Leaders under of the auspices of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) have taken a swipe at Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State for accepting his nomination as a running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
The group made their position known in a statement signed by leaders of four groups which include Chief Edwin Clark, for the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere, Dr. Dru Bitrus, the president-general, Middle Belt Forum and Prof. George Obiozor, the president-general, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide.
The statement read in part, “It bears recalling that the 17 governors of the Southern states of Nigeria, both of the Peoples’ 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 unspeak-able 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.
“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, 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 Okowa but his action is treacherous and tantamount to a despicable pawning of the political future of the people of Southern Nigeria.
“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”
The group said it rejected Okowa and his vice president slot, describing the governor’s action as “a betrayal of the highest order.”
The statement added, “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”.
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