Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has appealed to the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South East zone to support the party’s presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in his choice of Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate, to ensure victory for PDP in next year’s general elections.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu has also been reportedly working behind the scene to lobby South-East leaders, who have been fighting the choice of Obi, for varied reasons.
The former President’s appeal follows a statement issued on Saturday by leaders of the party in the zone stating that they were not properly consulted before Obi’s nomination was made public.
Many of the leaders, it was gathered, are playing the script of others angry they were by-passed.
Some others fear that their own presidential ambitions for 2023 have been scuttled by his choice, while others are said to be unhappy about the impression he has given in his public speeches that political office holders from the zone have mismanaged or are mismanaging public funds.
Others simply want him to “reach out” from his alleged large trove of resources. Some just don’t like the fact that he keeps his resources to himself, an analyst said.
In a statement addressed to party members which he personally signed, the former President counseled against insisting on obtaining a zonal endorsement for a vice presidential nomination, adding that it is the prerogative of the Presidential candidate to select the candidate he believes will help him to achieve his vision and goals for the nation.
A statement issued by Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, the former President’s spokesman quoted Dr. Jonathan thus: “I therefore want to directly appeal to my brothers and sisters from the South East zone who are members of our party to reconsider their position and allow the presidential candidate of the PDP to select a candidate he thinks he can work with to be able to achieve the party’s development goals. Since Atiku has already nominated Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate, I am pleading with my party members from the zone to accept his choice.”
Below is the full statement issued by Dr. Jonathan:
“I thank members of our great party for the successful conduct of the primaries for the various elective positions ahead of the 2019 general elections. By holding transparent, peaceful and rancor-free convention and primaries across the country, our party has once more, taken the nation’s democratic exercise a notch higher, in line with our well-established tradition of deepening the growth of democracy in our nation.
“I again congratulate all our candidates for various positions, including Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who was overwhelmingly elected by our delegates as the flag bearer of our party in the 2019 presidential election. The popularity and positive reviews of the exercise across the country is a clear demonstration of national endorsement for the choices we made, going into the 2019 elections.
“The task before us is to build on this firm foundation and momentum by pulling in one direction and working assiduously for the victory of these candidates at the polls.
“It is against this backdrop that I appeal for calm and understanding in the South East where my attention has been drawn to the fact that some leaders of our party are openly expressing their discomfort with the reported nomination of former Governor of Anambra State Peter Obi as Atiku’s running mate. I am told that some of our leaders in the zone have raised issues with the process of consultation that produced the Vice Presidential candidate.
“I affirm that consultation is a key ingredient in every political process. Nonetheless, in the selection of a vice presidential candidate, a presidential candidate is allowed reasonable freedom to select his running mate based on loyalty, trust, experience, temperament and capacity to perform the responsibilities of the office. Anything other than this could create tension and acrimony between the presidential candidate and his running mate, even before the inauguration of the government.
“My plea is for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to be given a free hand to choose who he wants to work with as his Vice President without putting him through undue pressure. In this regard, only minimal consultation is required which doesn’t necessarily have to involve full regional review and approval.
“We have to be careful not to give the impression that the process of selecting a Vice Presidential candidate cannot progress until a regional stamp of approval is formally procured. The system we are used to right from the First Republic is one that places the choice of a running mate at the behest of the candidate, based on his own convictions on capacity and compatibility.
“From my political history beginning from Deputy Governor to President, I can say that this is the tradition and standard practice in countries where either the President and his Vice or Governor and his deputy contest election on a common slate. In such instance, once a candidate emerges, he or she is given a free hand to select the person who understands his vision and plans for the country, as his running mate.
“I therefore want to directly appeal to my brothers and sisters from the South East zone who are members of our party to reconsider their position and allow the presidential candidate of our party to select a candidate he thinks he can work with to be able to achieve the party’s development goals. Since Atiku has nominated Mr. Peter Obi as his running mate, I am pleading with my party members from the zone to accept his choice.”
Last Saturday, South-East governors said they were shocked that Atiku picked Obi as his running mate for the 2019 presidential election.
The South-East Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) toed the same line.
Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi.said in Enugu after emergency meeting of the PDP stakeholders in the South East: “We saw news flying up and down saying that our presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has picked a running mate from the zone.
“We were shocked because we were not consulted. While we were meeting, Atiku sent message that he travelled out of the country for a short period. He promised to come down and meet with South East leaders.”
Vice chairman of the PDP, in the South East zone, Augustine Umahi, in his own comments, said, “Our leaders are saying that we are not yet aware that such a thing (Obi’s appointment) happened.
“We have gotten in touch him (Atiku), he is traveling tonight and he promised that when comes back we shall meet in that.
“Peter Obi is our son, and from South East, we are not rejecting or accepting him but we are saying is that we are not aware, you cannot shave a man in his absence.”