The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, will have a meeting with leaders of the party from the South-West to seek their support ahead of the February 14, 2019 presidential election in the country.
The development is coming barely a week after the PDP standard bearer picked his running mate from the South-East.
Atiku and the PDP last Friday settled for a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, after reports of an initial plan to zone the Vice Presidential slot to the South-West.
Findings by Saturday PUNCH showed that Atiku, who left for Dubai shortly after the party’s national convention in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, and returned to meet with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who endorsed his candidature, was already discussing with the leadership of the party in the South-West.
Before naming Obi as his running mate, some party leaders in the South-West had called on the ex-VP to consider the zone for the VP slot.
Specifically, a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, had said it would be better for Atiku to nominate someone from the South-West as his running mate.
George, who is a former military governor of Ondo State, argued that the party must consider the importance of the South-West to its desire to win the presidential election next year.
However, a top member of the National Working Committee of the PDP told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that the VP slot was given to the South-East zone in order to placate the people of the region over their cry of alleged marginalisation.
The source, who was privy to the picking of Obi told Saturday PUNCH on Thursday that the former governor of Anambra State was considered the best among those seeking the position.
He said, “We actually thought about the need to pick from the South-West, but we also considered the cry of marginalisation from the South-East.
“If you look at it, you will know that from the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo up till now, except when former President Goodluck Jonathan was there, the South-West had been producing either the President or the Vice President.
“This was the reason we felt Atiku’s running mate should come from another geopolitical zone.”
Confirming the planned meeting between Atiku and the PDP South-West leaders, a former Minister of Transportation, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, told Saturday PUNCH in an interview that the former VP had scheduled the meeting.
Babatope, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of the party, believed that the zone had nothing to fear, pointing out that the former VP was voted by majority of the delegates from the South-West zone during the party’s national convention which was held in Port Harcourt between October 6 and 7.
Apart from this, he said Atiku, whose first wife hails from Osun State, would never neglect the zone if he won the election.
Babatope said, “I’m aware that the leadership of our party in the South-West will meet with Atiku very soon. At the meeting, which is already being planned, our presidential candidate will tell us what he has for us.
“We are not angry because we lost the VP slot to the South-East. Majority of us voted for him at the national convention in Port Harcourt.”
He added, “It may also interest you to know that Atiku, being part of the Obasanjo presidency, is aware of the sharing of political offices in the PDP. It was a government that respected the principle of federal character.
“You may also need to know that Atiku has agreed to give the nation true federalism. That, to me, is the ultimate. I’m sure that with true federalism, Nigeria will be better.”
Speaking on the plan the PDP has for the South-West zone, the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, said all the six geopolitical zones would be accommodated by the party “when we win the presidential election.”
Secondus told Saturday PUNCH that “the PDP is sensitive to our members in particular and the nation in general. We are going to have elaborate meetings on the zoning of offices and I can tell you all the zones will be accommodated.”
It was gathered that the South-West might get the position of either the Secretary to the Government of the Federation or that of the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Atiku cabinet.
Meanwhile, Atiku has also said that the South-West is critical to his team’s struggle to liberate the country from the grip of the All Progressives Congress.
He said it would be wrong to assume he had decided to neglect the zone because he didn’t pick his running mate from there, insisting that every part of the country would benefit from the available political offices and positions.
Atiku, who spoke through the Head of his Media Campaign Organisation, Mr Segun Sowumi, said there were no plans by his team to forget any zone.
He said, “Every part of Nigeria is important to us. The South-West is very critical to our struggle to liberate the entire country from the grip of the All Progressives Congress.
“Our candidate has bought into the clamour by the zone for a restructured country. Apart from this, we have only given the slot of the VP out.
“There are other positions like that of the President of the Senate, SGF, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Head of Service and ministerial positions.
“I can assure you that all Nigerians, in every zone, will be carried along.”