Just recently, some founding fathers and governors influenced the choice of Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar.
Before their intervention, the pendulum tilted in the direction of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, who came second in the party’s presidential primary.
The leaders and governors advised the candidate to choose what a source described as “a less controversial and a controllable running mate” since the 2023 campaign will be issue-based.
Yesterday, Atiku unveiled Okowa at a meeting in Abuja.
Others considered for the slot were Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel and one-time Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who it was learnt, was not consulted but included on the list.
DAAR Communications Chairman, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who was initially featured, did not make the final cut following the insistence of a retired Army General who played a prominent role in the Obasanjo Administration that he should be dropped.
Another source, who was part of the search team that zeroed in on Okowa said: “We actually looked at his calmness and less controversial political lifestyle. He is adding value and not a baggage to the campaign team.
“We wanted a situation whereby Atiku and his deputy will be able to work harmoniously if they win in 2023.
“And from the list of potential vice presidential nominees from the Southsouth, Okowa was never ambitious. All our leaders took note of this characteristic.
“Above all, Okowa has a richer political experience than other nominees. Having consulted widely, we felt he could add more value to Atiku than others.
“None of them could match his records as Chairman of Ika North-East Local Government Area, a commissioner, a Secretary to Delta State Government and a Senator. He will not be a passenger in government.”
The source also cited Okowa’s Igbo descent as “a strategy to win votes from the Southeast”.
He said Okowa’s choice “is the closest offer PDP can make to appease the Igbo because Okowa is a hybrid of the Southeast and Southsouth culture”s.
“The permutation is about winning votes because 2023 poll is going to be tough,” the source added.
A former governor gave an insight into why the pro-Okowa forces hijacked the process.
He said the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) was overruled. The NAC recommended Wike.
The former governor said: “The party hijacked the process from Atiku. We went back to our winning ways of picking an amenable running mate because of the task at hand to rescue Nigeria in 2023.
“Okowa’s emergence followed PDP’s antecedents of shopping for a sober vice presidential candidate. In 1999, the late Governor Abubakar Rimi was to be vice president to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo but we felt Rimi as a leftist would not complement him because he would be uncontrollable.
“In 2007, ex-Governor Peter Odili was highly favoured to be running mate to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua but his image was looming larger than Yar’Adua’s. We foresaw a likely crisis and opted for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan who is meek.
“We wanted someone who will not rock the boat and Okowa fits the bill.”
The ex-governor added: “We were almost reaching a deadlock because the governors insisted the running mate must to be one of them. We bowed to the governors’ wish and reached a consensus on Okowa.”
Okowa’s choice appears not to have gone down well with some other influential members of the party, particularly the way they said the process was hijacked by the leadership and those who believe they own the PDP.
The aggrieved members are not happy that the National Chairman Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and some leaders jettisoned the recommendations of the various committees on the choice of Wike.
The disagreement over Okowa made some governors and members of the National Working Committee (NWC), including the National Secretary, Senator Sam Anyanwu and National Vice Chairman (Southsouth), Chief Dan Orbih, boycott the unveiling of Okowa.
“Some stakeholders are unhappy because the party’s leadership sidelined the recommendations of vital organs of the party on the choice of Wike,” another source told this newspaper.
Announcing Okowa as his preference, Atiku said he settled for the Delta governor because he needed a deputy who would be able to speak his mind freely.
Atiku explained that he consulted all party organs and key stakeholders before arriving at the decision. He described Okowa as level-headed and an experienced politician both in the executive and the legislature.
He said: “In arriving at the decision, I held wide consultations with various stakeholders in our party, including our governors, National Working Committee, Board of Trustees and other leaders to seek their input and their wisdom.
“In these consultations, I made clear that my running mate would have the potential to succeed me at a moment’s notice, that is, a President-in-waiting.
“In other words, the person must have the qualities to be President. The person must have an appreciation of the deep rot which our country has been put into by the rudderless APC government; understands the great suffering that most of our people are going through and the urgency of relieving them of that suffering; understands the critical importance of economic growth and development to provide our young people with jobs, hope, and a pathway to wealth.
“The person must appreciate the critical importance of education in the development of modern societies so we can prepare our young people to be able to compete in the increasingly competitive and globalised world.
“My running mate must understand that without security, development will be very difficult because local and foreign investors who have been scared away already, would not return to invest in our economy.
“Thus, my running mate will be a person who will stand by me as I confront the frightening level of insecurity in our land.
“In addition, my running mate has to be someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and give honest advice, and be by my side as I work very hard to reverse the destructive impact of the past seven years of the APC government.
“It is a difficult decision that I am called upon to take. But, as someone hoping to lead a complex country such as ours, tough and difficult decisions would remain a part of my everyday life.
“Let me, therefore, start this momentous journey with a crucial decision about who, among the eminently qualified shortlist, would be my running mate.
“I know that he will not only add excitement to our already energised ticket and campaign but will also help to bring focus, discipline and stability to our government, come 2023.
“I am pleased, therefore, to announce here my choice of a running mate who will help to lead us to victory next year, not only in the presidential election but also in the governorship and legislative elections.
“And he will be by my side as I work hard every day to provide our people with security, revive our economy, improve education and unite our country.
“He has both legislative and executive experiences. Please join me in welcoming to the ticket the next Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa”.