By Akinwande Soji-Ojo
Last Saturday, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, emerged as the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 general elections.
Atiku polled 371 votes to emerge the winner of the PDP presidential primary, held at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja.
Following his victory, another huge task Atiku will now undertake is to choose his running mate for the 2023 presidential election.
In Nigerian politics, the choice of a running mate plays a significant role in the chances of a candidate being elected. Thus, the former vice president has to be meticulous and tactical in selecting his running mate for the poll.
Being a Muslim from the North East, Atiku expectedly has to look for a running mate who is a Christian and comes from the southern region of the country.
In 2019, Atiku, who was the candidate of the party, picked former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, as his running mate. They were defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Before the primary election, an unconfirmed report said Atiku had resolved to pick his running mate from the South South geo-political zone.
In the build-up to the PDP presidential primary, there were speculations that Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, would join the race. However, the governor eventually didn’t contest for the ticket. With his relatively strong popularity among party members in the southern part of the country, Atiku may consider Okowa as his running mate
Another thing working in Okowa’s favour was his contribution to the emergence of Atiku.
“Except for last-minute change, we are looking at Governor Okowa for the position. He has consistently supported our camp despite all backlashes. He mobilised resources for us and ensured that all the delegates of his voted for us,” a source close to Atiku’s campaign team told Daily Trust after Saturday’s presidential primary.
But another source in the team told the medium that although they have resolved to pick the running mate from the South South, the issue of Okowa has not been sealed.
“There is a division on it, some are saying him but others especially elders of the party, said Wike should be considered because of his performance at the primary,” the party leader said.
Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, who polled 38 votes in the party’s presidential primary may also emerge as Atiku’s running mate. He had more votes than Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, and former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, to place fourth in the presidential primary.
Udom’s faithfulness to the PDP, his youthfulness, a growing political influence in the South South, and the party’s desperation to compensate the southern region, may tilt the position in favour of the Akwa Ibom Governor.