2019: Yoruba PDP elders urge Igbos to rally around Peter Obi

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South-West leaders have cautioned South-East leaders to eschew all forms of acrimony and rally around Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, who has been picked as the vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2019 election.

Some South-East leaders of the PDP had expressed indignation that they were unaware that the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had picked 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 State governor, Sam Egwu, among others, said the report of Obi’s choice was a rumour to them.

However, speaking to Daily Independent on Tuesday, Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, warned the South-East leaders not to scuttle the chances of the region in producing the president in 2023.

While urging them to rally around Obi and speak with one voice, George said zoning the vice presidential slot of the PDP to the South-East was a great honour which they should cherish.

He added that other regions in the country are watching the ongoing developments and that acrimonious voices from the region would send negative messages to other Nigerians.

He said: “My advice to our Igbo brothers is ‘Nwayo, nwayo’. Let them cool down. Anybody of Igbo extraction should bury any acrimony and support the vice presidential candidate.

“They should be united now so that in 2023, when the presidency comes to the South, it must go to the South-East. So, I want to beg them that they should be patient.

“If they do, that will show other Nigerians that there is unity, oneness, peace, and togetherness in the South-East.

“Any acrimonious voices coming from there will send a negative message to other Nigerians. This is a time they must act as one and join hands for the progress of the South-East.

“Nigerians from other zones are watching. It is a great honour being bestowed on them by choosing the vice presidential candidate from their zone. They should all join hands together and rally behind Peter Obi.”

Also speaking, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, a former Minister of Transport, warned South-East leaders against actions that might jeopardise the region’s chances in the future.

Babatope, a member of the PDP’s Board of Trustees (BoT) who also described Obi’s choice as a laudable decision by Atiku, urged Igbo leaders to support him so as to achieve success for the PDP in the presidential elections.

“Those leaders in the South-East opposing Peter Obi don’t know him. I know him very well. He is a very good fellow. I worked with him in 2015 during the Goodluck Jonathan presidential campaign. He is a decent man and an excellent manager of men and resources.

“I don’t know why they are opposing him. I have always argued that the South-East should produce the vice presidential candidate and now that Obi has been chosen, I think the best thing for the leaders in the zone to do is to rally behind him.”

In his remark, Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, said the Igbo leaders should think deeply and stop dissipating their energies on whether the decision to choose Obi as running mate to Atiku was right or not.

He said since leaders in the zone had agreed that what was paramount to them was the restructuring of the country, they should support the candidate who had promised to make that his priority if elected.

According to him, “The Yoruba have a saying, ‘Yoruba Ronu’, which means Yoruba think deeply. In Igbo language, it is Igbo ronu. So, the Igbo should ronu.

“One of them has been picked as vice presidential candidate. The best thing for them is to rally around him. This is not the time for the dissipation of energy. They should also not forget that what is paramount to us is restructuring. The Yoruba have the vice president now, what have they achieved?”

Daily Independent also gathered that Obi has begun personal moves to individually appease the aggrieved leaders in a bid to win their support.

A source close to the governor said in the last few days Obi had met key leaders of the region such as Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Senate President, who is rumoured to be the leader of the opposition against his choice.

He is also believed to have met with Theodore Orji, former Abia State governor; Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, lawmaker representing Abia South Senatorial District; Senator Ben Obi, and other leaders.

“Since the opposition began, Obi has been meeting with key leaders of the zone on individual basis, soliciting their support, and I believe this will continue in the next couple of days. He will also issue an official statement on the issue soon,” the source said.

Another source said Atiku, who is currently in the United Kingdom (UK), will meet with the party leaders in the South-East who are believed to be unhappy with his choice of Obi.

“The disappointment of some PDP leaders in the South-East is something I know Atiku will look at once he comes back from the UK,” the source said.

He added: “He’s willing to meet with South-East PDP leaders to discuss, but the option would not be about changing Peter Obi; the option would be about discussing every other political appointment with them before announcing them.

“Atiku is very open to discussing with those who are aggrieved; he wants to carry everyone along, and that’s the reason you’ve not seen him tweet about Obi’s emergence as his running mate.

“The campaign organisation has come out to say this is the running mate, but for Atiku personally, he would have to carry everyone along, which is why he has been silent about it on social media.”

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