Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has rejected moves by some stakeholders in the party to make him change his running mate as part of efforts to restore unity in the party, Daily Independent exclusively gathered.
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and his loyalists are currently up in arms against Atiku who announced Delta State governor, If eanyi Okowa, as his running mate last month.
Although the committee saddled with the task of picking the party’s vice presidential candidate, consisting of representatives of former governors, incumbent governors, the NWC and the Board of Trustees members agreed to allow Wike, who came second in the presidential primaries to run with Atiku, the former vice president ignored the recommendation and announced Okowa as his running mate.
The development has caused a great wedge in the party as some governors loyal to Wike who are unhappy with Atiku’s decision, shunned Okowa’s unveiling as vice presidential candidate.
They also boycotted the inauguration of the Osun governorship election campaign committee as only two out of the 13 governors in the party attended the event.
Also on Thursday, Wike ruled out the possibility of a one-on-one meeting with the presidential flag bearer.
Rather, he said Atiku should engage his strategy team for peace talks on the terms proposed to the party, particularly the resignation of the national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
Although the Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, had suggested that Atiku should lead a reconciliation team to Wike, who also contested for the presidential ticket at the primary election, the governor indicated that he would rely on the advisory from his “strategy team”.
Wike’s strategists include Governors Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Samuel Ortom (Benue); ex-Governors Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti) and Donald Duke (Cross River), among others. Speaking with Daily Independent on Thursday, an associate of Atiku said two proposals were made to the former vice president for peace to return to the party.
The first is the resignation of the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, who signed a pact with the governors that he will resign from office if the party’s presidential candidate emerges from the North.
The second, according to him, is that Atiku should honour the recommendation of the party and substitute Wike for Okowa. He, however, said Atiku rejected the second option.
“On the first proposal that Ayu should resign, his position was that sacking the national chairman will send the wrong signal of instability in the party, especially with the presidential election just seven months away.
“He wants Ayu to remain in office and oversee the 2023 general elections. Then he can resign if the party wins the presidential election as both the national chairman and president can’t be from the same zone.
“On the second proposal that Okowa’s name should be replaced, he flatly rejected that, saying as the presidential candidate, it is he who knows the right person who can enhance his chances in getting the needed votes in the South, who in this case is the Delta State governor.
“On our part, we his associates believe that he can’t work with Wike as running mate because he was a direct opponent to him in the primary and he has his eyes firmly set on becoming president.
“There are several videos out there in public domain where he (Wike) said he is not interested in becoming deputy to anyone and all he wants is to become president”.