By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, John Alechenu & Luminous Jannamike, ABUJA

If what transpired at the meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party Selection Committee, saddled with the responsibility of recommending a running mate for its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is anything to go by, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, will be picked as the party’s vice-presidential candidate.

The committee, sources told Vanguard, recommended the Rivers State governor after 13 of 17 members, who attended the meeting at the PDP National Secretariat, yesterday, voted in favour of Wike, three voted for others, while the chairman who can only vote when there is a tie did not vote.

This came on the day Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, told journalists that the All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will decide who his running mate would be.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria has warned the APC against fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket, saying it would not augur well for peace and unity in the country.

How the PDP committee chose Wike

The source said: “The panel initially trimmed the list to three — Nyesom Wike, Ifeanyi Okowa, and Udom Emmanuel. When the names were subjected to further scrutiny and put to vote, 16 out of 19 voted in Wike’s favour. With his track record of loyalty to the party and performance at our just-concluded presidential primaries, most of us felt this is the right thing to do.”

Another party source told the Vanguard that the party equally took a cue from the United States where “Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris as running mate after he defeated her in the Democratic Party presidential primary in a bid to unite the party.”

Wike scored 237 against the 371 delegate votes at the PDP presidential primary secured by Atiku, who won the nomination.

However, the final decision on the eventual running mate remains the prerogative of the party candidate who is currently out of the country.

Earlier in his remarks, the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, expressed confidence that the party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will on or before Friday, present a running mate Nigerians will relate well with and vote into office.

We’ll name running mate in 48 hours — Ayu

Ayu gave the assurance in his opening remarks at a meeting with members of the consultative committee set up to assist Atiku to choose a running mate.

He explained that the meeting was in furtherance of consultations aimed at arriving at a choice that Nigerians would be glad to elect into office.

Ayu said: “The presidential candidate of our party would have been here but this morning he suddenly dashed somewhere, he apologised and if he comes early, he will join us but we will go ahead with the assignment he has given us.

“The candidate wrote to us as the administrative arm of the party on the choice of his running mate. Various organs of the party are well represented in his committee, NWC, governors forum, National Assembly, and former governors who have put forward their candidates

“This deliberation will be chaired by my Deputy, Ambassador Umaru Damagum. I wish you a successful deliberation and I hope you come up with a conclusion between tomorrow and Friday. Our presidential candidate this time has decided to carry everybody along, unlike in 2019 when he didn’t consult widely in his choice of running mate.”

The meeting had in attendance the Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Aminu Tambuwal; Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed; Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom; former Senate President, David Mark; former Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko; former Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke; Senator Philip Aduda; Deputy National Chairman (North), Umar Damagun; and Mr Ndudi Elumelu among others.

Group roots for Wike

In a related development, a group of parliamentarians under the aegis of the Patriotic Parliamentarians Front, PPF, a pressure group within the PDP, has advised the party to pick Wike as its vice-presidential candidate.

Already, two members of the PDP in the House of Representatives – former Deputy Minority Leader, Honourable Chukwuka Wilson Onyema and Honourable Tajudeen Yusuf (PDP, Kogi State) have started mobilizing others towards ensuring the emergence of an Atiku/Wike ticket.

PPF’s spokesman, Alhaji Mohammed Maikano who revealed this in Abuja, said progress is already being made in the North with the mobilization for Southern votes now a major concern.

He disclosed that objective assessments made by the group deeply assert the significance of South-South votes for PDP’s 2023 electoral victory, adding that there is no doubt that Governor Wike will be key to the party’s 2023 election game plan.

Maikano said: “Our calculation based on exhaustive studies, is that no one in the entire South-South geopolitical zone can surpass the votes and other strategic resources that can be mobilised towards achieving victory for Atiku/PDP in the 2023 elections. In past elections, Governor Nyesom Wike had defied great odds and consistently delivered the highest quantum of votes for PDP in the entire South-South geopolitical zone.

“Governor Nyesom Wike’s formidable networks and resourcefulness made a very impressive impact in his first attempt for the presidency; his extensive networks across the South-South, South-East and all states being controlled by non-PDP governors add to the fact that he resolutely kept PDP alive when other governors were hesitant.”

Tinubu, not APC governors’ll choose a running mate — Uzodimma

Meanwhile, Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, yesterday warned against actions capable of endangering national unity and cohesion

Speaking to State House correspondents after a meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the governor said the choice of the running mate would be decided by Tinubu and not APC governors.

He said if the choice was left to him, he would consider religious denomination, ethnicity, followership, and factors that would create spread since the business of politics was to win elections.

Fielding a question on Muslim-Muslim tickets and the choice of a running mate, he said: “There are internal characteristics that the decision-maker may consider in the process of making his decision. The decision whether to choose Mr A or Mr B to be a running mate to a candidate is entirely that of the candidate.

“You started by saying the governors of the Sout- East are complaining of not having the opportunity of being a running mate anymore. But that is not the sole ambition of Southeasterners, talkless of the governors. In the business of presidential primaries, there is no election for a vice-presidential candidate. The business there is just to elect a candidate.

“In that ballot paper, there is no room for delegates to vote for who will be your running mate. So, that explains why it is not a decision for the public. It is the decision of the candidate. The first thing to do is to let the candidate. Now a candidate has emerged.

“Now the candidate will factor into consideration some ideas and issues like how to create a spread. Spread is very important to be able to attract votes. So, the decision of who becomes your running mate, if I were the candidate, what will inform it is an action that will enable me to get the kind of votes I’m looking for because the ultimate goal is to win the election.

“So, maybe I’ll start from the denomination, ethnicity, or followership. In this business of democracy, I think the number is what is very important. And there are certain things as a nation, we should not bring to the public discourse. 

“Those things that are capable of creating divisiveness against national unity should not be encouraged. It does not mean that I will not remember that I come from a place but I must also be cautious about how to use where I come from in taking national decisions.

“The second question which is about a running mate, South-East is not meant for running mate. What we wanted as a zone was to be the president of Nigeria and I was convinced that it was proper for us to ask for it.  But in this business, it is partisan democracy, the minority will have their view but the majority will have their way. In the wisdom of the delegates that elected presidential candidate, a candidate has emerged, our party APC will come together, work for our candidate and produce the next president.”

When asked to comment on the alleged move by Tinubu to run with a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the Imo governor argued that the Nigerian Constitution does not dwell on religion as a factor in the selection of a presidential running mate.

‘Religion not a constitutional factor’

He said: “There is nowhere in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where religion is a factor or characteristic as to who becomes the president or who becomes the running mate.

“But we are looking for a united Nigeria where governance will be the issue, where a president would be adjudged by his capacity to deliver democratic dividends, develop Nigeria to look like other parts of the Western world where democracy is working.

“I don’t want us to reduce governance in Nigeria to certain things that will encourage divisiveness. Rather, we should be a united Nigeria, be our brother’s keepers, and have a president of Nigeria that will be a president representing every tribe, every religion, and every denomination, and when we get there, we will cross the bridge. 

“The decision to choose a running mate does not reside with any of us, the governors. It is the presidential candidate that will look at the local characteristics and every factor, political and apolitical that will make him win his election and take the decision. So, it’s not a decision that we will sit here and take for the candidate.” 

The Imo State Governor admonished that each section of the country requires the others to be able to produce the president, saying that the South-East zone will work on what has so far prevented it from reaching the goal.

According to him, “When I appeared on Channels in the morning of the convention I told you that one of the conventions governing our polity in Nigeria is a power shift. That power comes to the north and goes to the south. When the power came to the south, in 1999, we ceded it to South West and all of us voted as Nigerians.

“The next time power came to the South, it went to South-South and all of us voted as Nigerians. We expected that now that power came back to the South, it will go to the South-East but this is not a decision that a geopolitical zone alone can take.

“No geopolitical zone can become a president without the participation of other political zones. So, when you don’t get the co-operation, you begin to find out why and you work towards getting the cooperation next time because it has to be a united country for you to become president.

“We are not talking about the president of South-East, South-South or South-West. We are talking about the president of Nigeria. For a Southerner to become president, he needs the votes from the North, for a northerner to become the president he needs the votes from the South.”

Muslim-Muslim ticket bad for peace, unity — Catholic  Secretariat

However, the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria has warned the APC, PDP, and other political parties to resist the temptation of nominating a Muslim-Muslim ticket in next year’s presidential election. It also urged those toying with the idea of the same-religion ticket to have a rethink and retrace their steps.

This was contained in a statement issued on Tuesday night in which the Catholic Church insisted that there must be sensitivity in the spread of political positions without compromising competence in 2023.

The statement titled: ‘Towards 2023 Election: Advancing the Path to Unity and Peace,’ was co-signed by the CSN’s Secretary-General, Very Rev. Fr. Zacharia Samjumi, and the Director, Social Communications, Very Rev. Fr. Michael Umoh.

The Catholic Secretariat charged concerned citizens to redouble their efforts in resisting the Muslim-Muslim ticket which it described as a” budding injustice that may be hatched against a cross-section of the people.”

It reads in part: “It is disheartening to observe that the conduct of most of our politicians seem to be going from bad to worse as we witnessed a show of shame and heightened ugly culture of money politics during the recently held primaries. While all this is going on, we must not lose sight of the fact that the unity of this country has, over the years, been maintained by a delicate balancing of the religious and the regional.

“Ordinarily, there would have been nothing wrong with a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket in a democratic dispensation if there is mutual trust and respect for the human person and where the overriding desire for seeking political office is the fostering of the common good. But one cannot say so of our country at the moment.

“With the present glaring crisis and division in the nation, a Muslim-Muslim ticket would be most insensitive and a tacit endorsement of the negative voices of many non-state actors who have been threatening this nation’s unity and peaceful coexistence without an arrest.

“We therefore strongly advise those political parties toying with a divisive agenda to have a rethink by presenting a more inclusive ticket while calling on all people of goodwill to resist this budding injustice that may be hatched against a cross-section of the people.”

The Catholic Church noted that even in the despotic military era, most juntas ensured a balance of the religious architecture in their regimes.

“We had Murtala-Obasanjo, Obasanjo-Yar’adua, Babangida-Ebitu Ukiwe, Abacha-Diya. This also applied to the heads of the various military formations and the different government parastatals like Customs, Immigrations, Finance, etc.

“Significantly, it was only during the General Muhammadu Buhari era as military Head of State (Dec 31, 1983 – Aug. 27, 1985) that we had a Muslim-Muslim military dictatorship.

“Similarly, only once did we have a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 1993 democratic elections, which featured the Abiola-Kingibe ticket and turned out to be one of Nigeria’s freest and fairest elections. But that government never took off,” the statement read.

Nevertheless, it urged all Nigerians, individually and collectively, to do everything in their power to seek and work for unity and justice, so that the nation may attain lasting peace.

Vanguard News Nigeria

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.