However, another governor, who spoke through one of his aides, claimed there was no disunity among the governors, saying the fact that they were not meeting regularly like their predecessors does not mean that they were not meeting at all. We don’t talk to ourselves – Gov According to the first governor: “If you doubt, find out when the governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa and Governor Nyemsom Wike of Rivers State spoke last on anything concerning the strategic development of the South-South region and the BRACED Commission. You will be shocked to find out that they may not even be in very good terms. “I read your report in Vanguard that the governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, is the oldest governor in the region. Call him and find out from him what he has done to awaken the other governors on the South-South Governors Forum and sustain the BRACED Commission, which was set up by our predecessors to reposition the region economically—nothing. “Now is unlike the time of the previous governors of the region, who worked together, the current governors think about their respective states primarily and do not care much about regional partnership. Once, they collect their allocations, other things are regarded as secondary.” It was, however, learned that the governor of Akwa Ibom state, Emmanuel Udom, is interested in interested in the region resuscitating the South-South Governors Forum and BRACED Commission, but the extent to which he has spoken to his colleagues is not known. Yes, our govs not talking – Clark Leader/convener of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella group of monarchs, leaders and stakeholders of the oil and gas-rich region, Chief Edwin Clark, who corroborated the assertion of the governor, told NDV: “It is true that our governors are not talking to themselves and planning how to develop the region together, and the people are very disturbed about it.” He added: “We are really astonished why our governors are disunited in this manner; I thought that they would build on their last meeting some years ago at Asaba, where Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, and others spoke on how they can develop the region economically, but that is not the case. The governors of the South-East region meet and discuss regional development, but they are not all in one party, it is only Rochas Okorocha that is APC, others are PDP. “The same thing happens in the South-West where they have one PDP governor and others in APC, they meet and talk. In fact, at one of their recent meetings, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti state, who is the only PDP governor among them, was their spokesperson. Of course, the 19 northern governors meet regularly, whether PDP or APC, so why is that of South-South governors different.” Chief Clark noted: “There is a communication gap not only among the governors themselves, but with people of the region. Even on November 1, 2016, when we met at Aso Villa, Abuja, it was obvious because they had not been meeting with us. The earlier we solve this problem, the better for the region. Needed support “Honestly speaking, they have not shown enough interest in matters that affect the region, though Governors Okowa and Dickson have shown more concern than others in my opinion. But, what I am saying is that nothing should separate them, they have their different states to govern and nobody can take their states away from them, they should come together.” Gov Dickson’s promise: Chief Clark asserted: “I have spoken to the governor of Bayelsa state, Hon Dickson about the matter and he assured me that he was going to do something about it.” The elder statesman continued: “Just look at it, they (governors) planned to start a company in the past to be involved in the oil industry since the oil comes from Niger Delta, but they complained that former President Olusegun Obasanjo did not give them needed support and they abandoned it. Why, if they are united and determined, Obasanjo could not have stopped them. That is why we want them to be integrated because wanting to do it alone cannot take the region anywhere, the world has passed that stage.” The former Federal Commissioner for Information noted: “The way the governors of our region are going about the business of governance does not augur well for us because they are not working together and cannot develop the region economically. It is not enough to develop your state alone or go outside the region to say that militants were not blowing pipelines in your state, but in other states of the region. It does not matter whether it is in your state, what affects one state of the region affects the other.” “It is the disunity among our governors that has made them not to respond to the invective against them by their northern counterparts, who accused them squandering 13 per cent derivation funds, they have also not replied to the attack by the northern governors on Niger Delta people as trouble makers. No matter what any South-South governor wants to turn himself or his state to, he cannot be isolated from others,” Clark surmised. No disunity among S-South govs – Okowa’s Press Secretary Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, said: “First, let me correct the wrong impression. There is no disunity among the governors of the six states of the South-South region.” “Yes, it is very true that before this dispensation that the governors of the region were holding a meeting under the BRACED Commission and of course, you recall that the BRACED Commission was formed by governors, many of whom were in their second term in office, they were already well grounded and understand the implication of also working together. “I tell you that these governors at this moment also recognize the importance of working together as brothers, who have the privilege of governing the oil- rich Niger Delta,” he said. Elaborate conferences Aniagwu asserted: “It is not also true that they are not meeting, they have had cause to interact. In one of the instances, five of them were here in Asaba, except the former governor of Edo state, Oshiomhole, who was then possibly engaged in some other issues of election of Edo State or perhaps, was held down by the fact that he is of a different political party. But I want to believe more that it is more of issues concerning Edo State then.” “The approach may be different, they may have in the past held very elaborate conferences or have to invite a number of persons and in which case you are able to see them and you think that that is the only time they are contributing or possibly discussing on how to move the region forward. This time around, do not forget majority of the governors in the South-South states are new and this is why they need to first of all settle down,” he added. He posited: “For instance, in Delta State here, the governor has an Adviser on both the BRACED Commission and NDDC. Having appointed that adviser means that they recognize the essence of working together and the essence of this interventionist agency, the NDDC and of course the importance of the BRACED Commission as a body that is galvanizing the interest of the different states in the Niger Delta region.” His words: “I want to believe that going forward now, especially as most of them have disposed of electoral issues and of course, bye-elections, they will have more time to be much more potent. So, it is an organization that is very much alive and that the governors of the region are very desirous of cooperating with one another with a view to strengthening the fabrics that brings them together as a people.” The govs‘re talking: On why the governors have not been speaking with one voice on the issue of the renewed militancy, he said: “That is also not true. I do recall that on a number of times, apart from the issues of condemnation, they have had cause to meet with, especially the governor Delta State, which is the theatre of the activities of the agitators. I try not to use that word insurgents or militants because that is the word used by those who do not understand the issues of those agitating for a fairer share of the national cake. You may give them a different name, but we believe that a much more germane dialogue and much more inclusive approach will solve the problem, rather than looking for what name to give them or the other. “And in any case, the governors of this region, particularly those that are very much affected in this problem; Bayelsa, Rivers and Delta have had cause to continue to interact, not also forgetting the governors of Cross River as well as that of Akwa-Ibom.” We believe Obaseki‘ll be different from Oshiomhole “The challenge that you may want to say that existed in respect to Edo because of certain political difference on account of political party, but we want to believe that the new governor in Edo State may have a different approach and also understand development of the region is much more important than political affiliation. “Oshiomhole was at a time not as friendly as he should be possibly recognizing his brother beyond the issues of politics of different political party, but we are very hopeful that the new governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, irrespective of belonging to another political party, will see reasons or the need to address the issues of the geo-political region,” he added. Northern hegemony: “You talked of governors of the other region having to meet. If you look at the G3 and the demographic segmentation of the regions, you are talking about, the south-east, they have had cause to meet and one of their meetings, the governor of Delta State was also part of it to address the issues of insecurity, then that of the north for a very long time has been very entrenched. If you look at the Senate, the northern senators meet more than southern senators. “The north has this issue of language binding them more, which we are not advantaged to have in the south. We have a lot of multiplicity of languages, no single language binds us together in the south, but in the north, you have the Hausa language binding them, making them to have much more that spirit of brotherliness and of course, you know that you should also look at our colonial history, you discover that the north had much more common alliance in terms of how they were colonized unlike our own side, where we were much more Republican that individuals on their own just decide to do their own thing , believing that you can survive. Hope rises “It is only now we are beginning to realize that there is much more advantage working together than existing as different units, struggling on your own to see how you can make a difference in your own particular state. So, there is hope that in not too distant time you will see more of the convergence of the governors of the South-South states and perhaps in collaboration with our own brothers in the South-West and South-East”. Why govs are distancing themselves – Mitee From Rivers state, a top member of PANDEF and former president, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, Ledum Mitee Esq., who underscored the need for regional integration, said: “I think regional coalition is an important element of economic development for the region, but I cannot point to any clear thing the governors achieved in the past under the South-South Governors Forum. Some of us believe that even though they were gathering in the name of economic matters, it was more of politics. So nothing much came out in the past.” He asserted: “I think regional coalition should be driven by the people because governments come and go. Why we see such coalition work easily in other areas like the west is because of the homogeneity among them. This is a bit difficult in the south- south; we are different people with different historical antecedents. We had the former Bendel tilting towards the west and then we had Rivers towards the east then.” “So I would say that regional coalition though it can be driven by the governors, but I think the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, should be at the forefront of this drive. Why NDDC should be carrying refuse and building residential quarters for the army when it can take up road projects connecting the region in the name of regional integration. “Almost all the South- South governors are of the PDP except Edo state. But I see political party as a thing that is just there as a platform for the governors to win elections. Political parties for now are just basis to get to their various offices, nothing ideological. In the past you saw clear party programs in various states across the country. “For example, all the statues won by the Late Awolowo’s party had similar programs all over. So it was with NPN. But we cannot say that now of the various political parties. All you see are programmes of the various governors in office. You hardly can tell which a party’s program is now,” he asserted. Let’s go back to regional devt– Okoko Former President, Ijaw National Congress, Professor Kimse Okoko, who also spoke to NDV, said: “We thought by now, the governors of the South- South should have consolidated on the programs lined up by the South -South Governors Forum after their meeting in Asaba, Delta state, some years back. I recall they talked about having a Niger Delta Energy corridor, which should have accelerated development of the south- south if they had pursued it. I think they should go back to the regional program and also involve the federal government to help drive their programmes. Assuagingmilitancy “They should look beyond their party difference and work for the development of the region. Many jobs will be created from their common project. It will help assuage militancy in the region. So at the end of the day, it will be a win -win situation for the region,” he asserted. The real problem– Alagoa At Yenagoa, Bayelsa state, renowned Niger- Delta activist, Alagoa Morris said: “It was not as if when they were meeting we gained anything. One of the reasons for this lack of unity is the fact that some level of hate is brewing among the different ethnic groups in the region; unlike the days of Alamco, Odili, Atta, Duke, Ibori and Lucky. Politics of ethnicity and lack of a leader among them to bring them together is causing them to sail solo.” “And that was why, no Niger Delta State government is serious about the PIB, even during public hearing, they failed to appear. This disunity started right from when Yar’Adua died and it was rumoured that the then governors of Rivers and Bayelsa (including Ibori) were on the side of denying Jonathan the substantive President. The wounds created then refused to heal.
S-South govs not interacting with each other
.I’m surprised they’re not talking— Clark
.The govs are interfacing, but unlike their predecessors— Okowa’s aide
.What our govs must do without delay— Mitee, Okoko,others
By Emma Amaize, Sam Oyadongha, Simon Ebegbulem, Jimitota Onoyume, Festus Ahon, Emmanuel Unah, Chioma Onuegbu & Emma Ayungbe ASABA
—DESPITE the cry by worried citizens of the South-South region for their governors to bury their differences and work together in the interest of the geo-political zone, there is still a disconnect among the governors, who continue to give each other the cold shoulder, Niger Delta Voice, NDV, investigation has revealed. One of the governors, who spoke to NDV, said: “There is no unity among us (governors) and this is really a problem. Do you know that South-South governors cannot say now that we know ourselves? We do not talk as political leaders from one region even on the phone. So how can we work together, everybody is just on his own, this, I can tell you. “The governors are just pursuing their personal ambition and pretending that all is well. It is not an issue of political party differences, as even those in same party, PDP, are not communicating normally, not to talk of interacting with the only APC governor among them.”