Southeast leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said yesterday that they were unaware that the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had picked former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi as running mate in next year’s election.
Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu State), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) as well as Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, former House of Representatives Speaker Emeka Ihedioha and former Ebonyi Governor Sam Egwu, among others, said the report of Obi’s nomination remains a rumour to them, for now.
Their position trailed Friday’s statement by Governor Umahi that Atiku did not consult governors and leaders of the zone before picking Obi as running mate.
However, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpagha and Igbo youths, in separate statements welcomed Obi’s choice.
The former Anambra State governor himself took to Twitter, thanking Atiku for the ‘privilege’ to serve as presidential running mate.
“We will work closely together to boost the economy and provide jobs. Our administration will be far away from anything called ‘lifeless’,” he said.
The Southeast PDP leaders, in a statement at the end of a meeting in Enugu though acknowledged and appreciated the concession of vice presidency to their zone, they said they ought to have been consulted before any one was picked.
The Southeast zonal chairman of the party, Chief Austin Umahi who briefed reporters on the outcome of the meeting said: “The fact is that Peter Obi is our son and we are not rejecting him, but the presidential candidate has not informed us formally.
“Atiku, we learnt, is travelling out tonight. We will discuss with him on the issue on his return.”
Their position tallied with the statement issued on Friday evening by Governor Umahi of Ebonyi State who said Atiku’s action was in breach of a standing agreement that all such appointments be discussed first with leaders of the zone.
“Any position zoned to Ndigbo must be discussed and agreement reached so that the right thing is done in line with the peculiar nature of Igbo politics and their quest for politics of inclusiveness,” he said
He said in the choice of Obi was not discussed either with the governors or other Igbo leaders.
He said while he has nothing personally against Peter Obi or any other person emerging as running mate to the PDP presidential flag bearer, such a decision should not have been taken without consulting the governors and other leaders of the zone.
Ohanaeze, Igbo youths laud Atiku’s decision
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, Chief Nnia Nwodo, asked Ndigbo to accept the choice of Obi as vice presidential candidate of the in order not to upset the political arrangements ahead of the 2019 presidential elections.
He told The Nation by phone that Igbo leaders in PDP should “let bygone be bygone and accept whoever has been nominated.
“We should not upset the applecart. We should accept Peter Obi so that we can move ahead, politically. This is both my prayer and appeal.”
In a separate interview, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpagha, hailed Obi’s choice and said he would bring his expertise to bear by assisting Atiku to revitalise the nation’s economy.
He said: “We, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, have already made it clear that we are not interested in the Presidency or Vice-Presidency of Nigeria unless you restructure Nigeria.
“If you put an Igbo man as a President, there is little or nothing he can do in developing the Southeast because his wings are clipped by the wages of confusion on his side.
“But be that as it may, Atiku is the one who has been hammering on restructuring. So, we have absolute faith in him that he is going to restructure Nigeria and if he does that and with people like Peter Obi on his side, that is where the expertise comes in.
“Peter Obi is a technocrat; he will help to revitalise the economy of this country. This is all we want because if you are not an expert and you are into politics, you bring the experts close to you not based on ethnic or religious sentiments.
“You already know that Obi is a two term former Governor of Anambra State which is not a no mean experience, and he is a financial guru before he came into politics. So, he will help Atiku to revitalise the economy.
“The way the economy of the country is, we need people like Obi otherwise the economy will collapse irretrievably.
“Obi is a Christian, he is not a Muslim and he is from the Southeast and Atiku has brought him close to help him to fix the economy. This is what we want. What else do we want if not to move the nation forward because the masses will not continue to suffer?’
The Youth wing of the Ohaneze shared the sentiments.
Its President, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said the group would work with similar bodies from other zones to ensure the success of the ticket.
“We will reach out to the Arewa, Ijaw, Middle Belt, Ibibio and Yoruba Youths under the Nigeria Ethnic Nationalities Youth organizations for the success of Atiku and Peter Obi Project 2019,” he said.
A member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Linis Okorie, feared that objection to the choice of Obi as presidential running mate might prove costly to Ndigbo.
“Ndigbo must create a balance between control and the more devastating perception of disunity,” he said.
He added:”The impression already being created is that Ndigbo are unable to manage political successes and may not provide the pivotal bloc needed to drive the Atiku challenge for Presidency.
“While this may not be correct, it behoves on the leaders of Ndigbo to avoid sending out wrong signals at a time unity and brotherhood would be their greatest strength.”
In his first reaction to his choice, Obi said on Twitter that he would work closely with Atiku if elected in the February 2019 election.
He said: “I want to thank Waziri Adamawa, Alhaji @atiku, for choosing me as his running mate. This is a privilege I will not take lightly.
“We will work closely together to boost the economy and provide jobs. Our administration will be far away from anything called ‘lifeless’.”