•We were not consulted, S/East PDP insists
•How decision may alter nation’s six top offices
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Emeka Mamah & Dirisu Yakubu
In what appears to be a direct response to the feeble opposition of the Ebonyi State governor, Chief Dave Umahi, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has asked Ndigbo to accept the choice of Mr. Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State, as running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in order not to upset the political arrangements ahead of the 2019 general elections.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, the apex Igbo body, Chief Nnia Nwodo, made the appeal in a telephone interview with Sunday Vanguard, yesterday.
He spoke against the backdrop of the claim by Umahi, who is also the Chairman of the South-East Governors’ Forum, that the zone’s leaders were not consulted before Atiku, a former Vice President, nominated Obi as his running mate.
“As the National President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, I am a father to all the political parties. My appeal is that Igbo leaders in the PDP should let bygone be bygone and accept whoever has been nominated. We should not upset the applecart. We should accept Peter Obi so that we can move ahead, politically. This is both my prayer and appeal,” Nwodo said.
In a related development, Obi’s emergence as PDP vice-presidential candidate may have begun to clarify the PDP permutations of its zoning of the nation’s six top political offices.
The six offices are President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker, Deputy Senate President and Deputy Speaker.
With the North-East and South-East already settled for the offices of President and Vice-President, there were indications that the office of Senate President had been zoned to the North-Central with Senator Bukola Saraki in pole position for it.
As part of the bargains between Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, and Atiku, the South-West, Sunday Vanguard gathered, is to get the office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, in addition to the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives. The office of Deputy Senate President is to go to the South-South while the office of Deputy Speaker could be zoned to the North-West.
Also, yesterday, the PDP denied the existence of a rift within its ranks over the choice of Obi as running mate to its presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections.
A party official, who declined to be named, told Sunday Vanguard: “There are no issues as far as the choice of the running mate is concerned,” adding that the decision on who gets on the ballot with Atiku is exclusively the prerogative of the former Vice President to make.
“There are no issues. Everything is alright. Yes, there are insinuations and speculations but there are no problems, no issues. Our presidential candidate has the right to choose whoever he feels comfortable to work with.”
‘Breathe of fresh air’
Friends of Obi described the former governor’s nomination as vice presidential candidate as the breathe of fresh air into Nigerian politics judging by what they described as tremendous feats Obi achieved in Anambra State as a two-term governor.
Speaking on their behalf, a former Chairman of Orumba North local government area, Chief Okey Enekwa, thanked Atiku for anointing Obi as his running mate , pointing out that friends of Obi across South-East, Anambra and Orumba North would support the nomination to actualize the dream of a better Nigeria.
‘’Peter Obi is an enigma. Love him or hate him, he is an achiever and once he sets his eyes on the ball, forget the distractions because he comes out glorious judging from his Anambra experience where against all odds , he served for 8 years and demystified leadership. Obi is an architect of good governance and democratic reformations in Nigeria when he challenged his stolen mandate, impeachment and term of office. The records are there in public”, Enekwe said.
Bishop of Awka Anglican Diocese, Most Reverend Alexander Chibuzor Ibezim, who also spoke to journalists, yesterday, described the nomination of Obi as running mate, as a good omen for Ndigbo. Ibezim, while thanking God that Obi was nominated, asked God to help him actualize his dream, insisting that it is good for Igbo nation if the joint ticket succeeds in the 2019 general elections.
Meanwhile, leaders of PDP in the South-East, yesterday, insisted that they were not consulted before Atiku picked Obi as his running mate.
The leaders, who met in Enugu, said they only heard about Obi’s choice in the social media and felt humiliated by the former vice president.
The Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum, Umahi, who addressed newsmen after the meeting, however, said that Atiku will meet with Igbo leaders over the choice of his running mate.
The Ebonyi governor revealed that Atiku sent a message during their emergency meeting informing them that he was out of the country on a short period and pleaded with them to remain calm as he will be coming down to the zone to dialogue with leaders.
“We saw news flying up and down saying that our presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has picked a running mate from the zone. We were shocked because we were not consulted. While we were meeting, Atiku sent message that he travelled out of the country for a short period. He promised to come down and meet with South East leaders”, he said.
The meeting was attended by Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu State), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State), Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Senators Sam Egwu, Theodore Orji and other members of the National Assembly from the zone among other major stakeholders.