It has been revealed how Iyorchia Ayu, National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo, and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State prevailed on Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate for the 2023 election, not to pick Governor Nyesom Wike as his running mate.
The interview granted last week by Atiku Abubakar on his choice of Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate has been causing ripples in the party and may not end soon with just few months to the 2023 general elections.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Arise TV which was monitored by Daily Independent, Atiku denied report by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State that the 17-member committee set up by the party to search for a running mate recommended Wike for the position which he then rejected.
According to him, he was only presented with three names and he chose Okowa, whom he felt could deliver the needed votes in discredthe Southern parts of the country.
On calls for the resignation of the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, Atiku also said he can only step down if he is elected as president in 2023.
“The committee deliberated. But there was no vote and they recommended three names for me to choose because they know it is my prerogative. Ortom chaired the panel and he knows. What Ortom said was inaccurate. There was no record of any vote”.
“Governor Wike was not rejected. Nobody was rejected in the party. But you must understand that it’s the prerogative of the candidate to pick his running mate — a running mate he believes he can work with amicably, and then also deliver the policies of the party, and also try to unify the country.
“Governor Wike is a brilliant politician. He’s courageous, tenacious. I believe he has a future in the political evolution of this country. It’s not a question of rejection.
Certainly, not. I think it’s too harsh a word to say that we rejected Governor Wike. Certainly not.”
Reacting to Atiku’s interview, Wike who has maintained an uncommon silence on the matter disclosed that he will soon speak on recent happenings in the party.
“On Atiku, I will speak soon and Nigerians will know the actual truth of all that has transpired in the PDP in recent times.”
An aide of the Rivers State governor said he (Wike) may be forced to speak on the agreement reached by PDP governors with Ayu to resign if the party produces a Northern presidential candidate and other details relating to the crisis which has trailed the emergence of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate.
When contacted by Daily Independent, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) said while Governor Wike has every right to be angry, they are trying to prevail on him not to reveal sensitive information as it will only worsen the situation.
The former military governor, who spoke off record, said the fact that Governor Wike has majority of governors on his side shows that the general feeling was that he was unfairly treated.
He said Atiku should have maintained silence like Wike while concerned stakeholders are working behind the scene to mend the fences and put the party in shape ahead of the general elections.
Giving a breakdown on what transpired, he said, “The party set up a committee for the search of a running mate.
In giving the committee the assignment, the party leadership penciled down three names of serving PDP governors.
The three names were Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom; Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
“In the course of the deliberation, the members were told to speak on the three men. 14 spoke in favour of Wike while three spoke in favour of Okowa. Nobody recommended Udom.
“The panel then resolved that having gotten the highest recommendation, the vice presidential candidate should be Wike”.
That is why if you look at the report submitted by the committee, Wike’s name is number one on the list, followed by Okowa and Udom’s name is in third position.
“After the meeting ended, the information got to Wike on what transpired. So, he was already aware that he is the choice of the committee.
“After the national chairman was aware that it was Wike that was recommended by 14 out of the 17-member panel, he strongly objected to it because he felt Wike will go after him and make his position to be ceded to another zone. Of course, that was the agreement they had when they wanted to make him national chairman.
“The agreement was that Ayu will step down if the presidential candidate emerges from the North”.
“Ayu then assembled some pro-Atiku people and they went and met the presidential candidate in the night.
They then prevailed on him that he cannot work with Wike as he will be too strong for him and that Okowa will be easier to work with. That was how the story changed from Wike to Okowa.
It is a very easy choice for Atiku to accept Okowa because he invested heavily in Atiku’s campaign during the PDP primaries. So, Atiku picking Okowa is like a reward.
“Governors Godwin Obaseki, Udom Emmanuel and Aminu Tambuwal were part of the people who accompanied the national chairman to Atiku’s place.
“Atiku himself was not really comfortable with Wike based on the confrontations between them in the past.
“After the convention, he met with Wike and promised to make him his running mate but some of his associates and party stakeholders warned him against it”.
“Wike was planning to come to Abuja for the unveiling but as soon as he got report that his name has been changed for Okowa, he stayed back. Many of the governors who also felt dismayed by the rejection of the panel recommendation also stayed away from the unveiling of Okowa.
“That was why governors were not in attendance when Okowa was unveiled. Only Obaseki and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, were in attendance.
The Bauchi governor thought it was Wike’s unveiling but when they told him it is now Okowa, he didn’t like it and left.
“When the Southern governors were asking for Southern presidency, Okowa was going through the backdoor to work for Atiku.
That was why Wike was angry after the primaries and he accused some governors of betraying the South.
“That is the whole truth about what transpired. I don’t know if there are other things that Governor Wike knows which may not be privy to some of us. But even if he does, how will that resolve the issue? It will only make matters worse”, he said.