THE INSIDE STORY: How Okowa emerged as Atiku’s running mate
NEWS DIGEST – Last minutes push by top shots of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday paved way for the emergence of the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as the running mate of the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar.
Okowa’s fate, Daily Trust gathered was sealed at a marathon meeting held in Abuja at the early hours of Thursday. The development ended the quest of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, to become the running mate of the party’s flag bearer.
Wike was selected on Tuesday by an advisory council constituted by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to review the report of the former National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Gusau on the selection of the running mate.
Gusau’s panel had recommended three governors from the South South geopolitical zone – Okowa, Wike and Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom).
Credible sources told this paper that at the meeting attended by top shots of the party including the National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, Atiku, former Senate President, David Mark; former governor of Jigawa, Sule Lamido; Wike, Okowa, among others, the candidature of Okowa was supported by the stakeholders.
The News Digest had reported on Tuesday that Atiku had narrowed down on Okowa but requested the party leadership to recommend suitable candidates for him.
Speaking to Daily Trust, one of the leaders of party, who attended the meeting, said at the end of the meeting that lasted till 3: am on Thursday, they agreed to pick Okowa as the running mate, saying Wike “will be a hard to sell especially in the northern part following his stand on some national issues.”
Asked what the reaction of Wike was, the source said, “he left immediately after the meeting but what I can tell you is that he is not going anywhere. He will work with us as you know everything is going in our favour.”
A Board of Trustee (BoT) member of the party said Wike had been persuaded not to defect and that they would continue to talk to him in the interest of the party.
Beyond the meeting, Daily Trust gathered that the founding fathers of the party had reservations on the candidature of the Rivers State governor.
“Because of his personality trait, the party’s founding fathers had reservations. They said the party needed a calm and level headed person that would be loyal and take instructions from the president if they eventually win the election in 2023,” Daily Trust was told.
Another issue that worked in Okowa’s favour was his contribution to the victory of the Atiku during the presidential primary, he said
“He mobilised resources and delegates for Atiku. He has been consistently supporting Atiku’s presidential ambition. In 2019, he mobilised and worked for Atiku when Wike supported Tambuwal,” an ally of the former vice president said.