Former Vice-President and Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has explained why Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, was selected among the preferred options to be his running mate for next year’s presidential elections.
Atiku picked Okowa on Thursday to beat the deadline given by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for political parties to choose their vice-presidential candidates on or before Friday, June 17.
While speaking at the announcement event, Atiku said making a choice between the three names had been a difficult decision. He described Okowa as a fighter who has mastered the art of politics and has risen steadily to prominence in his state, Delta and PDP as well.
He said: “I held wide consultations with various stakeholders in our party including our Governors, 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 other words, the person must have the qualities to be President. The person must have an appreciation of the deep rot which our country has been put into by the rudderless APC government; understands the great suffering that most of our people are going through and the urgency of relieving them of that suffering; understands the critical importance of economic growth and development to provide our young people with jobs, hope, and a pathway to wealth.
“The person must appreciate the critical importance of education in the development of modern societies so we can prepare our young people to be able to compete in the increasingly competitive and globalized world.
“My running mate must understand that without security, development will be very difficult because local and foreign investors who have been scared away already, would not return to invest in our economy. Thus, my running mate will be a person who will stand by me as a I confront the frightening level of insecurity in our land.
“As you know, the APC government went to sleep as huge swathes of our country’s territory fell into the deadly hands of gangs of criminals, including those masquerading as freedom fighters or pastoralists, while our farmers and genuine pastoralists are unable to go about their businesses. The costs in precious human lives and properties have been enormous.
“My running mate must also not only symbolize the imperative of reuniting our country but also be able to work with me to achieve that objective. This is because a united Nigeria is a potentially stronger, more prosperous, and more secure country able to lead Africa and give hope to the Black race.
“In addition, my running mate has to be someone who is not afraid to speak his mind and give honest advice, and, be by my side as I work very hard to reverse the destructive impact of the past seven years of the APC government.
“In the United States of America from where we borrowed key aspects of our current Presidential system, a running mate is used to balance the ticket, complement the candidate and, after victory, assist the President with governance. Sometimes a candidate is chosen who generates a buzz and adds huge excitement to the campaign.
“But today in Nigeria, we face huge challenges which leave us little room for drama. We have to win the elections and get to work immediately. My running mate has to be ready to start working with me, from day one, in addressing our country’s challenges. Nigerians will not accept anything less. That is why I promised the Governors of our party that my running mate will come from among them. Our current challenges call for a government that is highly focused and disciplined.
“I have sought for the support, guidance, and counsel of the PDP in selecting a befitting running mate who meets all or most of the qualities enumerated above. The wisemen and sages of the party, put together by our NWC, have gone fishing and brought home an enviable group of awesome politicians that surpasses these qualities.
“Every one of the recommended persons is a fit and proper individual to hold this office. While this makes me marvel at the bundle of talents that abounds in our party, it also compounded my task of choosing a single person from among them.”
Atiku hinted further: “Let me state that the person I have chosen as my running mate possesses all those identified qualities. He personifies not only the seriousness the current moment represents for our country but also the future that our young people yearn for and deserve. He is a serving state governor who has demonstrated, in his state and through his conduct, that governance is about service to the people.
“I know that he will not only add excitement to our already energized ticket and campaign, but will also help to bring focus, discipline and stability to our government, come 2023. I am pleased, therefore, to announce here my choice of running mate who will help to lead us to victory next year not only in the presidential election but also in the governorship and legislative elections.
“And he will be by my side as I work hard every day to provide our people with security, revive our economy, improve education and unite our country. He has both Legislative and Executive experiences. Please join me in welcoming to the ticket the next Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa.
“You know him to be a fighter; you know him to care about winning; you know him to care about good governance; and you know him to care about our people. Now, my dear friends, let’s do the disciplined hard work necessary to win this election,” the PDP presidential candidate said.
In his acceptance speech, Okowa commended the party leadership and Atiku for finding him worthy even among other candidates who are more qualified than him. He promised his unalloyed support and commitment to rescue Nigeria from further decline.