The Movement for Stronger Delta MSD, has read with deep concern and utmost disappointment, the growing, yet unprovoked and obviously ill-timed, ill-intentioned, and ill-directed castigations of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for accepting the massive responsibility placed on his able shoulders, by his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, to become the Vice Presidential Candidate and running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the flag-bearers of the PDP in the 2023 general elections.
We do not wish to join issues with some of these accusers, especially those we have maximum and deferential respect for, as elders and leaders of our dear country, but suffice it to say that this deliberate and concerted effort at victimization, directed at Governor Okowa, by people who really know better, but are being deviously and maliciously economical with the obvious truth, is rather unfortunate and in absolute bad faith.
It is important at this juncture to remind Okowa’s critics that the main objective of setting up political parties is to win elections and every serious politician is bound by the dictates, directives, and collective decisions that define and promote the ultimate agenda of the party. The moment a politician becomes uncomfortable with the objectives of his/her party, the simple thing to do is either accept them in good faith as a team player and loyal party man, or port to another political party that will address his/her disenchantments.
Again, there is a big difference between political engagement and civil society/pressure group activism. Political propaganda, is completely different from Agitprop and we will leave it at that for now, believing that the critics fully understand the boundaries and parameters of both cleavages, which objectives can also sometimes overlap or converge under certain circumstances, but are achieved via different processes.
We must therefore tell ourselves the home truth and unequivocally address the glaring revelations that have shaped the political landscape so far, against the backdrop of the intrigues and maneuvres that prompted the strategic decisions of the political parties, in their quest to win the 2023 presidential election.
There are noticeably two major political parties in Nigeria today; the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC. Rotation or zoning has always been a fundamental consideration in the allocation/distribution of power in the Constitution of political parties, but the incontrovertible fact which governs the negotiations and considerations for power rotation are often more intense and crucial when a political party is the ruling party.
What this therefore suggests is that in the political calculations for 2023, the onus of rotation rested strongly with the APC as the ruling party and they cleverly zoned the Presidency to the South, without specifically declaring which of the three regions in the South should produce the next presidential candidate of the party. The situation in the PDP, as the main opposition party was however another kettle of fish altogether.
Now, these are obvious permutations and realities that were on the ground before the party’s presidential primaries.
THE ZONING CONUNDRUM
1. Contrary to the very erroneous and misleading claim that Southern Governors agreed in Asaba in May, 2021 to zone the Presidency to the South, the real fact is that it was actually the Southern Governors’ meeting in Lagos, in July 2021, that actually declared openly that the next President of Nigeria should come from the South.
2. The communique issued and signed by Arakurin Rotimi Akeredolu, Governor of Ondo State and Chairman of the Governor’s Forum, at the end of the July Lagos meeting, not only reaffirmed the Forum’s commitment to the unity of the country, but addressing the issue of the next president, it read specifically:
“The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness, and unanimously agreed that the Presidency of Nigeria be rotated between southern and northern Nigeria AND RESOLVED THAT THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA SHOULD EMERGE FROM THE SOUTH.”
2. As a matter of fact and from available records, there was nowhere in the 11 points communique issued at the end of May 11, “Asaba Accord” Southern Governors meeting where the issue of Southern Presidency was mentioned, except in the first point which States as follows: “United Nigeria (point 1): The governors affirmed that “the peoples of Southern Nigeria remain committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity and oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity.”
3. The main issue of the May 11, 2021 Southern Governors Forum, which is the real “Asaba Accord”, was the unanimous decision to BAN OPEN GRAZING across all the Southern States of the Country and what the Southern and Middle Belt people applauded as the ‘firm Declaration’ to ‘Ban Open Grazing’, in the entire Southern Nigeria.
It is also trite to note that the next Southern Governors meeting which was held in Enugu in September, 2021 had the “Enugu Declaration”, which was that all Southern States should start collecting VAT like Rivers and Lagos States and they should also join Rivers in the ongoing legal battle instituted by Rivers State against the FIRS and the Federal Government, over who had the constitutional authority to collect VAT.
4. So these people who wickedly twisted the Asaba meeting to suit their warped, duplicitous logic, and are now erroneously and maliciously accusing Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of breaching the so-called “Asaba Accord” should go back to the records and we challenge anybody to produce any part of the 11-point communique issued at the May 11, Asaba meeting where it was specifically mentioned that the Presidency should come to the South in 2023.
5. It is also on record that immediately after the “Lagos Declaration” that the Presidency should rotate to Southern Nigeria, the South-West Governors and leaders were more committed, determined, and very vocal about the presidency rotating particularly to the South-West. They held a number of strategic meetings to achieve this objective and because most of the South-West Governors were in APC, their choices of aspirants automatically narrowed to the South-West.
6. But they conveniently forgot in their selfish single-agenda mission, that President Olusegun Obasanjo from South-West, had been President for eight years and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was on course to complete another eight years in the Presidency as Vice President. And that the only region in the South that had not produced a Nigerian President was the South-East so equity, justice, and fairness naturally demanded that it was their turn.
7. It is also on record that the South-South, either as a region or amongst the predominantly PDP composed Governors forum, headed by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, never held a single meeting, from July 5, 2021 till May 28 and June 6, 2022, when the PDP and APC both held their Presidential Primaries, where the Presidency was discussed. The only notable meeting of PDP Governors which discussed the Southern Presidency was held at the Akwa Ibom Governor’s Lodge, in April 2022 and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was not even present and neither was he represented at that meeting.
8. So, it was quite strange and unexpected when Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, suddenly became notable South-South aspirants and top contenders for the PDP presidential ticket. Governor Okowa, who was very much qualified and rounding up his mandatory and final second term, did not even buy the presidential nomination and expression of interest forms, out of respect for the ‘Lagos Declaration’. Both Governors Diri and Obaseki of Bayelsa and Edo States, were still fresh in their tenures and Governor Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers had crossed over to APC.
9. However, the decision of Nyesom Wike and Udom Emmanuel was quite understandable, especially after the spoiler but very serious, robust, and deliberate moves by the Northern Governors, who are also bonafide and respected members of the PDP, to produce a consensus candidate collapsed and the contest had to be thrown open to all contenders, so that the party would not implode and be consumed by an internal crisis that would lead to unfavourable circumstances.
10. The South-East, on the other hand, was undoubtedly the designated beautiful bride for whom all the argument for power rotation to the South was supposed to favour and it seemed at a point, that they allowed this unfortunate assumption to get into their heads that the two major political parties would hand them the presidential ticket on a platter of Gold. That was their first and fatal miscalculation.
11. However, only two of the region’s Governors; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, were in PDP and both didn’t quite trust their capacities for the top job. Imo State belonged to APC, Anambra was governed by APGA, while Dave Umahi of Ebonyi, apparently carried away by his assumed popularity and misled by his bloated ‘special relationship’ with President Buhari, defected to APC, in the completely unfounded belief that the President will single-handedly declare South-East and foist it on APC, as the favoured region to replace him.
12. Away from the Governors, former Senate President Pius Anyim was the early pacesetter amongst the aspirants. Peter Obi, also bought the presidential and expression of interest forms, but when he realized he couldn’t compete with the capacity in the field, including Atiku Abubakar, who he ran a joint ticket with as Vice Presidential Candidate in 2019, he cleverly ported to Labour Party where he picked up the Presidential ticket is presently making waves as a notable dark horse for 2023 elections. The South-East could not even produce a consensus candidate amongst themselves, to affirm their seriousness,
despite a number of meetings including the one in April 2022, in Abuja, so what is the sense in drinking Panadol for another man’s headache?
13. We have gone to this great length to establish how completely detached Governor Ifeanyi Okowa had been from the entire PDP Presidential process, except of course for his Official designation as the Chairman of the Delegates Accreditation Committee of the convention; a responsibility he discharged as usual with his renowned meticulous proficiency and faultless efficiency, especially given the fact the controversial Article 84 (8) of the newly amended Electoral law was hovering like the Sword of Damocles over unsuspecting defaulters of its provision.
1. Let us state categorically here without fear of favour, that all the Presidential aspirants, either individually or as a group, including those who either withdrew or decamped eventually; they all visited Delta State to interact, fraternize with the Delegates, and lobby for their votes, except one notable aspirant and we leave you to guess who that one aspirant was.
2. Admitting without conceding that the Delta Delegates, who were quite independent and articulate enough to make their own choices, must have felt thoroughly insulted by this obvious snub from that notable presidential aspirant, the fact also remained that there were two prominent South-South aspirants in the race and since it was glaring that both of them were going to divide the region’s votes, the sensible political calculation and option was to, as a matter of political expediency, remain relevant in the scheme of the Party’s overall agenda.
3. For the records, Delta State had only 25 delegates who were accredited to vote at the PDP Presidential Primaries. Governor Udom Emmanuel collected his own complete 38 votes from his State Akwa Ibom, so even if you added Delta votes to his own he would have only 63 votes. Governor Nyesom Wike lost the Presidential ticket by 237 votes to 371 votes, which is over 130 votes difference, thus even if you added Delta’s 25 votes to his own, he would still not have defeated Atiku Abubakar. So the allegations of betrayal and being a traitor is completely unfounded, wicked, malicious, and should not even have been made in the first place.
THE VICE-PRESIDENTIAL POSITION
1. For anybody to have suggested that the South should, for some untenable, unrealistic, and overtaken reason, refused to accept its constitutionally entitled position of Vice Presidential Candidate and running mate to the Northern presidential candidate, who was even voted for in a free, fair, transparent and credible election in which all the geopolitical zones in the country participated, is very childish, annoying, disappointing and puerile in conceptualization.
2. In Political party politics where zonal consideration is very paramount and critical in the determination and allocation of positions and offices, the Vice Presidential position automatically came to the South, and the PDP appropriately and judiciously set up a Selection Committee, an Advisory Committee and finally a Screening Committee, to undertake the assignment of producing a worthy and befitting Vice Presidential Candidate for the party.
3. It is on record that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa made the shortlist of all the three committees, until the Presidential Candidate, who has the sole prerogative of choosing his running mate anyways, pronounced the Delta Governor as his preferred partner of choice on the joint ticket.
4. In any case four posers clearly stand out in this Vice-Presidential drama; the first is that some names from the South-East were also in the mix for consideration so why didn’t any of the committees set up by the party hierarchy, settle for one of them? Secondly, would these people crying “traitor” and “betrayer” have also said the same if Alhaji Atiku had picked another South-South person, who, from all revelation was their preferred choice? It appears as though their accusations are akin to the biblical case of the voice of Jacob but the hand of Esau.
Thirdly, did they expect Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to disobey and reject a direct responsibility and assignment of this national magnitude from his party? This is the same party he has taken a vow to serve, subscribed to all its statutes, and subjected himself to its Constitution. Perhaps, these people would have been happy if Governor Okowa and indeed the entire South-South, South-West, and South-East membership of the party had defected to another political party, because they didn’t get the presidential ticket. How naive.
Andfourthly, why are these people accusing Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and with such viciousness, whereas their attacks should be more venomous on APC, who deceitfully and dubiously rotated power to the South and yet surreptitiously and with brazen impunity, denied and betrayed the only zone in the South (South-East), that the whole world knew, according to the law of natural justice, equity and fairness, was the entitled and legitimate zone for that recognition and rotation.
Why are they silent on the fact that the South-West is going to have a total of 16 years in the Presidency at the end of the Buhari administration, in a democratic dispensation that will be 24 years in 2023, yet the South-East has not even tasted the Vice Presidency.
These people accusing Governor Ifeanyi Okowa are all hypocrites and it is clear that they must be so afraid of someone, arguably a very wealthy paymaster, in South-West, for them to be so loudly and suspiciously silent on this grave and devastating injustice done to the South-East in the APC and yet they have created a diversionary channel away from the real traitors and betrayers and are accusing the Delta Governor.
Is Nigeria not one country anymore or is it only a PDP country? These cowards should be very ashamed of themselves. Period!
In the final analysis Governor Okowa should not only be praised and congratulated for accepting the Vice Presidential running mate position, he should as a matter of fact, be appreciated and celebrated for stepping up boldly and with admirable humility and equanimity, to take up this tremendous responsibility of ensuring that the South-South will have a pride of place in the national reckoning in 2023, especially since the South-East stated categorically that they don’t want the position of Vice President and it’s either the Presidency or nothing.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, ‘Ekwueme gburugburu’ has made us proud, especially as South-Southerners, Deltans, and indeed Ndi-Anioma, which shares geographic proximity with our kith and kin Ndi-Anambra and proud cultural and linguistic affinity all-the-way to the heart of Ala-Igbo nation, to be found worthy, trusted and capable to serve as the nation’s Vice President. This of course is a precursor of greater things ahead which will materialize into historic reality in the fullness of time, which will be in no distant time at all.
That, after all, has always been the simple Agenda.
© MOVEMENT FOR STRONGER DELTA, (MSD)
June 20th, 2022