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SMBLF fumes, says Okowa wrong to accept offer of running mate to Atiku

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The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has kicked against the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa for accepting to stand as running mate to the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in the upcoming 2023 general elections, against earlier admonitions that no southerner should accept offer of Vice President.

In a statement jointly signed on Friday by Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, on behalf of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Ayo Adebanjo, for Afenifere, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, the President-General of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and Prof. George Obiozor, the President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, the group said it was wrong for Okowa to accept the nomination to be Atiku’s running mate since he was at the forefront of canvassing for a southern president.

The statement argued that Okowa who is the Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, and a native of Owa-Alero in Ika North-East Local Government Area, an Igbo-speaking area of Delta State,
betrayed the south by his action.

The SMBLF statement reads:

“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, 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.

Read also:Southern, Middle Belt leaders slam PDP for picking Atiku as 2023 presidential candidate

“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 tantamount to a pawning of the political future of the people of Southern Nigeria.

“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 capitulate 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.

“….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 an 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.”

However, discerning political analysts, especially those conversant with the inner workings of politics in the southern region are of the belief that the statement by SMBLF may not have emanated from the leadership of the group as Pa Clark who is from the same state with Okowa had earlier congratulated him for emerging the PDP vice presidential candidate.

The doubters believe there could be more than meets the eye in the turnaround and the content of the statement itself.

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