2019 elections: Why Peter Obi became Atiku’s running mate

Why Peter Obi became Atiku’s running mate

“I left ₦75billion investment, ₦30billion in cash and hard currencies in  Anambra State treasury when I left office as Governor,” Obi said. Former governor of Anambra state Peter Obi has been chosen by Atiku Abubakar to be his running mate ahead of the 2019 presidential elections and the decision has been praised by Nigerians but opposed by the South East political leaders. The 2019 elections comes in less than 9 months and for a while it seemed like the All Progressive Congress (APC) who have picked President Muhammudu Buhari to be their flag bearer had the lead until Atiku picked Obi to be his running mate on October 12, a day after winning the party primaries in Port-Harcourt.

Atiku who defeated Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto state Governor Aminu Tambuwal and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primaries campaigned on the promise of #LetsGetNigeriaWorkingAgain as he seeks to defeat incumbent Buhari who is beginning to lose the support of the populace.

 Atiku is no stranger to Nigerian politics, he had decamped from the APC back to the PDP after failing to win the presidential ticket ahead of the 2015 election, and he also served as former governor of Adamawa state in 1999 and vice-president during the tenure of Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.

The decision to pick Peter Obi as his running mate however seems to have put Atiku at the front of race to the president after the 2019 elections.

Obi, a businessman first before being governor has been generally regarded as one of the best governors Nigeria has ever produced.

Before becoming governor, Obi had served as chairman for the following companies; Fidelity Bank, Future Views Securities, Paymaster Nigeria and Next International. He was served as director at Guardian Express Bank, Charms Nigeria, Emerging Capital and Card Centre.

He was first elected governor from March 2006 to November 2006, when he was impeached and from 9 February 2007 to 29 May 2007 after his impeachment was overturned. The 47-year-old returned to office as governor in June 2007 after a court ruling that he should be allowed to complete a four-year term. He won a second term as governor in February 2010. All this he did under the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA)

Under his rule the number of Nigerian billionaires increased and Anambra state has the second highest internally generated revenue after Lagos state which is the hub for commercial activities in Nigeria.

His tenure has been hailed for the way he cut government cost. Speaking to The Shell TV, the business man revealed that he left Anambra state with more money than any other state, cancelled the state’s debt and even left some for his successor

“I left ₦75billion investment, ₦30billion in cash and hard currencies in  Anambra State treasury when I left office as Governor,” Obi said.

Speaking at the Convenant center in 2016, Obi revealed how made the state richer was cutting down cost of governance and reduced spending.

He shut down Anambra Government Lodges in Abuja and other states in the country because they were hardly ever used but were expensive to maintain. His travelling entourage was greatly reduced from about thirty, to a few, thereby saving the state from spending millions of naira per trip to Abuja.

After the administration before him awarded a 200 million naira contract to renovate the Governor’s lodge in Amawbia, he re-awarded it for about a quarter of the previous amount. He also stopped using bullet proof cars and decided to save up the money allocated to buy new government cars ever six months.

Anambra state was also noted to be the only state to pay salaries of all government workers during and after his tenure out of the 36 states in the country.

It must have been all this cut cutting measures that made Atiku take a look and decide that he was the right man for the job. Despite praise from Nigerians, the South-East Igbo leaders of the PDP have been against him being picked as they felt they were not consulted.

At the forefront of this opposition is the Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu who is reportedly eyeing the position of vice-president. Ekweremadu is currently serving his third tenure as deputy senate leader and reports from the PDP camp claim he is scared he might lose his position after the 2019 elections.

Arrangements had been made within the PDP that the position of the vice-president for the party would come from the Ibo ethnic group of the South East which Ekweremadu  and Obi are both members

A source close to Ekweremadu revealed to me that he was furious not to have been consulted before Obi was picked. The source who wanted to remain anonymous said: “Being the most senior South-East Ibo in government, Ike was thinking he would at least be considered or be told if he would not be picked by Atiku but then he was left out of the decision making process.

“He feels betrayed that Obi, who just a few years ago was still a member of APGA was picked ahead of him a member of PDP for over 20 years. Ike feels he and the South East Governor’s Forum should have been consulted after made his decision before going public with it.”

Reports claim that Ekweremadu’s position as deputy president of the Senate would be forfeited because the South-east zone would not be allowed to have the vice president and retain the deputy Senate presidency if the party wins the 2019 general election.

This is the major reason why Ekweremadu was against Obi’s ascension to the party’s vice-presidency.

Coincidentally, Ekweremadu and Obi were Atiku’s top picks for the position of vice-president but Obi was eventually chosen due to his track record as governor of Anambra stae, his business acumen and absence from government.

Ekweremadu has however now backed Obi after receiving a visit from the former governor and having a closed door meeting where they reportedly discussed how they intend to move the country forward.

With the PDP now looking more united and the APC continually shooting itself in the foot with public relations blunders, it seems like Atiku has pulled off a masterstroke in picking Peter Obi as his running.