Supporters of the Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his appointees has expressed anger over the decision of the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to pick the Delta state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate.
Telescope.ng reports that Wike’s loyalists, who reacted shortly after Atiku unveiled Okowa as his running mate, dismissed the Delta state governor as a featherweight politician and warned that the decision would have implications for the PDP in the 2023 elections.
It was gathered that supporters of Okowa and his appointees, in separate interviews with the PUNCH, described the Delta State governor as a politician, who would add value to the PDP presidential ticket.
Earlier on Thursday, June 16, the PDP standard-bearer, via his Twitter handle, @atiku, announced the governor of Delta state as his running mate.
Atiku had said: “I am delighted to announce Governor @IAOkowa as my vice-presidential candidate. I look forward to travelling our great country together, engaging with all Nigerians and building a shared future of peace, unity, and prosperity for all. As one, we can get it done.”
At the PDP headquarters, Abuja on Thursday, Atiku said he picked Okowa because he had the qualities to be a president, adding that he “is a president-in-waiting.”
He said: “In arriving at the decision, I held wide consultations with various stakeholders in our party including our governors, the national working committee, board of trustees, and other leaders to seek their inputs and their wisdom.”
Atiku, however, noted that all the candidates recommended by the party were proper individuals to be his running mate.
But political office holders in Rivers state, in separate interviews with The Punch, criticised Atiku and warned that his decision would have implications in the 2023 elections.
The chairman of the Ikwerre local government area of Rivers state, Samuel Nwanosike, stated, “There is a local proverb in my village that says nobody will tell a man that eats yam to go and drink water.
“If you are eating yam, you must look for water to drink because if you eat yam without drinking water, it will choke you.”
Nwanosike said although it was the right of Atiku to pick who would fly the party’s ticket with him, he said the former Vice-President did not honour his words to respect the decision of the party which set up a committee to choose a running mate for him.
He stated: “If he kept to his words like he said to go with the party’s overwhelming choice, then he would have respected the decision of the panel, the party’s national chairman and his team set up.”
Nwanosike claimed all stakeholders of the party recommended Wike as Atiku’s running mate.
Asked if Atiku’s preference for Okowa would not affect the former vice-president’s chances, the local government chairman stated: “He has made his calculations. And since he has made his calculations, he (Atiku) will live with the result. He will see out of his calculations. It is not the first time he has been the candidate of the party.
“He was the candidate of the party in 2019. He knows what the result was. Now he has made a decision. So let’s keep our fingers crossed and wait for the decision of the electorate. Right now, it is no longer in the hands of Dr Iyorcha Ayu and his team. It is now in the hands of the electorate.”
On his part, a chieftain of the PDP in the state and former member of the House of Representatives representing Etche-Omuma Constituency, Ogbonna Nwuke, said Wike would speak at the appropriate time.
Nwuke, who was also former Rivers state commissioner of Information and communications, however, said by Atiku’s choice of a running mate, he did not reject Wike, but he rejected Rivers state.
He said: “I believe that our leader will speak at the appropriate time. We are members and whatever decision he makes will be okay by us because he is the one wearing the shoe now. I think it is not Governor Wike that Atiku rejected; it is Rivers State he rejected.”
Also, the state publicity secretary of the PDP, Sydney Gbara, in his reaction said the party in the state was not perturbed but remained united notwithstanding what played out in Abuja concerning the subject matter.