How rift with Ibori nearly cost Okowa VP ticket

Indications have emerged that the cold war between the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and his political godfather, James Ibori, almost denied the governor the chance of emerging as the running mate to Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

It was gathered that Ibori, an ally of Atiku, initially kicked against the choice of Okowa, owing to the disagreement between them over the PDP governorship primary in the state. In the primary, Ibori’s candidate, David Edevbie, scored 113 votes and lost to Okowa’s candidate, Sheriff Oborevwori, who scored 590 votes. Oborevwori is the Speaker of the state House of Assembly.

The development was said to have angered Ibori, who felt betrayed by Okowa’s opposition to his preferred choice as his successor. The former governor had while in the prison in the United Kingdom directed his supporters to ensure Okowa emerged as the party’s candidate and that he won the main election. He won the election, defeating Tony Obuh, the choice of then governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan.

Findings showed that Ibori felt slighted with the way Okowa behaved and was of the opinion that the governor, whom he helped to power, was out to humiliate him.

A member of the party’s Board of Trustees, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however disclosed that indeed Ibori was opposed to Okowa becoming the running mate and could leverage his relationship with Atiku to frustrate his emergence, especially when there were other options he could choose from.

The BoT member said it took the intervention of some party chieftains who spoke to Ibori to let go, paving the way for Okowa to emerge.

“It was against that backdrop that the likes of the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu; a former National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, and some members of the party stepped in and spoke with Ibori.

“A former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, a former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, and some members of the BoT and National Executive Committee were involved in the process.”

Another source noted that the names of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and Okowa were presented by the party’s advisory committee to the screening party but Atiku chose Okowa as his choice.

The source said on Friday, “I can confirm to you that Okowa was recommended by the chairman (Ayu), Sule Lamido and Babangida Aliyu. Well, you can’t say that the candidate himself did not have his choice even before telling the party stakeholders to choose for him but the truth is that the chairman and those two stakeholders also recommended governor Okowa.”

An aide to Umar Damagum, the chairman of the advisory committee, also confided in our correspondent, “The advisory committee submitted three names to the presidential candidate to choose from, and in his own capacity as the candidate of the party he chose Okowa, not because he is more qualified than others on the list, but that was his choice.”

Meanwhile, asked what Ibori and Okowa said concerning the cause of their rift, one of the sources privy to the meeting said, “Okowa said Ibori did not call him to inform him about his candidate and Ibori said the same thing. I think it was a communication gap between them.”

It was learnt that the emergence of Ibori’s daughter, Erhiatake Ibori-Suenu, as the party’s candidate for the Ethiope Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, was a way of pacifying the former governor.

Speaking on the outcome of the selection process, Atiku’s media aide, Paul Ibe, told one of our correspondents in an interview that Okowa was chosen because he shared similar goals and vision with the candidate. “Okowa complements and shares with the candidate the vision of a united Nigeria,” he added.

Reacting to how Wike lost out, he said, “Wike himself has not complained. He is a strong party man who will match his desire with commitment to ensure that PDP wins the election. The candidate is still reaching out to ensure that there is a united front so that everybody will be brought on board. All of them will work together to ensure the success of the party.”

Okowa in an interview on Arise TV on Friday night also said he was reaching out to his colleagues (governors) on the need for them to work together for the party’s victory.

The campaign organisation of the All Progressives Congress governorship candidate in Delta State, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, has warned Okowa not to use state funds to fund Atiku’s campaign.

He added, “The team is well experienced, has the strength and the record of performance to also unify the country.” Punch

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