By Emmanuel Aziken
Though enjoying a deserved holiday in Turkey after his loss of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP presidential election primaries, supporters of Governor Nyesom Wike were firing on all cylinders across the polity.
Many had believed that the worse was over following the reconciliation visit by the winner, Atiku Abubakar to Wike on May 30, 2022, days after the nomination convention.
However, on Wednesday two close associates of Wike came out in the media to infer that the split in the party occasioned by the presidential primaries was not yet over.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State in a television interview accused the PDP flag-bearer of not being tidy in the selection of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as the running mate.
Ortom who did not hide his preference for Wike in the nomination process spoke in an interview on Arise TV. He said:
“My friend Wike deserves the vacation after what he has gone through. Some of us believe he (Wike) has the capacity and Charisma to lift this country from bottom to top compared to what has been happening. We have been taken from the top in 2015 to the bottom since this present administration came into power.”
Following him, former Governor Ayodele Fayose even came out to reopen the old wound of zoning of the presidential ticket of the party.
Though Fayose contested the ticket even after the party had decided on the basis of necessity to throw open the ticket to all zones, his decision to reject the outcome was at the weekend puzzling some stakeholders.
Giving vent to his stance through his Twitter handle on Wednesday, the former Ekiti State governor who scored zero in the primary election, said:
“The PDP Constitution provides for a rotational Presidency. Section 3(c) provides that the Party shall pursue its aims & objectives by adhering to the policy of the rotation & zoning of Party & Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.”
The double action of Ortom and Fayose, two close associates of Wike coming out against the stance of the mainstream of the party as represented at the national convention has not been lost on some.
It was as such remarkable that the action of the outgoing governor of Benue State and the immediate past governor of Ekiti State was scrutinized by a PDP group on Wednesday.
In a statement issued in Lagos on the issue, the Centre for Integrity and Good Governance (CIGG) poohpoohed the stance of Governor Ortom on the process of selection of the running mate, saying it was wholly the choice of the presidential ticket holder, and that is Atiku.
The group in the statement signed by Mr Waheed Aderibigbe, said that it was shocking that some Nigerians would jettison the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic and of the constitution in pushing forward a narrative against the emergence of Okowa.
He said that some Nigerians had chosen to play to the gallery or even base their argument on emotional sentiments.
Aderibigbe said that the most any political party could do was to present names of probable candidates to a standard-bearer, from which he or she could pick the vice-presidential candidate of his or her choice.
According to him, Section 142 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended states that: “In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Chapter relate, a candidate for an election to the office of President shall not be deemed to be validly nominated unless he nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party for his running for the office of President, who is to occupy the office of Vice-President”.
It further states that: “And that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Vice-President if the candidate for an election to the office of President, who nominated him as such associate is duly elected as President in accordance with the provisions aforesaid”.
Aderibigbe said that Atiku in fidelity to the extant law exercised this power and privilege, which the constitution vested on him.
He said that any input from the party stakeholders, including the National Working Committee, the Board of Trustees (BoT), elders of the party, among others, was advisory.
The CIGG convener faulted the comments of the Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue state, who said that the party should have picked Gov Nyesom Wike of Rivers State as Atiku’s running mate.
“Atiku Abubakar has shown respect for the rule of law by following the provision of Section 142 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended in choosing his running mate.
“He should be applauded for abiding by the law and making his choice as demanded by the Constitution.
“The input or suggestion from any of the stakeholders in his party remains advisory, the onus to finally pick one person out of many rests on the candidate, not the party,” he said.
Saturday Vanguard reports that besides the provision of the constitution that there were also reports that the Northern establishment which swung victory to Atiku at the PDP convention was also adamant on Okowa on account of his perceived gentleness as a presidential running mate.
However, going into the campaigns the PDP leadership has its job already set for it to ensure that it manages Wike and at the same time projecting the advantages that pushed forward Okowa as the presidential running mate.
In announcing Okowa as his running mate after a party panel had proposed Wike, Okowa and Governor Udom Emmanuel, Atiku had referred to consultations and his belief that his running mate must be fit to take over the office of president at any opportunity.
He had said:
He said, “In arriving at the decision, I held wide consultations with various stakeholders in our party including our governors, the national working committee, board of trustees, and other leaders to seek their inputs and their wisdom.”
”In these consultations, I made clear that my running mate would have the potential to succeed me at a moment’s notice, that is, a president-in-waiting.
”In other words, the person must have the qualities to be President. The person must have an appreciation of the deep rot which our country has been put into by the rudderless APC (All Progressives Congress) government; understands the great suffering that most of our people are going through and the urgency of relieving them of that suffering; understands the critical importance of economic growth and development to provide our young people with jobs, hope, and a pathway to wealth.”