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Supporters of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his appointees on Thursday expressed anger over the decision of the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to pick the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate.

Wike’s loyalists, who reacted shortly after Atiku unveiled Okowa as his running mate,  dismissed the Delta State governor as a featherweight politician and warned that the decision would have implications for the PDP in the 2023 elections.

But supporters of Okowa and his appointees, described the Delta State governor as a politician, who would add value to the PDP presidential ticket.

Earlier on Thursday, the PDP standard-bearer, 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 travelling 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, was saddled with the responsibility of recommending candidates for the vice-presidential slot.

Those who were lobbying for the slot included Wike, Okowa, and the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, although there were reports on Wednesday that the committee had picked Wike.

Wike was close to being selected but it was gathered that last-minute politicking and some crucial factors swayed Atiku Abubakar to pick Okowa as his running mate.

Although the selection committee set up to assist Atiku to pick a running mate was predominantly and favourably disposed to Wike, the presidential candidate opted for Okowa, who he felt is level-headed and had the right temperament to add value to the ticket. A reliable party source said Atiku held meetings which lasted into the early hours of Thursday morning.

The source said: “The candidate has to prove very early enough that he is his own man. The decision for him to pick Okowa was made easy by the fact that he was on the list of those short-listed. There were also pressures from powerful interests who cited Wike’s hard stance on issues of taxation, especially concerning the Rivers State court case against the Federal Government, on Value Added Tax, VAT.

“Because the Vice-President will be in charge of the economy, several people felt it would be too risky to have someone with Wike’s temperament in charge. There is also the issue of legislative liaison. The candidate (Atiku) explained and rightly too that Okowa, who was a senator, is better placed to build synergy between legislators and the executive.”

It was also gathered that members of the panel had voted in favour of Wike with the firm belief that choosing him would further unite the party.

Explaining the reasons for his decision at the PDP headquarters, Abuja on Thursday, Atiku 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 response, Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of Delta state, says he will remain loyal and committed to the goal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to return to power in 2023..

Speaking after his announcement as the running mate to Atiku abubaker, Okowa said winning the 2023 presidential election will require great work.

The Delta governor asked for the support and commitment of party members to the cause of winning the general election.



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