Delta State Governor and Vice-Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ifeanyi Okowa has defended his acceptance of the vice-presidential ticket offered by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate.
Okowa, who spoke on Arise Television has been under attack by elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark and the Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) over the accusation that he betrayed the South by supporting Atiku who won the just concluded primary of the party in Abuja.
The Delta State governor is accused of being a betrayer for not supporting fellow South Southerner, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike who came second in the primary, considering the fact that he was the host of a Southern Governors meeting in Asaba where a decision was taken to support a Southern aspirant.
Okowa who justified his offer of being running mate to the PDP candidate 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.
He was however mellow, saying that he will not join issues with any group on the issue, especially the Southern and SMBLF because they are leaders he holds in high esteem.
He said: “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 the agreement of its leadership that the best part to rescue the nation was to throw the presidential ticket race open.
Continuing, he said that having agreed to that and also submitted himself to be a politician in the main opposition party, he is ruled by the policies of the party as they are.
He defended: “And since we have all agreed that we wanted to throw the presidential candidacy open and Atiku Abubakar emerged, the onus is on 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.
The vice-presidential candidate said: “We are talking about rebuilding this nation and our unity. So, to a very large extent, we have to make 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 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 where ever we are at the moment.”