The on-going “battles” between some politicians from the South-East for the vice presidential slot of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s presidential election may have hit the rock as party leadership wants the South-Westzone to produce the occupant.
Already, PDP has zoned the presidential slot to the North, while lobbyists from the South-East working on the zoning arrangement in the party went to work seeking to grab the running mate slot.
But their dreamsare going awry as impeccable sources at the Wadata Plaza headquarters of the PDP informed media sources that the current thinking in the National Working Committee (NWC) and other members and affiliates at the apex of the party management are no longer in that direction.
It was learnt that the PDP leadership is under pressure, especially from its patrons, especially retired military brass and former national leaders, to source its presidential running mate from the South-West or the South-South.
The rationale for this move, sources said, is because the South-East is no longer being regarded as a beautiful bride by the PDP.
We gathered that voters from the zone, by virtue of their widespread aversion to President Muhmamadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC), really have no other option than to vote for the PDP, especially as the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), which would have been a ready alternative for them, is not likely to field a presidential candidate and is billed to support the incumbent president, who would be the candidate of the APC.
Also, the arithmetic of vote count towards winning the forthcoming presidential election does not favour a candidate from the South-East. Even as a vice presidential candidate, it has the least number of registered voters compared with other geopolitical zones.
For example, of the total 73,944,312 registered voters in Nigeria as of January 2018, the North-West geo-political zone has the highest number of 18,505,984 voters, while the South-East trails with 8,293,093 registered voters.
The South-West comes second with 14,626,800 registered voters; South-South is close with 11,101,093 registered voters. North-Central has 10,586,965 registered voters, while the North-East zone has 9,929,015 voters.
“In the crunch to win the elections, PDP is looking at where it can get the votes to enable it fare well.
“It is no longer a secret that up to four or more high-heeled politicians from the South-East have been knocking on every door across the country, lobbying to be picked as the running mate to any Northern candidate that would emerge as the PDP presidential flag-bearer,” a competent source told our reporters.
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu;former governor of Anambra StatePeter Obi, as well as the former Adviser on Inter-Party Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan,Chief Ben Ndi-Obi, have before now been positioning themselves for the running mate slot and are known to have been making high level contact though individuals and groups all over the country, to project their wishes to be picked.
Outside these three, there are also former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. ChukwumaSoludo, who was rumoured last week to have attempted to drag AlhajiAtikuAbubakar to APGA, where he is a prominent stakeholder, and to contest from there, a story that has been stridently denied by the Atiku camp and APGA.
However, It has been revealed that if Atiku is not picked as the PDP flagbearer, Soludo and like-minded people in Igboland will work for his adoption by APGA.
Another group of stakeholders are rooting for the President-General of the OhanaezeNdigbo,Chief NniaNwodo, as he is also being tipped and would mount serious campaign for Atiku to consider him as his running mate, if he picks the APGA ticket.
The PDP, believes that making further investments like a presidential running mate in the South-East would be an overkill, as it is the other zones where it regards as the “battle zones” that require such an attention.
“With or without a running mate, the South-East is a PDP wet ground any day”, our correspondent was told by top level sources in the PDP.
Presidential aspirants under the PDP platform include Atiku, former Governor of Kano State and serving Senator, RabiuMusa Kwankwaso; former Governor of Jigawa State and former Foreign Affairs Minister, SuleLamido; former Governor of Kano State and one-time Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shakarau, and former Governor of Kaduna State and erstwhile chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, Ahmed Makarfi.
Others are the former Governor of Sokoto State, AttahiruBafarawa;incumbent Governor ofGombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo; former Governor of Plateau State and serving Senator, David Jang; former Minister of Special Duties, TanimuTuraki, and a former member of the House of Representatives, AlhajiDatti Baba-Ahmed.
The late entrants are the incumbent Governor of Sokoto State and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, AminuTambuwal, and the Senate President, AbubakarBukolaSaraki. Saraki formally joined the race last Thursday.
Of the above, PDP sources said the only one who would be under pressure to pick a vice presidential candidate from the South-East is Senator Saraki.
But this option is being shot down by the challenge that none of the governors of the South-East extraction would be willing to contribute generously to such campaign as they have been lukewarm in funding party activities in the last three and half years.
A source said this leaves the South-South as the beautiful bride, as their governors have the resources and are willing to fund the party’s activities.
Efforts made to contact the highest ranking member of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), from the South East, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd), for comment proved abortive as his lines could not be reached.
However, one of his aides told media sources that “the current permutations have shifted attention of political gladiators from the South-East to ferociously tackle one another to grab the Governorship, Senate and House of Representatives tickets.
“I can assure you that the refusal of our people to register as voters is not helping matters. Our people are politically naïve and this is our greatest undoing despite the fact that we believe that Ndigbo are numerically stronger than any other race in this country, given the fact that all over the country, they are next in number to the indigenous people, but we are politically ignorant, believing that political office comes as a matter of logic or rational thinking,” the aide stressed.