Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, has said that the governor has all it takes to be president of Nigeria.
Ifeajika stated this while reacting to remarks on Okowa by analysts in an AriseTv programme on Monday, on the strengths and weaknesses some members of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) being tipped as Vice Presidential candidate for the party presidential candidate who emerged on Saturday night, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Addressing journalists at Government House Asaba, the governor’s spokesman said the comments against his boss were derogatory, and smacked of crass ignorance of politics by those who made the analysis.
He said that Okowa possessed the requisite experience to be president but refused to yield to pressure to contest due to personal reasons.
“In the last two days, the media have been awash with reports about the PDP primaries and the outcome and the things that will follow.
“I don’t know when onlookers have become serious politicians that are deciding for politicians. What we know, for those who understand politics, is that after the presidential primaries, the party leaders and the candidate will sit down to decide who the running mate will be.
“It is not done in one day or immediately after the convention; what is important is that the party selects somebody who can assist the candidate to win election and that is done before the campaigns will start.
“There is no hurry about it; they usually take time to do it and it is the prerogative of parties to do that but I am aware that one analyst or commentator, precisely one Frank Tietie, in an attempt to assess some persons that were listed as likely Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP displayed so much malice against Okowa.
“When he got to Okowa for his assessment, he said that the gôvernor could not be the Vice Presidential candidate because he had not developed Delta and that he lacked national exposure, among others.
“To become a Vice-Presidential candidate, you don’t have to have a national exposure for you to emerge. It is the prerogative of the party to pick who it thinks will win the election.
“You don’t have to be one star anywhere; the party takes time to see who will join the presidential candidate to win election and that’s what I am sure the party will do,” he said.
Ifeajika said that Jonathan and Osinbajo were relatively unknown until they were nominated to be Vice-Presidential candidates.
“There are instances that buttress this point; when former President Obasanjo nominated Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as Vice President in 1999, he was governor-elect of Adamawa. The only thing known about him was that he was a retired Customs Officer and a businessman.
“During Yar’Adua’s tenure, Dr Goodluck Jonathan was not known anywhere aside being Deputy Governor of Bayelsa and later Governor, following the impeachment of his boss. He wasn’t a national star anywhere but he won election with Yar’Adua.
“Again in 2015, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was chosen as vice-presidential candidate to President Muhammadu Buhari. Before then, Osinbajo was known just as a Professor of Law and former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State.
“Osinbajo was not a star in the political hemisphere at that time. So for somebody to say that Okowa is not known nationally in politics is to say the least, derogatory and it shows how uninformed whoever said so is in politics.
“Okowa, for the records, was a Commissioner in Delta for eight years, Secretary to the State Government, Senator and later as Governor.
“These are enough credentials to make him known nationally. Even as a first time member in the Senate, he was Chairman Senate Committee on Health while there were ranking senators. That was evident that he was already known before coming to the Senate.
“What we have today as the National Health Act in Nigeria is a product of Governor Okowa’s effort in the health sector. He sponsored the National Health Bill, which was passed and signed into law in 2014,” he said.
He added that as governor, Okowa domesticated the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme in Delta, with over one million Deltans already enrolled in the scheme which gives free treatment to pregnant women, children under-five years and the aged while other enrollees pay only N7,000 per annum for the services.
Ifeajika further said that Okowa had handled tough assignments for the party which also added to his pedigree as a nationalist.
According to him, when Jonathan lost his re-election bid in 2015, the PDP was in turmoil and when the dust settled, the entire party sat down and chose Okowa to organise the National Convention that brought in Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee.
“He was called in again to organise another Convention to elect the presidential candidate of the party in the 2019 general elections held in Port Harcourt.
“For everything, by way of credentials, somebody should have in this country, Okowa has it. He is a giant in politics, a goal-getter in everything he choses to do and a material any day in the politics of this country.
“The said comment is not just unfortunate but malicious and hence we are responding to it.” he stated.
On the 7th anniversary of the Okowa administration, Ifeajika said that the coastal areas of the state will forever remember the administration for braving the odds to construct roads in the area, including the 20.8km road leading to Obotebe 1, Obotebe 2, Yokri and Sokebulou roads.
“In a couple of weeks, we will proceed to inaugurate the floating market in Ogheye, a riverside community. It is called Ogheye Floating Market, built right on water, hence floating market.
“We have several empowerment programmes with over 150,000 youths taken off the streets and they are the fulcrum of MSMEs in the state.”
On infrastructure in the state, Ifeajika said the governor had embarked on lots of infrastructural projects, including the 10 new ongoing technical colleges with three already completed in Asaba, Obiaruku and Effurun.
“The governor also established three new universities, with the upgrade of three higher institutions in the state to enable more Deltans have access to university education.
“It is on record that Lagos State Government, having seen the wisdom in what Delta did, has also established two more universities in the state,” he stated.