Dr Ifeanyichukwu Arthur Okowa was born in 1959 at Owa-Alero in Ika North-East Local Government Area of Delta State. He is presently the Executive Governor of Delta State. A member of the Peoples Democratic Party, he is the party’s vice presidential candidate in the upcoming February next year’s presidential poll. Okowa had worked very hard indeed before becoming the Delta State Chief Executive having started his political career as a Secretary in his local government area. He is both affable and gentle, qualities that are in sharp contrast to politicians back home who see themselves as gods playing personality cult melody.
Delta is an oil-rich state like Rivers and Bayelsa states in the Niger Delta region. Delta State has had the misfortune of having in the past one executive convicted criminal as Governor, James Onanefe Ibori. Ibori governed Delta for eight eventful years and stole billions of Naira and millions of Dollars for himself. He was once arrested and jailed in London for money laundering and theft on a scale beyond belief.
Certainly, Governor Okowa is not James Ibori in terms of executive banditry or grandstanding. They are different in so many ways. In fact, they are worlds apart! While the former is a gentleman the latter was an executive scoundrel who looted whatever he could lay his hands on, filthy lucre et al, while the gubernatorial party lasted.
While Okowa’s integrity and probity are not seriously questioned he is nonetheless not a paragon. Yet, he could have decided to play Ibori or do ‘better’ than him in terms of embezzlement of state funds. But thus far he had chosen otherwise as no serious scandal or graft is trailing Okowa. Of course we hear rumours of failure of leadership or misappropriation of state funds but those allegations pale into insignificance when compared to the ‘Ibori-gate’.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 electoral battle fror the presidency post-Buharism, Atiku Abubakar, had chosen Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate. Political observers were surprised at the choice given the fact that days prior to the announcement of the choice the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who came close second to Atiku in the PDP’s national convention, had been rumoured to be favoured to clinch the position.
Atiku gave cogent reasons for reaching the decision concerning his deputy. Making it clear the decision was a difficult one he declared that the names forwarded to him were quality materials but he chose the ‘best’ out of the lot given his experience and performance in office. He equally stated that Okowa’s legislative experience would come in handy as the duo pilot the affairs of the nation upon their election victory.
Governor Wike must have felt disappointed and neglected. He must have contributed heavily towards the success of the PDP and his ambition but merit and performance must have worked against him. It takes a man of sterling character and strong leadership conviction to be propelled to the highest office as that of the number two citizen of a potentially great nation.
Gov. Wike had reportedly lobbied hard for the vice-presidential ticket. By choosing Okowa over Wike Atiku must have weighed his options carefully and the need for a VP who would not want to upstage his boss by being uncontrollable or overbearing. Wike as Vice-President would be one hell of a politician plotting day and night for power grab at the centre.
Indeed, Okowa is administratively better than Wike and his public comportment bears testimony to his temperament as a partner on whom one can count. Wike is reputed notoriously to be arrogant, garrulous and unrefined. He courts controversy and hugs the limelight. With him installed in Aso Villa as the Vice-President then controversy and scandals would trail the Atiku presidency if it comes to pass electorally.
Gov. Okowa, prior to his emergence as the future Vice President of the Federal Republic, had made it clear via a statement released in Asaba that only God could stand on his way of becoming Atiku’s running mate! Speculations abounded as to the kind of gentleman’s agreement Atiku must have reached with Okowa before the latter worked tirelessly for him to trounce the opposition.
Soon after the announcement confirming Okowa officially as the future VP critics began questioning his choice, his credentials, his antecedents. Some, especially the south-easterners, attacked Atiku for ignoring a core Igboman as his running mate. Others castigated him for choosing a malleable man whom he could easily control while in power! And others lampooned him for ignoring the contributions of Gov. Wike in terms of party financing and electoral value.
Gov. Okowa himself came under heavy criticism for ‘betraying’ the south and mobilizing votes for a northerner, a Fulani man like the incompetent incumbent President. Okowa was alleged to have worked assiduously for the Atiku emergence with his eyes firmly fixed on becoming his running mate. Before the PDP convention took place Southern Governors meeting in Asaba had decided that power must shift to the South post-Buharism. Gov. Okowa hosted that meeting and signed that agreement only for him to renege on it at the last minute.
After his emergence Gov. Okowa was interviewed by a national TV station in Lagos and he justified his choice. He made it clear that he was an Igboman! He claimed that his future boss, Atiku Abubakar, would provide quality leadership and the combination of himself and Atiku would change Nigeria for good.
But the crucial question thus arises: Is Governor Okowa an Igboman? Well, we believe he is more or less, all things being equal. Of course he is more Igbo than not! His name, Ifeanyichukwu, means literally in Igbo language ‘nothing is impossible before God’. Okowa could be considered to be an Igboman in the ‘diaspora’ Nigeriana.
The Igbos are predominantly found in five states of South-east Nigeria. These are Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. But beyond the boundaries of these aforementioned states, Igbos could be found in other neighbouring states like Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa, Kogi and Benue States. Certain similarities in language, tradition and culture exist between the ‘core’ Igbos and the glorified ones.
During my annual vacation back home some years ago I had visited Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital city. And while there holidaying I was amazed at the domination of Igbo language and culture. The sights and sounds of the city gave it away as a Biafran entity.
While Gov. Wike, in his executive ignorance or hubris, can afford to deny or dismiss his Igboness it is beyond question that many Ikwerres unlike him feel proud to proclaim their Igbo identity and heritage. Whether Wike agrees or accepts himself to be an Igboman is inconsequential. Igboland remains a blessed land of the rising sun and millions of our people are very proud of our cultural and linguistic heritage, from generation to generation!
Now that Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa had publicly declared his pride of being an Igboman, albeit with its concomitant lack of originality, we must, in the spirit of brotherhood, accept him as one of us and wish him the very best in the event of the PDP winning the forthcoming presidential election come Fabruary next year.