South East leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have nothing against the former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, as Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election, this paper has reliably gathered.
They are said to be peeved, instead, by the role of the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, in Obi’s emergence.
The Governor was alleged to have insulted the South East and threatened to deal with the party leaders in the region for allegedly betraying an understanding he allegedly reached with them to vote for the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, and voting for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar en block instead.
An impeccable source close to one of the prominent South East leaders said: “Recall that Wike was virtually dragged by Senator Dino Melaye to where Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was seated at the stadium to congratulate him after he was announced the winner of the PDP presidential primary in Port Harcourt.
“Then later in the evening, when Alhaji Atiku Abubakar departed after paying a “Thank you” visit to Wike at the Government House, the Rivers Governor was now left with some PDP leaders, including the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and some serving Senators, such as Senator Obinna Ogba and Senator Samuel Anyanwu.
“Wike, who was still fuming over the outcome of the convention, said he was disappointed with the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and would make sure he sponsored his impeachment. One of the Senators, however, countered him, saying that it was not possible. Wike told him to wait and see.
“He also spoke angrily about the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engr. Dave Umahi for also allegedly betraying him, saying he regretted giving him some financial support in the past and also flying him in Rivers State jet on several occasions that the Ebonyi Governor needed to travel”.
The insider source explained that Ekweremadu, Obi, Dr. Okonjo Iweala, Chief Osita Chidoka, and the National Organsing Secretary of the PDP, Col. Austin Akobundu (Rtd.) were shortlisted for the consideration.
“There was a meeting last Thursday night between Alhaji Atiku and the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus; Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara; Governor Tambuwal, and hosted by Alhaji Abubakar, the vice presidential candidate.
“Of course, Wike never liked Akobundu. He also believes Okonjo-Iweala is an outsider. And he never really knew Chidoka very well. So, Ekweremadu and Obi were the last two standing.
“Wike was vehemently against Ekweremadu’s candidature, insisting that it must be Obi. He also kept reminding them that former President Olusegun Obasanjo preferred a technocrat or somebody who understood the economy. A suggestion that the South East leaders should be consulted since the position was now going to their region was also fervently resisted by Wike.
“Unfortunately, neither Atiku nor the others had the slightest idea that Governor Wike was on a ‘vengeance mission’ to not only ensure that the party leaders in the South East did not have a say in the emergence of the vice presidential candidate from their region, but also that Ekweremadu since he did not honour an understanding he felt he had with him on Tambuwal.
“Even today’s (yesterday) meeting of the South East PDP leaders and stakeholders, Governor Umahi explained that he confronted Wike for meddling in South East affair without consulting the South East leaders. He said Wike told him that he did not draw up the list of five names. And when it was presented to him, he didn’t like any of them, but nevertheless had to settle for Peter Obi, whom he described as a ‘lesser evil’.
“He said he would rather have Obi, who had been with Atiku all the while and he, therefore, never approached or expected to support Tambuwal than Ekweremadu, whom he expected to support Tambuwal, but worked for Atiku.
“Also, remember that he worked with Peter Obi to ensure the emergence of Mr. Oseloka Obaze as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in the last Anambra election, but the project failed at the governorship poll”.
Meanwhile, the source denied that Wike reached any understanding with the South East to vote for Governor Tambuwal.
“How could Wike say that we betrayed him when there was no accord? We agreed that the South East and south South would meet in Port Harcourt on Friday to take a common stand. Unfortunately, when we got there, Wike was no longer interested in the meeting because he felt Tambuwal’s candidature was a done deal and he could bankroll it. He forgot that this is not Rivers State politics. This is national politics for crying out loud. So, we let him go it alone.
“But the truth is that the South East had no problem with Tambuwal. The South East leaders were only interested in ensuring that the emergence of someone, who had what it takes to dislodge the current government, which has brought so much suffering on the South East people and treated them like aliens in their own country.
“So, the implication of what has happened is that Wike has succeeded in making good his threat by indirectly filling the South East slot for the vice presidential ticket to get back at those he felt did not support Tambuwal’s ticket. The South East leaders were disregarded in making that choice as a way of paying for what Wike consider their ‘sin’. Ironically, that ‘sin’ is their support for Atiku in Port Harcourt.
“So, nobody has anything against Peter Obi. In fact, we are most grateful to Atiku for considering our own. It could have gone elsewhere”.
Meanwhile, a reliable source at the meeting held by the South East leaders in Enugu on Saturday said although tempers were high over what the leaders considered a slight as both the South East PDP governors, National Assembly Caucus, Board of Trustee members and other party leaders heard the news of Obi’s nomination through the media like every other person, Ekweremadu was able to calm frayed nerves and prevail on them to let the sleeping dog lie.
The South East PDP leaders have thanked Atiku Abubakar for picking someone from the region as his running mate and are billed to meet with the former Vice President on his return to the country shortly.