Barely a week after his emergence as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday named a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, as his running mate for the 2019 presidential election. Obi emerged the vice presidential candidate after Atiku and the PDP resolved to narrow the search for his running mate to the South East geo-political zone.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that Obi, a former chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc, was chosen as the preferred choice of both the party and the presidential candidate after series of consultations by stakeholders, both within and outside the party. Announcing Atiku’s decision, the director general of Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCO) and former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, noted in a statement he issued yesterday that “Obi’s choice was largely influenced by his youthfulness, vast knowledge of global and local economics as well as being a financial expert, all experience which Nigeria is in great need at this point in time.
“This ticket will be able to steer our nation back on the path of progress, economic prosperity and unity”, he said. Before the decision was made public yesterday, several options had been touted in the public domain, amid speculations that Atiku would pick his running mate from either the Igbo-dominated South East or from the South West. LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt that the party decided to tilt towards the South East zone because the zone has remained a fortress for the PDP since the inception of the present democratic dispensation in 1999. Even when it lost out to the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the centre in 2015, PDP still retained the highest number of governors as well as seats in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assemby in the geo-political zone. “Because the PDP still remains the dominant party in the South East, there is need for the party and the candidate to look towards that direction as a way of compensating the zone for its unalloyed loyalty”, a source in Atiku’s campaign team told our correspondent.
Obi was chosen from a roll call of potential candidates, including deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu; former Finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Managing Director of AMCON, Mustafa Chike-Obi and former minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka.
Our source further disclosed that, considering the challenging state of the nation’s economy, the PDP presidential candidate wanted a vice president who would focus on the job rather than playing politics.
However, before Atiku finally let the cat out of the bag yesterday , LEADERSHIP WEEKEND’s investigation revealed that Ekweremadu was highly favoured because of his experience as a former council chairman, former secretary to the government of Enugu State, and two-term deputy Senate president. It was further gathered that the lawmaker was dropped because Atiku wanted someone who would not be occupied by so much political activities. Obi was said to have been considered based on his track record as one of the best performing governors during his time and he is also said to be a man with a successful business career. Many stakeholders in the party were said to have already picked Obi as a possible choice and a good one at that due to his intimidating credentials and experience, which they believe would be useful in managing the economy of the country. Before he was pronounced running mate yesterday, Atiku had earlier invited Obi to his Abuja residence in Asokoro at about 3:00 pm where they both held a meeting.
The South East has not produced a President or Vice President since the beginning of the present dispensation, while the South West has produced a president and vice president.
Analysts maintain that there is no better alternative to Peter Obi because he cuts across all ethnic groups as a result of his business and political alliance as well as his unprecedented achievement when he was governor of Anambra State.
But another set of the analysts noted that Obi would rather have been better as Minister of Economic Planning and Budget and not as vice president. Those in this school of thought are of the view that Obi has no political strength, even in his own state where he governed for eight years. Also, it is not currently certain whether the choice of Vice President will play certain roles in voting pattern in the zone come 2019 because of the headway made by the ruling APC in the zone Born 19 July, 1961, Peter Obi attended Christ the King College, Onitsha and later proceeded to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. He is also a graduate of several international and national institutions such as the Lagos Business School, Harvard Business School, London School of Economics, Columbia Business School, Institute of Management, Switzerland, Kellogg Graduate School, Oxford University and Cambridge University. In public service, he has led various divisions some of which include Member, Presidential Economic Management Team; Vice-Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum; Chairman, South-East Governors’ Forum, and the Governor of Anambra State.
Jubilation In Anambra Over Choice Of Ex-Gov
Meanwhile, Anambra State was yesterday thrown into a frenzy of jubilation following the news of the choice of immediate past governor of the state, Peter Obi, as Atiku’s running mate in the next presidential election. Those who spoke to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, including politicians and non- partisan individuala said judging from Obi’s performance when he was governor, Atiku, by choosing him as his running mate, has demonstrated that he is determined to give good governance to Nigerians as well as salvage the economy. PDP candidate in the last gubernatorial election in the state, Mr Oseloka Obaze, described the emergence of Atiku as PDP presidential candidate and his choice of Obi as his running mate as God’s answer to the prayer of Nigerians. “Atiku Ababakar has made the right choice in picking Peter Obi as his running mate. Atiku has just exhibited the ability to make hard-headed decision required of purposeful leaders. Let’s get Nigeria working again. God bless Atiku. God bless Peter Obi. God bless Nigeria”, the ex-UN senior official stated in a statement he issued and made available to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND.
Also, the Anambra state chairman of the PDP, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, stated that both the PDP presidential candidate and the party had shown deep appreciation to the late former Vice president, Alex Ekwueme, for his immense contributions to the growth of PDP. Nwobu stated that given Atiku’s antecedents and those of Obi, especially in their demonstration of deep understanding of the nation’s economy, Nigerians and the country will experience an unprecedented transformation under their presidency. A former councilor in Njikoka local government area of the state and editor of Fides Newspaper, a publication of the Catholic diocese of Awka, Mr. Jude Atupulazi, described Obi as a “prudent, highly principled and focused man”, saying that Atiku’s presidency would greatly benefit from having him as the vice-president. Two members of the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance ( APGA) in the state who preferred anonymity stated that the choice of Obi as running mate by the PDP presidential flag-bearer would affect APGA’s electoral fortune in the state in the forthcoming general election as, according to them, “most Anambrarians will now give their support to PDP”. A restaurant operator in Awka, the Anambra state capital, Mrs Nkechinyere Eze, expressed optimism that with Peter Obi as vice president, the country would experience a great transformation in its economy. “When Peter Obi was governor we were not experiencing hardship as we are seeing it today”, she said.
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