As the 2023 general elections gather momentum, the South-East appears not close to realizing its ambition of producing President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor or a Vice President.
It could be recalled that the National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the highest decision-making body of the party, had thrown the presidential ticket of the party open, despite the agitation by the South-East.
The region had hoped that the PDP would consider its loyalty to the party since 1999. The South-East has always voted for the PDP in all presidential elections. But the NEC’s decision may have foreclosed South-East presidential ambition.
In terms of political strength, the South-East aspirants are not as formidable as the other aspirants from other regions. Hence, there is the possibility that the region may have to settle for the VP slot.
There is one candidate who has moved across the country, Peter Obi. The former Governor of Anambra State has visited 35 States across the country and the FCT, excluding Adamawa, the home State of Atiku Abubakar.
On social media, Mr. Obi has been extremely popular, winning several polls conducted by different platforms. Over the weekend, some youths organized a million march for him across the country, with a simple message to the delegates in the PDP: “Give us Peter Obi.”
It is unclear how the march for Peter Obi will translate into delegate support, as some of the other candidates have gotten pledges from governors in some of the States.
Former Vice President Atiku appears to be the favourite; however, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has been pulling weight also. Wike continues to get support from the southwest, notably, Governor Seyi Makinde and Ayodele Fayose.
The inability of Obi and other South-East candidates to be the face of the “power must return to the south” campaign, has allowed Mr Wike to more or less plough his way through.
The decision of Obi not to visit delegates in Adamawa State, due to respect to Atiku, has once again raised the possibility of Obi settling for the VP slot, an easier route to presidency for both Obi and the South-East.
However, there are several challenges facing the possibility of a South-East VP ticket.
Ohanaeze’s threat of boycott…
One of such is the stance of Ohanaeze Ndigbo that anything short of a southern candidate will lead to the boycott of the 2023 general elections.
Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the Secretary-General of the apex Igbo group, in a statement published by DAILY POST, said “we will encourage the southern governors and social cultural groups to mobilize our people and boycott the 2023 general election in the south, especially in the South-East if northern candidates should emerge in APC and PDP.”
Unless the region should relax its stance after the party primary, this may foreclose the possibility of Vice President, considering that there is great uncertainty on election in the region due to the activities of IPOB/ESN in the region.
IPOB and insecurity…
Fear of killings by unknown gunmen or ESN could discourage people. Last month, gunmen attacked INEC ad hoc staff in Nkwo Ihitte Market, Imo State.
The insecurity with the resultant impact on voting capacity, may discourage the party from picking a running mate from the South-East. The region has the least voting strength in 2019 despite Peter Obi being on the ticket.
The PDP got 1.6 million votes in 2019 against about 403 thousand the ruling party got in that election. Hence, the number may not support the argument of picking a running mate from the South-East.
Control of PDP structure…
More so, Peter Obi is struggling to get control of the PDP in Anambra State. Doyin Okupe, an ally of the former Anambra State Governor accused the national leaders of manipulating the party.
“It is a matter for regret that despite Peter Obi’s gentlemanly civil disposition and unwavering commitment to the PDP as a party, some officials in the National secretariat of the party don’t accord him the respect due to him as the leader of the party in Anambra,” he tweeted.
There is another factor highlighted by Okupe, which is money. According to Okupe, it will cost $10,000 per delegate at the convention. In the last PDP convention in Port Harcourt in 2019, most delegates went home with between $8000 & $10,000.
“This year, the figures are bound to be higher. The big spenders are prepared to go as far as $10,000 per delegate,” he tweeted.
Possible allegiance by by candidate from South-south
In 2018, Governor Wike supported Aminu Tambuwal, but both of them are in the race for the PDP ticket. In the event of an alliance between those two, it could be a game changer. Also, an alliance between Emmanuel Udom and any candidate from the North is also a possibility. There is also rumour that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa may be interested in the VP slot.