Former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has buried the seeming tension in the ranks of the party as regards his choice of running mate in the forthcoming general elections.
Atiku picked the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, ahead of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, believed to have got the nod of the party’s National Working Committee for the vice president joint ticket slot.
For many analysts, Atiku’s choice might not have come as a surprise with recourse to the personalities of the two options, their antecedents and the prevailing political climate in the country as the PDP aims at regaining power at the central from the All Progressives Congress (APC) after eight years of being ‘displaced.’
Despite Wike’s huge influence in the party, News Direct highlights four possible remote and immediate political calculations that could have made Atiku choose Okowa over him.
Buildup to presidential primary
Although the PDP presidential primary was contested by 13 aspirants, it was obvious that either Atiku or Wike were poised to clinch the ticket. Wike was all out for the ticket and did not hesitate to use every available opportunity to convince Nigerians he deserved it more than any other aspirant, including Atiku, his main contender.
He gave Atiku a run for his money and it took last minute scheming by the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, to swing the pendulum in Atiku’s side.
Days to the PDP presidential primary, Wike, while addressing delegates in Oyo State, said the party ticket should not be given to any of the aspirants who defected from PDP in 2015.
He had said, “Some aspirants caused disunity in the party in 2015, formed the nPDP and sold out the party’s goodwill and electoral opportunities. The issue is, who are those who made PDP to lose election in 2015 that today we are suffering? Today, we are in opposition and trying to take power back.
“But see what the country has been turned into. Who are those who told Nigerians that President Buhari is a saint, that President Buhari will salvage Nigeria? What is their sense of judgment? Who are those aspirants who abandoned PDP, betrayed PDP and went to support President Buhari?”
Though Wike didn’t mention any name, Atiku and former Senate President Bukola Saraki were among aspirants who defected from PDP to APC preparatory to the 2015 elections.
Anyone who has keenly kept an eye on the trajectory of the Rivers State governor would know he’s a politician who may not be comfortable with cool-headedness expected of a subordinate. The fear that Wike may be difficult to tame or render passive in Aso Rock and national politics if Atiku eventually wins the election might be a deciding factor for picking Okowa, who is known for his calm posture.
Okowa’s role in Atiku’s emergence
While his support for Atiku in the buildup to the presidential primary was not pronounced, many believed the Delta State governor rooted for and worked towards emergence of Atiku as the PDP presidential candidate.
Former lawmaker, Senator Shehu Sani, hinted at this on Thursday in his tweet shortly before it became known that Atiku had picked Okowa as his running mate.
“Okowa played a key role in the victory of Atiku at the primaries and he is a cross between the South East and the South-South.
“Wike strongly emerged second, committed so much in sustaining the party and his ruggedness is an asset in the battle when it turns dirty. Any can be VP,” Sani tweeted.
Atiku-Wike cold relationship
Following Atiku’s victory at the primary, Wike promised to support the former vice president in winning the election. However, this does not necessarily erase the cold relationship between the duo which might have discouraged Atiku from choosing him for the joint ticket.
Wike unrepentantly backed Tambuwal against Atiku who eventually won the PDP presidential ticket in 2019. And in an interview with Channels in May, Wike defended his stance against Atiku’s candidacy in 2019.
“I did not support Atiku for my reason that ‘look, Atiku listen, the way your antecedents, your politics, and I don’t think it’s good for them. I supported Tambuwal. But he [Atiku] won,” he said.
Though he consequently teamed up with Atiku during the general election which the latter lost, the relationship between them hovers delicately around the realm of what could be likened to that of cat and mouse.