There appears to be no respite yet for Senate President Ahmad Lawan following his condemnation of southern governors’ call for restructuring of Nigeria at their recent meeting in Asaba, Delta State.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State said yesterday that elected officers who ignore the voice of their electors are undeserving of the offices they occupy, while his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, declared that the Asaba declaration is irrevocable.
Similarly, the South-south Study Group (3SG) described the Asaba meeting as a timely intervention which presents a “watershed moment as the nation becomes a contested arena between the progressive will of the people and the regressive whims and caprices of a few.”
Okowa, speaking at the empowerment scheme sponsored by the minority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, yesterday in Asaba, Delta State, said it was wrong of anyone to vilify the southern governors for their stand.
Lawan had challenged the governors to start restructuring from their states.
He told them to avoid what he branded regionalism.
Responding to him yesterday, Okowa said leaders in the country cannot afford to sit back and say nothing when the generality of Nigerians are daily voicing their concern.
“The things that we said are not new. It is just the voice of our people that we have continued to echo. But unfortunately, I read in the papers that somebody said being elected people, we ought not to talk about certain things,” Okowa said, without mentioning anyone by name.
Continuing, he said: “If the voice of your people has been heard loudly and they continue to talk, and you as an elected person shy away from giving further voice to their voices, then you ought not to be in the position that you occupy.
“Out of all the things that were discussed, nothing is against the unity of this country. We reaffirmed that as a people and elected governors, we believe in the unity of our country and went further to advance the need for certain things to be done in order to give strength to that unity.
“We talked about restructuring which has been on the table for so long. Both the PDP and APC have endorsed restructuring, and restructuring is all inclusive and all encompassing.
“We may have different views and different approaches to restructuring. But when we sit on the table in dialogue, we will be able to agree what is good for Nigeria and what is good for the component states.
“The conversations are obviously needed, because if we do not talk and we allow the voices of our people to continue to sink and the leadership shy away, then we are giving room for further crisis.
“So, I think it is time for other leaders across the country to thank the southern governors for giving a voice to the conversation, because it is only when these conversations come in at that level and is driven in the larger interest of majority of our people that we can have a fully united nation in which there is fairness, equity and trust amongst our people and amongst the leadership.”
On the move by the governors to ban open grazing of cattle in the South, Okowa said they all know that “it is not going to stop in one day.”
He added: “But an attempt must be made to take some actions at the national level. Those actions that will give hope that we have started a journey to stopping it.
“Today, the developing world is struggling to catch up with the developed world. Things are changing very fast, and until we are ready to begin to look futuristically, we cannot get ourselves out of where we are at the moment.
“There have been several grazing reserves in the country that have been abandoned. Why were they abandoned? We have asked the federal government to spend part of the national resources to help to plan new pilot schemes.
“Some of us in the south do support that some federal resources should be spent to start up some of these ranches and grazing reserves and put the necessary things in place in order to slow down and eventually put a stop to it in years to come.
“I don’t think this is a wrong decision, because it is in the best interest of our nation and the people. I believe that in such manner, our country will grow much bigger, must faster and much better, and people will suffer less.
“Apart from that, every insecurity associated with the farmers/herders clash will eventually be put a stop to. That cannot be said to be bad business.”
Okowa also spoke on his successor as governor.
He warned those aspiring for the office against undermining any section of the state.
The governor gave an indication that he will not hand over the state to anybody who will sideline the Anioma (Delta North) people of the state and that the next governor of the state must be one that will see Asaba, the state capital, as his own and not as a mistake.