By Miftaudeen Raji
The presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar has announced Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election.
Okowa, a silent fighter emerged as Atiku’s favourite despite speculations had earlier favoured his counterpart in Rivers, Governor, Nyesom Wike who pulled all his political weights hoping to secure the party’s ticket.
Okowa’s style of politics dictates that he works silently in the background – most of the time, no one sees him coming. Okowa doesn’t talk, but he wields remarkable political influence that yields results as manifest in the previous role he has played within and outside the party, particularly in Delta lately.
For readers delight, here are five critical reasons that could be considered as what informed the choice of Okowa for Atiku and why the Delta State governor merited the PDP’s vice presidential candidate slot.
Okowa’s Igbo brand and electoral value
The name ‘Ifeanyi’ and ‘red cap’ is not only a fine sell for the Atiku-Okowa presidential ticket in the South-East region of the Country, it is also the credence of his cultural ties with Igbos.
Governor Okowa’s geo-political and ethnic group positions him as the best running mate for the Turaki of Adamawa.
Aside from the fact that the name, Ifeanyi appeals to the Igbo, his personality will bridge the gap between the communities in the South-East region and the federal government. He has some level of acceptability from the people.
Okowa is a Delta Igbo man. The implication this would have on South-East and South-South votes for Atiku can not be overstated.
Although Peter Obi is also from that region, Okowa is practically more on ground politically to reach out to different categories of people that will translate to real votes and he has opened a new path for Atiku in South East.
Key role played in PDP
Over the years, Okowa has demonstrated capacity as far as internal party politics is concerned. He has integrity and organizational ability.
Okowa has an unwavering loyalty and commitment to the PDP, and is considered as the personality with the best comportment, temperament and electoral value to swing votes to the side of the PDP.
His role was noticeable at the PDP Convention that produced Iyorchia Ayu as the Chairman of the PDP. Okowa was on ground and played a crucial role in the PDP Special Convention and Presidential Primary that produced Atiku and Aminu Tambuwal as the runner-up in 2019.
Okowa has excelled in all PDP national and regional assignments particularly the 2019 presidential primary in Port Harcourt, largely acknowledged as the best well-organized party presidential primary in the history of internal party politics in Nigeria.
His intellectual and political acumen has earned him some control, in the past two decades, as well as helped him sustain unity and progress within the party at state and national levels, with contributions to the nation’s democracy.
Influence in South-South
With his alliance with powers that be in the South-South, Okowa was able to deliver good number of delegates which largely contributed to the emergence of Atiku at the keenly-contested PDP primary.
Okowa should be able to bring on board his high-ranking political networks to support the Atiku presidential ambition, particularly his counterpart governors such as Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom.
He would carry South-South, South-East, Delta, Itsekiri, Urhobo and people of other extractions along.
It is, therefore, safe to assert that Atiku will enjoy measurable votes from the region and gain substantial patronage, with governor Okowa as the incumbent Chairman of South-South Governors Forum.
Recall Okowa’s role in Edo politics, he was on ground to give Obaseki all the strengths, which consequently helped him defeat the duo of Adams Oshiomole and his choice governorship candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the ruling All Progressives Congress in 2019.
Contribution to Atiku’s PDP presidential ticket
Okowa helped Atiku beat a total of 13 other aspirants from the six geo-political zones in the PDP presidential race, reflecting the party’s decision to jettison zoning and throw the primary open.
While Wike was the man, who was most visible and pulling political gimmicks openly, Okawa was wielding his power silently with the party and winning the support of delegates from the South-South for Atiku ahead of the primary.
With his support, Okowa was able to manage the PDP South-South governors through out the period of the PDP primary, ensuring that the governors work and rally the optimum support for Atiku to will measurable votes that earned him victory.
Wike and Atiku’s incompatibility
Okowa as a vice president to an Atiku will not struggle for power with Atiku in government if they eventually make it to the presidency in 2023. There’s a relative fear for Atiku over Govenor Nyesom Wike, just as analyts have said they are not compatible. However, Wike had pledged to support whoever emerges as flag bears of the party.
As a former Secretary to the State Government of Delta, Okowa’s corporate and conservative personality also matches Atiku, who is also considered as a corporate politician. Unadulterated Igbo brand, could complement for Atiku on various grounds.
With Okawa, there’s almost no likelihood of political bickering between him and Atiku, who has a towering political portfolio that spans nation-wide, with a formidable party structure. Okowa is a good match for Atiku, because he is loyal, reserved and more mature.
Atiku’s criteria for running mate
Atiku, while speaking during the announcement of his running mate, noted his Vice President must fulfill the qualities to be president and one that could complement him as a President.
He added that he should symbolize the quality to unite Nigeria, who is not afraid to speak and give advice on governance in the country.
The PDP presidential candidate also added that his running mate must understand what he described as the depth of rots in the Nigerian system, with understanding of critical needs of economic growth.
Atiku has a noticeable appeal for the youths, which may have informed his choice of Okowa, who also appeals to the youths and has been carrying youths along in Delta, a potential which Atiku also ticked as part of his criteria for his running mate.