DELTA Governor and Vice-Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, has said that he did not betray southern Nigeria by accepting to be Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s running mate.
He said that contrary to claims and remarks in certain quarters, on his emergence as Vice presidential candidate of his party, 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 Television on Friday night, said he would not join issues with any group on the issue, especially the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (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.
He explained that the important thing was that he belonged to a political party and was part of the decisions of the party, including agreement of it’s leadership that the best part to rescue the nation was to throw the presidential ticket race open.
The vice-presidential candidate said “having agreed to that and also submitted myself to be a politician in the Peoples Democratic Party, I am ruled by the polices 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 take 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 a 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 to the collective decisions of the party and I want to appeal to them that they need to actually 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 whereever we are at the moment,” Okowa said.
On adding strength to the presidential ticket of the PDP, he said that he was acceptable to the structures of the party across the nation having 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 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.
Okowa said that he had a very clear understanding of what the issues in the polity were and how to navigate through them.
According to him, I have a very clear understanding of the issues that have been put forth by our candidate and in terms of governance, I have been privileged to have started my politics at the grassroots.
“My being in the Senate exposed me to national politics and issues of national development and I have been relating well with my colleagues as a governor in the last seven years, discussing what is best for Nigeria.
“All of these exposures are huge advantage, understanding grassroots and national politics and I think that will obviously enable me add strength to the ticket,” he stated.
On unifying the party, Okowa said that he had started reaching out to his colleagues and other leaders of the party and that he was encouraged by the response so far.