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  • Say his action is a betrayal of the highest Order, treacherous and tantamount to a despicable pawning of the political future of the people of Southern Nigeria

By Henry Umoru

ABUJA-LEADERS of thoughts, Elder statesmen from four of the six geo-political zones of the country, under the aegis of Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF led by South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark have lampooned the Governor of Delta and the Vice  Presidential candidate of the  Peoples Democratic Party ahead of the 2023 Presidential Poll, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, saying he is a traitor.

The Leaders in a statement on Friday said that the action of the Delta State Governor is a betrayal of the highest order and must be condemned in all its ramifications by the people of the South and Middle Belt made up of South West; South South; South East and the Middle Belt. 

According to the Leaders, Okowa’s acceptance to be the running mate to the Presidential Candidate of the PDP and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is treacherous and tantamount to a despicable pawning of the political future of the people of Southern Nigeria, just as they rejected him in totality as they have vowed that the Southern part of the country will not vote Atiku Abubakar/ Ifeanyi Okowa’s ticket come 2023 Presidential election.

The  leaders of the  South South, Afenifere, Middle- Belt, Ndi- Igbo( Ohaneaze,  Pan Niger Delta said that it became very imperative for them to call for the jettisoning of Okowa from Delta State, South South geo- Political zone of the country as a Vice Presidential candidate because of their persistent position that the Southern part of the country should produce the next President after the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari and not for the zone to go for the position of Vice President.

Recall that the SMBLF under the leadership of former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark has been on top of its voice, calling on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the APC to ensure that their Presidential candidates are picked from the south, but unfortunately, the PDP left the contest opened and at the end of the day, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from Adamawa State, North East won as the PDP Presidential candidate for the 2023 Presidential election, just as the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC at its recently concluded Special Convention, elected former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Tinubu as its Presidential candidate for next year’s election.

The statement was signed by Chief Edwin Clark as the Chairman of SMBLF and National Leader of PANDEF; Chief Ayo Adebanjo for Afenifere as the leader; Professor George Obiozor for Ohanaeze Ndigbo as the President- General  and Dr. Pogu Bitrus for Middle Belt Forum as the National President.

The statement read: “The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has berated the Governor of Delta State, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa for accepting his nomination as Vice Presidential Candidate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming 2023 general elections. It is unspeakable and quite disappointing that Governor Ifeanyi 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, would exhibit such barefaced unreliability.

“It bears recalling that the 17 Governors of the Southern States of Nigeria, both of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), under the Chairmanship of the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, 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. And this very Governor Okowa was the host of that historic meeting. The Southern Governors later met again 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.

“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 Okowo 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 resources belonging to the government and people of Delta state, to lobby for the position, extensively. 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 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 Okiwa, the Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, of all people, would gullibly and slavishly capitulated 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!

“The people of southern Nigeria chimed at Asaba, Lagos, Enugu, Uyo, Port Harcourt, Umuahia, and Abuja, continuously on the zoning of the presidency and that another northern presidency after the eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari would be injurious to the unity and peace of the country.

“Governor Okowa has, by his action, betrayed the trust reposed on him by his colleagues; the southern governors, the entire good people of southern Nigeria and all well-meaning Nigerians. He has made himself persona non grata, not only, with SMBLF but all citizens who treasure our oneness and hopes of a more united and peaceful Nigeria. 

“We, therefore, reject Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and his Vice Presidency, and leave him to his lot, but let the world know that this is a betrayal of the highest order.

“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. 

“We commend 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 to rotating to the South in 2023, in the national interest.”

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