Monday, January 28, 2013

State of the nation: Southern leaders meet in Enugu

State of the nation: Southern leaders meet in Enugu
…Ekwueme, Clark, Gbonigi lead delegations
. Jonathan breaks ex-militants’ ranks
Southern leaders are meeting in Enugu, the Enugu State capital on Tuesday to discuss the state of the nation.
The forum, which holds under the aegis of Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, SNPA, is expected to discuss issues of national importance, especially recent political developments in the country.
National Mirror learnt that leaders of the three geopolitical zones in the South are expected at the talks.
It was gathered yesterday that former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme would lead the South-East delegation, while former Minister of Information and Ijaw National Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, would lead the South-South team to the one-day conference.
Findings by our correspondent also showed that Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi would lead leaders of the South-West to the meeting. It was learnt that Tuesday’s meeting would serve as a follow-up to the July 2012 forum of the group held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
Reliable sources close to the conveners of the meeting told National Mirror yesterday that the parley would review the state of the nation, especially the efforts of President Goodluck Jonathan to tackle the socio-political and economic challenges facing the country.
Specifically, our findings revealed that the security challenges, especially in the North and other issues bordering on the peace and corporate existence of the country would be deliberated upon by the leaders.
Clark, in a telephone interview with National Mirror, confirmed the meeting, stating that it would be attended by leaders of the 17 states in the South. He said: “We are going to deliberate on the unity of the Nigeria and how to build bridge of peace and stability of the country.
“We are going to meet for one day to harmonise the various aspects of our country, particularly when the Centenary Celebration is coming up in 2014 and there is need to cement the unity of the country. “All the leaders are meeting, regardless of political affiliations. We are all meeting and it is above partisan interests.”
Asked if the forum would discuss politics, particularly the countdown towards 2015, he said: “What is politics? Efforts to keep Nigeria one is politics. People like Senator Femi Okunrounmu is of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Chief Olu Falae and others have their own political parties. Even in the South- South, there are many political parties reigning in the area and their leaders are expected at the meeting.
“SNPA is a bridge-building body to build understanding among our people in Southern Nigeria and by extension to the northern part of the country.” Gbonigi said the meeting would deliberate on the unity and welfare of the country. “We are concerned about how the three geo-political zones can work together; we don’t want to work at cross purposes. We want to work for the welfare and growth of the South the way it should be in righteousness, justice and peace,” Gbonigi added.
Former Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief Olu Falae, who also confirmed the meeting, however, declined further comment. Falae said only Gbonigi was competent to speak to the press on the matter. Meanwhile, indications emerged yesterday that the Presidency had broken the ranks of ex-militants in the Niger Delta who had taken a negative stance on the 2015 re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan.
While former warlords, including Chief Ateke Tom, Alhaji Mujarhedeen Asari- Dokubo, Mr. Ebikakabowei Victor-Ben (Boyloaf) and Egberi Papa, were holding meetings in Lagos, another warlord, Chief Bibopiri Ajube, alias General Shootat- Sight, said Niger Delta citizens were in support of the President.
He said that his former colleagues had lost touch with the people back home. Ateke Tom, Asari-Dokubo, Boyloaf and others have accused Jonathan of doing nothing to earn a second term in office.
They also called on the President to sack the Minister for the Niger Delta Ministry, Godsday Orubebe and his Petroleum Ministry counterpart, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke, accusing them of incompetence and poor performance.
But Ajube in a statement yesterday warned government not to succumb to the blackmail by his “compatriots”, alleging that the comments of the ex-militant leaders were borne out of “failed expectations”.
The statement reads in part: “I am particularly amazed at some media reports to the effect that certain leaders of ex-freedom fighters have now resorted to a smear campaign in the media against some targeted officials of the Federal Government including Mr. President. “In all honesty, I do not hold brief for such government officials, however, as a matter of morality and conscience, it behoves on me to put the records in proper perspective.
“To be precise, Boyloaf, Ateke Tom, Farah Dagogo and a few others either deliberately inflated the actual number of disarmed youths under them or shamelessly defrauded such youths in connivance with some bank officials by deducting from source, illegal sums from the meager monthly N65,000 stipend.
“Today, it is either that the boys feel cheated and want to vent their anger on the ordinary Niger Delta citizen, thereby heightening insecurity in the region or they have confronted most of these their leaders mentioned above to the extent they no longer go to their respective communities.
The noise about third phase amnesty is the consequence of this unfortunate development. “As if this is not painful enough, these compatriots of mine also later became beneficiaries of the NNPC pipeline security contract.
The idea of the deal was, and still remains, that all such jobless youths who did not partake in the amnesty programme be meaningfully engaged.
“It is therefore very sad that people like Asari- Dokubo, Farah, Ateke and Boyloaf decided to show the failed side of leadership in this noble direction because in spite of the millions of naira paid to them by the NNPC, they refused to justify the huge payments. They are the least qualified to label anyone as fraudulent and non-performing as they have done in the past few weeks.
“I submit that not only must they account for the huge sums given to them for a job not done, the Federal Government should not renew the pipeline security contracts because the contract (renewal) can only send a dangerous signal of indulgence of corruption by the government.
“In all these, I can also deduce their preparedness to act any script written by anybody to blackmail Mr. President ahead of 2015. But at the risk of being immodest, only men of character, goodwill, integrity and sense of purposefulness across the nation and not Asari-Dokubo and others who have lost all these, can decide President Jonathan’s fate should he decide to run in 2015.”

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