Many have wrongly insinuated that Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu could have been behind the somewhat opposition to Obi’s nomination.
As the 91 political parties contesting various political positions in the 2019 elections submitted names of their candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday, one fact that was confirmed was that former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, would contest with ex-Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, as his running mate. Atiku had nominated Obi a few days after his emergence as candidate of the main opposition political party and top contender to the post of president, against President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). By his promptness in naming a running mate, he showed that he would take decision on time, having prepared for the task he wants to take upon himself.
READ ALSO: The Atiku/Obi team
I should believe that, in picking a running mate, Atiku considered a lot of things. And I can attest that he made a good choice. First, it was thoughtful of him picking a running mate from the South East. The South East stood with the PDP in the 2015 elections. The geopolitical zone was vilified. It was derided and mocked for what its transducers termed the greatest political mistake, owing to the fact that South East did not overwhelmingly support the APC, today’s ruling political party. The South East paid the price for aligning with PDP as, in close to three and half years, it has not got anything extraordinary, apart from the constitutional entitlements. Therefore, by picking a vice presidential candidate from the South East, Atiku is saying that the labour of the Igbo voters in 2015 was not in vain. He restored confidence in the Igbo and the zone.
Now, let us look at the nomination Atiku made. Is Peter Obi a good choice? Yes, of course. He has the requisite qualification, character and experience. As governor of Anambra State, he exhibited prudence. He cut down the cost of running government, showed fiscal discipline and remained himself, without being carried away by the opulence of office. He maintained a convoy of a few vehicles. He used economy class when he travelled by air. He travelled light, in the number of aides that went with him. He returned schools to churches and missionaries for better administration and management. He attracted investments to Anambra State. He also made investments for Anambra State. He distinguished himself generally.
This is why the controversy over his nomination rankles. I am at a loss why the simple nomination of a vice presidential candidate could generate so much heat in South East, when it should be something to celebrate. My question is this: Is Obi Igbo? Yes. Is he qualified to be Vice President? Yes. Perhaps, the manner he was picked or the way it was announced shocked many, these are not enough to cause any fuss. I do not think the meeting of Igbo leaders in PDP, barely 24 hours after Obi’s nomination to pair with Atiku in the 2019 presidential election was announced, was necessary. I do not think the position of the group, after their meeting, that Atiku was yet to tell them he had picked a running mate from the zone, was good. The controversy has presented the Igbo as people who fight among themselves over just anything, leaving other Nigerians in doubt if the South East is capable of managing its affairs.
However, if it is true that Atiku promised to consult the South East PDP leaders on his presidency project, in a deal to get their support during the PDP national convention and did not, it is wrong. The blame should, therefore, by his. I do not think the noise that was made about his choice of VP was the best approach. This is because, instead of things being in the right perspective, it presented a picture that Igbo were against the choice made. South East leaders should find a better way of engaging Atiku without making it look like they are against their son, who has been nominated as vice presidential candidate.
However, Atiku should know that the battle is just starting. He needs the support of his old friends and the new ones he would make. He should not break the ladder with which he ascended to the PDP presidential candidacy. He is now the political bride, but he should not be carried away by the accolade and euphoria of his emergence and begin to alienate those who would work for his victory. The battle he is embarking on won’t be easy.
I must say that, in all this, the man I pity is Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu. I am sorry for him because many have wrongly insinuated that he could have been behind the somewhat opposition
to Obi’s nomination. The Ekweremadu I know is not jealous or a man who possesses the trait of wanting good things to come to him only. He has worked for the things he got in politics. He works for the common goal of the Igbo and Nigerian generally. He has shown forthrightness and doggedness in his politics. He has also made sacrifices.
Those who think that Ekweremadu is against an Igbo Vice President should know that he redeemed the South East in 2015 by his courage to bid for the Deputy Senate Presidency. When people were mocking Igbo, saying their voting pattern denied them all top positions in the country, Ekweremadu emerged as Deputy Senate President and restored the dignity and pride of the Igbo. His emergence was an upset for those who thought the Igbo were finished with the PPD.
I will not forget what Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said of Ekweremadu’s feat. He had declared: “The PDP in the South-East will have oxygen to breath from since they now have the highest ranking person in Nigeria coming from the South-East, that disadvantages us (APC members from South East) and puts us in a difficult position on our aspiration to make the South-East people to join the main stream of Nigerian politics by aligning with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government.”
Since the time he emerged as Deputy Senate President, Ekweremadu has faced tremendous persecution, from the funny charge of forging to change Senate rules to questions about his assets without establishing fraud or corruption. But he is not deterred. He has shown consistency and character, as even under threat he refused to betray PDP and Senate President Bukola Saraki.
The South East, therefore, and the PDP as a political party owe Ekweremadu commendation, not condemnation. Those who are using the social media to cast aspersions on him should know that, by his stature in politics and government, his opinion and support count.