‘The untold story of how Okowa emerges PDP Vice Presidential Candidate’
by Tunde Joshua, Abuja
Since the unveiling of the Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as the vice presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) by the presidential flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, the party has not been at ease as his choice sparked row among stakeholders, particularly those that believed that Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike should have been selected Atiku’s running mate.
His emergence created a wide gulf between Atiku and Wike and polarised organs of the party such as the National Working Committee (NWC), the Governors’ Forum, and the National Assembly Caucus with members taking sides.
The National Chairman of PDP, Dr Iyorchia Ayu was not spared as he was accused of compromise and improper handling of the fallout of the two-party processes. The call for his removal from office became aggravated as the crisis lingers.
Efforts at different levels to mediate in the crisis finally yielded a gleam of results two days ago as the principal actors in the feud, Atiku and Wike met in Abuja at the instance of former Information minister, Prof. Jerry Gana.
While several accounts of how Atiku allegedly disappointed or rather undermined Wike have been reported by concerned party members, the Director General of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Hon. Cyril Maduambum gave an insider account of “how Okowa was chosen as Atiku’s running mate”.
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He said the task of running mate was not an easy one for Atiku considering the array of highly qualified individuals from the southern part of the country where the vice presidential nominee was expected to come from.
He said “the PDP candidate first set up an in-house committee to make recommendations to him. This was headed by Gen.Aliyu Gusau (rtd). They sent in their recommendation. Later, the PDP set up an Advisory Committee for the selection of a presidential running mate.?
According to him, the Committee was “on the directive of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar GCON, the presidential flag bearer of our great party, PDP, to the National Chairman, vide his letter dated May 31, 2020, to constitute a committee to play an advisory role in the selection of the presidential running mate”.
He said the Committee was made up of nominees from the PDP Governors Forum, the PDP Board of Trustees and the PDP National Working Committee. Governors on the committee were Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi) and Samuel Ortom(Benue).
Members of the BoT on the committee were former Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, former Niger governor, Babangida Aliyu and the Secretary of the Trustees, former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara.
Representing the NWC on the committee were National Secretary, Sen. Samuel Anysnwu, National Deputy Chairman (North), Amb. Ilya Damagum and his counterpart from the south, Amb. Taofeek Arapaja.
He said “the committee recommended three names through the NWC to the Candidate. They are; Governor Nyesom Wike, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom.
The Committee also forwarded the list of nominees to the candidate “who has the constitutional responsibility to make the choice. And no other”.
Contrary to insinuations that Atiku thereafter took a unilateral decision, the Director General said the presidential candidate consulted widely with various stakeholders before setting up the committee.
“He met separately with the PDP Governors’ Forum on 8th June 2022 at the Legacy House and even the chairman of the Forum, Gov. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal affirmed that the consultative meeting was on matters concerning the way forward.
“He also met with the Board of Trustees and the Former PDP Governors’ Forum separately and asked for their opinion. In the case of the PDP Governor, Alhaji Atiku informed them that he will select his presidential running mate from one of them. He kept his word by choosing the Delta State governor, His Excellency, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa.”
In his speech before the BoT, stakeholders and others at the National Caucus meeting convened for the purpose before the unveiling of Okowa, Atiku said the choice of his running mate was a difficult decision for him.
He said, “though it was a tough decision for him to take, he had to live up to the task because as someone hoping to lead a complex country such as ours, tough and difficult decisions would remain a part of his everyday life”.
Justifying Atiku’s reason and responsibility for the choice he made, the former member of the House of Representatives said the candidate made up his mind that his running mate should possess certain qualities which include being capable of succeeding him “at a moment’s notice, that is, a president- in – waiting”.
He said Atiku must have conceptualised many factors in arriving at his choice and that no power within the party can change such.
“For instance, he said his running mate must bring focus, discipline and stability to their government come 2023.
Maduabum said, “with the unveiling of Okowa, the PDP activated a clause in the PDP Electoral Guidelines which mandates the selection of a Committee to screen the Vice Presidential Candidate.” A 12- man Vice Presidential Candidate Screening Committee led by High Chief Tom Ikimi and Dr Akilu Ndabawa as Secretary was constituted.
“The Committee screened and cleared Okowa and his name and that of the PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar were forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday 17th June 2022.
“The PDP has shown by the timely nomination of substantive Vice Presidential candidate that it is an efficient and effective political party ready to take over the reins of government”, he said.
Going by this due diligent nomination process, the Director General said it would be unfair for anyone to accuse the presidential candidate or leadership of the party of any pre-planned or orchestrated arrangement to favour Okowa over other nominees for the position of vice president.
Rather, he charged all stakeholders to rally round the candidates of the party and give maximum support to ensure the PDP take over governance in 2023.