On the surface it appears that choosing a vice presidential candidate for any party may seem as easy as drinking water if you do not have sore throat. It may not involve going through the rigour of an election the way that the choice of a presidential candidate goes. It may just be a simple choice by either the party or the presidential candidate to fill the gap left by the presidential candidate’s inadequacy.
But still he must be chosen as carefully as an engagement ring so that he fits the space as nicely as a pair of gloves. But all of the above is simply the theory of it. The truth is that it never really comes easy as the current situation in the two major parties, APC and PDP, indicates. For several weeks now the APC and its presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu have not been able to name the person who is to pair up with Tinubu until a couple of days ago when he named the former Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima for the slot.
Tinubu is a muslim from the South West. Conventional wisdom would prescribe that the person to be chosen should be a Christian from the North. That would provide the needed balance in terms of religion and geography but in the zero-sum ecosystem of Nigerian politics it is not as easy as that. The dominant muslims in the north think they would have been short changed if a Christian was chosen to pair up with Tinubu. So Tinubu had to look at several factors and decide which risk is higher and which is lower.
In the PDP there is a different ball game. A candidate had been picked for the vice presidential slot but the man picked and the man who did the picking are not sitting pretty. Here are the facts: In the presidential primary election of the party former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar scored 371 votes to take the trophy while Mr Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State scored 237 votes to come second.
Some analysts probably thought that the job of picking the vice presidential material was cut out for the party since Wike is a Christian from the south and Atiku is a muslim from the north. Choosing Wike would have provided the needed balance in addition to the obvious popularity of the man who came second in the election. However, the party chose to set up a 17-person screening committee to pick the vice presidential candidate.
The committee decided to vote for the four persons who appeared before them. Of the 17 persons 14 voted for Wike. That seemed decisive enough but the candidate decided to skip Wike and pick Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, a decision that many people consider unfair. If the party or the candidate did not want to go by the voting route it didn’t need to set up a committee. It could simply have named anyone it wanted without the resort to a committee whose decision it decided to ignore. That makes nonsense of the idea of voting in a democracy. That is what has produced paroxysms of outrage from the Wike camp and the camps of fair-minded persons. Let it be stated here that the presidential candidate had a right to choose whoever he wanted but the barbed wire of the issue was the setting up of a committee that bothered to be fair by voting and that turned out to be an act in futility. That is the kernel of the issue, the meat of the matter, the reason that Wike is angry. Deservedly so. No one says Okowa is not qualified for the position. He is eminently qualified but I am sure that he would have wanted to get the office in a less controversial manner than he has. This is not a post card perfect period for him or his party.
Wike has waged major battles for the party. In Rivers State he fought against federal might in the two elections he won as State Governor. As a dogged, daring warrior he wrestled to the ground an Army general who apparently thought he could influence the outcome of the last gubernatorial election for his preferred candidate. And when Wike won he told the general “I defeated you and your party.” The general had to lick his wounds having been bloodied by a bloody but gutsy civilian.
During the last governorship election in Edo State, Wike was chosen to lead the PDP team into battle in that state. He checked into his hotel room in Benin and a partisan Inspector General of Police ordered him to leave the state eventhough there were several APC Governors in the state for the same purpose. Wike simply ignored the unprofessional police officer and stayed put until the election was over.
The PDP won and the Inspector General of Police ended up gnashing his teeth and messing up his uniform. Many people attributed the success of the party in that turbulent election to the overwhelming presence of PDP Governors led by Wike, a political army that proved too tough for Comrade Adams Oshiomole and his gang. The truth is that Wike does not believe in half measures. If he supports you he comes in with both feet. If he is on your side you will rejoice. If he is on the other side you will regret. That man is a big enchilada who loves the thrill of battle and when he is at war he gives his all. There is no pulling of punches. That is why many people follow him like eager puppies. He has used that courage and bravado in giving the PDP some clout. He is also one who chooses the right words for the right occasion. Infact, words flow from him like water from a spigot.
His tongue is sharp. Now the PDP is in panic because if there is a fully committed PDP man Wike is one. During the presidential primary he said: “Let me vow today. Anyone who emerges here I will support the person to the fullest because I am a committed party person. I love this party.
I work for this party. I am not going anywhere. This is my party.” But that was before the roof caved in. Now some suitors are winking at him. Last week Chief Ayo Fayose, a PDP man, took three APC Governors to meet Wike in Port Harcourt. No one has disclosed what the three men Dr Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Chief Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) discussed with Wike. But it cannot be anything except the crisis in the PDP and what Wike can do for the APC.
It is very unlikely that Wike would want to cross from PDP to APC. APC in Rivers State is in a mess with a long standing rift between Mr Rotimi Amaechi and Mr Magnus Abe. A triangular scuffle in Rivers APC will help no one, but even if Wike takes a posture of “siddon look” at the goings on at the national level of his party it will hurt the party. However, it is likely that the party will try to pacify him and some of the other disgruntled persons in the party when Atiku Abubakar comes back.
The Wike camp is demanding that the party Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu should step down now that Atiku from the same northern block has become the presidential candidate. That is a fair demand but we are told that Atiku says that Ayu should only step down after the elections next year. Really? Of what use will that be? That is playing hard ball. Wike seems to want to play hard ball too by saying that he does not want to have a one-on-one meeting with Atiku. He will prefer that the meeting is held with his group. That too is hard ball, and can be interpreted as disrespectful to his party’s presidential candidate. Of course, these can be regarded as opening, but not closing statements. In the course of negotiation both sides will shift grounds and find a meeting point in the interest of their party if they truly love their party and wish it well in 2023.
We learn that some of the other minor parties are also winking at Wike. Why are these suitors asking for Wike’s hand in political marriage? It is because Wike is a politically delectable maiden with enormous energy, capable of strategic thinking and never afraid to fight for what he thinks is worth fighting for. That is why he is an attractive maiden.
These suitors are likely to be painting a canvass of possibilities but what can they offer Wike? I don’t know, but I think that Wike will prefer to stay in PDP because it is the second biggest party, a party whose underbelly he has seen over the years. But there is an unsettling urgency to resolve what needs to be resolved in the PDP so that it does not acquire the quality of a broken window syndrome whereby the untackled matter becomes an epidemic.
The PDP must bear in mind that the 17 Governors of the South had decreed that power at the presidential level should move to the south in 2023. If the party people in the south feel they can accept the possibility of power staying in the north through Atiku then the party apparatchik must do everything to appease the disgruntled people in the south. The logic here is, according to an Arab saying, that the hand you cannot bite, kiss it. And the disgruntled party people in the south are likely to console themselves by saying that “half bread is better than none.”