Ironically, the only controversy surrounding the nomination of former Anambra State Governor as Vice Presidential candidate by Abubakar Atiku has originated from his immediate political constituency, the South East.
Atiku who emerged as the Presidential candidate of the PDP at the Port Harcourt convention of the party on Sunday 7th October nominated Peter Obi on Friday 12th October to run with him in next year’s elections.
But South East Governors of the People’s democratic Party and other party notables and candidates in the forthcoming elections reacted swiftly disowning Peter Obi the next day, Saturday. They described the choice as an insult on the entire Igbo leaders.
Rising from a meeting in the Enugu house of Chief Ike Ekweremadu, the Deputy Senate President, the leaders argued that Mr Obi is an Igbo son and therefore Atiku should not have nominated him without the consent of leaders from the zone with whom he had bargained for the Vice Presidential slot.
The Zonal Vice Chairman of the PDP, Mr Austin Umahi, said that the party in the zone still believes that the announcement of Obi was a social media invention as Atiku is yet to discuss with the leaders of the zone on his choice of vice from the region.
The meeting was attended by Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Chief David Umahi (Ebonyi); former governors of Ebonyi Senator, Dr Sam Egwu and Abia, Senator Theodore Orji; Imo PDP governorship candidate and former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, former Anambra State PDP governorship candidate, Chief Obazie Oseloka, and Ekweremadu.
Members of the PDP in the House of Representatives who were elected in the just concluded primaries and other candidates of the party across the Southeast states were also in attendance.
However, Chief Oseloka Obaze, who came for the meeting but could not enter into the venue queried the decision of the leaders and the governors of the Southeast, asking “is Peter Obi not one of us? When did zonal consultation on the vice presidential ticket start or is this meant to be the first?”
He said that in the Igbo Language, “even a mad man has relatives,” whom you may only identify when the madman is being beaten in the public and they will come to his defense.
He pointed out that in 1979, Shehu Shagari did not consult the Southeast NPN before choosing Alex Ekwueme as his running mate.
“Indeed, Ekwueme who was then resident in London had been introduced to Shehu Shagari by the late Sir Joe Nwankwu. In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo did not consult the Northeast PDP leaders before he selected Atiku Abubakar. Indeed, Atiku having won the gubernatorial election in his state was driving to Adamawa on the fateful day when he got a call to return to Abuja to meet Obasanjo to become his running mate.
“In 2007, Umaru Yar’Adua did not consult the South-South PDP leadership before picking Goodluck Jonathan. Rather, after Peter Odili was blocked as presidential candidate, it was James Ibori that Yar’Adua wanted as his running mate. It was the trio of Ahmadu Ali, Olusegun Obasanjo and Tony Anenih who decided, without any consultations with the region on Jonathan in order to block some PDP governors who were scheming to nominate another person after the rejection of Peter Odili as presidential candidate,” Obaze said
Other commentators also expressed great anger at the position of the South East political leaders concerning Peter Obi’s nomination. Writing on his facebook page, Uche Ezechukwu, a senior journalist from Anambra State referred to the actions and utterances of the dissenting leaders as “shenanigans and blackmail of the political criminals masquerading as Igbo leaders.”
Alhaji Atiku who is at present out of Nigeria will thus be confronted with a big political storm when he returns. How he manages to tackle this crisis will in no small way determine the fate of his presidential ambition.