Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa
Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa

Against PDP expectations, Okowa suffers major rejection from the Southeast and Southwest

NEWS DIGEST – The joint statement by Afenifere, the Middle Belt and Ohanaeze, disapproving of Mr Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate to Mr Abubakar Atiku, is the latest threat to PDP’s demanding task to win huge scores of votes in the south in the 2023 general elections.

Even though Mr Atiku said he chose Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate because he personified discipline and stability, a southern vice president was important for the PDP, by most indication, to complement Mr Atiku’s northern status and help sway southern electorates in the 2023 general elections.

But since early this week, that decision to announce Okowa, the Delta state governor, as the running mate to Atiku has gathered tense criticism from the South-East and on Friday, from the Yoruba Pan-African group, Afenifere.

The regions, on Friday, called Mr Okowa a “betrayal” for accepting to be a vice under a northern government, being one of the major proponents of a power shift to the South.

According to all three groups, Mr Okowa was one of 17 governors who met and agreed that the presidency should be rotated to the south after the tenure of President Buhari based on the principles of fairness, equity and justice.

“This very Governor Okowa was the host of that historic meeting,” they said.

In turning a corner and accepting to be Atiku’s running mate, the regions said Okowa, who is the chairman of the South-South Governor’s forum, exhibited “barefaced unreliability.”

Political experts had since the PDP convention noted that the party missed a trick voting Atiku as its flag bearer when all indices showed the ruling party, The All Progressive Congress, was steering towards a southern candidate.

Before that, the ugly exit of Peter Obi from the party asked questions about PDP’s popularity among Nigerian youths given a large number of youths appeared to throw their weight behind Peter Obi, who has now emerged as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party.

While Mr Atiku did opt for Okowa over Wike, the second person nominated by the party delegates, political analysts did not expect Wike to be a more favourable proposal to the South-East because of his strained relationship with the region.

With youths retracting support for the Atiku campaign because of the exit of Peter Obi, the PDP cannot afford any more public rejection.

The Okowa decision now has the PDP facing the difficult task of winning back votes in the south East, which used to be one of its strongholds.

If the words of Ohanaeze Ndigbo are anything to go by, this may be a task too difficult with one of its own, Peter Obi, also contesting the election and the southern alliance of the APC.

“The reward for a serial betrayal whose inescapable actions will never add national integrity and value to the progress of PDP in 2023,” Okechukwu Isiguzoro, Ohanaeze Ndigbo spokesperson, said on Thursday. “Ifeanyi Okowa is a minus for Atiku, as his choice will decline PDP’s fortunes in Delta and Southern Nigeria.

Mr Isiguzoro describes the decision as a chaotic selection for a party not ready to win the election.

“A man who misled the Southern Governors’ agenda will never be trusted for the votes of Ndigbo. Igbos will never vote Atiku and Okowa,” he added.