Southern governors are protesting over the alleged marginalising the South in the Nigerian federation. As a result, there has been a bipartisan move by the 17 governors to address some of the issues that may mar the next general elections. Aside from governors, other stakeholders appear to be in sync with the recent move for power-shift, the bid to transfer the responsibility of collecting the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the opposition to open grazing. BISI OLADELE (Southwest Bureau Chief), NWANOSIKE ONU (Southeast Bureau Chief), BISI OLANIYI (Southsouth Bureau Chief), YINKA ADENIRAN (Ibadan), ERNEST NWOKOLO (Abeokuta), OSAGIE OTABOR (Akure), TOBA ADEDEJI (Osogbo), DAMIAN DURUIHEOMA (Enugu), SUNNY NWANKWO (Umuahia), CHRIS NJOKU (Owerri), OGOCHUKWU ANIOKE (Abakaliki), OKUNGBOWA AIWERIE (Asaba), ELO EDREMODA (Warri), MIKE ODIEGWU (Port Harcourt), ROSEMARY NWISI (Port Harcourt) and NSA GILL (Calabar) report for The Nation.
DEVELOPMENTS within the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) over the weekend suggest that the campaign by southern governors to ensure that the two major political parties zone their presidential tickets to the region appear to be yielding fruit. The main opposition party and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have been under tremendous pressure from within and outside their political platforms to honour the power rotation arrangement, which started when the country returned to civil rule in 1999, with the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as president.
Though the growing move against open grazing of cattle and that of allowing states to collect Value Added Tax (VAT) appears to have been spurred by the stiff position of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government on these issues, the zoning of the presidency for the next general elections is the immediate cause of the new found alliance among the southern governors. This is because political stakeholders from the region have seen what appears like a resolve on the part of the North to hold on to power and have decided to close ranks for the battle ahead.
Aside from governors, other political stakeholders from the South have backed the move for power shift and the other decisions on VAT) and open grazing of cattle across the entire region. For instance, stakeholders from the Southwest said the recent moves by southern governors were a reaction of a people that have been pushed to the wall. While commending the governors for their resolve in recent times, the stakeholders who spoke to The Nation said the Southern Governors’ Forum’s decisions resonated with the people of the region and every Nigerian that wants continued existence and unity of the country. They added that the call and decision on collection of VAT and state police are legitimate means of ensuring true federalism in Nigeria.
Need for restructuring:
Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde explained that the joint decisions were aimed at restructuring Nigeria to open up opportunities for all citizens to fulfill their potentials. He said only a restructured Nigeria will help the nation regain her past glory. Makinde, who was speaking at the unveiling of a homegrown digital television outfit, Satview Network, in Ibadan at the weekend, noted that it is unbelievable that the country, which had the first television station in Africa now has to rely on foreign television networks to watch clear signals.
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The governor said the push for restructuring is aimed at making the country regain the series of firsts recorded by the first generation of political leaders. He said: “So, I came here today to let our people know that all hope is not lost. We are pushing for a restructured country because when we achieved all of these firsts (in Western Region) the country was not over-centralized at that time. We believe that when we push through the agenda to restructure the country, we will be in a better position for people to unleash their talents, not just the local economy, but also to place us where we really belong in the comity of nations right across Africa.”
A former governor of Oyo State, Sen. Rashidi Ladoja, said ordinarily the call for southern presidency is petty at this stage of Nigerian history, “but it was a reaction to lopsidedness in the way Nigeria is currently being governed by President Muhammadu Buhari, which is breeding ethnic distrust”.
His words: “I expected us to have gone beyond this pettiness, having to depend on who governs before you can get what you want. We are wasting our time on things that should not even arise. It should not be where the person who is going to be president comes from, but a question of whether the person is competent. We should try and evolve and get out of where we are now. In the past six years, the gains that must have been made since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999 are no more there. There is so much distrust between the various ethnic groups, particularly between the people of the South and the northerners.
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“Besides, I don’t even think the people in the North are enjoying the current situation. I don’t pray to be in the North at this time when children are not safe in schools. A few days ago, the governor of Katsina State, which is the state of the president, said they were going to employ vigilantes for security. That is an indictment on the government and the president and even the police and the military. They are not able to contain terrorism in the North. I don’t think they are bandits; they are terrorists. This is not the Nigeria I am proud of. We should do better.
“A lot of things have to be done. It is not just a question of ‘I am in power’. The Federal Character principles are in the constitution, but are the government of the day observing them? Is it in the constitution that in a federation like Nigeria, all the power is concentrated in the hand of one ethnic group? People say it is South versus North. But I don’t think the Hausa man in the North is better than the Yoruba man in the North. The Yoruba man there is even better because he has a home to go to, but the other man has nowhere to go.
“The issue is not whether Nigeria should break up or not. It is a question of ‘is it fair?’ What is happening now is not fair. The whole of the security apparatus is in the hands of one ethnic group. Strategic institutions and parastatals are being manned by northerners from an ethnic group. This leads to a lot of corruption, indiscipline and anything goes, as long as the person belongs to those in charge. So, some people are trying to belong because they think they have protection there.”
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Similarly, politicians in Ogun State said the unity of the southern governors on the key issues of mutual interest is a product of political evolution brought about by the need to fight for the rights of the region in the Nigerian federation. The Speaker, Ogun State House of Assembly, Kunle Oluomo said the development was not about fighting northern oppression but a case of a political zone asserting itself to grab its rights, demand justice and fairness in the collective affairs of the nation.
Citing VAT as an example, Oluomo said some states forbid beer and other forms of alcohol in their domains but gladly receive allocation from VAT revenue being generated from states where beer is consumed. He described the practice as “unjust and unfair” to states where the citizens and residents consume beer as a matter of choice.
The speaker said: “It is not about oppression. It is a case of rights, justice and fairness. You don’t drink beer in your state. I generate VAT in my state and you don’t drink or allow beer in your state, and you share from VAT revenue. That is unfair. That is unjust.
“It is part of evolution because the country is dynamic and on a daily basis we see the need to work and stay together and our staying together is not something that was determined completely from day one.
“So, it is a matter of evolution and as we are growing on a daily basis, we will continue to look at issues that joined us because there is no clear-cut agreement that says we should be joined. That is why our constitution is a work-in-progress. Unless something happens, change does not come. There was no VAT before at the beginning but it was introduced later.”
Signal to the North:
The Chairman of the Ogun State chapter of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Mr. Oginni Olaposi also said the South was sending a clear signal to the North that Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians and that the highest office is not the exclusive preserve of any specific ethnic or geopolitical zone. He said: “The unity in diversity we are beginning to see in the South of the country where people of diverse and different political leanings are aligning together shows a sign of positive development in our democracy. It is a sign of new things that are supposed to happen because when you look at the anti-open grazing law of the southern governors irrespective of their political affiliations, they were united in saying that the lives and property of our people in the southern part of Nigeria must be protected.
“It is a clear development of leadership at this point in time. Everything should not be based on politicking since it is APC that is in power at the centre, therefore the governors of APC states must fall for everything that comes in or if it is PDP that is at the centre. What we are witnessing now is that Nigeria belongs to every one of us.”
A Yoruba leader, Dr Kunle Olajide of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), also said the move by southern governors on common issues was not a fight with the North but an effort to seek a better position for the region in Nigeria.
He said: “The southern governors are not fighting their northern counterparts. If you look at it critically and historically you will see that northern Nigeria is interested in commerce and perhaps because their soil is not that fertile they have to migrate all over the country. We at the Southwest are very liberal and our priority is education.”
Isaac Kekemeke and Yemi Adetoyinbo, two prominent lawyers in Ondo State, have also backed the move by southern governors, saying it is only aimed at correcting the ills in the Nigerian system. They said the contradictions in the body polity of Nigeria have reached a feverish pitch and hence the need to frontally address them
Kekemeke said: “What Nigerians in their large numbers are saying is that it is either we have a true fiscal federal state where there is justice, equity or fairness or we go our separate ways. To continue to preach unity and peace without any attempt at working fairness and justice is futile. This in my view is the realisation of the southern governors.”
Adetoyinbo, a former National Publicity Secretary, Action Democratic Party (ADP), said the southern governors’ decision on VAT was borne out of economic downtown in the country.
Former President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Imo State, Dr. Ezechi Chukwu believes the southern governors need all the sympathy and support they can get from the people of the region to continue to fight the cause of the people. He said the awakening of the governors in their demands to have control of certain resources in the region is worth commending.
He said: “We should support the governors and encourage them to do more. It is better late than never.”
An elder statesman and a legal luminary, Mike Ahamba (SAN) attributes the growing rapprochement among southern leaders to the state of the nation. He said Nigeria is living in breach of its laws. He said the earlier the authorities wake up to implement existing laws, the better for the country.
He said: “If you are doing something and people are trying to breach it, you shouldn’t take it for granted. I think the southern part of the country has been taken for granted for a long time and thank God the leaders have now woken from their slumber. Nigeria is a country living in breach of its laws and the earlier people wake up, the better.
“There is a need for a conference to discuss the problems facing the country and proffer a solution. Political stakeholders from the North are equally not comfortable with the state of the nation, particularly with bandits capturing school children in the region.”
A human rights activist, Emperor Ogbonna said it appears that it is the Federal Government that is engineering the disunity in the South. He said: “It is using divide-and-rule tactics, maybe with promises of favouring the governors that did not join their southern counterparts.
“For instance, the Ebonyi State governor wants to be the president of Nigeria in 2023. As a result, he wants to remain in the good books of the North, so that people from that region will vote for him to become president.”
He said the VAT issue has revealed why the country is not developing. He said the atmosphere in the South is more conducive for production and business but unfortunately the laws and policies do not reward productivity and hard work. He said: “Majority of companies that pay VAT are located in southern Nigeria. The South is more peaceful, their culture is more accommodating and their people are more tolerant.
“So, companies would always seek to do business where they are sure that nobody would wake up tomorrow and burn down their offices. The North is very volatile and the issue of Sharia has not helped matters. So, there are more companies in the South that are paying VAT in the states where they are operating.
“So, if the court rules that the states shall collect VAT, this would bring more money to the coffers of those states and since history has shown that southern states are the haven for those companies, it means lesser money for the northern states.
“The southern governors are not happy with their northern counterparts because they are opposing the idea of states collecting VAT. Everything is all about selfish reasons. Some governors stayed away from the southern governors’ meeting because they did not want to offend the President.
Nevertheless, it is not all the governors in the South that are keying into the 2023 project of the region. Some are still playing a hide-and-seek game because of personal political interests For instance, the recent meeting of the governors in Enugu was attended by only one governor from the Southeast; the host, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. Three of the Southeast states sent their deputy governors, while Anambra State was not represented. Chief Press Secretary to Governor Willie Obiano, James Eze, attributed it to the increase in political activities and pressure of work emanating from the November 6 governorship election in the state.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Coordinator of the Transform Nigeria Movement in Anambra State, Comrade Obi Ochije said the governors have suddenly found out that coming together would send jitters down the spines of their northern counterparts who, according to him, have a different agenda.
However, Ochije is of the view that the unity among southern governors would not last because of their different political interests. He said: “The sudden unity is a flash in the pan because of political interests among the two groups. The Southwest and Southeast want the presidency in 2023; who will step down for another? Some of the governors are playing to the gallery. The North is more united, with a common plan. In the days ahead, the South must prove that its unity is genuine.”
An APC chieftain in the Southeast, Chief Modestus Umenzekwe agrees with his APGA counterpart. He said the selfishness of southern leaders breed disunity and it would not allow them to succeed. He said the absence of Governor Obiano during the recent meeting in Enugu is a pointer to the disunity among the governors of the South.
Umenzekwe said: “They are dancing according to their interests. Only few of them are sincere on some of the issues they are fighting for, like the anti-open grazing law, the issue of VAT etc. But, on VAT, my opinion is that they should know what the provisions of the law say and should stick to it. But one thing is clear, Ndigbo deserve to be considered for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023; that is what all the groups are scheming for.”
President-General of the Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), Goodluck Egwu Ibem has commended southern governors that are standing up to speak for their people. He said: “We commend the governors who are standing firm to defend their people. We also condemn the actions of those who are so scared to identify with the yearnings and aspirations of their people.
“Indeed, it is worrisome that some governors, especially from the Southeast zone, have been sending their deputies to such all-important meetings. Some of them are afraid to attend because they will offend their masters in Abuja who helped them come to power. It is so unfortunate that a governor who is saddled with the responsibility of protecting millions of people in his state will be so lackadaisical about matters that border on security.”
A good omen:
Prof Obasi Igwe, a chieftain of the (APC) in Enugu State, believes the unity among southern governors is a good omen for a region that has consistently failed in the past to live up to the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
Igwe said it is never too late to do the right thing and that it is a good thing that southern governors have finally woken up to their responsibilities, particularly with Ondo States’ Governor Rotimi Akeredolu at the helm. He said: “Southern governors were compelled to react to the cumulative consequences of such arrogant demands by the divisive North.”
The APC chieftain said he was not surprised that the governors opposed some of the policies marginalizing the South. He added: “It’s now clear that no one in the present government can safely advice against open grazing and killing of farmers and destruction of farms, RUGA, water resources, and the return to their homes by surviving indigenous peoples driven away by Fulani terrorists.
“There are emerging signs that the APC is being used to manipulate other parties to achieve a Fulani-to-Fulani, or North-to-North transfer of power. This is being done with the hope of continuing with resettlement of the global Fulani in Nigeria, and securing the other gains so far made.”
He said some southern governors, especially those from the Southeast, are not on the same page with their fellow governors from the region because most of them were not elected by the people, but were rigged into office. He added: “Why must they attend? Which one of them was genuinely chosen or elected by his people? Who among them is interested in the survival of his people? What appears to unite some of them is hatred of the youths, the workers, as well as the elders that are becoming increasingly worried about the state of affairs in the country.
“Trace the genesis of the agitations in the Southeast and see where the fingers would point to. While other governors live by work, some of them live by propaganda. We must praise Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for hosting the meeting and join him in appreciating the presence in the Southeast of those distinguished patriots.”
PDP spokesman in Ebonyi State, Silas Onu is also of the view that it is the divisive tendencies of President Buhari that brought southern governors together. He said: “it is easy to identify the reasons. For the first time, Nigeria has a president that does not pretend about his divisive tendencies.
Ìnå said the two APC governors in the Southeast are sabotaging the efforts of their fellow southern governors. He said: “The governors from the South who have been exhibiting lackluster attitudes towards the decision of the southern governors are that of APC controlled states who are behaving as if they are not governors of their states, but are governors of these states for and on behalf of the president, which ,according to him, is a bad way of leading. You are governor of your people, some decisions you may not like, but you must stand with the people. But these are governors who always want to act to please the president.”
Former Deputy National Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance, Jerry Obasi, said the recent activities of herdsmen and the northern leaders are responsible for the actions of the southern governors. He said: “The southern governors are waking up late but it is said that ‘whenever one wakes up is his morning’, so this is a good morning for southern governors. It is a welcome development. The truth remains that the unbearable behavior of herdsmen and the body language of the Buhari government calls for unity of the South if they want to remain part of this entity called Nigeria.”
Obasi described the activities of some governor’s from the Southeast who are sabotaging the activities of the southern governors as disgraceful.
He said: “It is unfortunate. You know such governors are desperate governors who think such disgraceful and lacklustre behavior will give them political advantage to the presidency. The presidency is also not stupid because the same way they are betraying us, the same way they will betray the presidency. They are just desperados and will fail in the long run”
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has backed the move by southern governors to embark on what appears like a protest against policies that seek to marginalize their people. PANDEF spokesman, Ken Robinson said governors of the region who have remained aloof to the current move by their colleagues are political slaves.
Robinson said PANDEF was delighted with the tone of the recent pronouncements by southern governors; especially their ability to set aside their political differences and fight for the benefit of the southern populace. He said: “There is always a time for people to awaken and fight for their rights. It is an awareness that has come on them and it should go beyond the governors. It is also about the people of southern Nigeria.
“The 19 northern governors have been meeting regularly to speak on behalf of their people. They usually join forces with key appointees of the Federal Government from the region, principal officers of the National Assembly and traditional rulers or emirs and speak collectively for their people during their meetings. This has been going on for many years. It accounts for the seeming unity in the North and you see that they pursue common programmes and try to do things together as a people.
“In the South, however, it has not been so. We have been different people. It has been the Southwest, the Southeast, and the Southsouth. We have been doing our things completely differently. Prior to May 2021, we saw the reawakening, the coming together and the solidarity.
“There is nothing special that southern governors are after by coming together, other than realising that we have common problems. We contribute, perhaps, majorly to the economy of Nigeria and we get little. What the governors are now doing is responding to the yearnings of the people to see a united southern Nigeria. We are Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Urhobo, Ikwerre, Bini, Ibibio, Efik, Itsekiri, Isoko and Ogoni, among others, but we have been put in a certain section of Nigeria by God, for reasons best known to Him.”
Buhari not helping matters:
The PANDEF spokesman added that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration marginalized the South in key appointments, particularly those of security chiefs. He said of the 17 military, paramilitary and security agencies in Nigeria, including the service chiefs, 14 were from the northern part of the country, while only three hailed from southern Nigeria. He said: “Southern governors are not just opposing policies and programmes, they are standing by the people of southern Nigeria and those who are threatened, because the only weapon the so-called majority North has been using against southern counterparts is disunity.
“Today, because northerners see the solidarity being displayed by southern governors, they are scared and are trying to throw up all manner of sentiments and emotional blackmail. We are pleased that southern governors are not distracted. It is even more pleasing that southern governors have put aside their political differences and are working together as people for the benefit of southern Nigeria.
“As we go towards 2023, we completely stand by the position that the next president of Nigeria must come from the southern part of the country. We do not mind if Nigeria’s next president comes from any of three geo-political zones; the Southwest, the Southsouth or the Southeast. That is the position of southern Nigeria.”
Robinson said it is unfortunate that some Southeast governors have distanced themselves from southern governors meetings. He said it is a pity that they chose to be political tools. Nevertheless, he expressed satisfaction in the fact that the people of the Southeast are in support of what southern governors are doing.
He said: “We know that two governors of the Southeast have become political tools and we hope their people will call them to order. We commend Enugu State’s Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for his courage and dexterity. We will express our opinions about the Ebonyi State’s Governor Dave Umahi at the appropriate time. We will speak to him in the language he will understand. It is unfortunate that people allow their political aspirations to becloud their reasoning and that is what is happening to some of the governors in the Southeast.
“As for Imo State’s Governor Hope Uzodinma, the world is aware of how he became governor. So, we can excuse him. Otherwise, the people of the Southeast are completely in tune with what southern governors are doing. What is important for us is to begin to galvanise our people to rise up for greater prosperity and peace of southern Nigeria and of course, a Nigeria that will be governed by the basic tenets of equity, fairness and justice.”
Unity of purpose:
Other Southsouth stakeholders also hailed the unity of purpose among the governors of southern Nigeria on crucial issues affecting their people, while describing as a welcome development the common positions held by the 17 governors on issues affecting the South.
A former President-General, Ndokwa Neku Union (NNU), Paul Enebeli believes that southern governors have realised that the South was allegedly facing an “existential threat” posed by the current APC-led administration of President Buhari. He said the move of the governors was borne out of the need for survival.
Enebeli said: “The Buhari administration has expanded the fault lines in Nigeria so badly that it is even obvious to the blind. When there is a common enemy, wise people come together. It is a survival strategy by the 17 southern governors because their counterparts from the North and federal authorities have refused to listen to the voice of reason.
“Southern governors may have suddenly realised that they face the same existential threat under the Buhari administration. As a matter of fact, every zone in the South has suffered one form of injustice or another from Buhari’s government. So, the wise thing to do is to adopt the age-long tactics of survival: strength in numbers. Lions, leopards, hyenas and many more animals have adopted this since creation. My people have this adage that if we urinate on one spot, it will surely foam.”
Secretary of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILoT), Sir Amorighoye Mene said the sudden awakening of southern governors from their slumber must be due to the fact that democracy has taken root in the South. Mene said the issues raised by the 17 governors during their various meetings were a reflection of the mood of the people in the South. He said with the 2023 general elections fast approaching, southern governors could not afford to go against the wishes of the people who elected them.
He said: ”All the issues the 17 Southern governors have been canvassing are a reflection of the desires of their people. Southern governors were elected by the people and they are bound to hearken to their desires. The governors are desirous of winning elections and they must be seen to be addressing the desires of their people or they will fail in subsequent elections.”
Overcoming military mentality:
Mene also noted that many residents of the South have started getting over the hangover of military dictatorship because the timidity that was associated with such a mentality has worn off. The ILoT scribe said: “The assertion of rights by southern leaders is just beginning to gain traction, and this will increase in momentum in the next few years.”
The Coordinator, Centre for the Vulnerable and Underprivileged (CENTREP), Oghenejabor Ikimi attributed the new-found unity among southern governors on marginalisation and injustice perpetrated against their people by the Nigerian system.
He said: “The volume of injustice in the system is unending and has reached stratospheric level, resulting in this reactionary approach by southern governors. A situation where Kano State in the month of June 2021 earned N28 billion from VAT and the same amount returned to it, while Lagos and Rivers States were short-changed is a glaring example of injustice in the system.
“Southern governors are angry because the volume of injustice is unending. That is the reason these governors are waking up from their slumber. The volume of injustice has got to equilibrium, forcing this type of reactionary move.”
Some stakeholders from the Southsouth also attributed the sudden political consciousness in the South to the desire of the governors to protect their zone and people against the continuous quest for dominance by their northern colleagues. A senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Dr. Sofiri Peterside said southern governors forged their new partnership in view of the current state of the nation.
Peterside noted that the governors would have been colossal failures, if they had kept mute amid bloody attacks and killings orchestrated by the so-called bandits. He said the VAT controversy being championed by Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike has further created awareness on fiscal federalism among the governors.
Yearnings of the people:
The UNIPORT don said: “The unity of southern governors is a consequence of the current state of the nation. Take, for instance, the issue of banditry and open grazing. Most of the states in the South have been very seriously affected. The preoccupation of those who hold power is to bring happiness to the greater number of people.
“If people occupy positions, it will be sheer disservice to the people who elected them, if they dodge, while their citizens are being killed. It is important for them to ensure that the interests of those who elected them are taken care of. If they do not do so, the people will come back in another election and send them packing. So, what they are doing is to react according to the exigencies of the moment.
“Another one is the issue of the VAT, which the Rivers State government went to court and got a favourable judgment, even though the judgment is being appealed. How come that those states which by virtue of their religion do not like consumption of alcohol usually get the lion share of the revenue derived from alcohol VAT. It is a serious level of hypocrisy.
“So, what we see happening now is to underscore the importance of fiscal federalism. If this country is a federation and there are three tiers of government, it means each tier must act in tandem with the constitution.
“Somebody started this struggle and some have already keyed into it. Some have passed laws, while others are in the process of doing so. What is worrisome is the attitude of some governors from the Southeast. In most of those meetings, they were represented by their deputies.”
Underlining political ambition:
A political and transparency watchdog, the Integrity Friends for Truth and Peace Initiative (TIFPI) pointed out that as genuine as the southern governors’ new-found unity seems, there are underlining political ambition in their efforts ahead of the next general election.
TIFPI’s Executive Director, Livingstone Wechie warned the governors against jeopardising the political interest of the South in 2023 under the cover of regional agitation.
Wechie said: “It may seem as though these engagements are fight-backs to assert themselves in the burning national questions on economic crisis, insecurity and political upheavals, but it may not be far from acts of frontloading their ambitions for the next political era.
“The view of the TIFPI is that southern governors should realise that their meetings in Lagos, Asaba and Enugu must not be such that would put southern Nigeria at a political risk on the burning altar of 2023 ambitions, using the agitations of the South as a cloak. We believe that southern Nigeria deserves more than the governors are offering. We wish to advise the governors to tread cautiously, so as not to jeopardise the stake of our people by negotiating our stakes to impress the political overlords in Abuja.”
The executive director said despite the interactions and resolutions of southern governors, the impact are lacking in the Southsouth zone, especially in the areas of regional security and infrastructural development.
He said: “Unfortunately, it is arguably difficult to point at any material impact in the Southsouth zone, arising from all the southern governors’ resolutions so far, particularly in the areas of regional security structures, Niger Delta beyond oil, push to unbundle the over-bloated centre, infrastructure development and the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), among other crucial matters.
“It is lamentable that political office holders have often undermined southern regional interest over the years. Yet, they end up as victims of their mischief, only to retire home as liabilities. Southern governors must be very sensitive to the global trend that it may no longer be business as usual. They must not put the economy of the South at risk, in a bid to prosecute their 2023 agenda, when back home we are still grappling with gross underdevelopment and economic strangulation.”
More efforts required:
Wechie also said southern governors must do more to rescue their people from the clogs of the current unholy regime of VAT by the Federal Government. His words: ”Southern governors should be reminded that there will always be a post-2023 impact of their actions, which will definitely come back to haunt them, based on the positions they take today.
“Most of the governors may not be in a position tomorrow to make any difference, other than to live with the failures they used to entrap the South staring them in the face and greeting them daily on the streets and the rooftops.”
Cross River State’s Governor Ben Ayade has not participated in the last three meetings held by southern governors. Ayade did not attend the meetings in Asaba and Lagos, but in Enugu, he sent his deputy, Prof. Ivara Edu to stand in for him. No explanation has been given for Governor Ayade’s absence in the meetings.
His Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Christian Ita has insisted that his boss stood by the decisions that were reached by his counter-governors. But, when pressed to comment, Governor Ayade has also declined to make any statement on the decisions reached by the governors of the South.
In order to move forward and be taken seriously by other Nigerians in the North, southern governors must continue to speak with one voice on issues affecting their people, since a house divided against itself will never stand.