Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate for next year’s election, is considering selecting one of two South-South governors as his running mate.
According to party sources, Atiku began consultations with the party’s leadership shortly after winning the party’s primary in Abuja on Saturday night.
In his previous run as the party’s candidate in the 2019 election, Atiku chose former Anambra State governor Peter Obi as his running mate.
At the time, Mr Obi’s selection irritated many party leaders, particularly those from the South-East, who complained that he was a new entrant to the party who was unfamiliar with regional party leaders and lacked their trust.
To avoid ruffling feathers again, party sources say Mr Abubakar is working closely with long-time ally Iyorchia Ayu and other top party leaders on the nomination of his running mate.
Who will be Atiku’s Running mate?
According to sources, the talks have so far focused on Mr. Okowa and Mr. Emmanuel, but the Delta governor is said to be the favorite.
Delta State delegates to the PDP National Convention voted for Atiku, ignoring Rivers State Governor Wike and Mr Emmanuel.
This was despite Mr. Okowa hosting a meeting of southern governors in Asaba in May 2021, at which they demanded in a 12-point resolution that the two major parties select their presidential aspirants from Nigeria’s south.
Although other key PDP leaders, such as former governor James Ibori, were thought to have influenced Delta State delegates’ voting patterns, the party is crediting the governor for the delegates’ support for Atiku, whom they say has been strategic in his management of the party in the state.
Another factor said to favor Mr Okowa in the race is his close linguistic and cultural affinity with the South-East, as Igbo is spoken in the governor’s senatorial district in Delta State.
According to party sources, Atiku courted Igbo affection in the previous election but will overlook the area in his choice of running mate this time for a variety of reasons.
The immediate reason is that the zone’s two governors, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, led their party’s delegates to vote for Mr Wike at the convention. However, Atiku was able to secure votes from Imo and Anambra delegates.
Why Udom Emmanuel?
Mr Emmanuel, who, like Atiku, ran in the PDP presidential primary and received the votes of 31 delegates from his state and seven others from Benue, is said to be vying for the nomination because the candidate and party leaders see him and Mr Okowa as having the characteristics of their ideal vice president.
Although Mr. Udom’s refusal to step down in favor of a more viable candidate, even though he knew he had fewer than 50 delegates in his bag, may count against him.
However, party leaders believe the two governors will be loyal to their principal while also performing the constitutional and other roles that may be assigned to them.