The 2023 general election is the third time the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will be contesting the presidential poll with an Igbo running mate.
In 2007, as presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC), he picked Ben Obi as his running mate. In 2019, as candidate of the PDP, Atiku chose another Igbo running mate – former Anambra State governor Peter Obi. Four years later, another Igbo, Delta State governor Ifeanyi Okowa, is Atiku’s running mate.
Atiku’s positive disposition towards Ndigbo, as can be deduced from his preference for Igbo running mates, justifies his assertion that he is the stepping stone for an Igbo President in Nigeria.
The Igbo have been agitating for the opportunity to produce Nigeria’s President and Atiku offered himself as a pathway towards the actualization of this agitation during the flag-off of his campaign in the South-East, at Awka, Anambra State, on December 15, 2022, when he said: “I am going to be a stepping stone to an Igbo President in this country. I have shown it in my action because this is the third time that I am running with an Igbo man.
If you really want to produce a President, then vote Atiku-Okowa ticket.”Atiku’s antecedents as a detribalized Nigerian, which has earned him the tag of ‘the unifier’, indicate that his promise to hand over to an Igbo should be taken with all seriousness.
“So, how could you say I will not give the Igbo a fair chance to lead this country?” Atiku asked, rhetorically, at the Awka rally, emphasizing his readiness to bring an end to the longstanding marginalization of the Igbo.
Beyond the promise of handing over to the Igbo, Atiku also assured that the people of the South-East will have a pride of place in his administration, if he is elected in 2023.Referring to Igbo businessmen, Atiku said at the Awka rally,
“You are a key contributor to the economy in this country and a government that wants to revive our economy must carry the South-East along.
”Although an Igbo, Peter Obi, of the Labour Party (LP), is being mentioned among the leading contenders in the 2023 presidential election, he lacks a national structure and acceptance, unlike Atiku.
As many have observed, Obi’s popularity is largely restricted to the Social Media. The lack of a national structure will undermine the LP candidate’s chances in the election.
As a result of the foregoing, the people of the South-East should know that Obi stands no chance of winning the election.
So, rather than waste their votes by going for Obi, it is best to support Atiku – a clear pathway towards actualizing the quest for an Igbo President. Atiku’s victory will indeed provide a short cut to the Presidency for Ndigbo.
Already, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, head of Atiku’s presidential campaign technical committee, has assured the people of the South-East that the PDP candidate will serve for a single four-year term, and then work towards handing over to someone from the zone in 2027.“Atiku is the surest bet.
He is the shortest cut to a South-East presidency. The truth is that he will be about 80 years then. We only need him to rescue Nigeria now,” Dokpesi said at a PDP stakeholders’ meeting in Umuahia, Abia State.
The South-East has always voted PDP and ahead of the 2023 elections, it is instructive that leaders of the zone have embraced Atiku as the preferred candidate for the presidential poll.A foremost businessman and political leader in the zone, Prince Arthur Eze, has identified Atiku as the best candidate for the South-East.
He made the assertion during a solidarity visit to the Director General of the Atiku-Okowa campaign organisation, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, in Ogidi, Anambra State.
Eze had earlier declared that Obi was not capable of winning the presidential poll.Stressing that Atiku’s administration will benefit the South-East more than the other presidential candidates, Eze said, “I have known Atiku Abubakar to be an honest man, liberal, and a pan-Nigerian who aspires best for the nation, and he is committed to the renaissance of Ndigbo.
He has demonstrated his huge love and concern for us Ndigbo by continuously choosing an Igbo man to be his running mate since 2007 when he picked Senator Ben Ndi Obi; again in 2019 when he picked Peter Obi; and now, Ifeanyi Okowa, an Igbo man from Delta State.
”He assured that Atiku would deliver on his promise to restructure the country – a major demand of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex socio-political body of the Igbo – and ensure that somebody from the South-East succeeds him.
Eze added, “It is apparent that with him (Atiku) as President of Nigeria, power is shifting to the South-East, and he will undoubtedly keep all of his promises.”In addition to the advantages it will bring to the South-East, Atiku’s victory in the election will also favour the South-South.
Delta State, where Atiku’s running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, is the governor, is one of the Niger Delta states of the South-South.
Okowa is from the Igbo-speaking section of Delta State.This places Okowa in a unique position as he represents the interests of the people of the South-South and his Igbo brothers of the South-East.
The South-South enjoyed massive benefits during the past PDP administrations, including the establishment of institutions such as the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPRE), Effurun, Federal University of Otuoke, Maritime University, Okerenkoko, and several others, as well as the introduction of payment of 13 per cent derivation fund to oil producing Niger Delta states.
Atiku’s victory in the 2023 presidential election will no doubt consolidate and further deepen the advantages enjoyed by the South-South under previous PDP administrations.
The South South Ethnic Nationalities Assembly (SSENA) emphasised these when it endorsed Atiku and Okowa for the 2023 presidential election.
At the event, the National Coordinator of SSENA, Chief Favour Izoukumor, noted that the group decided to endorse Atiku after reviewing the benefits the South-South would gain under a PDP administration.
Recalling how the PDP considered the South-South region in the equation of Nigeria’s politics by making a minority, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President and subsequently the President of Nigeria, Izoukumor observed: “We are now in 2023 and the PDP has again demonstrated its love for the minority groups by picking Senator Ifeanyi Okowa from Delta State as the Vice Presidential candidate.”
“Okowa symbolizes a bridge between the South-South and South-East,” he added, highlighting why the victory of the PDP is in the best interest of the two regions.