Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, has responded to the debate around his selection of Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate and the rationale for his decision to pass on Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State.
According to reports, Atiku explained why he chose Okowa as his running mate by saying that the Delta governor possessed the traits necessary to be president and that he “is a President-in-waiting.”
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 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.”
On June 29, 2022, during an interview on Arise TV, the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, stated that Wike and others who supported the governor of Rivers for the PDP vice-presidential ticket position deserved a thorough justification from the party’s presidential candidate on his choice of running mate.
This came at the same time that he claimed to have turned to fasting and prayer in order to seek God’s guidance following the selection of Okowa as Atiku’s running partner over Wike.
Ortom remarked that it was remarkable that Atiku could disregard the advice of 14 of the committee’s 17 members who had suggested Wike as his running mate.
Ortom said, “I am waiting for him (Atiku) because there are more things he is expected to do. I expected him to reach out to Wike who came second and he denied him the popular view of PDP members. 14 out of 17 members say that Wike should be the VP but in his wisdom, he chose Governor Okowa. Governor Okowa is a nice man and my friend and I have no problem with him. But if we are in a democratic era, and 14 people out of 17 said that it should be Wike, and he (Atiku) in his wisdom gave it to Okowa, I expect more explanation, I expect him to talk to Wike first, I expect him to even reach out to some of us so that together we can work as a party.
“But the bottom line for me is that I have gone into hibernation and I am praying and at the end, whatever God directs me, I can assure you that I will do it.”
But in an exclusive interview with Arise TV, which was broadcast Friday morning, Atiku said he picked the candidates he thought could deliver out of those that were put forward to him.
He continued by saying that Wike wasn’t passed over and that he only chose capable candidate who could deliver.
Atiku said, “I didn’t reject Wike, I picked who can deliver. Wike is brilliant and tenacious. Going by history, I picked an Igbo as running mate in 2007, in 2019. I still picked an Igbo as running mate for 2023.
“The committee that presented the three nominees was chaired by the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom. They recommended three people, so I picked one. People should be fair to me and state the facts.”
On the possibility of resolving issues with Wike, Atiku said the party was talking to Wike.
“We are reaching out to Wike and we are talking with him and I believe very soon we will find a reconciliation. In fact, very soon, because we are talking to him.
“We are talking to his governor colleagues. I am very optimistic we are going to resolve our internal crisis and move on.”
He added, “I have contested this presidency a couple of times and I don’t try to blame anybody, I accept the outcome or go to court,” Atiku said.
Atiku also noted that he was driven by the passion to serve the country.
“I’m driven by passion and desire to give back to this country. I’m driven by the passion to give back to this country because of what the country has done for me.
“With what I have been able to accomplish at my age, I don’t desire any other thing other than the passion to serve my country.
When asked about zoning, Atiku noted that the PDP had never consented to assign the presidency to the South and that such a concession had never been made.
“We never zoned to any part of the country,” he said