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Friday’s emergence of former Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, as the running mate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, rather that unite the party’s elite in the zone, has provoked massive backlash.
In fact, governors, National Assembly members and stakeholders of the party in zone, yesterday met in Enugu and distanced themselves from the choice.
Even though they acknowledged Obi as their member, they insisted that they were not aware that he had been named Atiku’s running mate, stressing that the information came to them through ‘the social media”
“We are not aware that something like that happened. We read the information from the social media. We are, however, hopeful that when our presidential candidate returns from his trip, he will brief South East leaders properly on the issue. Thereafter, we will be able to speak on the matter,” Chief Austin Umahi, South East zonal chairman of the party told reporters.
At the meeting held behind closed doors at the private residence of Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu were governors Dave Umahi (Ebonyi); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), as well as, former Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha. Also there was party chieftain, Chris Uba, among others.
Obi was not at the meeting and there was no indication that he was invited.
The Enugu meeting, which was billed to start by 10am, was called shortly after Umahi, who is Chairman of South East Governor’s Forum denied a statement by his chief press secretary congratulating Obi on his nomination.
Umahi in his denial said that his chief press secretary did not get his permission before issuing the statement, stressing that neither the governors, nor leaders of the zone were consulted before the choice as agreed.
The meeting, originally scheduled for Enugu Government House was, however, moved to the zonal office of the party on Independence Layout, Enugu, following alleged protest by the Enugu government that it would not want to be seen, or used to sponsor opposition against the choice of the vice presidential candidate.
As at 4.55pm, several party officials who gathered at the secretariat waited. However, each of the governors and few leaders that arrived, instead of moving into the prepared hall, were directed to the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu’s private residence, opposite the zonal office where the decision was taken.
It was from here that Umahi emerged to address party members at the secretariat on the outcome of the meeting.
It was gathered that the anger against Obi was basically because he was not among those that sponsored the party during its crisis period, as well as, his role during the 2015 general elections in which his acceptance to lead the campaigns of the zone did not augur well with some leaders.
Those opposed to it said there was no consultation before it was taken, but a chieftain of the party, however, told The Guardian on grounds of anonymity that certain considerations that include financial muscle, acceptability and one without corruption case, were set out by the party for a would-be running mate.
“This is in consideration of the fact that PDP is not in government and whoever must emerge must be able to provide funds for the campaigns among others,” he said.
Ekweremadu was said to have lost out in the bid following his ongoing investigation and court cases by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his inability to declare his assets.
The source stated that the party was being careful in choosing “who will contest election especially at the national level to avoid any situation that might embarrass it later. You cannot compare Obi with Ekweremadu, despite the fact that Ekweremadu has remained in the PDP and worked for its success.
Obi remains one Igbo man out of government that has not been invited by any security agency for questioning.”
It was also gathered that the former National chairman of the party, Okwy Nwodo was also considered, but was knocked out by age, adding, “the party wanted a younger person.”
Reacting to the development, yesterday, President Emeritus of Igbo Think Tank, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike said: “I have read with disgust the vituperations of the enemies of this country on the choice of Peter Obi as the running mate of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar. The complaints range from the non-consultation, to why the choice should be from the South East, to the ridiculous protest of non-PDP members.
“For the avoidance of doubt, very few people parade the intimidating credentials of Peter Obi. Again, very few people parade the integrity of Peter Obi. Furthermore, very few people parade the common sense economics of Peter Obi. Finally, very few people parade the ability of Peter Obi to overlook personal aggrandisement in public and private life. For those who wish this country well, Peter Obi will bring a lot of good to the economic revival of this country.
“One of the prayers of an ordinary man like me is that we should allow our first 11 to come to power. The names brandished as possible nominees are first class. Now, only one can be chosen and he has been chosen. Our job is to ensure that the Peter Obi, who performed excellently well in Anambra State will repeat the feat at the centre.
“For those who are angry that they were not consulted, Atiku owes that duty to his party. South East Governors Forum comprise of three PDP, one APC and one APGA. So, there is no need for complaints. The last group will be those who see Peter Obi as not likely to play ball, I say good for you. He is not the run-off-the mill politician. Let’s keep Peter Obi the way he is.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, led by Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, yesterday, said the group has set up reconciliation committee led by a renowned academic and London-based scholar Obinna Ukpabi, to spearhead reconciliation efforts and to ensure that peace returns to the South East over Obi’s choice.
In a statement after the group met in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Isiguzoro begged the governors to see the process that threw up Obi as Atiku’s running mate, as a divine mandate and an act of God.
He urged other aggrieved Igbo leaders to rally around Obi and unite for the challenge ahead in order to ensure that South East is 100% PDP in the forthcoming presidential election.
The statement reads: “OYC asks those who lost out in the bid to become Atiku’s running mate to allow the collective interest of Ndigbo to thrive above personal interests and support Peter Obi to deliver the zone in the forthcoming presidential election.”