Pressure mounts on S'South govs to back Jonathan

THE PUNCH Newspaper-Sola Adebayo, Olamilekan Lartey

Pressure is mounting on governors from the South-South to support the campaign for the emergence of Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan as an acting President.

Our correspondents learnt on Monday that a good number of the governors, said to be either opposed to or undecided about the growing calls for the inauguration of the vice-president as acting President, had come under pressure from the leaders of the zone to dump their uncompromising stance.

The governors are – Liyel Imoke (Cross River); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom); Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta); Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo); and Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa).

Our correspondents learnt that the pressure was coming largely from the Niger Delta Leaders, Elders and Stakeholders Forum, a group headed by a former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark.

Yar’Adua has been away from the country for 64 days, a development which has caused a power vacuum and succession crisis in the Presidency, and the clamour that Jonathan be made acting President.

Clark, had, at a news conference in Abuja last Wednesday, accused some governors and leaders of the zone of working against the ascension of Jonathan as acting President.

Clark had said, “Some disgruntled self-serving elements from the South-South region have been collaborating with the cabal, which includes ministers, governors, and National Assembly members, to put the unity of this country asunder by planning to scuttle constitutionalism and democracy in the country.”

Our correspondents learnt on Monday that the forum had intensified pressure on the governors to support their kinsman to assume the highest political office in the country.

It was gathered that the leadership of NDLESF had sent messages to the governors that their actions were self-serving.

Reports available to our correspondents showed that the leadership of NDLESF accused the governors of anti-South-South stance and demanded a change of attitude in order not to incur the wrath of the people.

A source said, “The governors of the South-South are now under heavy pressure to place their personal and political interests below the general interests of the zone by supporting the popular agitation that the Vice- President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, be inaugurated as acting President pending the time President Umaru Yar’Adua, who left the country over two months ago on medical grounds, would return to his duty post in the Presidency.

“It is no longer news that all the governors of the zone are opposed to Jonathan due to their selfish political interests, but the leaders of the geo-political zone, under the umbrella of the Niger Delta Leaders, Elders and Stakeholders Forum, headed by a former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, are intensifying pressure on them to change their tactics in the interest of the zone.

“The leaders’ forum has sent messages to the governors, warning them to place the issues bordering on the survival of the zone above self-seeking political considerations so as not to incur the wrath of the people of the zone.”

A leader of NDLESF and former Commissioner for Health in Delta State, Dr. Richard Tosanwumi, said the group was not comfortable with the attitude of the governors of the zone, especially as it related to the campaign to make Jonathan acting President.

Tosanwumi, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said that Clark had warned the governors to desist from “their anti- South-South tendencies,” adding that the governors of the oil-rich region might face the wrath of the people if Jonathan was denied the Presidency in the continued absence of Yar’Adua

Tosanwumi said the governors had betrayed the zone by working against the popular interest of their people.

He added, “The South-South governors must stop confronting Vice- President Goodluck Jonathan.

“We shall hold them responsible if Jonathan is not made acting President and they will face the wrath of our people. We have had enough of overbearing, oppressive and arrogant betrayal from these governors who treat us with impunity and levity.”

When contacted, Imoke, through his chief press secretary, Mr. Patrick Ugbe, said he did not know anything about the allegation.

“I am not aware of it. But there will be a meeting of the governors later this week in Benin and their position would be made known that day,” he said. Imoke is the chairman of the South-South governors forum.

Also, the Senior Special Assistant (Media), to Oshiomhole, Mr. Tony Iyare, said, “It is not an issue I can speak on immediately. I am only aware that they said they were likely to meet here in Benin this week. Since we are hosting the meeting, we would know the right thing by then.”

The Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, did not answer her calls when contacted on the telephone.

But the Acting Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Blessing Nwikina, said the governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, was not available for comment.

But Akpabio said he would continue to support anything that would make Nigeria remain united.

The governor said that he had always prayed to God to take away confusion from the country.

Akpabio, who spoke through his CPS, Mr. Usoro I. Usoro, in Uyo explained that as a democrat, he believed in the rule of law.

He said, “For the avoidance of doubt and any misconception, governor Akpabio is a democrat who believes so much in the rule of law and the overbearing interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.

“To this end, he stands for and will readily support anything that will promote the unity as well as stabilise this country. The governor has openly demonstrated this by praying to God to take away confusion from Nigeria.”

The Bayelsa State Government also dismissed insinuations that Sylva was in concert with other South-South governors to oppose Jonathan’s inauguration as acting President.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Doifie Ola, dismissed the allegation as “utter fiction without any element of truth.”

But the Action Congress in Bayelsa State said in reaction to allegations that Sylva was aligning with other South-South governors to ensure that Jonathan did not become the acting President, that such action would be a great disservice to the region and the nation as a whole.

Acting Chairman of the AC in the state, Mr. Miriki Ebikibina, said that the allegation against the South-South governors, if it was true, would amount to placing personal and political interest above the general interest of the people.

He said that the governors would be playing into the hands of the cabal that had frustrated the implementation of the provisions of the Constitution.

“It will be unimaginable and unthinkable for the governor whose region and state is at the centre stage of the political activities to be involved in such a game,” Ebikibina said.


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