Presidential delegates shun South-South governors, leaders meeting

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike (left); his counterparts, Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa-Ibom); Ben Ayade (Cross River); Douye Diri (Bayelsa) and Godwin Obaseki (Edo) at the South-South stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt… yesterday

Representatives of the Federal Government billed to attend a stakeholders meeting with governors and leaders of the South-South zone at Government House, Port Harcourt Rivers State, yesterday, shunned the meeting.

The presidency had fixed a meeting for yesterday with the governors and other leaders of the zone to discuss burning national issues affecting the region and the effects of the #EndSARS protests.

But, Federal Government’s delegates, who were supposed to include all ministers from the geopolitical zone and representatives failed to attend the meeting.

The Guardian learnt that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, failed to attend the parley, while the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, came at the end of the meeting.

Curiously, no excuses were given for their failure to attend the meeting despite that the governors and stakeholders waited for several hours.

Consequently, the governors and leaders of the region demanded an apology from the presidency for aborting a meeting it convened.
Speaking at the event, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who presided over the meeting, said the botched meeting was convened at the instance of the presidency, through the office of Chief of Staff (COS) to the President, Agboola Ibrahim Gambari.

He explained that the meeting time was adjusted twice from 11:00a.m. to 1:00p.m. on the excuse that the President Muhammadu Buhari was having a session with Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS) and Inspector General of Police (IGP), who were supposed to be part of the delegation.

Okowa, who is also Chairman, South-South Governors’ Forum, said he later received a call from Gambari in the afternoon, announcing the cancelation of the meeting, adding that he felt disappointed that the region could be treated with such disdain.

He lamented that the South-South people have been embarrassed, disgraced and disrespected, insisting the region remained an important part of the country and that the governors felt insulted because the traditional rulers, who had gathered for the meeting, deserved some respect and better treatment.

“We demand a public apology, because this meeting was convened at the instance of the Presidency,” he said. Former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee, expressed concern over the cancellation of the meeting, saying it was an affront on the South-South people.

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, who hosted the meeting, said the state, which is the capital of the South-South region was safe.

Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), National Chairman, Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd.), former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Onueze Okocha (SAN), among others, attended the meeting.