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2023: Atiku in a make or mar choice of running mate

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The hide and seek game for who is to be selected as presidential running mate to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, and 2023 presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is again a make or mar political decision for the party.

Such a decision is usually tasking even with insistently deadline pressure from the electoral umpire on all the 2023 elections contesting political parties.

The National Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in streamlining the election timetable recently declared that names of presidential candidates and selected running mates should be submitted on or before Friday June 17, while names of gubernatorial candidates of same democratic primaries and selected deputies should be uploaded via INEC portal on or before July 15, this year.

Yakubu also warned, “The portal will automatically shut down at 6.00pm (1800hrs) on Friday 17th June 2022 for national elections and 6.00pm (1800hrs) on Friday 15th July 2022 for State elections”.

However, the pre-condition stated by INEC is an electoral tradition. And the political parties involved have to make progress on the election file.

The selection of vice presidential and deputy governorship candidates is a complex task given the secularity and ever changing demography of the country. It calls for a deft political consideration to be able to get an individual that would be in great demand over the blocs, ethnic and religious divide of each state and across the nation.

But the PDP has zeroed in on some possibilities. Available indices showed that those in the realm of consideration as vice presidential candidate of the party are Governors, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Ifeanyi Okowa, Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, Emeka Ihedioha and former secretary of the Government of the federation, SGF, and PDP presidential aspirant Senator Ayim Pius Ayim.

In a relative analysis, exploring their personalities, states and zones they come from should not be without bias to the individual’s capacity for electoral value even beyond his State.

Though Wike of Rivers State has his innate foibles of brashness and brazenness that periodically illicit unguarded faux pas, but intrinsically, he is a bold, daring and dependable politician. Yet, as for his odds, the presidential etiquette is a lion tamer that can beat the criticized wildness out of him.

Without denial, however, Wike’s political exploits in the PDP has made him a must consult. Rivers has 23 council areas under Wike’s dominance. Scope of his mobilization and influence transcends Rivers to other States in his South South geo-political zone and beyond the South East and some States in the north and South-west.

The governor is a political enigma of a sort. He has been exposed to prosecuting daunting political campaigns and elections. Not only in his State but in Edo, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers States with amazing successes. Even his 2019 re-election and recent 2022 PDP presidential primaries are testimonies of his tested and demonstrated capacity for electoral value in the country.

No gainsaying the fact that Wike is a strategist and pragmatic politician. He had donated about N7.4b to disaster-struck states like Benue, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Sokoto and Kaduna states that can be a campaign tool to impact on the expected fortune of the PDP in the 2023 general elections.

From the sidelines, Wike can also exploit the political goodwill of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to the overall advantage of the PDP.

Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa is unarguably a popular governor in his State and grassroot politician. He has recorded considerable democratic dividends in his State. The demography of his State impacts on 25 local government areas. Okowa can also leverage on his relationship with former governor James Ibori to widen his political clout. Still, in some political circles, Atiku and Ibori were said not to be enjoying the best camaraderie predicated on his travails and eventual imprisonment abroad while the former served as vice president and latter as governor under the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency.

Unlike Wike, Okowa’s capacity for political adventures, contacts and mobilization was said to have not been experimented beyond the shores of his State. But he has a good nature of level headedness and war chest to be a vice president.

Former Imo governor Emeka Ihedioha and Governor Udom Emmanuel are both popular, loyal and grassroot politicians in their own rights. It is, however, little known whether the duo have externalized their political clouts beyond their home States to be able to add the political value expected from a presidential running mate.

Credited with enviable records, Ayim, also a former Senate president, had gone through the crucibles of the legislature and executive arms of government. An experienced political strategist and stabilizer he is, but lacks an established structure of inter-ethnic orientation like Wike.

With the birth of this fourth Republic in 1999, the major national political actors through power rotation have been politicians from the south west and north west extractions with exception of the interjection by act of providence from the south south geo-political zone. It is an existing opportunity through which the States within the benefiting three zones over the years have had the undying attachment to power and orientation of political unity unlike other agitating zones.

Of the marked possibilities, Wike, Okwa and Udom are from the more politically organized, stronger and united south south than the South East where Ihedioha and Ayim come from. Among the trios from the South South, only Wike served the Jonathan south south Presidency as Minister of State for Education. He was a trusted kitchen cabinet and political foot soldier that made him have the edge on others in national politics.

In the contest for presidency, the south east may be turned into an open floodgate for compromise, betrayal and vote buying. This is because it is the south south unlike the south east that has not yet got any presidential tickets for the 2023 general elections and, thus politically propitious to produce a vice presidential candidate.

Also to be considered is the heavily monetized electoral process and the transactional nature of politics in the country as recently witnessed in the just concluded ruling APC and main opposition PDP presidential primaries in Abuja. No one other than Wike can fit for this expedient democratic flipside.

Wike is a game changer and his personal attributes have made him a necessary evil to the PDP and Atiku as a running mate if the opposition party must be strategic to relaunch itself into the mainstream politics or face political extinction in post 2023 general elections.

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