Outgoing governor of Delta state, Ifeanyi Okowa, has recently addressed accusations of betrayal leveled against him in relation to the southern presidency agenda.
Amidst a heated political climate, Okowa finds himself at the center of controversy regarding the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary and the alleged breach of party constitution.
The Controversial PDP Primary
As the PDP primary approached in May 2022, demands arose from stakeholders for the presidential ticket to be zoned to the south.
However, contrary to expectations, the party decided against zoning and opted for an open contest. This decision drew intense criticism, with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers vehemently arguing that it was a clear violation of the party’s constitution.
The Formation of the ‘G5’ Group
The dispute over the PDP primary led to the formation of the ‘G5’ group. Comprising Governors Nyesom Wike, Benue, Abia, Oyo, and Enugu, the group allegedly worked against the success of Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, during the elections.
This collective action further fueled accusations of betrayal and political maneuvering within the party.
The Allegations Against Governor Okowa
Ifeanyi Okowa, who served as the vice-presidential candidate of the PDP, has been repeatedly accused of betraying the southern region.
The accusations stem in part from the reported ‘Asaba Accord,’ a resolution reached by southern governors from both the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) during a meeting in the capital of Delta state.
Governor Okowa’s Response
In a candid conversation with journalists, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa addressed the accusations of betrayal comprehensively.
He clarified that he had never agreed to the plans for a southern presidency, challenging the notion that he had deviated from the aspirations of the region.
Okowa emphasized that zoning was not the primary agenda during the Asaba meeting but merely mentioned as an afterthought.
He said, “I don’t think there was any betrayal, people give the wrong communication. In the first instance, the meeting we held in Asaba never talked about the issue of a southern president. The meeting we held in Asaba was to discuss the issue concerning herdsmen and the need to find a stop to it,” he said.
“It was actually the meeting in Lagos… but people just misconstrue the two. It was in a follow-up meeting in Lagos that the issue came up and it was not actually part of our agenda but we did not know people had their own views; you know politics was coming.
“When we had finished, under ‘any other business’, the matter was thrown up and we just found that a lot of us were ambushed but a majority actually had their way.
“I don’t want to relate it to partisan politics now because some people in the PDP had supported it(southern presidency) and then the issue came out and it was introduced first by the governor of Ondo state, and supported by the then-governor of Ekiti state, and then it followed through and then one or two PDP people also made their comments.
“But for us, we could see that that matter had been discussed before — and it is part of politics so we let it go.”
Okowa further stated that his decision was what he felt was best for the PDP ahead of the election.
“I’ll tell you the truth behind the whole thing, if you’re going to back a situation, you must ensure that the situation is right for your party and that was the question I raised when people said it was a betrayal,” he said.
“There was no point where we said everybody agreed 100 percent or we were going to go this way.”
He added that analysis showed that the PDP was to do better with a northerner as its presidential candidate.
“I belong to the PDP and for me as a person and for the majority of the people in the PDP, they believed that our pathway to victory was to have a northern candidate and a southern vice,” he said.
“Why? Because we were not a majority.”