(By Iheanyi Ezinwo)-In their efforts to beat the deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission on the submission of names of party flag bearers and their running mates at states and national levels, presidential flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, has picked former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, as his running mate in the 2019 election, while Tonye Cole, disputed governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State has also opted to pair with Victor Giadom as his running mate.
The choice of Peter Obi as Atiku’s running mate was widely reported on Wednesday, and it was said to be the outcome of several considerations and consultations. Atiku’s choice, Peter Obi is a former governor of Anambra state, a model politician with integrity, who is widely accepted across Nigeria for his level headedness and exemplary leadership style.To Nigerians, baring other political considerations, he remains one of the few proven leaders that has the character, temperament, testimony and vision to restore Nigeria to the fast lane of development.
Although it is reported in some quarters that the choice of Peter Obi, businessman politician, was Atiku’s way of rewarding the south east for the significant role they played in his emergence as PDP’s presidential candidate, some analysts posit that it might also not be unconnected with Atiku’s reported promise to serve for one term, a development that will enable Obi to step in as president thereafter, to satisfy the yearnings of the south east, who have been alleging marginalization and deliberate plot to keep them away from occupying the highest office in the land since after the civil war that ended in 1970.
Coming to Rivers State, Tonye Cole has gone ahead to pick Victor Giadom as his running mate. His choice is coming as Senator Magnus Abe, from the same Gokana local government area of Rivers State as Giadom, is challenging Cole’s claim of being a member of the party and the process that led to his emergence as candidate of the APC in Rivers State.
Senator Abe, who enjoys large following in Rivers State has however vowed to sustain the fight against the perceived injustice against him and other party members in the state until justice is served. From all indications, the agitation of Abe and others for justice have become a major destabilizing factor, with many wondering that it is only a matter of time before things fall apart in the Rivers State APC.
Abe is alleging that his supporters were excluded from the party congresses after making the mandatory payments for participation. That congress was supposed to throw up new executives of APC in the state. Expectedly, the unresolved dispute affected the nominations of governorship, senate, house of representatives and state Assembly candidates. Reacting to their exclusion from the process, the Abe group went ahead to set up a parallel secretariat in Port Harcourt.
Although the party leadership under Rotimi Amaechi, Nigeria’s transportation minister and Ojukaye Amachree, who is holding forth in the state enjoys the recognition of the party at the centre, Abe and his group are unrelenting, mounting pressure on the party to recognize the recent High Court judgment that nullified the congress that threw up Ojukaye and other members of his executive in the state, as well as nominations of Tonye Cole and other party members seeking electives offices.
From all indications, the national secretariat of the APC appears unwilling to grant Abe’s request, and as the 2019 elections approach, Nigerians are keen to see how the dispute will be resolved, especially as the group loyal to Amaechi appears to be forging ahead in deference to Abe’s protests and cases in court.
It would be recalled that the Ogoni ethnic nationality has been loud in the agitation for one of their own to occupy the office of governor of Rivers State, for the first time. However, it is not clear if they will be appeased with the offer of the deputy governorship candidate, as according to observers, the nomination of Victor Giadom could be one step forward for the Ogonis to realise their aspiration should the party win the election in 2019.
Back to Atiku, political pundits had expected his running mate to come from the south west, if only to choke and crowd out the ruling party in that zone, the same way the emergence of Atiku Abubakar and support of other prominent PDP members like Rabiu Kwankanwso, Aminu Tambuwal, Sule Lamidu could neauralise the influence of Muhammadu Buhari in the north. It is predicted that Buhari will not stand a chance in the south south and south east because of the neglect of the zones by his administration. The emergence of Peter Obi as Atiku’s running mate is therefore a deliberate move to shut out out Buhari in the area and brighten the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party returning to power in 2019.
Things appear to be working in Atiku’s favour. He just received the blessing of Olusegun Obasanjo, his enstranged during the week, clearing the way for him to become Nigerian’s next president, especially as over 70 percent of Nigerians seem to be optimistic that his emergence and victory in 2019 will get Nigeria working again.