By Dayo Benson, Pilitical Editor and Jimitota Onoyume
A fresh angle was added to the understanding of the ongoing post amnesty programme for repentant militants in the Niger Delta region at the just ended South South summit in Port Harcourt were people of the region passed a firm resolution calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the coming presidential election with assurance that the region was behind him.  The summit was attended by the five PDP governors in the region and other political bigwigs in the area.

The general feeling in the South-South is for other sections of the country to view Jonathan’s presidency beyond 2011 as another angle to the post amnesty programme. Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state shed more light on the foregoing when he spoke of effort by other sections of the country to assuage the bitterness and anger in the region which stemmed from the long years of neglect by past administrations.  The effort which so far has given birth to amnesty for repentant militants and a post amnesty programme to consolidate on the gains of the amnesty he argued should also be broadened to accommodate Jonathan’s presidency beyond 2011. He said though the region would not pursue the Jonathan’s presidential project from the point of slave mentality but for the sake of national unity it was proper for other sections to embrace it.

His counterpart, Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State took the argument further when he gave illustrations of how the region has been at the forefront of uniting the country. According to him, the whites came in through the  South South region to evolve the nation called Nigeria. And from this region, oil was discovered in commercial quantity in the fifties to sustain the unity of the country. He also recalled that the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) was able to form a national government from the votes of the South South.  The region according to him has given and is still giving so much to the project Nigeria to the extent that it would not be too much for it to ask for the Presidency come 2011.

Adding, the 19th president of the Nigeria Bar Association, O.C.J. Okocha (SAN) who was one of the delegates that spoke for Rivers state said in the past the slogan had always been “hand shake across the Niger” but this time it should be the other way round, all other zones should extend their hand of support to the region in this presidential bid.

Senator Florence Ita Giwa, one of those that spoke for Cross Rivers State became very emotional when she recalled how voting patterns had been like in the region. She said the South-South had always aligned with the North. “Before now most of us did not know how to play politics with the South, we always gave our support to the north.” She said it would not be out of place if this time the north supported the region come 2011. She urged the zone to go about the presidential project with decency, seeking the support and understanding of other sections of the country.

Former President of the Ijaw National Congress, Professor Kimse Okoko on his part said Jonathan’s presidency typified justice and would promote the spirit of national unity.

Senator Udoma Egba (SAN) who spoke for the South South caucus of the Senate said the region was at the thresh hold of history with the Jonathan’s presidency. He said the caucus would firmly be behind Jonathan in the presidential race just as he urged the north to support the project. “The South south caucus of the Senate is the first convert of this vision of Jonathan’s presidency”, he said. Adding, Hon Andrew Uchendu who spoke for the South South caucus of the House of Representatives said the fifty five members of the House of Representatives from the region were firmly behind the project.  He said it was proper for Jonathan to lead the late Yar Adua’s presidency to its end.

Hon Okon Uwa who spoke for the various state Houses of Assembly in the region also expressed support for the presidency.” We support the presidency of Jonathan. We want him to run and we are behind him”, he said.

Those who spoke for their various states also expressed firm support for the collective position of the region that Jonathan should run. They said they were behind the project. Former governor of Bayelsa state, Chief Deprieye Alamieseigha who was one of those that spoke for Bayelsa jokingly said he should be commended for ‘donating’ Jonathan to the nation.  Alamiesiegha who looked visibly excited with developments at the event advised that a special committee of 72 persons be set up to pursue the Jonathan’s presidential project to reality. “None of the speakers here so far have congratulated me for presenting a good candidate to the country”. There was general laughter.

In their separate comments, Chiefs Edwin Clark, Tony Anenih, Amb Mathew Mbu, Alabo Graham Douglas, Godwin Abbe, Don Etiebet and others also threw their weight behind the presidential project.  Anenih said effort should be made to reach out to other sections of the country to also support the project.

“On the ongoing political debate in our dear country, the South south must stand and fight for its right along constitutional lines….We would not be combative in our approach. Rather we need to persuade our northern brothers and sisters to understand and appreciate that we have made so much sacrifices in the past for the unity of this country, that we have contributed and continue to contribute so much to her development and therefore deserve our own turn of the presidency which we have not had in the history of Nigeria”, Clark said.

“Today is a memorable day, it will enable us look back at where we are coming from. This meeting should be held regularly. The region should work together to move forward”.

General Ufuoma Obada said it was time for action. Marching orders he said should be given on how to realise the vision. Professor B.I.C Ijeoma cautioned against unhealthy utterances.

Presenting the position of Akwa Ibom, Ndogesi Nkanga said, Our stand is that President Jonathan will be there in 2011 and beyond, adding that “all we are asking for is equality and justice. South-South made Shagari presidency possible in 1979. Will the next four or eight years too much for the country.”

Speaking in the same vein, Chief Don Etiebet, PDP BOT member said God ordained Jonathan presidency and no man from anywhere should put it asunder. He stated that the people of Akwa Ibom have resolved to endorse Jonathan and  that the task at hand is to support him with everything. We must work to show that our son is not a zonal leader but a good product of South-South. He added that the forum is to lay the foundation of the dynamics of 2011 presidency.

One of the delegates from Bayelsa, Chief T K Okorotie  said our duty was to follow the light shown by God and to say thank you because Bayelsa has donated Jonathan to Nigeria.

Cross River delegate, Ambassador M. T. Mbu called on the people to speak out and not be ashamed of what God has given them. He said the people are united behind Jonathan and advised that  the zone needs to cast its net out to get more supports.

According to Senator Florence Ita -Giwa eight years will not hurt anyone.She urged the zone to seek dialogue, be honest and united in this pursuit.

Addressing the gathering on behalf of Edo State, Genearal Godwin Abbey said  with the passage of Yar’Ádua, it is proper for Jonathan to continue. Jonathan, he said, is competent and has age, experience and education on his side.

Another representative of the state, Dr F E Olifo called for humility in convincing other zones.He said the people should not allow this only opportunity slip by.

A representative of Rivers State, Dr Humho Isokariare called on other zones to join the South-South in actualising the project. He acknowledgedv the fact that South South cannot do it alone, adding that God has already zoned the presidency to the South South and that other offices can be shunned.

Alabo Graham Douglas said he agreed with all that have been stated and called on appointment of 72-man Reach Out Committee.

Governor Emmanuel Uduaghanwho specially recognised E. K. Clark and other South-South leaders noted that the next step in the project will be decided outside the venue.

It was also resolved at the forum that the region should embark on massive voters’ registration because politics is a game of numbers. Communiqué was issued at the end which reflected the common stand of the zone.

Before now, the perception was that the South-South would constitute the greatest obstacle to Jonathan’s presidency.  Engr Mohammed Ngiri of the Arewa Youth Forum, who spoke in Port Harcourt recently at a programme to inaugurate the new leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council, re-echoed this fear   in his remark. Ngirin who said   Jonathan’s emergence as president of the country was like   a bridge connecting   the region with other sections of the country advised that his presidential project should be pursued with decorum. According to him, his presidency come 2011 should be made to be a product of acceptance and not agitation.

He said that more of the problems of President Jonathan were from people in his region that had refused to accept what he termed destiny, advising that youths of the region should be strategic in their approach to the issue. “Niger Delta youths must be strategic. Most of the problems of Jonathan are from his people who have refused to accept destiny. Destiny is the will of God. Let us build bridges. “

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