South South eyes eight years

2010-08-01
THE SUN Newspaper- Henry Chukwurah

It was a far-reaching decision that took about three hours of several short speeches to reach. So business-like was the gathering that by the time the delegates filed out about 3.40pm on July 26, President Goodluck Jonathan had received the overwhelming nod from his South South kinsmen to run the 2011 presidential race.

The clarion call on the President by the South South stakeholders at the forum held in Port Harcourt came on the heels of threats amid sprinklings of support from the North on the matter.
The Cross River State Governor and chairman of the South South Governors Forum, Senator Liyel Imoke, had after the host-governor, Chibuike Amaechi’s brief welcome remarks, set the tone for the Port Harcourt stakeholders forum.

He told the gathering that the day’s mission was “to discuss with open mind” issues that bordered on their collective interest in the forthcoming elections and the need “to arrive at a common ground for our zone and for our country.”

Imoke said he and his other four colleagues in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-controlled States of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Rivers would sit back and listen to contributions to “a discussion that is most relevant for us.”
Expectedly, the contentious issue of zoning featured prominently in the contribution of virtually all the speakers. It was obvious they would have wished the word away from the nation’s current political lexicon.
Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, who set the ball rolling, saw zoning as “a way of taking care of injustice, negligence and marginalization,” but added, “we have discovered that even if there was zoning, this has been taken care of by the Almighty God”.

Ramming his point down the throat of whoever had a contrary view, Chief Clark said zoning died before 2003 and that but for some “manoeuvring,” a son of the zone would have emerged as President at the time.
“If there was zoning in 1999, there was no zoning in 2003. The matter has been breached,” he said.
In apparent response to politicians who insist that the next President should come from the North, that has ruled for the better part of the nation’s post-independence period, he said, “there is no Nigeria where some people are superior and some are second class citizens.”

Taking a cue, former chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, said he “deliberately left out talking about zoning because the issue has been battered beyond recognition.” It was his contention that the South South, which has in the past played a unifying role among the various regions of the country and has also been a close ally of the North, fighting political battles together, should produce the next President.
Chairman of the South South Caucus in the Senate, Victor Ndoma-Egba, reasoned that the Yar’Adua/Jonathan ticket remained one and likened what has happened in the Presidency to the common fate of a pilot and his co-pilot.
“If through no fault of the South South, the co-pilot has now become the pilot, it still remains one ticket. We want to appeal to our brothers and sisters, it is not the making of the South South. It is God’s making and they should for once reciprocate. I have no doubt they will reciprocate.”

House of Representatives member, Hon Andrew Uchendu, toed the same path, reminding Nigerians of the prominent contributions of the zone to the nation’s attainment of independence. He urged that their overdue compensation should be converted to a Jonathan post-2011 election presidency.
From Akwa Ibom, the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Okon Uwa, said the state legislators and the people “support our son, Jonathan.”
He also spoke for the Speakers of the state legislatures in the zone.

On his part, a former Military Administrator of the state, Chief Idongesit Ikanga, said: “You cannot have a first class country with second class citizens,” and told those opposed to a Jonathan Presidency that “the next four or eight years” is not too much for a zone that sustains about 90 per cent of the national economy.
“The stand of Akwa Ibom is that President Jonathan must run in 2011 and we are saying further that Nigerians should stand by him to win by first ballot.”
Representatives of neighboring Cross River State, namely ageless First Republic politician, Chief Matthew Mbu, and Senator Florence Ita-Giwa were no less blunt. Chief Mbu was happy that unlike in the past when the ambition of some governors played the spoiler, the people of the zone are now “standing tall, very very erect, singing one song of unity of purpose.” He and the Senator backed the popular view in the gathering that dialogue should be the major strategy for wooing the North.

Senator Ita-Giwa particularly told the forum that “I feel that if you have given your all, they should know that eight years will not harm anybody” even as she harped on the need for the South South to be “unquestionably honest” in the execution of the project.
Former president of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and a representative of Bayelsa State, Prof. Kimse Okoko, said that the overwhelming opinion in the country is that “we should put to rest, the issue of zoning,” describing Jonathan’s emergence as “not only divine as they say, but it serves the interest of justice in this country.”
From Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s Delta State came a request by Major-General Obada (rtd) for “a marching order” to the stakeholders to reach out to other states.
Obada, who retired from the Army about 23 years ago, said: “Like a military man, we want a marching order on what to do.”

One of Edo State’s representatives and former Defence Minister, Major-General Godwin Abe (rtd), assured that the state would readily back Jonathan because “the man has age on his side and he is educated.” He saw the present situation as “an opportunity for injustice to be addressed.”
Overwhelmed by the deluge of support for his former deputy, former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and incumbent governor, Timipre Sylva, thanked the delegates and urged that the resolve be kept alive.

Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Godswill Akpabio, held out hope of a mission accomplished when he assured the forum that he had “spoken with some of my brother governors in the North and many of them are ready to support us.”
But how true this is, only time will tell, as politicking for the next elections gather momentum.

 

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