Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has addressed the controversy surrounding his choice of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State governor, as running mate, noting that he did not reject Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor as being speculated.
Atiku who spoke in an exclusive interview with Arise TV which was aired Friday morning, said he chose who he felt could deliver among the nominees that were presented to him.
“I didn’t reject Wike, I picked who can deliver. Wike is brilliant and tenacious. Going by history, I picked an Igbo as running mate in 2007, in 2019. I still picked an Igbo as running mate for 2023,” Atiku said.
“The committee that presented the three nominees was chaired by the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom. They recommended three people, so I picked one. People should be fair to me and state the facts.”
On the possibility of resolving issues with Wike, Atiku said the party was talking to Wike.
“We are reaching out to Wike and we are talking with him and I believe very soon we will find a reconciliation. In fact, very soon, because we are talking to him.
“We are talking to his governor colleagues. I am very optimistic we are going to resolve our internal crisis and move on.”
He added, “I have contested this presidency a couple of times and I don’t try to blame anybody, I accept the outcome or go to court,” Atiku said.
Atiku also noted that he was driven by the passion to serve the country.
“I’m driven by passion and desire to give back to this country. I’m driven by the passion to give back to this country because of what the country has done for me.
“With what I have been able to accomplish at my age, I don’t desire any other thing other than the passion to serve my country.
Speaking on zoning, Atiku said the PDP had never agreed to zone presidency to the South, noting that there was no concession like that.
“We never zoned to any part of the country,” he said.
On Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Atiku said Obi did not consult him before joining Labour, but only informed him after he had declared for the party.
Asked whether he misses the former Anambra State governor, Atiku signed and said, “Unfortunately he did not consult me.”
The former vice president, however, noted that it would difficult for Obi to win power under Labour Party.
“It will take a miracle for Labour Party with no structure in the grassroots to win the presidency. In the north 90% of our people are not in tune to Social media,” he said.
On the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said Muslim-Muslim ticket made him reject Asiwaju Bola Tinubu when he wanted to be his running mate in 2007.
Atiku fell out with Obasanjo in the bid to succeed him, but later clinched the presidential ticket of Action Congress (AC), a party that Tinubu was instrumental to its formation after the political “Tsunami” that hit Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors who were elected in 1999.
Towards the end of his second term as governor of Lagos, Tinubu laid the groundwork for the establishment of AC, the platform on which Babatunde Fashola, incumbent Minister of Works and Housing, was elected as his successor.
During the running battle with Obasanjo, Atiku defected from the PDP and clinched the AC presidential ticket.
However, he came a distant third in the election, which was won by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, President Muhammadu Buhari of the then All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) came second.
Atiku said in the interview that the Muslim-Muslim ticket, which is generating a controversy in the country at the moment, made him not to choose Tinubu.
“The Muslim-Muslim ticket has always been my fundamental disagreement. Nigeria is a multiethnic and multi-religious nation and there should be a religious balance in our leadership,” he said.
Tinubu, who will square off with Atiku in the 2023 Presidential election, chose Senator Kashim Shettima, a fellow Muslim as running mate and this has been generating controversy.
When asked about his relationship with Tinubu, Atiku said, “I’m still a friend of him and being friends with him doesn’t mean we can’t have our political differences.”
On the economy, Atiku proposed the decentralisation of power, noting that both generation and transmission should be decentralized.
He said doing so would allow each region to generate power through the a more efficient way, such hatred as Eastern region coal and Northern region, hydro.
He also said the NNPC should be privatised for better efficiency.