Aborted meeting: South-South governors, leaders demand apology from Presidency
Peeved by the manner with which the political meeting of the South-South leaders with the Federal delegation, scheduled for Tuesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, was abruptly aborted, the Governors and leaders of the South-South geopolitical region have demanded an unreserved apology from the presidency.
The meeting, an initiative of the Federal Government, was planned to have all the six governors and other leaders of the region in attendance to discuss burning national issues affecting the region and the aftermath effects of the EndSARS protest.
The Federal Government delegation was supposed to be led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Agboola Ibrahim Gambari, and to include all the ministers from the geopolitical zone and other persons.
Addressing the South-South leaders, who gathered at the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Port Harcourt, venue of the botched meeting, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who had to preside over the session, narrated how the meeting which was called at the instance of the presidency, through the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, was aborted.
According to Okowa, the meeting time was adjusted twice from 11 am to 1 pm on Tuesday, on the excuse that President Muhammadu Buhari was meeting with 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 South-South 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 cancellation of the meeting. According to him, he felt really disappointed that the region could be treated in such disdain.
The Delta State governor said the people of the region had been embarrassed, disgraced and disrespected, adding that the South-South geopolitical zone “is a very important component part of the nation and the governors feel insulted because the traditional rulers who had gathered for the meeting, deserved to be revered”.
“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 actually the stakeholders of our region, we felt it was necessary for us to consult with you before taking any decision. Because if we took our decision on our without consulting with you, then we would have added to the disrespect that has just been meted on you,” he noted.
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“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”, Okowa demanded.
The South-South, he emphasised, deserved 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 voted into office and that is the least that we expect for us to accept the reconvene of this meeting”.
Also speaking, former president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP, Ledum Mitee, said he considered the abrupt cancellation of the meeting not only as an insult but an effrontery on the people of the South-South zone.
Similarly, member of the 2014 national political reform conference, Ms Ann-Kio Briggs, said the Federal Government on Tuesday demonstrated the value it actually placed 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 the capital of the South-South as safe.
Present at the meeting were also the Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River; Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom; Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State; and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State. Other eminent persons present included: the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd; former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha (SAN); among others.