emergence of his running mate.
The committee convened several discrete meetings where it met with Atiku and other stakeholders.
A source privy to the meetings told THISDAY that “the committee has met with all concerned and would unveil its choice Tuesday ahead of the June 17 deadline for the submission of the names of the PDP presidential candidate and his running mate to INEC.”
The source disclosed that the committee narrowed the search for Atiku’s running mate to the South-south geopolitical zone following the concern that the South-east will vote massively for the Labour Party’s candidate, Obi.
He explained that under this circumstance, the main opposition party now believes that its strength lies in the South-south as it is also believed that the South-west would be a no-go area for the PDP because of the emergence of the former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, as the presidential candidate of the APC.
The source further disclosed that two governors of the South-south, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and one other unnamed governor are the two major contenders for the PDP vice-presidential ticket.
“Though the leaders of the party believe that the conduct of the unnamed governor is not befitting of a vice presidential candidate, he is being considered because it is believed that he has enormous financial prowess to finance the PDP presidential campaigns. The governor is unfit for the job and that is why Okowa is at the top of the list,” the source added.
Investigation revealed that the party has mounted pressure on the governor to accept a ministerial position.
It was also gathered that the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is ruled out because she prefers to remain in her current position.
The PDP stakeholders are said to be concerned that the emergence of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) would erode APC and PDP votes in the North-west.
The source said that the APC had won in all the 44 local government areas in Kano State in 2019 with 1.4 million votes, while the PDP got 391,593 votes.
“With the rising profile of NNPP, the APC may not have votes again as was the case in 2015 and 2019. So, the party is depending on its stakeholders in the North-west to rein in more votes for Atiku in the 2023 general election.”
On its part, the APC is considering the Senate President, Lawan; Governors Lalong, Bagudu, Buni, Badaru; and the Secretary to the SGF, Mustapha, for the position of the running mate to Tinubu.
Also being considered by the ruling party are the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Ms. Mohammed; former governor of Borno State, Senator Shettima and Imam.
THISDAY gathered that Mohammed is being considered for gender balancing.
Afenifere, Ohanaeze, MBF, PANDEF Await Decisions of Parties on Running Mates
In a related development, the President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr Bitrus Pogu has disclosed that his organisation would meet with Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and PANDEF after the emergence of the parties’ running mates.
He said MBF would not be hasty in deciding which political party to support in the 2023 general election, noting that they would study the situation and also watch where the candidates would select their running mates.
Pogu, who spoke exclusively to THISDAY, added that there would be alignments and realignments ahead of the 2023 elections.
He said that the MBF consult with Afenifere, PANDEF, and Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo to arrive at a decision on which party or candidate to support.
Pohu said, “APC is not the only party that has elected a southern candidate; there are other political parties with Southern candidates. We will sit down and review the situation after the aspirants have all picked their running mates, we shall then meet with our friends – Afenifere, PANDEF, and Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, and arrive at a decision.”
He said: “What I am saying is that after the choices of running mates, there may be migrations across party lines, and some changes will begin. I say this because Nigerians cannot be taken for a ride.
“I can tell you that the volume of people registering now is unprecedented; it has never happened this way before. It shows that Nigerians are up for something.”
Religion Should Not Be a Factor, Say APC Chieftains
Meanwhile, some chieftains of the ruling APC have argued that religion should not be a factor in the consideration of the party’s vice-presidential candidate.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal and other stakeholders had kicked against the Muslim-Muslim ticket, insisting that ethnoreligious factors are still very much relevant in Nigerian politics. But the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai believed that competence should be a major consideration and not religion.
A National Vice Chairman of the party, Dr Salihu Lukman, in a statement issued yesterday said kicking against the Muslim-Muslim ticket was a backward national mindset, which must be changed.
He said as important as ethnic and religious identities are, addressing challenges facing the country requires that political leaders are not allowed to ride on cheap sentiments of religion and ethnicity to opportunistically win elections.
“If choices of leaders are dictated by ethnoreligious factors, Nigerian politics will continue to be disadvantageous to many sections of the country. For instance, only Christian Southerners and Muslim Northerners will continue to have advantages.
The Deputy National Organising Secretary of the party, Hon. Nze Duru told THISDAY that consultations were still ongoing in the party regarding the issue of the running mate.
He added that it remains the prerogative of the candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu to choose a running mate that would complement his strength.
“What is important for Nigeria today is good governance, creating the level-playing field; giving hope to the people of this country,” Duru explained.
On his part, former National Vice Chairman of APC, South-south, Hilliard Etta, said he did not predicate his politics on religion or ethnic consideration.
He said: “If my politics was considered on ethnic considerations. I would have worked and voted for (Rotimi) Amaechi. He’s from my zone; I don’t care about those kinds of things. Those are the things that have held Nigeria down,” he added.
In his contribution, the former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, stated that the important factor is the personality involved and not his religion.