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By Chukwudi Nweje
Long after the emergence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as the running mate to the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), Atiku Abubakar, issues of what value he will bring to the table keep popping up. But for his critics, there is a question mark on the complementary role the Delta State governor will play in the Atiku/Okowa ticket.
In the estimation of some people, perhaps the Turaki Adamawa would have chosen someone else. However, many believe that those who hold this view base their arguments on very pecuniary reasons. To people in this school of thought, politics is about interest and not necessarily competence, capacity and integrity.
But to many critical observers, Governor Okowa’s choice by Atiku did not come as a surprise because of his antecedents. In the crowd of aspirants that positioned themselves for the vice presidential slot, Okowa was an easy pick considering a lot of obvious factors.
Many argue that Atiku and Okowa share a lot in common in terms of their liberal disposition to leadership and politics. For instance, Atiku is Fulani but seen as a liberal Nigerian who has relationships across the nation.
In the case of Okowa, there are those who would agree that not much is really known about him; some people even see him as timid or too self effacing.
But for many critical observers, though Okowa is cool headed, he is a good balancing factor in the PDP presidential ticket considering that he is a southerner, practicing Christian and Ibo man.
Those close to him agree that he appears laid back but very patient, quiet by nature, yet very firm.
As a medical doctor of many years standing, there is no gainsaying his erudition with extensive knowledge and appreciation of the Nigerian state.
It is little wonder that in announcing his choice of the Delta State governor, Atiku said Okowa satisfied all the qualities he had outlined.
Atiku, in his speech, said he wanted a vice president with the qualities of a president, who could succeed him at a moment’s notice, that is, a president-in-waiting.
The presidential candidate said in arriving at his decision, he held consultations to seek input and contributions of relevant stakeholders.
He regretted that he had to choose one from the shortlist submitted to him by the party, adding that it was a difficult task to arrive at his decision.
He, however, said he was not afraid to take difficult decisions, saying that he was happy to start his task with a difficult decision such as picking his running mate.
“He is a serving state governor who has demonstrated, in his state and through his conduct, that governance is about service to the people”, Atiku said while introducing Okowa.
“I know that he will not only add excitement to our already energised ticket and campaign, but will also help to bring focus, discipline and stability to our government, come 2023.
“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,” he said of Okowa, who had been Secretary, and Chairman of Ika North Local Government Area, a Commissioner, Secretary to the Delta State Government, Senator, before becoming Governor of Delta State.
Atiku added: “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.”
Also, speaking during the Northern Christian Youth Assembly Summit in Abuja, the national chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu said Atiku picked Okowa as his running mate above his Rivers counterpart, Nyesom Wike, because of humility and more excellent performance in office.
His words: “We looked around and we thought we have to give not just a vice president that will assist him (Atiku) but we did our homework to select a man who is highly educated, very humble, and who has done very well as a governor in his home state.
“Okowa is the most qualified running mate. It is on his own personal merit that he was selected by the party as the vice presidential candidate to Atiku Abubakar. I think Nigeria will be very lucky to have two such people who are committed to development who are detribalised who believe in uniting this country.”
On assumption of office in 2015, he met huge challenges ranging from heavy salary burden, huge debts as well as crisis in the oil producing communities across the state. He nevertheless was prepared for the huge task having held sway as Council Secretary, Chairman, Commissioner in the ministries of Water Resources, Agriculture and Health, Secretary to the state government and later as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. While in Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber, he distinguished himself as Chairman, Senate Committee on Health with the passing of the National Health Act, one of the most important legislation in the 7th Senate.