Fresh facts have emerged as to how last-minute politicking swayed the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to pick Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate.
It was gathered in Abuja, on Thursday, that although the consultative committee set up to assist Atiku pick a running mate was predominantly favourably disposed to Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, the candidate opted for Okowa, whom he felt was level-headed and had the right temperament to add value to the ticket.
A usually reliable party source who confided in the Vanguard explained that the candidate held meetings which lasted into the early hours of “this morning.”
The source said, “The candidate has to prove very early enough that he is his own man. The decision for him to pick Okowa was made easy by the fact that he was on the list of those short-listed.
“There were also pressures from powerful interests who citied Wike’s hard stance on issues of taxation especially with respect to the Rivers State court case against the Federal Government, on the Value Added Tax.
“Considering the fact that the Vice President will be in charge of the economy, a number of people felt it would be too risky to have someone with Wike’s temperament in charge.
“There is also the issue of legislative liaison. The candidate (Atiku) explained and rightly too that Okowa, who was a Senator was better placed to build synergy between legislators and the executive.”
Earlier, Atiku promised not to shy away from taking tough decisions in order to move the nation forward when voted into office in 2023.
Atiku spoke while unveiling Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate for the 2023 Presidential election, in Abuja, on Thursday.
He appealed for unity within the party’s rank and file as it prepares for the electioneering campaigns and elections proper.
The former Vice President said, “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.
“Accordingly, let me state that the person I have chosen as my Running Mate possesses all those identified qualities.
“He personifies not only the seriousness the current moment represents for our country but also the future that our young people yearn for and deserve.
“He is a serving State Governor who has demonstrated, in his State and through his conduct, that governance is about service to the people.
“I know that he will not only add excitement to our already energized 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 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.”
Atiku further explained that In arriving at the decision, he held wide consultations with various stakeholders within the party including Governors, the National Working Committee, Board of Trustees, and other leaders to seek their input and their wisdom.
He said, “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.“
He added, “In the United States of America from where we borrowed key aspects of our current Presidential system, a running mate is used to balance the ticket, complement the candidate and, after victory, assist the President with governance.
“Sometimes a candidate is chosen who generates a buzz and adds huge excitement to the campaign.“
“I have sought the support, guidance, and counsel of the PDP in selecting a befitting Running Mate who meets all or most of the qualities enumerated above.
“The wisemen and sages of the Party, put together by our NWC, have gone fishing and brought home an enviable group of awesome politicians that surpasses these qualities.
“Every one of the recommended persons is a fit and proper individual to hold this office. While this makes me marvel at the bundle of talents that abounds in our Party, it also compounded my task of choosing a single person from among them. “
While admitting that the task of winning the coming elections will be a tough one, he said the party must not take anything for granted.
In his acceptance speech, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa gave thanks to God and appreciated the party for conducting a very successful convention.
He said, “Mr. President in waiting, I must truly thank you for finding me worthy to be on this ticket. I do know that it was a very tough decision, even as you have spoken this afternoon.
“But I thank God that amongst my very qualified colleagues, even those more qualified than myself, I found favour and I’m here today as the vice-presidential candidate of the party.
“While thanking you, I do understand that it’s a great work that is ahead of us. By the special grace of God, we will work hard to ensure victory for the party.
“There is no doubt that there is a great work ahead of each and every one of us. The building back process is going to be collective and we’re trusting that all of our team members will want to be part of that story at the end of the day.
“The story which will obviously be positive and will yield positive results will require that each and every one of us must support our principle as we move forth in the next few months and that in the end, we will win the elections with a landslide victory.”
Okowa further said, “So, we must create in ourselves, in yourself, a new approach to political issues, a new commitment, which I believe we all yearn for.
“It will require a lot of commitment from each and every one of us. It will require the unity of each and every one of us in our various wards, in our various local governments and in states. We need the PDP to return to power.
We have answers to the questions because I’ve had the opportunity of going through our candidates book, and I hope each and every one of us will take the time to go through “My Covenant with Nigeria.
“It is something worth studying. It is something put together which I don’t think, other presidential candidates of other parties have not been able to put together. You need to go through it.
“You will find the solutions to our problems in that document. I also appreciate our presidential candidate publicly for making this happen earlier.“
He pleaded with all members of the party to join hands with the candidate and the party leadership to ensure that the party wins the 2023 elections with a landslide.