By Akinwande Soji-Ojo
The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) has criticised Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, for accepting his nomination as the running mate to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the 2023 general elections.
This was contained in a statement signed by leaders of the four groups that made up the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), inlcuding Chief Edwin Clark, leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere, Dr. Dru Bitrus, President-General, Middle Belt Forum; and Prof. George Obiozor, President-General, Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, on Friday.
“It bears recalling that the 17 governors of the Southern states of Nigeria, both of the Peoples 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.
“It is unspeakable and quite disappointing that Governor Ifeanyi 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 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.
“Governor Okowa has, by his action, betrayed the trust reposed on him by his colleagues; the southern governors, the entire good people of southern Nigeria and all well-meaning Nigerians. He has made himself persona non grata, not only, with SMBLF but all citizens who treasure our oneness and yearn for a more united and peaceful Nigeria,” then statement read in part.
The group said it rejected Okowa and his vice presidential slot, describing the governor’s action as “a betrayal of the highest order.”
“And that this is not a matter of loyalty to one’s political party, but rather a greedy, parochial and unpatriotic action, committed against the general interest of his Slstate, Delta State, the Niger Delta region, and Southern Nigeria. It is, certainly, also not in the interest of the nation at large,” it added.