By Chinelo Obogo, Ndubuisi Orji and Okwe Obi, Abuja

There is no letup in the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the emergence of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, as presidential candidate and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as running mate has continued to draw the ire of some party leaders.

This is as plot to oust the National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, thickens.

While Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State said he was still praying for divine guidance from God before he decides whether or not to support Atiku, former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, insisted that Atiku’s emergence was a breach of the party’s principle of power rotation between the north and the south. 

Governor Ortom, who lamented that injustice was done to the Rivers Governor, said he can only support the presidential flag bearer if directed by God.

Wike had come second to Atiku during the PDP’s presidential primary in May. Following Atiku’s victory, a committee was set up by the party to choose his running mate. It was reported that among the three nominees presented to the committee, Wike scored the highest votes, but Atiku chose Governor Okowa, a decision that infuriated some of the governors who backed Wike for the position.

The PDP leadership had set up a committee with the mandate of nominating and submitting three names of probable candidates for the position of running mate to Atiku.

Against widespread speculation that majority of members of the committee voted for Wike, the party had explained that the brief given to the committee did not include voting, but to nominate three names which would be forwarded to the standard bearer to choose from.

While announcing Okowa as running mate, Atiku said: “In arriving at the decision, I held wide consultations with various stakeholders in our party, including our governors, National Working Committee, Board of Trustees, and other leaders to seek their inputs and their wisdom. In these consultations, I made it clear that my running mate would have the potential to succeed me at a moment’s notice, that is, a President-in-waiting. In other words, the person must have the qualities to be president.” 

However, Ortom who spoke in a television interview,  yesterday, said Wike was not consulted before the selection process despite his monumental support for the party over the years, even when other prominent faithful backed out

He said if Abubakar knew he had Okowa in mind, a panel should not have been set up in the first place to screen.

Ortom said for peace to reign and for PDP to make a head way in next year’s elections,  the national leadership of the PDP should visit Wike and mend fences.

“When people ran away from this party, Wike was on the ground. Wike was the one that made me to return to PDP. Injustice was done to me in 2015, it was Wike that came here and convinced me to come to PDP. I came to PDP, we were working and you do injustice to him and you think he would keep quiet. This is not fair. I believe in justice, equity and fairness. It is not enough to say you will put a call to him, it is an insult to put a call to him, you go to him.

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“The party leadership at the national level should go to Wike and appeal to him. Wike is a pillar of this party, everybody knows. Wike was second to Atiku. Atiku should go to him but it is unfair to say that you just put a call to Wike. I have no problem with Okowa. Okowa is my friend. But Wike should have been consulted and spoken to. But the truth is that Wike should have been consulted in the first place even before the announcement because, like I said, 14 people said Wike should be the vice. If that was not going to work, he should have been told. The people at the leadership are to be blamed. They would have allowed Wike to have first hand information.”

He said he was still praying for divine guidance from God before he decides whether or not to support Atiku.

“Some of us have resorted to prayers. I have been in hibernation. We’ve resorted to prayer: ‘Lord God, where do we go from here.’ I believe as a Christian that power belongs to God. The Bible says a man can receive nothing, except it is given to him from above.

“I am praying. I have gone into hibernation. I am fasting and praying. So in the end, if God directs me that I should support Atiku, why should I not do it? After all, he’s my party member. But I am waiting for him to do more. I expect him to reach out to Wike, who came second in the presidential primary…I expect more explanations. I expect him to talk to Wike  who we are supporting first. I expect him to reach out to some of us so that together we can work as a party.”

In a related development, Fayose said on his official twitter handle that after having a president from the north for eight years, Nigeria’s next president must come from the south. 

“The PDP constitution provides for a rotational Presidency. Section 3(c) provides that the party shall pursue its aims and objectives by “adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.

“The current president of Nigeria is a two-term northern presidency, thus implying that it must be a Southern Presidency in 2023 or nothing. Awa ‘South’ lo kan’. Nigerians should await details soon,” he said.

•Group backs Atiku, berates Ortom

However, the Centre for Integrity and Good Governance (CIGG) said the choice of who becomes running mate is the constitutional prerogative of Atiku.

In a statement by its convener, Mr. Waheed Aderibigbe and Co-convener, Mr. Obinna Ukariaku, it expressed shock that some Nigerians would jettison the provision of the constitution of the Federal Republic and choose to play to the gallery or even base their argument on emotional sentiments.

It cited Section 142 (1) of the 1999 constitution which states: “In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Chapter relate, a candidate for an election to the office of president shall not be deemed to be validly nominated unless he nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party for his running for the office of president, who is to occupy the office of vice-president and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of vice president if the candidate for an election to the office of President, who nominated him as such associate is duly elected as President in accordance with the provisions aforesaid.”

The group said Atiku in fidelity to the extant law exercised this power and privilege which the constitution vested in him, stressing that any input from the party stakeholders including the National Working Committee, the Board of Trustees (BoT), elders of the party, among others, is advisory.

The Centre faulted Governor Ortom, who said the party would have picked Governor Wike as Atiku’s running mate.

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