Unlike the euphoria that greeted the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as Presidential candidate of the PDP a few weeks ago, MUYIWA OYINLOLA writes that Southeast geo-political zone which purportedly gave him a bloc vote at the Port Harcourt convention may go into the February poll a divided house
In the Southeast today, things are gradually falling apart for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the centre is no longer holding. In fact, there are fears that except a drastic action is taken, the zone, which has traditionally remained a stronghold of the major opposition party may go into the next general elections in its tatters, due to current internal wrangling, and possible looming defection of members.
But this was not the situation until after the Presidential primary it held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, barely a fortnight ago . The Southeast zone reportedly backed former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and gave him a bloc vote. This, no doubt contributed to his victory at the convention.
But the jubilation was soon cut short when Atiku picked his vice presidential candidate from the zone. The choice of former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, as Atiku’s running mate has raised the dust among the political elite in the zone, not than he is incompetence but because of the way and manner of his emergence. One unifying factor about picking a vice presidential candidate from Southeast is that it would douse the perceived marginalization of the zone and its people. PDP Govs, Others kick
Those who call the shots in the Southeast politics are however of the view that necessary consultations were not made before Obi’s choice was arrived at and made public.
This necessitated the emergency stakeholders meeting of the party in the Southeast held at the residence of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to protest their exclusion in the nomination of Obi.
In attendance at the meeting were Ekweremadu, PDP Governors from the zone, including Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, who also doubles as Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum; former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; Chis Ubah, among others.
While stating that he has nothing personal against Obi or any other person emerging as the running mate to Atiku, Umahi disclosed that any position zoned to Ndigbo must be discussed and an agreement must be reached so that the right thing will be done in line with the peculiar nature of Igbo politics and their quest for politics of inclusiveness.
“Nobody is against Peter Obi, because he is my friend, competent and you must have seen our pictures together on the social media. We must take decisions against the marginalisation of Ebonyi people because if we have to vote, we must be treated with equity.
“Two names of the nominees came from Anambra, two from Abia and one from Enugu, but none came from Ebonyi and Imo.
“What is wrong with somebody from Ebonyi and Imo? If you must know, one of the reasons an Ebonyi man is against regions in the country is the fear of further marginalisation.
“If Atiku just picked his running mate without people from other regions seeing the list and making choices, there could have been no complaints. I am talking about the Southeast people and if six people can come from other regions and take decisions, there must be somebody from the Southeast zone.
“There is nothing like the Southeast governors’ stand on the matter; but we are only saying that when decisions are taken and people from other regions are invited, those from the Southeast must be invited,” he said.
Hurdles Before Ekweremadu
One of the major political stakeholders in the zone who was also not in the know of Obi’s emergence is Ekweremadu, a formidable force in mobilizing the supposed bloc votes Atiku got in Port Harcourt.
Ekweremadu and Atiku, it was gathered have been working together for some time now, in fact, it was learnt that their relationship became close soon after the latter returned to the PDP after the last general elections. There were allegations in some quarters then that Atiku, who has always indicated interest in presidency, would pick the ranking senator as his running mate for the next general elections.But it was gathered that the lawmaker had always maintained he was more interested in what the zone would gain from supporting a PDP candidate to become president. This may not be unconnected with the reason he mobilized a bloc vote for Atiku.
“It was a collective decision we took to back Atiku for a number of reasons. One, we had wanted to meet with the South-south to take a common position on that. But Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike, in particular treated us as if we didn’t matter. So, when Ekweremadu called us, we met and weighed the options before us based on the offers made by each of the aspirants. “One of the offers that fascinated us most, which is restructuring, was made by Atiku. Then the other was his desire to do just one term so as to enable the Southeast field a presidential candidate in 2023. We saw that as a good counter to our opponents, the APC in the Southeast, who have been canvassing that a Buhari’s second term was the surest way to Igbo presidency in 2023. “Now, after the primary, we expected Atiku to come back to us, so we can tidy up the details of our understanding, and move on from there. But that did not happen. The next thing we heard was that announcement of a running mate without recourse to us. Nobody is against Peter Obi’s choice, not even Ekweremadu, who has been asking us to take it easy. But that is not how to go about it, unless Atiku thinks himself and Obi can go it alone in the Southeast,” one of the party leaders said.
While speaking on the development, one of the party leaders from the Southeast stated that: “When all of them left, Ekweremadu remained to fight for the survival of this party. How many of them would have resisted the temptation not to defect in the face of the intimidation, harassment, prosecution and persecution meted out on him? As a person, he had nothing to lose if he had defected then. In fact, he had everything to gain. He probably would have been the senate president because he was offered the slot. “Then, when you people now return, you feel that people, who have held this party to survive, do not matter again simply because you got a presidential ticket. Also, even Saraki knows that if DSP had not been loyal, they would have gotten at him (Saraki) long ago. All the trials Ekweremadu was put through were all because of Saraki. But when it was the turn of Saraki to be there for him, he failed him. And as we speak, how many days is this after the primary? Atiku is yet to call DSP. “You don’t treat a man who has been taking bullets on you people’s behalf like that. Well, I wish them and PDP well, but they should know that action begets reaction and they will pay the price for this mistreatment of people, who have laboured for the party at the toughest time. And if Ekweremadu leaves, we will hold Wike and Atiku responsible”.
Is Ekweremadu losing grip?
Perhaps, the first and clear indication of sidelining Ekweremadu was the constitution of the presidential campaign council by the national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, without his knowledge, input, or a single nominee from him as against the usual practise.
Recall that until recently, he was the highest ranking political office holder in the PDP and leader of the party but there appears to be a major conspiracy to allienate him.
After about 16 years, the PDP lost power in the 2015 general elections, having been in power from 1999.
A postmortem assessment of the defeat however, revealed that whereas President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, who truncated the reign of the PDP, enjoyed a cult-like followership in the North, some other factors that contributed to the defeat of the PDP were injustice and impunity.
The PDP, with the ongoing development in the Southeast, no doubt, appears to have put the wrong foot forward again, and is moving in the same direction that led to its defeat in the last general elections.
Presently, the selection of Obi as vice presidential candidate of the PDP, without due consultation, is generating crisis of confidence and relevance of certain stakeholders in the party, and except a drastic action is taken to reinstate confidence among members, the party, in the Southeast may go into the next general elections a divided house.
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