Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of Delta State and vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has vowed not to join issues with the Southern and Middle Belt leaders who expressed disapproval with his acceptance to be PDP’s presidential running mate for Atiku Abubakar.
Speaking on Arise TV on Friday, the former Senator said while he respects those leaders and their opinions, they should understand that he is a politician who belongs to a political party, and that he is bound to respect the decisions of that party.
This came shorty after a group of southern and Middle Belt leaders including the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); Afenifere; the Middle Belt Forum and the Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, described his acceptance of the vice-presidential candidacy as “treacherous and despicable.”
The demand of Southern governors of power shift was held at a meeting which Okowa hosted in Asaba, capital of Delta.
In theor criticism of Okowa, the Southern leaders said Okowa would not have teamed up with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar if truly he was committed to power shift.
While responding, Okowa said since the party had already elected Atiku from North as the presidential flag bearer, the right thing is for the emergence of a southern running mate to avoid situations that could “lead us further into divisions in this country.”
He said, “I want to respect our leaders, I believe that they have their opinions, and I also believe that they are well-meaning leaders. So, I won’t join issues with them. But the important thing is that I belong to a political party and I was part of the decisions of that political party, and we did agree that the best pathway to rescue this nation was to throw the presidential race open in our party.
“And having agreed upon Atiku Abubakar, the former vice president, the honour is now for us to support him since we can’t have a president from the North and also a vice president from the North. That would lead us further into divisions in this country, and we are talking about rebuilding this nation, and to a very large extent, we have to take the right decisions. And within our party, I think that having submitted myself to be a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, I will have to submit myself to the decisions of the party and that’s what has happened.
“That doesn’t mean it’s a disrespect for the views of those leaders. They are leaders 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 were not a politician, it might be different. I am a politician and I am entitled to my views.
“I want to appeal to them that they need to actually look at this issues as it’s, that while we are making our comment as it concerns Nigeria at this time that we have crises within the nation, the rebuilding process is that we need to rebuild confidence. And in rebuilding confidence, we have to be very cautious about the stance that the take. We have to be cautious about what we do. We need to understand that the unity of this nation is important and we need to move forward from wherever we are at the moment.”