By Davies Iheamnachor
The Governors, Chiefs, and other stakeholders in the South-South Geo-political zone have expressed regrets over the failure of the Federal Government to attend a planned meeting with leaders of the region.
This was just as Governors and leaders of the region have demanded an unreserved apology from the presidency for abruptly aborting the planned crucial stakeholders meeting scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
The presidency had scheduled a meeting for Tuesday with the Governors and other leaders of the oil-rich region to discuss burning national issues affecting the region and the aftermath effects of the EndSARS protest.
However, the FG’s delegation was supposed to include all the Ministers from the geopolitical zone and other persons, to be led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Agboola Ibrahim Gambari
But, the stakeholders from the regions and their governors who were seated at the venue of the meeting, Banquet Hall of the Government House, Port Harcourt, till 3:00 pm, when the news filtered in that the delegation from the presidency would not make it.
The development, which caused anger and uproar was described by thee leaders as another show of neglect.
Speaking to the South-South leaders at the hall amidst the panic, the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, expressed sadness that the meeting was called off, noting that the meeting called at the instance of the presidency, through the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, Gambari.
Okowa explained that the meeting time was earlier adjusted twice from 11 am to 1 pm on the same day on the excuse that the President Mohammed Buhari was meeting with the Director of Department of State Services (DSS) and the Inspector General of Police, who was supposed to be part of the presidential delegation for the meeting.
Governor Okowa, who is also the chairman of South-South Governors Forum, said he later got a call from the Chief of Staff to the President on Tuesday afternoon, announcing the eventual cancelation of the meeting. According to him, he felt disappointed that the region could be treated in such disdain.
Okowa said the people of the region have been embarrassed, disgraced, and disrespected, stating that the South-South geopolitical zone was a very important part of the nation and the governors feel insulted because of the traditional rulers who had gathered for the meeting, deserved to be revered.
He said: “As governors, we feel very touched and very sad about what has happened. And having also listened to our youths, we can feel the anger. As a mark of respect for our people, because you are the stakeholders of our region, we felt it was necessary for us to consult with you before taking any decision, if we take our decision without consulting with you, then we would have added to the disrespect that has just been meted on you.
“We call for a public apology, not for the governors alone. We call for a public apology because this meeting was not called at our instance. It was called at the instance of the Presidency. The time was changed last night. We understood and we talked to our people. Some of us did not sleep in trying to put things together. We have gotten to a very bad start. So we are going to convey this message to the chief of staff to the president.
“We deserve as a region unreserved public apology to the region, particularly to our traditional rulers and the leaders in this zone, which include our Christian leaders, opinion leaders, our women, and our youths, and also the governors of the zone who were voted into office and that is the least that we expect for us to accept the reconvene of this meeting.”
Meanwhile, Former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Ledum Mitee, said he concerns the abrupt cancellation of the meeting not only as an insult but an effrontery on the people of the South-South zone.
Similarly, a member of the 2014 national political reform conference, Ms. Ann-Kio Briggs, said the Federal Government on Tuesday demonstrated the value it places on the South-South geopolitical zone.
On his part, the President of the Ijaw Youth Congress, Peter Igbifa, accused the federal government of taking the South-South for granted.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, who hosted the meeting, described Rivers State, which is the capital of the South-South as safe.