Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa was named the Peoples Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate on Thursday (PDP).
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Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, announced Mr Okowa as his choice for the position at the party’s headquarters in Abuja. He was chosen over other candidates, including Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and Akwa Ibom State Governor Udom Emmanuel.
“I am therefore pleased to announce here my choice of Running Mate, who will assist me in leading us to victory not only in the Presidential election, but also in the governorship and legislative elections next year.” And he will be by my side as I work every day to provide security for our people, revitalize our economy, improve education, and unite our country. He has legislative as well as executive experience.
“Please join me in welcoming to the ticket His Excellency Governor Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the next Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Mr Abubakar said.
Mr. Okowa was born on July 8, 1959, in Owa-Alero, Ika East Local Government Area, Delta State, and attended Edo College in Benin City from 1970 to 1976. In 1976, he received the second-best result in the Higher School Certificate Examination in the then-Bendel State.
He later went further to the University of Ibadan, where he earned an MBBS in Medicine and Surgery at the age of 22, graduating in 1981. Mr Okowa briefly worked as a medical officer with the Bendel State Hospital Management Board after completing his youth service the following year. He later established the Victory Medical Centre in Igbanke, a border town between Delta and Edo states, and went into private practice.
Mr. Okowa first entered politics as the Secretary of Ika Local Government Area in 1991, and by 1993, he had risen to the position of Chairman of the Council. Following the country’s return to democracy in 1999, Mr Okowa joined the PDP, which formed the Delta State government led by James Ibori.
From 1999 to 2001, he was the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources before being reassigned to the Ministry of Water Resources until 2003, when he was reassigned to the Ministry of Health.
Mr. Okowa resigned from his positions as commissioner in the three ministries to run for governor, but he lost in the primary election. In 2007, he was appointed Secretary to the Delta State Government by former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Mr Ibori’s cousin who won the election.
Mr. Okowa expressed interest in running for senator in 2011. He won the primary, but his election was challenged by some party leaders who preferred Marian Ali, the wife of former PDP National Chairman Ahmadu Ali.
In a rerun, Mr Okowa received 1,446 votes to Mrs Ali’s 108 votes. That year, he was elected to the Senate to represent the Delta North Senatorial District, defeating Ned Nwoko of the DPP, who had recently won the PDP primaries to represent the district. Mr. Okowa chaired the Senate Committee on Health and served on several other committees.
Mr Okowa ran for Delta governorship in 2015 and won on the platform of the PDP, despite opposition from the outgoing governor, Mr Uduaghan, who preferred another aspirant, an Urhobo, the state’s largest ethnic group.
Going by the unwritten agreement for power rotation among the three senatorial districts at the time, the Delta North senatorial district, also known as the Igbo-speaking area of the state, was favored to produce the governor. Mr Ibori had taken the Delta Central slot (the Urhobos), and Mr Uduaghan, an Itsekiri, had taken the Delta South slot (the Itsekiris, Isokos, and Ijaws).
Despite the fact that Mr Ibori was serving a prison sentence in London for corruption at the time, he allegedly supported Mr Okowa against a fellow Urhobo in accordance with the agreement. Mr. Okowa’s primary victory was also made possible by the votes of Ijaws who supported him in the hope that after his tenure, the governorship seat would go to them in their quest for ethnic group rotation rather than senatorial basis.
Mr. Okowa went on to win the governorship election with 925,274 votes, defeating the APC’s Great Ogboru, who received 215,938 votes. With his election, Mr. Okowa became the state’s first Anioma (Igbo-speaking) governor. He also became the state’s fourth democratically elected governor, succeeding Felix Ibru (1991-1992), Mr Ibori (1991-2007), and Mr Udughan (2007-2015). In 2015, he was re-elected.
Without mincing words, Mr. Okowa’s selection as the PDP’s vice presidential candidate will further agitate the Ibori camp. The former governor is said to have worked against Mr. Okowa’s election. His camp is said to have lobbied the party’s national leadership against Mr Abubakar’s choice of the governor as his running mate.
But it wasn’t just Mr Ibori’s camp. The media was a wash with reports few days ago that the committee formed to recommend Mr Abubakar’s running mate had settled on Mr Wike, who finished second in the main opposition party’s primary on May 28.
According to reports, the Rivers governor received 16 votes from the committee, while Mr Okowa received three votes. Although the committee did not publicly refute the report, there were indications that it was commissioned to persuade the party to choose Mr Wike over Mr Okowa, who was reportedly the party’s first choice for leadership.
Despite the opposition, Mr. Okowa emerged as the PDP’s vice presidential candidate, true to his first name, IfeanyiChukwu, which means “nothing is insurmountable before God.”
Analysts believe Mr. Okowa’s selection will go some way towards appeasing the Igbo, who have been campaigning for the country’s highest political office. The Delta governor is from Ika, an Igbo-speaking area of Delta, and his selection may secure some votes for the PDP in the five South-eastern states in the February 2023 presidential election.