By Godwin Anene
A delegation of the Federal Government comprising of the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Agboola Ibrahim Gambari and the Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha, on Tuesday shunned the stakeholders meeting summoned by the Presidency.
Governors, traditional rulers and other leaders had arrived the venue of the meeting scheduled for Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, without their visitors showing up.
The development led to flare of anger by the attendees who described the action of the Federal Government as an insult for the people of the region.
There was no message from the Federal Government that the meeting was botched.
It was while waiting for the delegation that the Chairman of the South-South Governors and governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, informed representatives that the meeting had been cancelled.
Stakeholders comprising traditional rulers, religious leaders, opinion leaders, youths and women from the zone, however, demanded a public apology from the Federal Government over the way they were treated.
Okowa, who spoke for the governors, informed the people that the Presidency gave an emergency security meeting called by President Muhammadu Buhari as reason for cancelling the PortHarcourt meeting.
They said that the action of the Federal Government amounted to treating the South-South and its people with disdain, and warned on the consequences of undermining the zone.
But in a solemn appeal to douse tension, Governor Okowa implored the people to remain calm in the face of the disrespect and embarrassment caused by the cancellation of the meeting.
He said that the governors were as pained as the other stakeholders over the disappointment, and assured that the governors would definitely convey the feeling of the people of the region to the Presidency.
“We understand the anger in you, and on our own part as governors, we are also angry because the South-South zone is a very important part of this nation.
“There is no doubt that we the governors also feel insulted and we feel very sad and touched at what has happened.
“We felt it was necessary to consult with you as critical stakeholders because if we had acted on the information without consulting you, that would have added to the insult already meted to us.
“Together we call for a public apology because the meeting was not called at our instance; it was called at the instance of the Presidency.
“Some of us didn’t sleep trying to put things in order to make this meeting a reality.
“We will convey this message to the Chief of Staff to the President that as a region we deserve public apology, particularly to our traditional rulers and opinion leaders and also to the Governors that you voted into office.
“This is the least we expect before this meeting can be reconvened,” Okowa stated.