having reviewed the state of the nation particularly as it affects us in the South-South and South East regions, we have agreed to pursue inter-regional cooperation
AS calls for restructuring continue to grow in the country, the Governors from the South-East and the South-South might have struck a familiar chord as they moved to create the platform for regional integration.
And in the bid, the governors of the two geo-political zones, at a meeting at the Nike Lake Resort in Enugu on Sunday, the second in less than two months, created a South East South-South Governors Forum to “politically work together, as a people with the same culture and affinity.”
At the meeting, which was dominated by the theme for inter-regional cooperation and integration, the inaugural chairman of the Forum, the Akwa Ibom State governor, Emmanuel Udom stated that “having reviewed the state of the nation particularly as it affects us in the South-South and South East regions, we have agreed to pursue inter-regional cooperation.
“This will be for integration and for the economic benefit of the two regions. We also have resolved to politically work together and realign as a people that shared common heritage, culture and affinity.”
Udom said that he was unanimously chosen as the interim chairman by his brother governors, ahead of their next meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on August 27.
The Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, had noted that the meeting was being held at a time when claims were being made that the eastern railway corridor was excluded from the national railway network to be constructed with a $5 billion loan from Chinese Exim Bank.
He noted further that: “This meeting is not only an epochal reunion but home coming for all of us including Edo and Delta states, which were formerly in the Mid-Western region. The meeting is also to fundamentally help us understand and set a common regional agenda. The essence of government is the welfare of the people.
“It is also against this background that this meeting became not only providential but essential as both South East and South-South cooperation will engender economic prosperity. Working together, we stand to gain our due share from the country.
“As at today, only 9 per cent of power generated is allocated to both South East and South-South and the tourism sector is under developed.”
Ahead of the Port Harcourt meeting, Ugwuanyi noted that “I believe that progressive ideas will flow as we progress, there will be a dawn of new era arising from the new cooperation between the South East and South-South.”
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the idea of the ongoing meetings, was mooted following the “pattern of marginalization in terms of political appointment, especially in the South East and the extreme attention and activities in the South South after the 2015 election when it emerged that only the two zones voted along the same political axis. It is no secret that the two zones voted for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). That is perhaps the strongest inclination towards a political alliance and cooperation, which needs to be tested in future.”
According to our source, the two zones have always worked together and been drawn towards all sorts of cooperation on an economic development agenda and the efforts are well documented. For example, the South East South South Professionals (SESSPN) has over the years developed a strategic architecture tagged ‘DASESS 2035’ for the development of the two zones. This particular agenda is “defined by the four pillars of manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, agriculture and energy with ICT, values, housing, healthcare, education, security, and power as enablers.”
“The governors might have decided to look beyond such platforms to discuss further on the political front. There is no point talking about Biafra in the South East or the militancy in the Niger Delta, but the issues are there. They are common and the response from the Federal Government is the same.
“So if there is ever going to be any restructuring, it is better to have the platforms to articulate the options before the ethnic nationalities or regions or the states.
“If the governors are sincere in the meeting, it might turn out a good platform. But if it becomes an agenda for another election, then they are wasting their time because we know how elections are held in this country, so, it has to be something bigger and better. The two zones need a stronger and more visible front to offer them more options. The South West as a bloc have the APC and they are using that to enhance their regional economic integration. Such a bigger platform for the South East and South South will be extremely beneficial politically.
“In that meeting were governors from APC and PDP and one APGA governor. Some in their final term, others in their first term. On the basis of parties, we know that they are all play games of political survival and whatever they do is not devoid of personal interests. The major suggestion that this one is different is because of the prevailing notes of discord in the country.”
At the meeting were governors Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (Rivers); Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom); and David Umahi (Ebonyi), Owelle Rochas Okorocha (Imo) Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Henry Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Benedict Ayade (Cross River) and the deputy governor of Anambra Dr. Nkem Okeke.