GOVERNORS ON THEIR OWN â€“ NGIGE, PDP CHIEFTAIN, OTHERS
Before former President Umaru Yar'Adua died on May 5 this year, the five governors of the South East – Chief Theodore Orji (Abia); Mr Peter Obi (Anambra); Chief Martin Elechi (Ebonyi); Dr Sullivan Chime (Enugu) and Chief Ikedi Ohakim (Imo) – were looking forward to 2015 when the presidency would return to the South.
Their political calculation then was to hold on and support the sickly late Yar'Adua and probably run a joint ticket with the candidate the North would produce to complete the Yar'Adua second term going by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) zoning arrangement.
For political analysts, this probably was the reason while the Yar'Adua sickness lasted the governors were still having sympathy for him up to the extent of not embracing fully Dr Goodluck Jonathan in his acting capacity.
In fact, some of the South East governors were then accused of supporting the Yar'Adua cabal in preventing Jonathan from becoming the substantive president.
Thus when Yar'Adua died and Jonathan ascended the presidency and the country's political equation became a subject for national discourse, particularly the issue of zoning of the presidential slot in the PDP, analysts pointed out that the South East governors found themselves in a quandary as the expectation that power would return to the zone by 2015 became highly uncertain.
Therefore, they said that as a way of jumping in the bandwagon and to wait to see what becomes of the campaigns for Jonathan's continued presidency after 2011, the five governors decided on July 4 not to vie for the position of President or offer themselves for the post of Vice president in the next poll.
Indeed, the governors after their meeting in Enugu said: 'We will support for presidency a candidate with the best programme that will address the marginalisation of the South East zone and political imbalance in Nigeria.'
After this pronouncement, the people of the region with the exception of those supporting Jonathan's return in 2011 have berated the governors, saying that they are on their own as they did not consult the people of the region before taking the decision and as such cannot speak for them. From Abia to Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and to Imo, the feelings are the same.
A former governor of the sstate, Dr Chris Ngige, described the five governors' decision as a colossal betrayal of the people of their respective states and the South East zone in general.
He said this is so because the governors did not consult their people through their different houses of assembly or a town hall meeting, or at best a referendum to come to the decision and declaration. He stressed that their allusion to 'any candidate with a good programme that will address the problem of marginalization' being faced by the people in the skewed Nigerian federation is an illusion.
Ngige noted that the Igbo have been reduced to a minority group in terms of political structure of the federation (states and local governments), appointments, rehabilitation of federal roads and siting of federal infrastructure, adding that nobody is fooled by their Ostrich-like display.
'If we are to ask these governors, what is the South East position in today's power configuration in Nigeria? Of the first four positions in the power hierarchy of Nigeria today, the South East is not represented. We are not even heading nor are we in the second position in any of the three arms of the present Federal Government viz the executive, legislature and the judiciary. We have no place in the concentric power equation of today's Nigeria.
'We find the position taken by these governors ludicrous, sycophantic, extremely selfish and the highest height of influence peddling, all in a bid by the three of them in the PDP to be assisted by President Goodluck Jonathan in their bid for a second term ticket and the two in APGA to be given the so-called federal assistance and protection in the rough political battles they have found themselves in Anambra and Abia states,' Ngige said.
He, therefore, advised the governors to speak only for themselves on this issue, and not even for their immediate families, as a large percentage of the people in their states belong to different political parties, which at the last count stand at about 57 political parties.
Also Chief Ugochukwu Ikeh, who is a chieftain of the United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP), described the governors' stand as unfortunate and a show of their selfishness, adding that before such a declaration, they should have discussed with those that elected them into office.
He lamented that it was the same behaviour that has kept the South East in the condition it is today where it has no seat in the top echelon of governance in Nigeria.
'We are highly disappointed with the governors. They have by their action shown that they are not democrats and I feel they should apologise to the people of the South East,' he said.
For the Enugu State chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) Hon. Afam Ani, the South East governors were not speaking for the people but for themselves.
He noted that the governors did not consult anybody and were thus speaking their own minds.
He described their position as a PDP agenda rather than the position of the zone, adding that, 'they cannot dictate for us because my own party will surely present a credible candidate for the election.'
However, Dr Henry Aloh, South-East coordinator of the Jonathan Youth Support Movement, a former gubernatorial aspirant and commissioner in Ebonyi State, said: 'The position of the South-East governors is good and in line with the intention of the majority of Ndigbo.
'However, being leaders in their various states does not translate into their having the power to take a position without due consultation with their people. It is wrong and was not intended to carry stakeholders along.'
Comparing the governors with their counterparts in the South South, he said that the South East governors still have the opportunity to carry other stakeholders along in the interest of Ndigbo.
When contacted, the Special Assistant to Enugu State Governor on Media, Mr Chukwudi Achife, a lawyer, noted that the position of the South East governors was clear as they had said they would support any candidate with the best programme as it concerns the South East zone, their party affiliation notwithstanding.
He described the governors' decision as a pragmatic one anchored on the principles of equity, justice and fairness.
But for Dr Uche Okoh, Enugu State coordinator of the Goodluck Jonathan Support Group (GSG), the governors' position was in order.
'The governors are the representatives of the people and we stand by what they said that we in the South East are not keen on presenting a candidate for the 2011 presidential election,' adding, however, that any qualified person within the zone is at liberty to present himself for nomination.
As individuals, he said: 'We can present ourselves but as a consensus, we don't want to run. However, we have just four months to go and no Igbo person has declared interest in the presidency. This is not a position you just wake up and say I want to be president. You must have a programme and be adequately prepared for it.'
In Ebonyi State, a chieftain of the PDP in Ebonyi State and former Chairman, Afikpo North Local Government Area, Chief Iduma Igariwey said the five South-East governors shutting themselves out from the 2011 presidency and VP has given them out as mere survivalists.
Igariwey added that the governors only spoke for themselves and, therefore, have not the mandate of the people to speak on their behalf.
'Nobody told them to speak for us and they did not consult Ohanaeze. They have nobody's mandate. Because people are taking positions, they have decided to take that position. However, they have not come out to say they are supporting Jonathan. If they do that, it is alright, but that was not their position before now.'
He noted that the governors are trying to position themselves ahead of the 2011 polls.
The Political Adviser to Governor Ikedi Ohakim, Chief Rex Anunobi, told Sunday Sun that the decision of the South East governors would enable them concentrate on delivering democracy dividends rather than junketing from one constituency to another soliciting vote.
Anunobi argued that in the last dispensation all the governors from the zone were presidential aspirants and were junketing from different locations without concentrating on governance and as such could not attract a single project from the Federal Government.
'Our governors want to concentrate on the mandate given to them now to solidify governance and unity of our people as a major bloc to what is due to Ndigbo without playing to the gallery. They should be commended for this rare Igbo patriotism and sense of responsibility,' he said.
He, however, added that the decision would not stop any credible Igbo politician with presidential ambition from pursuing such ambition.
But, the South East leader of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), disagreed with the position, saying it was nothing but a decision anchored on the selfishness of the governors.
'It is nothing but selfishness and deluded impression that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is synonymous with Nigeria.'