Posted by From Chuks Akunna, Funmi Peter-Omale in Abuja and Fracis Ugwoke in Enugu..... on
Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion has come under attack by Southern leaders over his claim that there is a gentleman agreement within the Peoples Democratic Party.....
Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion has come under attack by Southern leaders over his claim that there is a gentleman agreement within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that the presidency will rotate between the North and the South.
His kinsmen in the South-south and party bigwigs in the South-east at the weekend asked the governor to either produce evidence of the said agreement or retract his claim.
Some of the South-south leaders, who spoke in Abuja, said they were not surprised that Igbinedion could easily disqualify himself from the 2007 presidential race given what they described as his (Igbinedion’s) “dismal performance”.
The trio of George Izobo, Dauda Abu and Johnson Abolagba, former President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), former State legislator and former council chairman respectively, in the statement, however, said they would not have bordered if Igbinedion had not brought South-south into the fray.
They, however, said that they were relieved by the fact that Igbinedion's poor performance as governor has rendered him incapable of speaking for majority of Edo citizens, let alone the South-south.
"Chief Lucky Igbinedion does not speak for the majority of Edo citizens. Whatever agreement he entered into to exclude himself from the leadership of this country is binding on him and his family alone.
“It certainly has nothing to do with the people of Edo State or the South-south zone."
On the "gentleman's agreement" which Igbinedion claimed precluded the South-south from 2007 presidential race, the politicians said: "If Governor Igbinedion wants to honour agreements, let him start by honouring the agreements he reached with us in Edo State to provide credible leadership for our people in return for our votes."
They faulted a system where, "for 46 years, no citizen of this country from the South-south, which includes Edo State, has ever been given an opportunity to run the affairs of this country, despite the fact that Nigerians from the South-south have excelled in everything they have been opportune to do for this country."
Also in the fray against Igbinedion, is human right activist Mike Ozekhome who said the governor’s comment must represent his personal views that could not bind the people.
“I do not agree with Igbinedion and I know that the South-south people do not agree with him at all,” he said.
Commenting on the issue, the National Vice Chairman (South-east) of the party, Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu, described Igbinedion’s claim as sheer fallacy and undiluted effrontery.
Apparently infuriated by the upsurge in the demand that power must rotate back to the North after President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ozichukwu, who spoke in Enugu, said he knew all that happened in the days prior to planning of the elections of 2003 and none of the discussions and eventual conclusions ever included any form of agreement, written or unwritten, to move the presidency back to the North.
According to the zonal leader, any attempt by anybody to claim that such an agreement existed was total falsehood. “At a certain time in 2002, some governors had gone to Mr.President and tried to persuade him to accept that he was unelectable for a second tenure in 2003 and that he should surrender his quest for the party’s mandate to a Northern candidate,” Ozichukwu said, as a background to what might have been the prologue of Igbinedion’s claim.
However, he said, the “party hierarchy had heard of this and was quite upset” and had called a meeting of the party’s working committee and such governors who worked at aborting Obasanjo’s re-election.
This, he said, was followed by the decision of the National Chairman, Chief Audu Ogbe, to call an immediate expanded meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) in which “it was agreed that not only was Chief Obasanjo proper in seeking the party’s mandate for a second term, he was confirmed to have performed so well and should remain as the beacon of hope, rejuvenation of the nation and pride of Nigerians.”
According to him, the discussion at this meeting was frank and exhaustive and the governors who were spearheading this campaign agreed among themselves that they erred and as such recanted.
He said an expanded caucus meeting of the party was subsequently held at the Aso Rock Villa and the issue of retention of power for the President or not was discussed.
Ozichukwu recalled that at that Villa meeting, although Alhaji Lawal Kaita spoke so extensively in favour of an agreement to have the presidency back to the North, he (Ozichukwu) said he had strongly countered this mindset, maintaining that power had been held for decades by the North and there was nothing to show for it on ground, either for the people or government, and as such canvassed that the issue of what constitutes the North must be thoroughly resolved.
The zonal leader said he also canvassed that it would amount
to taking other Nigerians for a ride to ask for the power which had resided in the hands of Northerners for over 39 years to be returned to the North as if other Nigerians would only be there to cheer their brothers up North.
“And, in any case,” he argued, “we must be let into what the average politician calls the North as against the North Central, the North East and the North West, as in the other zones in the South.”
According to him, it was at the end of the arguments that it was agreed that whatever had to be distributed had to be on the bases of the six geopolitical zones, which he revealed was the anchor of Obasanjo’s allocation of political offices in the land.
He said that at the end of the meeting, it was agreed that President Obasanjo be allowed a second term.
The PDP Zonal Chairman also remembered that Chief Bernabas Gemade and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi rejected their decisions, went to court and got the leave to contest the presidential nomination, “which they did and lost.”
Expressing shock that claims would be made on a phantom agreement to move the presidency back to the North, he reminded those he described as opting for confusion to remember that in the heat of the argument, even Northern leaders agreed that if handled objectively, either the South -east or the South-south should have it, for equity, justice and fair play.
Meanwhile, an aide of Vice President Atiku Abubakar has said that he is undaunted in the presidential race for 2007 despite the humiliation and political maneuvers aimed at frustrating him.
The Publicity Secretary of Turaki Vanguard, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, spoke at the weekend and said the move to isolate and demoralize Atiku, he would fight on, saying the Vice President’s aspiration was legitimate and just.
In the last few months, the President Olusegun Obasanjo had reduced the Vice President’s aides, leaving him with two.
Eze in a statement in Abuja said “despite ploys, schemes, plots and gang up against the presidential aspiration of Vice President Atiku Abubakar, he remains undaunted and is still politically relevant in the political scheme of things.”
According to him, “One of the many sins of Atiku Abubakar in the eyes of his political opponents is that they claim he is over ambitious – It is disheartening to note that today for lack of ideas on how to stop Atiku Abubakar from winning the 2007 presidential election, political Lilliputians and cynics now portray him as being over ambitious.
“This school of thought forgot that by 2007, Atiku Abubakar would have served this nation as the Vice-President for eight good years and should be ambitious to desire the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Eze claimed that the revalidation and registration of members’ exercise of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held last September was organised force the Vice President and his supporters out of PDP.
He stressed, “Out of 22 aides in 2003, Atiku is left today with only two in order to cripple his constitutional duties and render him irrelevant. Any state governor, minister or politician of note that has any political inclination towards Atiku Abubakar should be humiliated, abused and treated as a criminal in order to frighten every other Nigerian from associating with him.
“Today, for you to be politically relevant, or to be an achiever, you must be seen as working against Atiku Abubakar.”
Eze urged Obasanjo not to allow “political miscreants to set a wedge between him and his deputy who not only loves him but ready to protect his “legacies” and interests.
He added, “Mr. President has allowed himself to be tossed to and fro by political dwarfs who want to destroy not only PDP but rubbish all that he stood for as a one-time military Head of State and elder statesman of Nigeria.”
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