The Peoples Democratic Party in the South-East is reaching out to the leadership of the party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to ensure that the PDP standard-bearer picks his running mate from the zone
Media gathered that the leadership of the party in the South-East argued that having failed to cede the presidential ticket to the zone, which had consistently supported the PDP since 1999, the only thing left for the party was to cede the vice-presidential slot to it.
Atiku had in May emerged the winner of the PDP presidential primary after defeating other aspirants including a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim and an ex-President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa.
After the PDP primary, the apex socio-cultural organisation for the Igbo, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, criticised the party for betraying the zone.
A few days to the primary, Atiku’s running mate in 2019, Mr Peter Obi, dumped the party and joined the Labour Party on whose platform he would contest the 2023 presidential election.
There has been growing support for Obi since he joined the LP. Analysts have warned that Obi’s defection to the LP may affect the chances of the PDP in the South-East, where its presidential candidate got 1.6 million votes in 2019 against over 403,000 votes garnered by the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
The Publicity Secretary of the Anambra State PDP, Nnamdi Nwagwu, in an interview with The PUNCH, confirmed that the South-East had demanded the vice-presidential slot like the South-South.
He noted that both the PDP and the APC had sidelined the South-East, adding that it was only in the PDP that the zone could get the VP slot.
He added that only the VP slot could, at least, secure votes for the party in the South-East.
He said, “They (South-East leaders) are making such a demand for the VP slot. Let us see how it goes. They are making the demand because every party has sidelined the South-East and it is only in the PDP that they can get the VP slot because they cannot get it from the APC as the APC already has a southern presidential candidate.
“Only the VP slot can secure votes for the party in the zone, if not, it will be difficult to wrest the votes of the region from Peter Obi. And let us see how it goes if the VP slot will be given or not.”
On its part, the Imo State chapter of the PDP said that it was not perturbed by the growing acceptability of Obi in the South-East.
The Director-General of the New Media of the PDP in the state, Collins Opuruzor, said that the PDP in the region was not worried about Obi’s candidature.
He said that the party was mobilising for the victory of the PDP not only in the South-East but also across the country.
Opuruzor said that the PDP presidential candidate could win the presidential election in 2023.
When contacted, the National Vice-Chairman of the PDP (South-East zone), Chief Ali Odefa, said, “I’m not the National Chairman of the party to comment on this. Contact the National Chairman of the party for this, please.”
But the PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologbunagba, in an interview with one of our correspondents, dismissed Obi’s popularity.
On whether the party considered Obi’s growing support as a threat, Ologbunagba said, “When we talk about popularity, that is your assessment and you are entitled to it. When we get to the polls, the popularity will reveal itself.
“We are not talking about somebody’s popularity. That is not what we are talking about. We are focused on our party. That is the important thing. We are focused on what we are doing and what we will do for Nigerians. We are focused on insecurity, our kids being out of school for one year.”
Also, a former presidential aspirant of the PDP, Sam Ohuabunwa, said in picking a running mate, the party would choose somebody who could bring votes.
He stated, “The PDP leadership will do a lot of hard work and will not just focus on dividing the so-called Obi’s votes in the South-East and while he may also have followers outside his region, we are not sure yet. All we see now is social media hype. We cannot be sure until we get to the polls. What we read in the media may not be what happens in real life.”
But the Spokesman, Peter Obi Support Network, Sani Altukry, took a swipe at the PDP.
According to Altukry, the Peter Obi phenomenon is now a national movement and revolution that will bring an end to the PDP and the APC.
He said, “Some say it is a revolution, a present reality that will bring an end to the PDP and the APC as major political parties because they failed to do the right thing.
“They failed to address the yearnings of Nigerians for equity and justice. And they have also failed the youth of this country. The youth yearn for good government, an end to ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strike and graduate unemployment. The youth are angry that Nigeria is today the poverty capital of the world because of the PDP and the APC misrule and Peter Obi’s rallying cry to move the country from consumption to production is a rallying cry for hope.”
He added that the ‘Peter Obi Movement’ was also a protest against the injustice meted out to the people of southern Nigeria when the PDP failed to zone the presidency to the South.
“Mark my words, the PDP will receive the shock of its life as its presidential candidate will come second runner-up while Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, will emerge as a winner in the 2023 presidential election. It is quite unfortunate that the party lost its followers due to injustice,” he added.