by George Okojie (Leadership)
The lobby for who emerges running mate to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2023 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, started before the presidential primaries.
Despite the insistence of governors from the South and leaders from the region that it was the turn for the geo-political region to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor and for no southerner to take vice presidential and national chairmanship slots, some of the governors, it was learnt, had begun positioning themselves to be running mate to whomever emerges candidate should the party not zone its ticket to the South.
The subtle tussle for who would emerge as running mate was intensified by the cold relationship among some governors in the South South zone who were also angling to get the party’s presidential ticket should the party favour zoning to the South, which didn’t happen eventually.
But the lid was blown off during the verbal war between Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki and his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike over the internal tussle in Edo PDP. Obaseki had outrightly accused Wike of supporting a rival camp of the party in the state led by Chief Dan Orbih, because he was desirous of harvesting delegates from the state ahead of the presidential primaries, which he eventually lost to Atiku months later.
Obaseki was seen as an Atiku supporter. Also, the Delta State governor, Sen Ifeanyi Okowa, was also seen as a supporter of Atiku.
However with the primaries over, the scramble for who becomes Atiku’s running mate has intensified with some governors making visits to the PDP standard-bearer, including Wike, Abia State governor Dr Okezie Ikpeazu and Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal.
Meanwhile, consultations over who will be Atiku’s running mate intensifies with the prospects of a governor from the South East in the mix.
Nevertheless, the front runners for the vice presidential candidacy are Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta).
The position of vice president requires competence, character and personality especially with the multi-faceted problems in the country, including a failing economy and high level of insecurity.
The vice president is expected to hold forth for the president when he is unavoidably absent which would require a manager of men and resources who will also be respected by his peers.
A political pundit, Bassey Joseph, considers Governor Emmanuel as a top contender for the position.
He said, “I am strongly inclined to Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State as the most suitable candidate for the running mate and Vice-Presidential slot.”
He added “With the drama within the All Progressives Congress and emergence of Alhaji Atiku, the PDP stands a great chance at the poll especially with an Udom as running mate. Whilst the Commander-in-Chief is statutorily responsible for keeping the country secure as the Chairman of both the National Security Council and National Defense Council, we need a Vice President who will go beyond rhetoric and come on board with hands-on experience in resource management and economic planning skills—in fact one with proven track record for such. As we know, the Vice-President, asides being the Vice Chairman of these bodies and others, a major and primary role for the office, is to be in charge of the country’s economic agenda.
“The last seven years aptly describes having a square peg in a round hole. All relevant human development indices indicate a dwindling economy with unemployment at 40%, inflation standing at 16.82% as of April 2022, Naira having lost its value by almost 300%, while food inflation is at 18.37%. The nation’s Gross Domestic Product is at an all-time low, and our service sector has shrunk for the past 8 months, while Fitch revised Nigeria’s credit outlook to negative.
“Nigerians are experiencing untold economic hardship and this can be said to be the direct consequence of poor management of our National Economy.
“Taking a cursory look at the governance Mr. Udom Emmanuel has offered the people of Akwa Ibom in the last 7 years, one can say there is a track record and verifiable facts to appraise him and judge him good for the slot.
“As we speak, Akwa Ibom is now an investment hub and this is because of the industrialization agenda and policy direction of the Udom Emmanuel-led administration. This he embarked upon in 2015 when he got into office through the many far-sighted plans and projects. These audacious and now evidently productive developmental and economically beneficial achievements have seen Akwa Ibom transcend from a sleepy civil service state to a boisterous investment and economically viable state. In fact, I dare say Akwa Ibom is the third most visited destination for business and leisure in Nigeria after Lagos and Abuja.”
He said Emmanuel is also a man who enjoys tremendous goodwill across the board. “He recently sought and got the approval of the federal government for the Ibom Deep SeaPort project, which on completion is projected to save Nigeria at least $70 million of earnings whilst creating huge economic and social benefits to the country from global trade, job creation, and specialization.
“It is said that Udom has leveraged his experience in not only attracting investments but also creating economically viable industries for servicing the Nigerian market and beyond. With his strategic plans, several industries have not only been established, but they are also optimally operational and generating revenue for the state. One must not forget the great strides Udom has made in the aviation industry with Ibom Air as a state governor. Ibom Air is now the most viable and most efficiently run indigenous and in fact government-owned airline.
“These accomplishments are no mean feat and I beg to imagine what an Udom as vice president can achieve with a principal like Alhaji Abubakar,” he said.
Okowa, has been a key party man always ready to help out with key party assignments. He was instrumental to the recent convention as well as previous ones. Calm and calculated, he is seen as a potent force politically in the region. He has also performed favorably in the state in the past eight years.
Beyond his measured and astute strategic ability, lies a smooth political operator.
“I do agree that someone like Okowa should be given the position, because he has proven his ability to manage men and ensure political stability in a state like Delta which is multi-ethnic,” said a political analyst, Isreal Oruru.
Wike has also been thrown into the mix, having made a strong showing at the primaries. Although he is regarded as a tough and pragmatic politician, he is not given to backing down from a political confrontation, which most times casts him in the light of being more of a trouble-shooter than a conciliator.
However an analyst, Emeka Chinwendu, said “We are at a time Nigeria needs people with proven capacity to help with our infrastructural challenges. You can be sure that not many governors today can match what Governor Wike has done in Rivers State. He is not called Mr Infrastructure for nothing. So we need people with such ability to assist the president so that while he (president) focuses on the task of uniting the country and setting policies, his vice president can help out with aggressive implementation of those policies,” he said.