Atiku, Okowa

By Dapo Akinrefon

There is no doubt that preparations for the   2023 general elections are gaining momentum as politicians and political parties are gearing up to outwit each other.

While some parties and candidates have resorted to mudslinging, as the electioneering campaigns take centre stage, others are making frantic moves to woo the electorate by selling their manifestos. But one important election Nigerians and indeed the international community are looking out for is the presidential election. All the political parties have thrown up their presidential candidates to slug out next year at the polls.

Also, the presidential candidates have, in turn, picked their running mates, who are seen to have electoral values across the country.

While the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, settled for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, other frontline presidential candidates such as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, settled for former Borno governor, Senator Kashim Shettima; Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, chose Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed and Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso of the Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, unveiled Bishop Isaac Idahosa as his running mate.

Interestingly, while all the presidential candidates have unveiled their manifestos to Nigerians, their running mates are seen to be working behind the scene to garner support for the joint ticket. One running mate seen to be taking the bull by the horn in ensuring the joint ticket wins the heart of Nigerians at the polls next year is Senator Ifeanyi Okowa.

Though his critics have picked holes in his ability to deliver for his party, his admirers think otherwise.

While Atiku is a Fulani, he is seen as a liberal Nigerian but Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and his co-travellers have constantly attacked him, accusing him of being sympathetic to the Miyetti Allah cause.

Aside from the fact that Okowa is from the South, he is also a practising Christian, who is capable of getting support from the Christian block for the PDP. Other attributes that endeared him to the PDP presidential candidate include patience, quiet nature and extensive knowledge of the Nigerian state. Besides, he is seen to love power, but power, to Okowa, is for service which remains his motivating factor in politics. One cannot deny the fact that the medical doctor- turned politician is not ostentatious or flamboyant as other politicians are.

In fact, his biggest strength is his passion for youth empowerment and manpower development. He has been a mentor and remains one to many youths. These attributes stand him out and gave him the edge over his Rivers State counterpart, Governor Nyesome Wike, who was not considered by Atiku.

How Okowa stole Atiku’s heart

Giving reasons for picking Okowa as his running mate, Atiku had said: “Let me begin by, once more, commending our great Party for organizing and concluding, arguably, the best and rancour-free Convention, which produced me as our flag-bearer for the next year’s Presidential Election.

“Once more, I commend my fellow aspirants in that contest. I thank them for their sportsmanship. They put up spirited fights because they cared and cared for our country. I have personally gone around to thank them and to seek their cooperation in the struggle ahead.

“Party unity is critical not only for us to prosecute a winning campaign but also to provide good governance that our country seriously deserves and our people earnestly yearn for. The task of winning the coming elections will be a tough one and we must not take anything for granted. “With the convention behind us, we have arrived at the stage for me to pick a Running Mate because this is a joint ticket. I am very happy to announce today that I have decided on that.

“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 inputs 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 globalized world.

“My running mate must understand that without security, the 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.

‘’But today in Nigeria, we face huge challenges which leave us little room for drama. We have to win the elections and get to work immediately. My running mate has to be ready to start working with me, from day one, in addressing our country’s challenges. Nigerians will not accept anything less. That is why “I promised the Governors of our party that my running mate will come from among them. Our current challenges call for a government that is highly focused and disciplined.

“I have sought for 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 abound in our Party, it also compounded my task of choosing a single person from among them.

“Let me, therefore, pay tribute to my party and, most especially, to all those that made the shortlist that must now be narrowed down to a single person. They are all dedicated party men suitable for this task. I wish all the recommended persons could be announced today as my running mates. Unfortunately, only one must be chosen.” The choice of Okowa, however, speaks volumes about his character. 

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