From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Chinelo Obogo, Lagos
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has described the Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as a traitor for accepting his nomination as vice presidential candidate to Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
In a statement signed by leader of Leader SMBLF/PANDEF, Edwin Clark, Leader of Afenifere, Ayo Adebanjo, President-General, Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus, and President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, George Obiozor, the Forum said it was unspeakable and quite disappointing that 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, 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 Okowa, 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,” the statement emphasised.