By KEMI KASUMU
Presidential Flagbearer of Nigeria’s leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has picked Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate for the February 2023 presidential election.
Atiku made the announcement at a meeting attended by PDP National Working Committee at Wandata House, the party’s National Secretariat, in Abuja, on Thursday.
PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, said a 17-member committee had been set up by the party to pick a running mate.
He said the committee had submitted three names to Atiku to choose from.
The final decision, however, was left to the candidate, who was Vice President of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, to make.
Making the announcement, Atiku said it had been a difficult task to decide who his running mate should be among the three names submitted to him.
He also noted that some of the qualities he looked out for include someone, who understands the enormity of the challenges facing the country and one who has demonstrated, from experience, that he can proffer some solutions.
He said he looked out for one, who has the qualities of a president, who can stand in for him when he is not around.
According to him, while all the three names submitted were qualified, he had to settle for just one and that person, he said, is Okowa.
Okowa had arrived the PDP headquarters in a celebratory mood.
Some party members welcomed him into the building with the words ‘congratulations’.
The DEFENDER earlier Wednesday reported that the PDP panel set up in search of Atiku’s running mate had submitted its report with Nyesom recommended to him being the candidate that came second in the primary election.
Wike and Okowa were among names being mentioned as prospective materials for the PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
However, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) among several other caller’s had warned Atiku why he must not pick Wike as, according particularly to MURIC, he is a governor that has been blacklisted by Nigerian Muslims, as hater of Islam and its adherents.
The point of MURIC is that anybody to occupy such office must be a unifying factor and not one with so much hate for a section of the country by way of their belief.
Earlier, the PDP had denied reports that it had ruled out Wike from the Vice Presidential race.
“If anything, our Party reiterates its confidence in Governor Nyesom Wikes’s outstanding ability and commitment to the ideals and values of the PDP,” a statement signed by spokesperson, Debo Ologunagba, said.
“His records of achievement as a Local Government Chairman, Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Governor, Minister of State for Education, currently Governor of Rivers State and the runner-up in the PDP Presidential Primary stand him out as possessing requisite qualities, qualifications, capacity and wide acceptability for the position of the Vice-Presidential candidate of our Party.
“The various positions creditably held by Governor Nyesom Wike distinguished him as an excellent team player in public governance.
“In fact, Governor Wike’s energy, brilliance, commitment and passion were acknowledged by the National Working Committee (NWC) of our Party and he is adjudged as the foremost candidate in consideration for the position of the Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP.
“While the PDP notes the interest of the media and the public in our Party’s choice of Vice-Presidential candidate it is imperative to state that as an organic Party, all our processes will be followed through in strict adherence to our procedures before any official announcements.
“The PDP urges Nigerians to disregard the mischievous reports aimed at undermining our Party’s unity at this critical time.”