South south's pay in having theirs as president

In the build up to the 2007 presidential election, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was culminating his constitutionally permitted second term having exhausted what a section of the country believed was the south's turn of producing the nation's leader. The north expected power to return to it, but the south-south would have none of that.

They put up an aggressive campaign targeted at convincing Nigerians that justice demands their son becoming the president. On radio, television, newspapers, billboards etc, we were bombarded with justifications for a south-southerner occupying the number one seat. They even produced and aired documentaries that could make everyone in the country cast their votes for a candidate from south-south.

The purported gentleman agreement said to have been entered into was played down while a south-southerner becoming president was played up. The people of the geo-political divide were united in their quest, as if theirs is a region unified by a common language. Everyone of them wanted, craved and prayed for it. They must have thought that achieving that dream would sound the death knell to all their troubles. How wrong they were.

However, they shot for the moon and landed among the stars which is still a fair bargain for a zone that had neither tasted the number one nor number two office since the history of our country. So, their noise payed off. Their son- Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became the vice president. Fate unfolded and he is now the president.

Why am I disturbing your life with this brief chronicle, you may wonder. It is because we need to find out if their agitation, in the light of current happenings, was worth it after all. So, is it worth all the trouble they underwent prior to 2007?

But, is that question necessary? Isn't the answer apparent? While we concede that Bayelsa State in terms of infrastructural facilities has fairly been the better for it, the south-south in general has not. This is owing to the unprecedented heating up of the region's polity to the extent that it is spilling over to other parts of the country. Don't forget that development is hard to come by in a state of disquiet.

Unfortunately, the embers of this unpleasant state of affairs in the region is fanned from none other ventilator than the one in the exalted office they had so canvassed for. This will be the second time that turmoil will in verity erupt in the president's backyard with the finger of Abuja glaringly behind it. If, however, we chose to pay heed to the rumour mills, it will be the fourth. Recall the hearsay about Owoye Azazi's death and the disputed Soku Oil Fields/boundary dispute between Bayelsa and Rivers States.

It started from his native Bayelsa with the case of Timipre Silva, the erstwhile governor of the state. His tiff with Mr President degenerated and became so open that both of them bandied accusations without restraint. Distractions reigned supreme, tension set in and the shark ultimately swallowed the lesser fish vomiting same in political siberia. Another man has since taken his place as governor of the state.

Moving ahead, another fight has manifested. This time it is between Abuja and Port Harcourt and so far, it has been of the no holds barred brand. It has left Rivers State and its people as the grass upon which the two elephants are flexing their might. This is so because their governor is distracted and when a man is distracted, every other thing including the one that should be prime, becomes secondary.

Yes, Rotimi Amaechi is flustered. Most times I wonder if he still musters enough coordination of himself to go about the intricate demands of running his state owing to the deluge of challenges that is being laid on him. If it had stopped with Amaechi, we would have taken solace in the fact that, at least, the state House of Assembly is working. But, the turn of events in the State Assembly is even worst.

All these are on account of what the people of the region had so pursued and disturbed us about prior to 2007. At the moment the crisis has polarized the region. Or do I say, has caused them to jettison their unified stance in demanding for national positions. That's why Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom would lead three other governors from the region to vote against their brother in the Nigeria Governor's Forum election.

In all ernest, this has been my concern in the unfolding Rivers fracas. I would always mutter to myself whenever there is a twist to the episode, so this is what all their cries then for Nigeria's next president to be from their region is amounting to? A president that will cause skirmish among them thereby prompting a sharp division on a people who had always made their demands with a voice.

Though President Jonathan has continued to deny having any hand in the Rivers crisis just like he wanted us to believe in the heat of the former Bayelsa governor's case, believing that adjuration is tantamount to believing he will not run in the 2015 presidential race. Aside this, eminent Nigerians including Bola Tinubu have told us to hold him responsible for what have become of Rivers State.

But to be fair to president Jonathan, this predicament in his homestead isn't peculiar to him. Those before him had crisis in the regions they represent which many felt were instigated by them. It will be recalled that when former president Olusegun Obasanjo reigned, Oyo, Ekiti and few other states in his south west zone were enmeshed in political imbroglios courtesy of his actions and inactions.

Even the short period, late president Yar'Adua spent in office, had its own share of political turmoil in the north east. I'm talking about when Mohammed Yusuf, the late leader of Boko Haram, was killed alongside other members of the sect. Hence, the security impasse we are currently confronted with, albeit, it is yet to be said that Yar'Adua provoked this.

Aside the case of presidents, there are other instances where those who by virtue of being from a geo-political zone got to high positions turn round to engender crisis in their home zone. A case in point is Okwesilieze Nwodo who picked a quarrel with his state governor, Sullivan Chime, when he became the national chairman of PDP. Therefore, Jonathan is not alone in this.

Nonetheless, what is of interest in his is the dimension the Rivers crisis have taken and the consideration that here is a man flying the flag of a people who went all out to demand their producing the next president pre-2007. Of a truth, the Yorubas weren't that voluble in asking for one of their own to be made president in the preparations for the 1999 presidential election. As such, Jonathan owes it as a debt to his people to work for their uplift not for their disintegration and degeneration.

The group of progressive governors who were in Port Harcourt last week on a solidarity visit to Amaechi asked Jonathan to be a father to all. This begs the question; if Jonathan cannot be father to all in just his region, is it at the national space that his umbrella will cover all? He, verily, needs to start seeing himself as the father of the nation at the moment. This will help him distance himself from regional politics.

Let not the foregoing direction of this piece mislead you into thinking it's about Amaechi or Jonathan. No, it is not centred on the political stand-off in Rivers State. It is only drawing from the crisis in the state to drive home a vital point. The point is that we should come to the understanding that a region is not better off simply because one of its own is the president. As such, we should know better when politicians whip up ethnic sentiments to feather their political nest in the guise of fighting our cause.

Today, it is clear that there is a crack in the rank of south-south governors that will make it difficult for them to reach a consensus on whatever is affecting the zone. This is as Akpabio and company may see Amaechi as an traitor while Amaechi and his man will see the others as an enemy. In all of these, trust becomes alien. I dare say that this would not have been their lot, if the president was from another zone.

Since the president is from the zone, he should leverage on the remaining months he has before 2015 to make amends. No matter how a 'lesser mortal' angers him, he should check the bigger picture before unleashing his wrath and immolation arsenal on such. That's what makes a leader. Considering that Amaechi is well into his last term in office, he may not have much to lose. Both actors should iron out their differences so that their minions can sheathe their swords.

And for the rest of us, we must have learnt not to be so gullible to fall for it when politicians and ethnic jingoists tell us we are being marginalised because one of our own is yet to be a president. When they come with such sermon, let's not hesitate to make them enlighten us on how zones that produced presidents were positively touched by their sons who were in power.

Written by:
Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi,
[email protected]
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld from Glo Mobile.

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Articles by Ugochukwu Ugwuanyi