Supporters of River State Governor Nyesome Wike have expressed disappointment in the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubarkar, for choosing Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate in the coming presidential election in 2023.
According to them, Okowa remains a featherweight politician. They warned that the decision would have implications for the PDP in the 2023 elections.
Recall that Atiku, earlier on Thursday via his Twitter handle, @atiku, announced the governor of Delta State as his running mate.
He said, “I am delighted to announce Governor @IAOkowa as my vice-presidential candidate. I look forward to traveling our great country together, engaging with all Nigerians, and building a shared future of peace, unity, and prosperity for all. As one, we can get it done. #OneNigeria. -AA”
The former Vice-President, who emerged as the presidential candidate on May 28, began the search for a running mate together with the leadership of the party by setting up a committee by the party’s National Working Committee on June 9.
The ad hoc committee, consisting of representatives of former governors, incumbent governors, the NWC and the Board of Trustees members of the party, was saddled with the responsibility of recommending candidates for the vice-presidential slot.
Reports has claimed Wike was picked by the PDP’s committee meant to recommend the running mate for Atiku, but the former Vice–President said he picked Okowa because he had the qualities to be a president, adding that he “is a president-in-waiting.”
He said, “In arriving at the decision, I held wide consultations with various stakeholders in our party including our governors, the 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 (All Progressives Congress) 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.”
Atiku, however, noted that all the candidates recommended by the party were proper individuals to be his running mate.
Meanwhile, Wike’s supporters and political office holders in Rivers State said Atiku’s decision would come with implication in the 2023 elections.
The Chairman of the Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, Dr Samuel Nwanosike stated, “There is a local proverb in my village that says nobody will tell a man that eats yam to go and drink water.
“If you are eating yam, you must look for water to drink because if you eat yam without drinking water, it will choke you.”
Nwanosike said although it was the right of Atiku to pick who would fly the party’s ticket with him, but that the former vice-president did not honour his words to respect the decision of the party which set up a committee to choose a running mate for him.
He stated, “If he kept to his words like he said to go with the party’s overwhelming choice, then he would have respected the decision of the panel, which the party’s national chairman and his team set up.”
Nwanosike claimed all stakeholders of the party recommended Wike as Atiku’s running mate.
Asked if Atiku’s preference for Okowa would not affect the former vice-president’s chances, the local government chairman stated, “He has made his calculations. And since he has made his calculations, he (Atiku) will live with the result. He will see out of his calculations. It is not the first time he has been the candidate of the party.
“He was the candidate of the party in 2019. He knows what the result was. Now he has made a decision. So let’s keep our fingers crossed and wait for the decision of the electorate. Right now, it is no longer in the hands of Dr Iyorcha Ayu and his team. It is now in the hands of the electorate.”
On his part, a chieftain of the PDP in the state and former member of the House of Representatives representing Etche-Omuma Constituency, Ogbonna Nwuke, said Wike would speak at the appropriate time.
Nwuke, who was also former Rivers State Commissioner of Information and Communications, however, said by Atiku’s choice of a running mate, he did not reject Wike, but he rejected Rivers State.
“I believe that our leader will speak at the appropriate time. We are members and whatever decision he makes will be okay by us because he is the one wearing the shoe now. I think it is not Governor Wike that Atiku rejected; it is Rivers State he rejected.”
Also, the State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Sydney Gbara, in his reaction said the party in the state was not perturbed but remained united notwithstanding what played out in Abuja concerning the subject matter.
When asked if the choice of Okowa would not affect Atiku’s chances, he said it was left for the party’s leadership to handle.
At the state secretariat, various groups were heard discussing the issue, especially at a popular newsstand within the premises.
A former presidential aspirant, Adamu Garba, said on Twitter, “The PDP made a strategic miscalculation. Wike, not Okowa, would have been better, given the current season.”
@UgoWilliams007 said, “What a combination. The PDP has gambled towards failure by pairing Atiku with a featherweight politician from the South. What are his achievements in Delta State? This points to a resounding victory for Peter Obi and Labour Party. It remains to be seen what APC will conjure.”