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Obi, Kwankwaso yet to agree on presidential candidate, running mate By Obayomi Abiola Benjamin On Saturday 25th June 2022Politics & Governance 122

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The joint panel set up by the Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’s Party to work out an alliance between Rabiu Kwankwaso and Mr Peter Obi has submitted its report for consideration, findings by Saturday PUNCH have revealed.

Kwankwaso, a former Kano State governor and presidential candidate of the NNPP, is said to have a strong followership in the North with his Kwankwasiyya movement, while Obi, a former Anambra State governor and LP presidential candidate, is having an increasing support base among youths in the southern part of the country and the social media.

While it is no longer possible for political parties to merge, in line with Section 81 (2) of the Electoral Act, both presidential candidates are working on a joint ticket with the hope of defeating the ruling All Progressives Congress, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and others in the February 25, 2023 presidential election.

The Section 81 (2) reads, “Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the commission nine months’ notice of their intention to do so before a general election.” Already, the 2023 general elections will commence on February 25, which is less than nine months away.

Kwankwaso in an interview about a week ago confirmed that a committee was set up to work on the alliance and that conversation was ongoing. He said, “We are in talks with Peter Obi and a committee is working to look into how to form a merger between us.

“The merger is important because as you can see, both the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party did not pick their running mates from the South-East.”

As the deadline for the substitution of candidates and running mates for the presidential and National Assembly candidates draws near, there is a mounting anxiety among the supporters of the two candidates over the progress made in the alliance talks.

Meanwhile, the running mate to Obi and director-general of his campaign organisation, Dr Doyin Okupe, confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that the panel had concluded its sitting and talks were ongoing on the way forward.

Okupe said, “A committee was set up before now and the committee has completed its work. There have been informal meetings and third party stakeholders interventions and we have had structured official meetings too.

“In all, we came to two agreements; one is that we are going to work together as political parties in order to achieve this change that we all desire. What we did not agree upon is who would be the president and who would be the vice-president. We didn’t agree on that. But we left it open.”

Asked if the parties would agree on the issue before the deadline for political parties to submit the names of their final running mates, Okupe said, “We are aware of the deadline, and we are working on it. When we adjourned our last meeting, we adjourned sine die. So, if there is a change, we will reconvene. But we are moving on. There is no problem. We have agreed to work together to create a platform for a national coalition, so that objective is still in place.”

Also, the National Chairman, NNPP, Prof Rufai Alkali, told Saturday PUNCH in an interview that the party was engaging with the people and getting support and solidarity from many places.

When asked who would become the candidate and running mate between Kwankwaso and Obi, Alkali said, “Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso is a seasoned politician and he knows the country very well. Certain decisions have to be taken at the appropriate time in a way and manner that would bring more strength and credibility to this journey.”

Asked if a decision had been reached on it, he said, “When we do, you will be among the first to know. No decision yet.”

About the panel’s report, he said, “I am not aware of anything and I am not going to comment on that.”

On the prospect of the NNPP in 2023, Alkali said, “I have been in other parties before the NNPP, and I must say it is amazing. We keep receiving calls from people that are likely to join us and we are making a lot of progress.”

Sources in both the NNPP and LP confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that an influential former President was among those being consulted on the issue.

Kwankwaso in Rivers

The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on Friday received Kwankwaso in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

After losing the PDP presidential primary to Atiku Abubakar and the running mate slot to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Wike, who is said to be aggrieved by the development, has continued to receive high-profile politicians, including Obi who visited him on Thursday.

Meanwhile, both of them were seen in front of the Wike’s residence exchanging pleasantries on Friday. This was about 24-hours after a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, as well as the senate minority caucus led by its leader, Philip Aduda.

The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, also visited Wike on Wednesday, while Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State visited him earlier in the week.

It is believed that the visits have to do with the forthcoming presidential election. All the visits were followed by a closed-door meeting but the outcome had remained unknown.

…19 days to go

Meanwhile, the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission indicates that political parties have until July 15 to withdraw or replace their candidates and their ru