The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has described the acceptance by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to be the running mate to the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar in next year’s election as a betrayal of the South
The Forum gave this position in a statement issued on Friday signed by its leader, Chief Edwin Clark; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Leader, Afenifere; Dr Dru Bitrus, President-General, Middle Belt Forum; and Prof. George Obiozor President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.
The statement noted that it is unspeakable and disappointing for Okowa, who is currently Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, and a native of Owa-Alero in Ika North-East Local Government Area, one of the Igbo-speaking areas of Delta State, to exhibit such “barefaced unreliability.”
The Forum recalled that the 17 Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria in both the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC), under the Chairmanship of the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, met in Asaba, the capital of Delta State on May 11, 2021, and took far-reaching decisions, including that, based on the principles of fairness, equity and justice, the presidency should rotate to the south, at the end of the statutory eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
It pointed out that Okowa was the host of that historic meeting, which was followed by another meeting of the group in Lagos, on July 5, where they reaffirmed their decision, and again in Enugu, on September 16, to restate the call that the presidency should rotate to the south in 2023.
The SMBLF added: “It is essential to underline that the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), applauded the meeting of the governors, given its significant representation and the gravity of the outcome; we followed up and issued a similar statement after our meeting in Abuja on the 30th of May 2021, asking that the presidency should rotate to the south.
“And went further, on several other occasions, to caution political stakeholders from the South, including serving and former governors, ministers, senators, etcetera, not to, on any account, allow themselves to be appointed or nominated as running mate to any presidential candidate, if the presidency is not zoned to the south and that we will work against such person or persons.
“It is, therefore, most unfortunate that the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa who should know better, accepted his appointment as running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. We do not have anything personal against Ifeanyi Okowa but his action is treacherous and tantamount to a despicable pawning of the political future of the people of Southern Nigeria.
“Sadly, it is also now common knowledge that he spent an extensive sum of money to lobby for the position. And that explains why he never made any statement when his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), thoughtlessly jettisoned the zoning principle, which has become established as a norm and an intrinsic part of the nation’s political trajectory.
“It is difficult to fathom how a political party can claim to be on a supposed “rescue mission” with such false footings of unfairness, injustice, duplicity and gross insensitivity to national outlook.
“It is regrettable that while most of Governor Okowa’s southern and northern counterparts have maintained gallant, patriotic deference to the unity and peace of the country, above blinkered political considerations, by their resolute stance on the rotation of the presidency to the south in 2023, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the “Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, of all people, would gullibly and slavishly capitulate to the bonbon of absurdity.
“Thus, acceding to a situation whereby, one person rules for eight years and hands over to another of his stock, in a country of at least 360 ethnic groups. What a shame!
“And that this is not a matter of loyalty to one’s political party, but rather a greedy, parochial and unpatriotic action, committed against the general interest of his State, Delta state, the Niger Delta region, and Southern Nigeria. It is, certainly, also not in the interest of the nation at large.” The statement concluded.
The leaders commended the patriotism of all Nigerians who “cherish our unity and progress as a country and further urge all such Nigerians; in the North and the South; young and mature, the high and mighty; irrespective of religion and tribe, to remain steadfast on the centrality of the presidency rotating to the South in 2023, in the national interest.”
MORE revelations have emerged about Friday’s meeting held by South-West leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with aspirants from the zone, whose main objective, was on how to avert a crisis that will create a fractured party as it prepares for primary on May 30 and 31, Sunday Tribune has reliably gathered…Okowa betrayed South by accepting vice-presidential slot ― South, Middle Belt Leaders