Interests, politics tear S-South govs apart

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POLITICAL activities for 2015 and disagreements over oil among the states in the South South geo-political zone, have split the governors into two opposing blocs.

On one side are the pair of governors of Rivers and Edo states, Rotimi Amaechi and Adams Oshiomhole, respectively. They are of All Progressives Congress, APC.

In the other camp are the quartet of governors Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) and Liyel Imoke (Cross River), all of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Uduaghan, Oshiomhole, Imoke, Amaechi, Dickson and Akpabio

Uduaghan, Oshiomhole, Imoke, Amaechi, Dickson and Akpabio

Niger Delta Voice investigations revealed that the governors would do everything possible to avoid a meeting, especially at social functions.

Because of political differences, the governors, who parleyed under the aegis of South South Governors’ Forum have not met for some time now, while the BRACED Commission, an acronym for Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta States, formed about four years ago by the governors to integrate and fast track development among the six-member states, has temporarily been allocated the backseat.

A knowledgeable source told Niger Delta Voice: “The troubling development at the moment is that the governors have allowed their political dissimilarities to affect their common agenda for the region.

“The handwriting on the wall is gloomy because as I speak, it is clear that governors Uduaghan, Imoke, Akpabio and Dickson are the only ones that could sit together to discuss South South.

“Amaechi and Oshiomhole are viewed with suspicion. But hitherto, it was Uduaghan, Amaechi, Imoke and former Bayelsa Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva before he lost out in the politics of his state.

“They cannot sit down in a room as South South governors to plot a mutual strategy for the region. There must be reason to abort such meeting and Amaechi is regarded as a renegade with Oshiomhole as his soul mate.”

A big shame—

Odigie-Oyegun

National Chairman of APC and first civilian governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, told Niger Delta Voice, “it is a great pity that the situation exists. I know most of the persons involved personally, except the Bayelsa man.

“What I see is the struggle for 2015. It has been so personalised and it is threatening to truncate peace in the region. I am worried because these are people I know would ordinarily not personalise such matters.

“It is the dangerous politics of PDP, where the party wants everybody to be on President Goodluck Jonathan’s side. Everybody must be seen to be close to Jonathan and unfriendly to Amaechi; that is what they want and it has created a problem for the region.

“Nobody wants to consider the fact that Amaechi is fighting based on principles. He is only saying that what is right is right. It all started with the Nigeria Governors Forum election, which he won. But so many unconstitutional acts were performed and PDP wants it to be seen as a family matter. Amaechi said no and that was the final nail.

“I am not surprised that it is affecting their relationship, but I believe that by March next year, when the issue of Presidency would have been settled in favour of APC, things will normalise; the governors will refocus, because right now 2015 has made things impossible.”

BRACED still functioning— Enoba

Commissioner for Special Duties, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and BRACED Commission Liaison, Delta State, Mr. Chris Enoba, who spoke to Niger Delta Voice in Asaba, confirmed that all was not well with the South South governors. Although he was optimistic that the governors would get over the problem, Enoba confessed that governors Amaechi and Oshiomhole might have jettisoned the common dream due to political divide.

He said: “It is rather unfortunate that issues that are not supposed to take priority over the economy of any nation have been allowed to take the centre stage. Politics, because of interest that are involved, is capable of dividing us.

“But a politician that knows his onions should not allow politics to divide us no matter the level. We must make policies that would help to galvanise the economy of any nation. That way, politics can be said to be meaningful.

“It is true that Governor Amaechi and the other governor of APC extraction (Oshiomhole) may not be working together with PDP governors of BRACED states. It does not mean that BRACED commission is not functioning.

“We are forging ahead. So whether there is political divide or not, the BRACED Commission will still forge ahead with its mandate.

“The mandate of BRACED Commission is to create a platform that will outlive any administration. Rivers State alone should not stop the activities of the commission. I tell you, penultimate week, Commissioners of Energy, Oil and Gas in the region met and had useful discussions. We are focusing on having very strong infrastructural development in the zone and we are on course.”

Chairman of Labour Party, LP, in the state, Mr. Emeka Nkwocha, said: “What will Governor Amaechi tell his people made him pull out of BRACED Commission?

‘Amaechi, APC not to blame’

Dismissing the suggestion that Governor Amaechi is responsible for the situation, Commissioner for Information, Rivers State, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, who spoke to Niger Delta Voice in Port Harcourt, cautioned against allowing political differences among governors in the Niger Delta to affect the smooth operations of the BRACED Commission.

She, nevertheless, agreed that there had been a seeming letup in the activities of the Commission, but exonerated Governor Amaechi and APC, saying the party had always responded warmly to mails from the group.

She said: “The BRACED Commission wrote us letters whenever they met and we respond. It is unfortunate that there appears to be a lull in the activities of the commission. But I do not expect this should be the case because a secretariat was established for the commission.

“The governors have not met for some time. The BRACED Commission is an institution that should transcend political difference.”

Still redeemable— Oshiomhole’s aide

Special Adviser on Media to Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Mr. Kaseem Afegbua, in a chat with Niger Delta Voice, stressed the need for the six South South governors to subsume their divergent political interests and go back to the original ideas of setting up the commission in the interest of posterity.

Afegbua said: “It is true that the speed with which the BRACED Commission started has slowed down, but it is still redeemable. Part of this might not be unconnected to the issue of political activities and the scramble for 2015. But it remains an idea that should not be slaughtered on the slab of political affiliations.

“It is important that the states in the Niger Delta zone get their acts together to create economic synergy that will help the zone to greater heights. This way, an idea such as BRACED will outlive each regime of governors and all political appointees.

“If the BRACED headquarters is able to define its terms of engagement from this timeless perspective, the zone stands to benefit more. Edo State still buys into the idea and it will be more than willing to play its role in the interest of our collective partnership to build a stronger South South zone.

“Though we realise that states in the zone are unevenly endowed, an idea such as BRACED was meant to bridge such gaps, tap into our comparative advantage and build stronger partnership, without clinging to partisanship in terms of party affiliations. The noble objectives will still be achieved some day: if not now, then certainly later.”

Back to drawing board—Okosun, ex-Speaker

Former Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly and APC bigwig, Mr. Thomas Okosun, said: “The governors came up with the idea. I was one of those who were there during the formation, believing that their coming together on the issue of development of the region was a great idea because it was geared towards development and youth empowerment.

“I felt they will take advantage of the oil and other deposits. However, I think in recent times, not much has been heard about the commission and for me, I do not think this augur well for us.

“My appeal is that they should not allow politics to destroy it. They should establish a commission that will outlive their tenure. Whatever is the problem, I ask that they go back to the drawing board and allow the commission to take off in the overall interest of the South South people.”

‘Akpabio has no issue with other govs’

Commissioner for Information and Communication, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, was circumspect when he spoke Niger Delta Voice in Uyo, saying he was not aware of any issue among the governors and his boss has a cordial relationship with the other South South governors.

He said: “I will like to speak on Akwa Ibom and not on any other state because this is where I live and I work for the government of the state.

“I do not know about any issue among the governors. All I know is that Governor Godswill Akpabio has cordial relationship with all the governors and his interest is to develop Akwa Ibom.

“His focus is on the uncommon transformation of Akwa Ibom, to stabilise our party, PDP, at the national level and of course with an unflinching support for Mr. President to ensure that this country moves forward.

“I can also tell you that Governor Akpabio has always advocated the true and integrated development of the Niger Delta area, particularly the South South. He has expressed this view at several fora. During the South South Economic Summit in Asaba, he made it very clear that economic integration must be handled within the South South zone with a view of ensuring true and integrated development of the region.”

On whether Governor Amaechi’s movement to APC is affecting the South South common agenda, Umanah said the issue of the region was completely different from the issue of political party, and as a region that is predominantly PDP, the focus of the leaders is on the true development of the South South region and the Niger Delta.

‘Amaechi is the problem’

Renowned legal practitioner, Mr. Uwemedimo Nwoko, differed with Umanah, saying if there was no bickering, they would have been able to lobby and secure their position for amendment of certain constitutional provisions on fiscal federalism and derivation principle, that still stand at 13 percent, in the ongoing national conference.

He said it was a matter of serious concern that efforts being made by governors Akpabio, Uduaghan and Dickson, in the common interest of the region, were being frustrated by Governor Ameachi.

He pointed out that the governors would not achieve the collective agenda of the region working from disparate camps, as given the vicious politics in the country, every geo-political zone struggles to secure its interest with the vicious politics played in the country.

“Today, we are still talking about returning from the National Conference with 13 percent derivation. It would not have been so. But sadly enough our governors are not working together, sadly enough also, our political leaders are not working together. Again, sadly enough and very vital, governors are now working against the interest of the South South by aligning with outside interest and that is definitely negatively affecting the common interest of the South South.

“Amaechi is not working with the South South governors. He is not working with Mr. President, who is a South South man, he is not working with the federal ministers from his state. So how will he be able to influence things for the South South at the national level when we are talking about national politics Definitely, I believe this is affecting the common agenda of the South South.

“As a democrat, Amaechi has every right to choose which political party he wishes to belong to. But the party he chooses, should not override the interest of the South South, which provides the platform on which he plays that politics.

“For example, somebody like Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State is not in Peoples’ Democratic Party, but you do not hear him making utterances that tend to undermine the collective interest of the South South.”

‘Problem started with NGF election’

The APC spokesperson, Obong Samuel Udobong, traced the genesis of the high-pitched disunity to the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, election in which President Goodluck Jonathan preferred Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State as Chairman, and refused to recognise Amaechi, who reportedly won the election.

The APC spokesperson noted that the lingering disunity explained the lack of federal presence in the zone and the region losing out in the scheme of things, and also blamed other political leaders from the region of fueling the discord for their selfish and political interests.

Oil wells row

Although neither Governor Imoke nor his aides were willing to comment on the cloaked war, an informed source said the death knell was sounded on the BRACED Commission with the wrangling among member states over ownership of oil wells between 2009 and 2012.

The row, which started soon after the birth of the commission, was so fierce among the ‘sister states’ of Cross River and Akwa Ibom, Rivers State and Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Rivers, effectively tore them apart with the exception of Edo and Delta that did not openly engage in the oil wells confrontation.

The rift over the wells brought so much bad blood that the body language among the governors of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Bayelsa was so hostile that one was not willing to sit on the same table with the other in the name of discussing matters of common interests.

A top adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The BRACED Commission, like its forerunner, the South South Governors Forum, was an initiative based on mutual love and the need to pursue and protect the interests of member states. But the greed to usurp what belonged to a sister state by another state turned the whole idea into a survival of the fittest situation.

“So the common reasoning was ‘why should I sit on the same desk and discuss with somebody I am at daggers drawn with in the name of a commission?’”

 

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