The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) have rejected the choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate to presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar.
The leaders in a statement to newsmen in Warri, declared Okowa as a “betrayer of the trust reposed on him” for accepting the vice presidency nomination.
The statement which berated the actions of the Delta Governor was signed by Chief (Dr.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, SMBLF/Pan Niger Delta Forum; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere; Dr. Dru Bitrus, Middle Belt Forum and Ambassador (Prof.) George Obiozor, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide respectively.
The Southern leaders said it was particularly “disappointing” giving the fact that Gov. Okowa is currently the chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, as well as a native of Owa-Alero, an Igbo speaking area in the state.
The statement recalled that on May 11, 2021, the 17 southern governors, comprising those of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP, under the Chairmanship of Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, reached a decision that the presidency should rotate to the south on expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure, for “fairness, equity and justice”.
Continuing it said: “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 extensive sum of money to lobby for the position. 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 nation’s 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 Okowa, 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 warned 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 yearn for 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 rotating to the South in 2023, in the national interest.”