By Doris Obinna
Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, will today hold a stakeholders meeting with South East leaders in Enugu as part of consultation and sensitisation ahead of the commencement of campaign.
Atiku will be accompanied by his running mate in the presidential race scheduled for next year and Delta State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; national chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu; former Senate Presidents, Bukola Saraki and Anyim Pius Anyim, Chairman of PDP Presidential Council and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; Director General of Atiku campaign organisation and Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel and many others.
This is coming as South East PDP has said it would receive Governor Okowa at the meeting as an Igbo son, who has come home to felicitate with his kinsmen.
Sources revealed that Atiku deliberately scheduled the stakeholders meeting ahead the commencement of presidential campaign because of the importance he attaches to the South East which has been a backbone of the PDP.
The PDP presidential candidate, it was gathered, wants to use the meeting to reassure the South East that it is not only a cherished part of the PDP but also solidly part of his aspiration and what he stands for.
“Atiku will use the meeting to tell South East that it is a cherished stakeholder in PDP and his presidential aspiration. He has always identified with the South East and believes that the region will benefit immensely from his presidency if he wins the election,” an ally of the former vice president told Daily Sun.
It was gathered that Atiku would use the meeting to also tell South East PDP leaders what the zone stands to gain by supporting him.
In a related development, South East leaders have said they would receive Governor Okowa as a true Igbo son irrespective of the fact that he is Igbo from South South geopolitical zone.
Daily Sun gathered that Gov Okowa will be treated with all rights and privileges an Igbo son would receive in Igboland and anywhere in the world.
According to a South East PDP leader, who pleaded anonymity, “Gov Okowa is Igbo, eventhough he is from South South. We embrace him as he is one of us. He is coming home and we will receive him with open arms and give him and Atiku the required support in the presidential race.”
He said that Ohanaeze Ndigbo recognises that Igbo are located in seven states of Nigeria, namely Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers, noting: “Igbo from Delta and Rivers are bona-fide Igbo. It is our duty to prove to Nigeria this fact as we welcome and embrace Gov Okowa.”
The PDP South East elder said the South East will support Atiku and Okowa because the Igbo cannot back out of the party when one of their own is a vice presidential candidate in the PDP.
“We have been part of PDP from 1999. We have much to benefit if PDP wins the presidency. That’s why we will give all the necessary support to Atiku and Okowa in next year’s presidential election,” he said.
Daily Sun gathered that South East PDP wants Igbo to support the party as has been the case since 1999, as doing otherwise will not only give the All Progressives Congress (APC) undue advantage but also facilitate the actualisation of Mustim-Muslim presideny.
He said: “It is South East that can stop Muslim-Muslim presidency by supporting PDP overwhelmingly. We want our people to know that South East dividing the votes it should give PDP with another party is indirectly aiding APC to win. We will not allow this happen.
“South East will not be responsible for returning APC to power. We will support Atiku and Okowa to stop this tragedy.”
Expected at today’s PDP stakeholders meeting in Enugu are Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Ben Obi, former PDP publicity secretary, Olisa Metu; former PDP national chairman, Okwesilieze Nwodo; PDP national officials from South East, state party executives etc.