South-South People’s Summit: Matters Arising

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BY INNOCENT EDEMHANRIA

A section of the people of south-south geopolitical zone of Nigeria, from different nationalities, comprising governor of south-south states, national and state legislators, formal and serving ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Elder statesmen, Leaders of thought, captains of industry, youths and professional bodies had a meeting in Port Harcourt on Monday 26th July, 2010 at presidential hotel. The summit looked at issues that affect the zone politically, economically and otherwise.

A communiqué issued at the end of the summit which gave the above impression, was published in Vanguard Newspaper of Tuesday July 27, 2010. The summit among other things recognized that the time has come to collectively transcend primordial sentiment and disposition in the conversation on National affairs in order to build strong, viable and democratic blocks for peace and progress.

The summit also canvassed support for President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Mohammed N. Sambo in the 2010 general election. The summit unanimously called on the President to openly declare his interest in the 2011 presidential election without further delay and to run for the office of president of the federal republic of Nigeria. The summit assured Jonathan of the total and undiluted support of the people of south-south and called on all other geopolitical zones, organizations, communities and institutions to support the quest to deepen, widen and consolidate democracy by supporting Jonathan for president.

It is quite clear from the communiqué that the aim of the entire summit was to canvass support for President Goodluck Jonathan presidential ambition in the 2011 general election even as Jonathan has not made his intention public. The point need to be made and clearly too, that President Jonathan has the constitutional right to context for presidency of Nigeria, first as a Nigerian citizen, and also by the provision of the 1999 constitution. Whether he decides to contest or not, the law that is operative in Nigeria allows him to do so.

It will be necessary also to now examine the outcome of the summit against the claim that it a mandate from the south-south people of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to declare his intention to and thereafter context for the 2011 general election. It may not be correct to say that the south-south governors as well as other dignitaries that attended the summit consulted widely with the populace before reaching the conclusion that the entire people of south-south assure Jonathan of their total and undiluted support and also called on all other geopolitical zones, organizations, communities and institutions to support the quest to deepen, widen and consolidate democracy by supporting Jonathan for president.

Before this conclusion can be reached it will be important to answer certain critical questions arising from the summit. Such as, were all the south-south governors present at the summit? What of the national and state legislators from the south-south extraction, were they all represented so as to lend their voice as true representatives of the people? What proportion of the elder statesmen, Leaders of thought, captains of industry, youths and professional bodies attended the summit as compared to the entire population of south-south region?

That President Goodluck Jonathan is intending to contest 2011 election because he is from the Niger Delta or south-south or he is our own is not an issue. It will be highly sentimental to decide to vote for him on that consideration, decisions as to who becomes president of Nigeria or other matters of national importance should be as objective as possible. Such decision should be based on the antecedent and pedigree of the person in question; President Jonathan should be able to recall his achievement to Niger Delta people as governor of Bayelsa State. He has been president of Nigeria for some few months now even before Yar’Adua died, there should be something tangible that he has done, on the basis of which he can now contest and call on the people to vote for him, then the entire region will support him massively.

Some of the argument been preached by those calling on Jonathan to contest for the 2011 election is that the south-south region has never produced a president before the death of Yar’Adua, therefore, let us support Jonathan for presidency, he is scion of the region. This primordial sentimental position has been used to call for support for President Jonathan, rather than relying on his credentials, antecedents and achievements

Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has been in office for only three years and some months now, Lagosians and indeed Nigerians can see and also hear how his administration has fared since he assumed office as governor. It will not be a difficult thing to do if someone decides to critically assess the performance of his government, even if there is still some critique of his administration, but it can be seen that there are overwhelming evidence of his achievement as governor of Lagos State.  Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has been governor for less than two years and he is distinguishing himself by his performance in many fronts which has been attested to by majority of the people of Edo State.

Let the people of Bayelsa testify of the performance of Jonathan while he was governor of the state.  Let Nigerians assess his brief stay on the saddle of Nigeria’s presidency. The time has gone when votes should be canvassed on basis of sentiments if we must make progress as a nation. Those who are calling on all of us to support his ambition and also calling on him to run for the next general election in Nigeria should do so objectively by reviewing his performance in his current and previous positions, on the basis of which we will all join to call on him to run as an illustrious son of the region.

·         Innocent Edemhanria is Programme Officer, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).

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