Shortly after his emergence as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former vice president Atiku Abubakar began the search for an appropriate running mate for the all-important 2019 presidential election.
The choice of an appropriate running mate is very important as it can make or mar Atiku’s hope of unseating the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2019.
Who will eventually emerge as Atiku’s running mate, highlights 10 people, considering the current political calculations and permutations in the country, who could be Atiku’s choice as running mate.
The PDP has till October 18 to submit the names of its presidential candidate and his running mate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in line with the commission’s timetable.
The choice of the running mate will come from either the southeast or the southwest.
A source quoted by ThisDay newspaper said Atiku and the PDP hierarchy are still undecided on the zone the position should be allotted, adding that the scope had been narrowed down to the southwest and the southeast.
“We would have to weigh the electoral value of both zones and decide where we would allot it. There was the need to maintain a balance between the existing political configuration, which requires the party to challenge the dominance of the APC in the high voting southwest by picking a running mate that would challenge the electoral advantage of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; and the need to retain the loyalty of the southeast that had remained a PDP stronghold.
“Both zones were believed to have helped Atiku to neutralise the northern zones’ delegates’ votes that went to Sokoto state governor, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, during the presidential primary on Saturday,” the source said.
The southeast is a very important geopolitical zone Atiku will want to woo with a choice of running mate. The zone voted massively for the PDP in the 2015 presidential election. But recent political unfolding indicates that President Buhari is gaining some influence in the zone. Thus, if Atiku wants to get maximum votes from the zone, choosing a running mate from there won’t be a bad idea.
Meanwhile, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a pan-Igbo group, has reportedly insisted that only a running mate from the southeast will be a suitable pair for PDP to win the 2019 presidential election in the zone.
Reacting to Atiku’s victory, Ohaneze Youth Council Worldwide led by Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro said Atiku is the right man for the job.
However, the youth wing of the socio-cultural group warned that Ndigbo would work against the PDP if Atiku fails to pick his running mate from the Igbo extraction.
If the search for a running mate is limited to the southeast, Atiku may pick his running mate from these seven people:
1. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former minister of finance, has helped the country’s economy, the largest in Africa, grow significantly. She is credited with developing reform programmes that helped improve governmental transparency and stabilizing the economy.
Okonjo-Iweala is the first woman to be the finance minister and the foreign minister of the West African country with a GDP of $502 billion. The Harvard- and M.I.T.-trained Okonjo-Iweala spent 21 years as a development economist at the World Bank.
2. Deputy Senate president Ike Ekweremadu
Ike Ekweremadu is a Nigerian politician and lawyer from Enugu state who has served in the Nigerian Senate since May 2003 on the platform of the PDP. He is currently Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate for the third consecutive time.
3. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe
Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe is a Nigerian politician who was elected to the Abia-South senatorial district of Abia state in the Senate in April 2007. He was Abia state’s deputy governor from 1999 to 2003.
4. Peter Obi
Peter Obi is a Nigerian politician who was governor of Anambra state in Nigeria from 17 March 2006 to 2 November 2006, when he was impeached and from 9 February 2007 to 29 May 2007 after his impeachment was overturned.
The former governor’s reaction to Atiku’s emergence as the candidate of the PDP shows that the relationship between the duo has improved in recent times.
“Having personally followed him in the past six months, listened and interacted with him on a number of issues negatively affecting our society, I observe in him a person who has the burning desire to leave a footprint in the sands of time,” the former governor said.
5. Nyesom Wike
Governor Wike is the sixth and current governor of Rivers state. He is an Ikwerre from Rumuepirikom in Obio-Akpor, Rivers state.
Though Governor Wike initially said he was not interested in serving as a presidential running mate at the moment, Atiku may consider compensating him with the position since his preferred candidate, Aminu Tambuwwal, lost the PDP presidential ticket.
6. Charles Soludo
Charles Chukwuma Soludo, CFR is a former governor and chairman of the board of directors of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He was named CBN governor on 29 May 2004. He is also a member of the British Department for International Development’s International Advisory Group.
7. Chike Obi
Mustafa Chike-Obi served as the CEO of AMCON until 2015 when he was fired for alleged misconduct in asset sales. He subsequently joined an investment management firm as Vice-Chairman.
We also gather that the southwest has launched a lobby for the position on grounds that it would serve as compensation for the way the region was sidelined during the national chairmanship contest last year, which went to the south-south.
Similarly, some political analysts are of the views that Atiku should pick a running mate from southwest to divide the votes in the region with Osinbajo.
The analysts believe that Atiku already has the southeast as his stronghold and should pick his running mate from the southwest to also win the zone.
Below are the people Atiku may consider picking if he is getting his running mate from the southwest.
8. Akinwumi Adesina
Akinwumi Adesina, formerly Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, was elected as the 8th President of the African Development Bank on Thursday, May 28, 2015.
He succeeded Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda and assumed duty on September 1, 2015, in Abidjan.
In 2013, Adesina was named Forbes African of the Year for his reforms in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
9. Gbenga Daniel
Gbenga Daniel governed Ogun from 29 May 2003 to 29 May 2011, making him the longest-serving governor of the state.
He is the director-general of the Atiku Campaign Organisation and played a key role in selling the former vice president to delegates of the party prior to his emergence as the party’s candidate.
10. Jimi Agbaje
Olujimi Kolawole Agbaje was the 2015 PDP’s Lagos state governorship candidate, but he lost to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of the APC. Although Agbaje has emerged the PDP’s candidate for the Lagos state 2019 governorship election, there are strong indications that he is interested in the VP position if it is zoned to the southwest.