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Govs demand presidential apology after botched South-South meeting

By Idowu Abdullahi,

Disappointed with a botched South-South stakeholders meeting, governors and leaders from the geopolitical region have demanded for an unreserved apology from the presidency for abruptly aborting the planned crucial meeting scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.

As gathered, the governors alongside other stakeholders from the region had been billed to meet with apex government delegation including the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari, Ministers from the geopolitical zone among others and discuss burning national issues affecting the region and the aftermath effects of the EndSARS protest.

It was also learnt that the botched meeting was called at the instance of the presidency, through the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, and that the time was repeatedly adjusted before it could not hold.

Addressing South-South leaders at the Banquet Hall of the Government House, Port Harcourt, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who presided over the session, explained that the meeting time was adjusted twice from 11am to 1pm on Tuesday, on the excuse that the President Muhammadu Buhari, was meeting with Director of Department of State Services (DSS) and the Inspector General of Police, who were supposed to be part of the presidential delegation for the South-South meeting.

Okowa, who is also the chairman of South-South Governors Forum, said that he later got a call from Gambari on Tuesday afternoon, announcing the eventual cancellation of the meeting. According to him, he felt really disappointed that the region could be treated in such disdain.

He stated that the South-South geopolitical zone was a very important component part of the nation and the governors feel insulted because the traditional rulers who had gathered for the meeting, deserved to be revered.

“As governors, we feel very touched and very sad about what has happened. And having also listened to our youths, we can feel the anger. As a mark of respect for our people, because you are actually the stakeholders of our region, we felt it was necessary for us to consult with you before taking any decision, if we take our decision without consulting with you, then we would have added to the disrespect that has just been meted on you.

“We call for a public apology, not for the governors alone. We call for a public apology because this meeting was not called at our instance. It was called at the instance of the Presidency. The time was changed last night. We understood and we talked to our people. Some of us did not sleep in trying to put things together. We have gotten to a very bad start. So we are going to convey this message to the chief of staff to the president.

He added further, “we deserve as a region unreserved public apology to the region, particularly to our traditional rulers and the leaders in this zone, which include our Christian leaders, opinion leaders, our women and our youths, and also the governors of the zone who were voted into office and that is the least that we expect for us to accept the reconvene of this meeting,” Okowa was quoted as saying in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Kelvin Ebiri.

Present at the meeting were also Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River; Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akw Ibom; Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State; and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State. Other eminent persons present included: the National Chairman of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga, rtd; former President, Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha (SAN); among others.

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