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Nigeria: South-South Leaders Hail Emergence of Okowa as Atiku’s Running Mate

Leaders of the South-south geo-political zone, including the South-South Leaders Forum (SSLF), and the South Renaissance Movement (SRM), have hailed the emergence of Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as

Leaders of the South-south geo-political zone, including the South-South Leaders Forum (SSLF), and the South Renaissance Movement (SRM), have hailed the emergence of Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as the running mate to the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

The leaders, which also include the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu; a former governorship aspirant and chieftain of the PDP in Delta State, Chief Sunny Onuesoke; the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly and governorship candidate of PDP, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori also hailed Atiku for making the right choice.

The SRM urged regional leaders, including the Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark; Yoruba leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; President General, Middle Belt Forum, Dr Pogu Bitrus and the President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor, who had kicked against the emergence of Okowa, to have a rethink.

This is coming as Okowa has clarified that he did not betray southern Nigeria by accepting to be Atiku’s running mate.

Reacting to Atiku’s decision, the National Chairman of the SSLF, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, hailed the choice of Okowa.

On his part, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Elumelu congratulated Okowa on his emergence and urged him to hit the ground running.

He charged the Delta State Governor to immediately initiate reconciliatory moves to heal wounds and appease party members that might have been offended by his emergence as the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP.

Former governorship aspirant and chieftain of the PDP in the state, Onuesoke also commended Atiku for having confidence in Okowa as his running mate.

In a congratulatory message to Okowa, Onuesoke said he was elated that the Delta State Governor was selected as the running mate to the party’s presidential candidate.

He described Okowa as the best-fit running mate for Atiku come 2023 and called on all well-meaning Nigerians to support the duo for a better Nigeria.

Also, the Executive Chairman of Warri South Local Government Area of the state, Dr Michael Tidi, said he was glad that Okowa was unveiled as the vice-presidential candidate of PDP.

The Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly and the PDP governorship candidate, Oborevwori have also congratulated Okowa.

The Speaker in a press statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Dennis Otu, said he was excited about the choice of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate, describing it as a welcome development.

Oborevwori who is also the National Deputy Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures of Nigeria described Okowa as a core party loyalist, political strategist and consummate politician with a deep interest in unity and development of the country.

“We are very sure of victory in the forthcoming general elections and we are going to embark on massive mobilisation for the party and the presidential candidate and his running mate. The choice of Governor Okowa is indeed a round peg in a round hole. To God be all the glory,” the Delta State PDP governorship candidate said.

N’Delta Group Urges Clark, Obiozor, Adebanjo to Support Delta Gov

Meanwhile, a Niger Delta group, SRM has urged regional leaders kicking against the emergence of the Delta State governor as Atiku’s running mate to sheathe their sword.

Specifically, the group urged Ijaw leader, Clark; Yoruba leader, Adebanjo; President General, Middle Belt Forum, Bitrus and President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Obiozor to rethink their position.

In a statement by the National Coordinator of the group, Mr Emmanuel Sorokwu, the group absolved the Delta State governor of any blame over the purported betrayal of the South by accepting the position.

Maintaining that the outburst by the leaders was unwarranted, the group stressed that Okowa’s nomination as Atiku’s running mate was a boost for the aspiration of the southern part of the country.

It added that the war-like posture of the group contravenes the spirit of a united Nigeria.

The elders under the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) had in a statement accused Okowa of betraying the south by accepting the running mate slot to Atiku.

However, the group accused the leaders of fanning the embers of disunity, noting that their position was akin to asking the south to boycott the 2023 elections because the presidency was not ceded to the zone.

Sorokwu said the position of the leaders was unfortunate, given their pedigree as elder statesmen in the country.

“Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is a known loyal party man and will always submit to the dictates of the party. Since the winner of the PDP presidential ticket is from the north, obviously the running mate will come from the South.

“More so, both the South-east and North-east have not had a shot at the presidency; so, the North-east having it will mean hope for the South-east,” the former Chairman of Aniocha Local Government Area, who leads the group said.

He added: “As a group, we have very high regards for these elder statesmen but we need to set the records straight. We want to make it clear that the Delta State governor didn’t commit any crime or betray the political aspiration of the south as insinuated by the elders.

“Okowa instead was one of the people that worked for power to shift to the South, howbeit, he does not believe that politics or issue of power shift must be a do or die affair.

“We appeal to them to see the emergence of Okowa as a call to service of our fatherland. We crave their support as fathers and not antagonism. We all need power shift to the South but we must go about it democratically,” the group added.

I Didn’t Betray South, Says Okowa

Reacting to the allegation that he betrayed the South by accepting to be Atiku’s running mate, Okowa has said that he did not betray southern Nigeria.

He argued that he belonged to a political party that agreed to throw the presidential ticket open as the best way to rescue the nation.

Okowa, who spoke on ARISE NEWS on Friday night, said he would not join issues with any group on the issue, especially the SMBLF “because they are leaders I hold in high esteem.”

According to him, “I want to respect our leaders; I always do and I believe that they have their opinions and they are well-meaning leaders; so, I am not going to join issues with them”.

Okowa explained that the important thing was that he belonged to a political party and was part of the decisions of the party, including the agreement of its leadership that the best part to rescue the nation was to throw the presidential ticket race open.

“Having agreed to that and also submitted by me to be a politician in the PDP, I am ruled by the policies of the party as they are.

“And, since we have all agreed that we wanted to throw the presidential candidacy open and Atiku Abubakar emerged, the onus is for us to support him.

“We are not expecting that he would be the candidate from the North and also have a vice-presidential candidate from the North. That would be leading to further division.”

He added that as a party craving to rebuild the nation, taking the right decisions that would foster unity of the nation was very important to the PDP.

“We are talking about rebuilding this nation and our unity. So, to a very large extent, we have to make the right decisions and having submitted myself to be a member of the PDP, I would have to submit myself to the decisions of the party and that is what has happened.

“That does not mean disrespect to the views of those leaders. They are leaders that I respect so much. But under this condition, they have to understand that I have committed myself to the PDP.

“I am a politician. If I am not, it may be different. So, I will have to play along with the collective decisions of the party and I want to appeal to them that they need to look at the issue as it is and be very cautious about the stands that we take.

“Every statement we make, even while it is important that we make our decisions, it is important that we also realise that the unity of this nation is important and we need to move forward from wherever we are at the moment,” Okowa said.

In adding strength to the presidential ticket of the PDP, he said that he was acceptable to the structures of the party across the nation and has been in the party since inception and grown through political ranks.

“I am somebody who is a team player which is very important for us, and we have various experiences in various elections before now.

“Though I am a governor, I have grown through the political ranks and I have played very critical roles in the party at some point in time.

“I believe that a combination of all these will enable me to assist the presidential candidate of the party and the rest of the party leadership to be able to put up the right strategy for us to win the elections,” he explained.

On unifying the party, Okowa said he had started reaching out to his colleagues and other leaders of the party and that he was encouraged by the response so far.

Segun James in Lagos, Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja and Sylvester Idowu in Warri

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