Indications have emerged that the cold war between the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and his political godfather, James Ibori, almost denied the governor the chance of emerging as the running mate to Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.
It was gathered that Ibori, an ally of Atiku, initially kicked against the choice of Okowa, owing to the disagreement between them over the PDP governorship primary in the state. In the primary, Ibori’s candidate, David Edevbie, scored 113 votes and lost to Okowa’s candidate, Sheriff Oborevwori, who scored 590 votes. Oborevwori is the Speaker of the state House of Assembly.
The development was said to have angered Ibori, who felt betrayed by Okowa’s opposition to his preferred choice as his successor. The former governor had while in the prison in the United Kingdom directed his supporters to ensure Okowa emerged as the party’s candidate and that he won the main election. He won the election, defeating Tony Obuh, the choice of then governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Findings showed that Ibori felt slighted with the way Okowa behaved and was of the opinion that the governor, whom he helped to power, was out to humiliate him.
How Ayu, others helped Okowa’s emergence
A member of the party’s Board of Trustees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, told Saturday PUNCH that indeed Ibori was opposed to Okowa becoming the running mate and could leverage his relationship with Atiku to frustrate his emergence, especially when there were other options he could choose from.
The BoT member said it took the intervention of some party chieftains who spoke to Ibori to let go, paving the way for Okowa to emerge.
“It was against that backdrop that the likes of the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu; a former National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, and some members of the party stepped in and spoke with Ibori.
“A former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, a former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, and some members of the BoT and National Executive Committee were involved in the process.”
Another source noted that the names of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and Okowa were presented by the party’s advisory committee to the screening party but Atiku chose Okowa as his choice.
The source said on Friday, “I can confirm to you that Okowa was recommended by the chairman (Ayu), Sule Lamido and Babangida Aliyu. Well, you can’t say that the candidate himself did not have his choice even before telling the party stakeholders to choose for him but the truth is that the chairman and those two stakeholders also recommended governor Okowa.”
An aide to Umar Damagum, the chairman of the advisory committee, also confided in our correspondent, “The advisory committee submitted three names to the presidential candidate to choose from, and in his own capacity as the candidate of the party he chose Okowa, not because he is more qualified than others on the list, but that was his choice.”
Meanwhile, asked what Ibori and Okowa said concerning the cause of their rift, one of the sources privy to the meeting said, “Okowa said Ibori did not call him to inform him about his candidate and Ibori said the same thing. I think it was a communication gap between them.”
It was learnt that the emergence of Ibori’s daughter, Erhiatake Ibori-Suenu, as the party’s candidate for the Ethiope Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, was a way of pacifying the former governor.
Wike’ll work for PDP’s victory – Atiku’s aide
Speaking on the outcome of the selection process, Atiku’s media aide, Paul Ibe, told one of our correspondents in an interview that Okowa was chosen because he shared similar goals and vision with the candidate. “Okowa complements and shares with the candidate the vision of a united Nigeria,” he added.
Reacting to how Wike lost out, he said, “Wike himself has not complained. He is a strong party man who will match his desire with commitment to ensure that PDP wins the election. The candidate is still reaching out to ensure that there is a united front so that everybody will be brought on board. All of them will work together to ensure the success of the party.”
Okowa in an interview on Arise TV on Friday night also said he was reaching out to his colleagues (governors) on the need for them to work together for the party’s victory.
Group warns against using Delta funds for campaign
The campaign organisation of the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate in Delta State, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, has warned Okowa not to use state funds to fund Atiku’s campaign.
A statement on Friday by the organisation’s Director of Communications and Media Strategy, Ima Niboro, read in part, “It is sad that on a day the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, approved immediate payment of outstanding gratuities, pension arrears and death benefits for retirees of Rivers State Public Service, the Delta State House of Assembly approved N25bn loan for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa allegedly to plant palm trees.
“We have sufficient grounds to suspect that these loans are being taken to prosecute Atiku’s presidential campaign. We will not stand by and watch Okowa impoverish our people in order to enthrone a man who has nothing to offer Deltans in particular and Nigerians in general.”
Ohanaeze eulogises Okowa
The apex Igbo Socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has congratulated Okowa over his emergence.
A statement on Friday by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, titled ‘Ohanaeze Ndigbo congratulates Okowa as vice-presidential candidate’, partly read, “The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide heartily congratulates an Igbo prodigy, an astute administrator, sagacious politician, brilliant physician, creative visionary, prudent resource manager, detribalised patriot, purveyor of morals, a quintessential gentleman and a poster personality, His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State, as he secures the highly coveted vice-presidential candidacy of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“The life of Okowa is a veritable tribute to humility, sincerity, simplicity, hard work, perseverance and centrality of morals in the dynamics of power. As a governor, Okowa had a clear vision which he pursued with passion, valour, candour, honour and unassailable accomplishments.
“The Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, led by Prof George Obiozor, is very proud of you. We are optimistic that your candidacy will add enormous electoral value to your political party, the PDP.”
‘Okowa’ll work in consonance with Atiku’s goals’
The Atiku Support Organisation has said the choice of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate was because they were convinced he (Okowa) would work in consonance with Atiku’s goals, mission and vision.
The group in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Dr Victor Moses, said, “The choice of Governor Okowa is in recognition of his immense ability to work in consonance with the goals, mission and visions of His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar, to salvage Nigeria from the administration of the Buhari-led government of the APC.”
Also, the Lagos State chapter of the PDP has applauded the choice of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate.
The News Agency of Nigeria on Friday quoted the state chairman of the party, Mr Philips Aivoji, as saying the party was sure to triumph with Atiku Abubakar/Ifeanyi Okowa ticket.
He said, “We have got a good vice-presidential candidate, a man of integrity and honour. He is a trusted and tested party leader. Some people trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord, we will triumph.”
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Debo Ologunagba, told one of our correspondents on Friday that the party’s presidential candidate and his running mate were experienced hands ready to move the country forward.
He added, “The team is well experienced, has the strength and the record of performance to also unify the country.”