Opinion | Buhari: Snubbing South South Stakeholders Have Dire Consequences ~ By Ifeanyi Izeze
The Presidency on its own scheduled the Tuesday 17th November meeting with the leaders and stakeholders of the South South zone including the governors, natural rulers, these people duly gathered in Port Harcourt but the Chief of Staff to the President Ibrahim Gambari, on the instructions of President Buhari as indicated, kept them waiting for hours shifting the time of the meeting twice from the originally slated 11am to 1pm. Still the federal government did not show up only to come up with the flimsy excuse that was at best arrogant and at worst insulting. How do you reconcile that?
The Presidency’s statement that ‘We didn’t postpone the meeting to disrespect you (South South people)’ was nothing but a feigned show of remorse. The people of the region have every reason to feel insulted and sad by the callousness and arrogance of the President and his team as this is one too many in the shoddy treatment they have been receiving from the Buhari-led government since its inception.
How come that the alleged gravity of the security situation affecting all parts of the country including the south south in the aftermath of the Endsars protest suddenly became such a pressing situation that the crucial meeting earlier scheduled with the entire leadership of a region could be botched on the day of the meeting?
Is it clear now that the Federal Government is taking the South-South for granted and this the centre has done for a long time by oftentimes deliberately meting out avoidable embarrassment to the pride of the people of the region?
As said by a vexed son of the region, “Certainly, there is everything wrong with that botched meeting even just the optics of rallying political leaders, traditional rulers, and other stakeholders who traveled from far and wide to Port Harcourt only to be snubbed by the president. This is inexcusable as it is unacceptable.
“First, it portrays a reluctant President, who with his team is either unable or unwilling to respond to the mood of the nation. Second, that the President would, after deciding on a meeting, call it off abruptly for whatever reason, is an obvious display of impudence. Besides, it also portrays the President as one who vacillates in the treacherous ping-pong of the denizens at the corridors of power.
As the President’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu tried to explain, “the delegation to the meeting, under Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of staff to the president, ministers and heads of security and intelligence agencies were in full readiness to proceed to Port Harcourt until they were directed to stay back for the emergency National Security Council meeting summouned to discuss the security situation orchestrated by the Endsars protests.”
So the six states’ governors and other prominent leaders and stakeholders of the zone just wasted their time and resources to gather in Port Harcourt waiting the whole day for a delegation that had consciously decided not to attend the meeting! Was it so difficult for the Federal Government to either send representatives or request them to pick a new date before the commencement of the meeting? This is insensitivity of the highest order. The federal government’s excuse was very weak and unintelligent at best.
Clearly, the statement by the Senior Personal Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu, that the postponement was not a snub and “certainly not out of disrespect’’ was more of a damage control spin job than an actual show of genuine remorse by the Presidency.
Which meeting should be of more security emergency than the one with the South South people whose deviant stance can cause terrible discomfort to the entire country and its government?
Agreeing with PANDEF that the reason offered for the deplorable action is completely untenable and unacceptable as this is one insult too many, how else can anyone explain what happened if not to say it was an act of disrespect, disregard, and contempt to the entire South-south zone?
“They went to the North, South-west and South-east, met with the people, no emergency security meeting was summoned to stop them from attending those meetings. But when it was for the South-south zone, an emergency arose to scuttle the meeting.”
“We have cross-checked and are yet to ascertain that there was any national security threatening situation to warrant their staying away.
“What the federal government have told us, in essence, is that we do not matter but the truth is that we do matter. It is awful and preposterous for anyone to delude that we do not matter. That they can treat the region that has sustained the country for decades, in this way and manner, only speaks to the kind “upside-down” thinking that has kept the country in its unworthy state.”
More annoying was the disdain attitude or rather the callous snub by members of the Federal Executive Cabinet and some elected representatives from the zone towards the entire idea of dialoguing with the Presidential team. Were they not supposed to be sitted and discuss with the stakeholders from the zone to marshal out and harmonise their views/presentations to the Presidential team even before the federal government delegation arives?
The right thing was for the appointed officials from the zone to seat with their people at the venue of the Port Harcourt to wait and received the federal government nominated delegation. Now they are more at home working on the side of the President against their constituencies, abi? Whether they want to hear it or not, these government appointees and those elected National Assembly members should know that such attitude will be grossly counterproductive for their future politics.
Now, truth be told: The federal government would never have attended that meeting because the South South people were going to get them to explain why Zamfara and some other states in the North are allowed to control their resources but not the South South states.
So what happened that day was that it suddenly dawned on the Presidency that they were not armed enough to face the obviously anticipated superior fireworks of the South South leaders and stakeholders and so they came up with the flimsy excuse of the Endsars security emergency.
To the South South leaders, all hope is not lost yet. What to do now is to articulate and harmonise stance on all issues bordering on the obvious marginalisation and unfair treatment of the zone that produces over 90 percent of the resources that sustains the entire country.
These should include issues of the deliberate underfunding of the NDDC, refusal to release accrued funds to the agency that is running into trillions of naira, and covert encouragement of massive sleaze in the agency; the deliberate disabling of all the sea ports in the zone; deliberate exclusion of the entire zone from the federal government’s ongoing rail projects financed by massive loans from China that is expected to be repaid with oil money from the region; amongst other deliberate mistreatment and punishments by the centre to the people of the zone.
Above all, full or significant Resource Control proposal must top the agenda for the discussion. If Zamfara, Katsina and others can sell their gold, diamond and maybe even uranium to earn foreign exchange for themselves, why our own case go different with our oil?
My wise counsel to President Buhari is that to redeem himself and garner some credibility for his administration following the Tuesday Novemeber 17th gaffe, he must find his way to personally preside at a reconvened meeting however he plans to do it.
As aptly said by an analyst, “The President does not need a retinue of bomb squad to accompany him and he does not need an advance party or bureau of the Presidency to herald his coming. He should just go to Port Harcourt anyhow he wants to do it.” God bless Nigeria!
(IFEANYI IZEZE writes from Abuja: firstname.lastname@example.org; 234-8033043009)