ByÂ Emma Amaize
PRESIDENT Umaru Yarâ€™Adua was rattled yesterday by the South-South Governorsâ€™ threat to pull out of its amnesty programme for militants and has reached out to some of the governors to find out what went wrong with their usual channel of communication with himÂ and how best to resolve the vexed issues.
Our source said it is most likely the President would settle for a meeting with the Governors in Aso Villa in the next few days to iron out the grey areas since their full cooperation and participation are very vital to the success of the amnesty programme and other peace efforts.
A dependable source also hinted, â€œThe governors will be in Abuja on Sunday and probably they would meet with Mr. President to address the issues they raised with him but what I can tell you is that there is a lot of pressure on them to simmer down on their tough stanceâ€.
Several ministers called their governors yesterday to know if what they read in the newspapers concerning their position was correct and they told them they were not quoted out of context.
However, the elders and leaders of the South-South, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) Warri-Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group and other groups have thrown their weight behind the governors, who they commended for taking such a bold decision for the first time.
It was also learnt that President Yarâ€™Adua has asked the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to talk to his people, but, according to my source, the governors have politely told the Vice President to steer clear of the matter and allow them to face Mr. President.
A Presidency source who was contacted by Saturday Vanguard said he was not aware ofÂ any discussion between President Yarâ€™Adua and the governors on the matter but added, â€œThe President would naturally be concerned but I donâ€™t know what he has done about itâ€.
Efforts to get comments from the Presidentâ€™s spokesman, Mr. Segun Adeniyi yesterday was unsuccessful as the call to his line did not go through and a text message to his line asking for President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s response to the threat of the governors was not replied at press time.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that the governors knew the Presidency would want to persuade them to drop the demands, but, they agreed at the meeting not to allow any personal or party considerations to overshadow the collective interest of the people of the region.
MEND elated by govsâ€™ position
Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) in an exclusive electronic mail response to an inquiry by Saturday Saturday Vanguard said, â€œWe are elated that our governors are waking up from a long period of hibernationâ€.
â€œHowever, knowing these are typical Nigerian politicians, we doubt they will have the moral justification to fight for their people because they have soiled their hands with blood money and a majority of them were not elected into office by the people but through electoral fraudâ€, its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo stated.
His words, â€œThese are men who have sold their birthright to the North for a bowl of porridge and suddenly have realized what their treachery has causedÂ their people. If they are genuinely committed, it is not too late to make amendsâ€.
â€œThat the governors are beginning to see what MEND saw in 2006 has vindicated us.
It is sad that many souls have perished because of the greed of a few men in authority who got carried away with fleeting power.
Many of these same men are the ones paying the JTF to suppress their own people to the extent that the JTF can carry out extra-judicial killings with impunityâ€, he said.
â€œUp to date, Governor Rotimi Amaechi has not investigated the killings caught on tape of two citizens of Rivers state, how then can such a leader be trusted that they care for the oil bearing communities.
Perhaps they are learning from the solidarity of the Northern governors and parliamentarians who put their people first before other parts of Nigeriaâ€, he added.
S-South elders hail govs
South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark told Saturday Vanguard that the elders and leaders of the zone would meet August 3 in Akwa-Ibom to deliberate on the arrogant and provocative statement of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Riwalnu Lukman, Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) upgrade palaver and other matters that affect the region, while the Delta State Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum would meet on Tuesday at Kiagbodo on the same matter.
On the threat issued President Yarâ€™Adua by the South-South governors, he said the elders, leaders and people of the region were strongly behind the governors, who, for the first time, have taken a fashionable decision.
â€œWe are solidly behind them and we are happy with the decision they took at Asaba. We all accepted the amnesty by President Yarâ€™Adua, not that we donâ€™t know the implications but with theÂ Â Petroleum Industry Bill, which denies the oil producing communities of their right, the arrogant comments of Dr Lukman and the utter manner in which the upgrade of Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Warri was reversed, the amnesty appears to have been programmed to failâ€, he asserted.
His words, â€œWe are going to discuss the provocative, arrogant and uncompromising statement of Dr Rilwanu Lukman, the upgrade of Petroleum College in Kaduna at over N14 billion, building of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund headquarters at N10 billion in Abuja, downgrading of PTI, Effurun, near Warri and all thatâ€.
He said the country belongs to all Nigerians and nobody should be regarded to be a second-class citizen by the other, adding, â€œThe country has to be governed with the consent of everybody and nobody should take himself as being superior to the other personâ€.
Good riddance to bad rubbish â€” IYC
National President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Dr. Chris Ekiyor who spoke to Saturday Vanguard said, â€œIYC supports the South-South Governors in their threat to pull out from the amnesty programme because the Federal Government cannot say that they are solving the Niger-Delta problem on one hand and creating more problems on anotherÂ handâ€.
â€œThe Federal Government is insulting us by pulling our resources to upgradeÂ a Petroleum Training Institute in Kaduna for over N14billlion and building a N10billion headquarters for the PTDF in Abuja when our complaint is that we are not happy with the ones they have pulled out in the pastâ€, he said.
Dr. Ekiyor urged members of the National Assembly from the South-South and South-East and possibly the South-West to work together and ensure that they throw out the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill, which took no cognisance of the oil producing communities.
Good decision â€” WIPMG Chairman of the Warri-Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG), Chief Paul Bigha told Saturday Vanguard, â€œThe threat by the South-South governors to withdraw from the amnesty programme because of the reasons they gave is a laudable one. It has shown that they too know the move by the Northern oligarchy to continue to deprive the people of the Niger-Delta of their God-given resourceâ€.
â€œAt last, they have agreed with MEND in the struggle. We pray they should stand by the decision takenâ€, he added.
Why S-South Govs decided to tackle Yarâ€™Adua
THE forewarning on Thursday night by South-South Governors that they would pull out of the amnesty programme of the Federal Government on the grounds of absence of a definite post-amnesty programme for the region, anti-oil-producing communities bearing of the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill and movement of the University of Petroleum from Effurun to Kaduna did not come as a shock to many Niger-Deltans.
To the more discerning ones, however, the action taken by the Governors at Asaba was expected long time ago, but, even though it was late in coming, it isÂ still good as aphorism,Â â€œIt is better late than neverâ€ demonstrates.
Hardly 24 hours before the stunning threat, coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah in an interview with Saturday Vanguard on the downgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, near Warri and upgrading of the Kaduna Petroleum College said he would not blame President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, but, the National Assembly members and Governors of the region, who have not been able to rise to the challenge of providing good leadership for their people because they were â€œselectedâ€ and not â€œelectedâ€.
Recalling Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s recent statement of the governmentâ€™s plan to build a trans-Saharan pipeline from Nigeria (Niger-Delta) to Algeria , he wondered why the South-South governors should not mobilize and meet Mr. President in Abuja and tell him unmistakably that the pipeline would be blown up by the boys if the proper thing was not done.
With the show the governors put in Asaba on Thursday, it was obvious that they had been bearing some pains of marginalization and oppression for a long time, but, events of the last few days made them to break loose.
All PDP, except for Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state, who is of the AC, the governors have done everything in the last two years and more to tag along with President Yarâ€™Adua in virtually all his policies so as not to rock the party, but, the growing power of some of his advice-givers, who are anti-South-South in their actions, and the inability of Mr. President to quickly denounce their antics has become a source of concern to them.
Initially, some of the governors reported their worries to the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan but the look of things; it was evident that the number two citizen was not in the position to sway the President.
And so, the only option probably left for the governors, who are not unmindful of their place in history if they failed to take the bull by horn was to challenge the authority of Yarâ€™Adua to give imprimatur to such decisions. They have come with a subtle threat of warning so as not to appear as if they are confronting Mr. President, hoping that he would read the handwriting on the wall and urgently make amend.
However, some South_Southerners who support the new spirit of the governors would not want the warning to be a blank threat and urged them not to give in to any appeal by President Yarâ€™Adua as long as the issues they raised were not satisfactorily addressed.
They said it would be the worse treachery if the purpose of issuing the warning was to make the people of the South_South feel that they were really disturbed by the developments, whereas, they are on the same page with Yarâ€™Adua and his Northern cohorts. But feelers from some sources close to the governors said they mean business this time around.
It was gathered that for a long time some of the governors who were bent on creating conducive atmosphere for the operations of the oil companies in the region and other stakeholders pleaded with the Presidency to grant amnesty to militants to facilitate their discussions with the armed youths to drop their arms, but, the Presidency paid deaf ears until the ill-advised Cordon and Search operation by the Joint Task Force on the Niger_Delta led to the near_total crippling of the economy.
Some of the governors were called militants and sponsors of militants for suggesting a way out and when, out of panic, the Federal Government proclaimed amnesty, it did not come out with any clear-cut development programme and the governors have no idea of what its actual intentions are, whether it is to get the militants off its back to continue to explore oil and gas or that it really has the interest of the people at heart, nobody can say.
Even the Ministry of Niger-Delta with two Ministers from the Niger-Delta does not have enough funds and authority to initiate certain things concerning the region without clearance from some Northern apologists in the Presidency.
Since the Niger-Delta Technical Committee headed by Mr. Ledum Mitee submitted its report, the governors have been buffeted from all fronts by their people on why the Federal Government has refused to issue a white paper on for nearly seven months, but despite the fact that they donâ€™t have a correct answer, they kept telling their people that a committee was looking into it with the view of producing the recommendations that the President would use to come with a white paper. But for how long can they continue to lie to their people when the Mitee report contains the solutions to most of the problems.
Undeterred, theÂ governors stillÂ battled to see how to get an â€œunwillingâ€ President Yarâ€™Adua to appraise the issues from a proper perspective so as not spoil the apple carte, his Minister of Petroleum, Dr.Â Riwalnu Lukman added salt to injury with his crude verbiage in recent outings that portrayed the oil communities as meaning nothing to the government of the day.
The sheer arrogance ofÂ Lukman broke the camelâ€™s back, forcing the governors to react collectively against the President for the first time.