How to consolidate PDP’s reign in South South
But the anticipated prosperity, as well as weakening of the opposition in the zone may not come to fruition soon if member-states fail to eschew mutual suspicion and antagonism, which rocked the zone in the past.
That is why key stakeholders are urging states in the zone to consolidate towards building a formidable economic, industrial, social, and political bloc, adding that the leaders should jettison placing their political interests over the peoples’ interest, as well as strategise for life beyond crude oil and maximise their zone’s comparative advantage.
Some states in the region are currently engaged in legal tussles over disputed oil wells. But Governor Godwin Obaseki’s electoral victory, last week, rekindled the need to forge closer economic cooperation and integration in areas of education, human capacity development, information, and communication technology (ICT), infrastructural development, agriculture, and investment among the states.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who was chairman of the party’s National Campaign Council for Edo State, was the first to hint at the prospects of building a regional economic and political consensus at this most crucial of times for the region.
Now, the regional integration bloc, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross-Rivers, Edo, and Delta States (BRACED) Commission has expressed optimism that the deep political acrimony, divisiveness, and bitterness created by the 2015 election among the former governors, would now be a thing of the past since all the governors are now under the umbrella.
FOR a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State, and former governorship candidate to Peoples Progressives Alliance (PPA), Comrade Godwin Akpama: “The dominance of the zone by the PDP is a positive and very advantageous to them, especially since the party has dominated the politics of the zone since 1999. So, Obaseki’s victory has further emboldened PDP’s supporters towards going into any election in the South-South believing that they will win since it has made the zone the only one in the country to be completely controlled by one political party.
“On the other hand, I would say that the Edo victory has presented to the zone, the possibility of bargaining in unison for a fair share of the so-called national cake. But, I am afraid that may not be the case as there is serious disunity among the states. For instance, Bayelsa State is presently in court against Rivers and Akwa Ibom states over proceeds from crude oil derivation. Don’t also forget the 76 oil wells saga between Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State. Except the states address the mutual suspension within them (yes individual politicians will continue to make personal gains), but the corporate gains will elude the states.
“To add to all this, I will say that opposition parties in the zone may be weakened further, and that will not be good for democracy and good governance in the South-South.”
On the issue of speaking with one voice to attract tangible developmental projects to the zone from the central government, Akpama said, “I think in terms of shouting now and then, we will see that very often, but whether they will be serious about it is another thing. The PDP had dominated the zone in the past, especially between 1999 and 2003 when the issue of resource control was in the front burners. But we must admit that they never spoke with one voice. I stand to be corrected. The then Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, spoke openly against resource control and said his stance was an equitable distribution of resources. Whatever that meant, I don’t know. I am afraid that most politicians would rather go for their interest against corporate interest. I see that happening despite the PDP domination of the six states of the South-South.”
He, however, stated that the new-found unity in the zone does not confer anything on the party in the build-up to the 2023 general election but, “the PDP in the South-South must extend its handshake to other zones in the country. But, so long as the office of President is concerned, the party will have to do a lot to convince other zones bearing in mind that President Goodluck Jonathan, from South-South PDP, only left power a few years ago…”
On whether the party’s victory in Edo will make room for greater collaboration, which will ultimately facilitate the rapid development of the region, Akpama said: “Economic development under this circumstance can only be achieved if South-South leaders have the interest of the people at heart. However, what we have seen over the years is the pursuit of personal interests over the overall interest of the people of the zone. Aside from Cross River State, other states in the zone get more in terms of federal allocation, and 13 per cent derivation. Cross River State has long been denied the 13 per cent derivation due to the loss of the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, and the ceding of the 76 oil wells. If South-South states that have been getting huge sums of money since 2001, and have been fighting over the control of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) have not seen any form of meaningful development, I don’t see how PDP’s victory in Edo State in a war of ego will transform into economic development. For development to happen in the South-South, the focus must be on the people.”
He added that if South-South states can jettison mutual suspicion and antagonism, they would be able to stand together and develop the zone through the BRACED Commission. But as I observed earlier, the states in the zone are at each other’s jugulars despite being governed by the same PDP. We had Akwa Ibom State vs Cross River State up till 2012, and even beyond. We also had Rivers State versus Akwa Ibom State in the days of Godswill Akpabio, and Rotimi Amaechi, who were then governors on the PDP platforms around 2011 and 2012. Currently, it is Bayelsa State versus Akwa Ibom and Rivers states, and they are all PDP-controlled states. The BRACED Commission will work only when the states learn to trust themselves. Even if the entire states in the South-South were controlled by the APC, or another political party, the comatose situation the BRACED Commission has found itself wouldn’t have changed in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and unnecessary interstate squabbles. It’s not about the party in control, it’s about unity and sincerity of purpose”.
BUT as far as the Director-General of the BRACED Commission, Ambassador Joe Keshi, is concerned, the stage is now set for a fresh start for the people of the zone, especially with their determination to make their shared vision for the zone count.
He stressed that “now that all the governors, including Obaseki, are under one political platform, I believe it will create greater harmony. Even when Governor Obaseki was in the All Progressives Congress (APC), he was very much involved in reviving the BRACED Commission and now that he has changed party, I have got the feeling that it will help solidify the regional cooperation that BRACED is trying to achieve. We hope that the governors in terms of economic development will be on the same platform, and we have the same vision and political will, and to drive development even more in the region,” he said.
He explained that the division that preceded the defection of Obaseki to the PDP, had in part, made it impossible for governors of the region to meet at the BRACED Commission level to address issues of concerns, as well as that of economic development affecting the region.
He, therefore stressed that all governors now have the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, to unite in determining the future of the region after a seven-year lull, fraught with difficulties in forging a common front.”
THE Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) on its part expects that governor of the region will work together to achieve greater cooperation, realise economic potentials, and improve the security of the region.
Its national publicity secretary, Ken Robinson said: “The truth of the matter is that we should go beyond placing political interest over the interest of our people. The governors of the South-South working together are not working against the interest of Nigeria, a particular person, the president, or whatever. They are working for the interest of their people,” he said.
Ahead of the 2023 election, Robinson said PANDEF and the people of the Niger Delta would collaborate more with the governors and would only support any party that would give the region the greater consideration in terms of commitment to restructuring the country, and fiscal federalism, which all the governors support.
“For us, it is who will restructure Nigeria; it is who will give us true federalism, and who will give us greater control over our resources. It is also who will show greater interest in the situation in the Niger Delta and uplift the region from the current squalor, suffering, hardship, and neglect that it is suffering. Those will be the parameters. We are going to engage more with the governors going forward,” he said.
A political commentator and strategist, Robinson Sibe, said now that the South-South is politically homogeneous, and the governors do not have any excuses to immediately revive the BRACED Commission.
Sibe urged states in the zone to strategise on building a formidable economic, industrial, social, and political bloc, adding that with all the region under one political platform, it was time to harmonise interest and forge a common bloc that would engender growth, sustainable development and to create up a common economic corridor that would drive regional prosperity.
BUT the former president, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee, hopes the disparate groups that people the so-called South-South don’t continue to get drunk in unhealthy group competition that they hardly see themselves pursuing a common cause.
THE National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, and immediate past Deputy National Chairman of the party, Dr. Eddy Olafeso in separate interactions, yesterday, said the fact that the entire region is under PDP is an added advantage that the party has ahead of the 2023 elections.”
According to Ologbondiyan: “The South-South region has always been a strong base of the PDP since Nigeria returned to democratic governance in 1999 when it comes to winning elections, especially at the centre. Our victory in Edo State was a welcome development and we are hoping to latch on that to penetrate Ondo State come October 10.”
The PDP spokesman ascribed the success of the party to the well-coordinated leadership provided by the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, the governors, and members of the party.
OLAFESO, on his part, said the South-South is a strong point for PDP as the party is also hoping to take Ondo and also penetrate Lagos through the coming Lagos East senatorial by-election scheduled for next month.
He said the victory in Edo would enhance the party’s performance in Ondo and Lagos. “Mind you, Ekiti and Osun will come before 2023, and we are hoping to perform better. So, South-South being in our kitty will help us.”
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