Some founding fathers and governors influenced the choice of Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, it was learnt yesterday.
Before their intervention, the pendulum tilted in the direction of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, who came second in the party’s presidential primary.
The leaders and governors advised the candidate to choose what a source described as “a less controversial and a controllable running mate” since the 2023 campaign will be issue-based.
Yesterday, Atiku unveiled Okowa at a meeting in Abuja.
Others considered for the slot were Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel and one-time Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who it was learnt, was not consulted but included on the list.
DAAR Communications Chairman, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, who was initially featured, did not make the final cut following the insistence of a retired Army General who played a prominent role in the Obasanjo Administration that he should be dropped.
Another source, who was part of the search team that zeroed in on Okowa said: “We actually looked at his calmness and less controversial political lifestyle. He is adding value and not a baggage to the campaign team.
“We wanted a situation whereby Atiku and his deputy will be able to work harmoniously if they win in 2023.
“And from the list of potential vice presidential nominees from the Southsouth, Okowa was never ambitious. All our leaders took note of this characteristic.
“Above all, Okowa has a richer political experience than other nominees. Having consulted widely, we felt he could add more value to Atiku than others.
“None of them could match his records as Chairman of Ika North-East Local Government Area, a commissioner, a Secretary to Delta State Government and a Senator. He will not be a passenger in government.”
The source also cited Okowa’s Igbo descent as “a strategy to win votes from the Southeast”.
He said Okowa’s choice “is the closest offer PDP can make to appease the Igbo because Okowa is a hybrid of the Southeast and Southsouth culture”s.
“The permutation is about winning votes because 2023 poll is going to be tough,” the source added.
A former governor gave an insight into why the pro-Okowa forces hijacked the process.
He said the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) was overruled. The NAC recommended Wike.
The former governor said: “The party hijacked the process from Atiku. We went back to our winning ways of picking an amenable running mate because of the task at hand to rescue Nigeria in 2023.
“Okowa’s emergence followed PDP’s antecedents of shopping for a sober vice presidential candidate. In 1999, the late Governor Abubakar Rimi was to be vice president to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo but we felt Rimi as a leftist would not complement him because he would be uncontrollable.
“In 2007, ex-Governor Peter Odili was highly favoured to be running mate to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua but his image was looming larger than Yar’Adua’s. We foresaw a likely crisis and opted for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan who is meek.
“We wanted someone who will not rock the boat and Okowa fits the bill.”
The ex-governor added: “We were almost reaching a deadlock because the governors insisted the running mate must to be one of them. We bowed to the governors’ wish and reached a consensus on Okowa.”
Okowa’s choice appears not to have gone down well with some other influential members of the party, particularly the way they said the process was hijacked by the leadership and those who believe they own the PDP.
The aggrieved members are not happy that the National Chairman Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and some leaders jettisoned the recommendations of the various committees on the choice of Wike.
The disagreement over Okowa made some governors and members of the National Working Committee (NWC), including the National Secretary, Senator Sam Anyanwu and National Vice Chairman (Southsouth), Chief Dan Orbih, boycott the unveiling of Okowa.
“Some stakeholders are unhappy because the party’s leadership sidelined the recommendations of vital organs of the party on the choice of Wike,” another source told this newspaper.