The presidential candidacy of the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa, on Saturday, got a boost as all nationalities from the South-South region endorsed the candidates for the February 25 presidential election.
The nationalities, under the umbrella of the South-South Ethnic Nationalities Assembly (SSENA), made the endorsement at a World Press Conference held at BB Hotel, Deco Road, Warri, Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State.
Addressing a mammoth gathering of representatives of all nationalities, including northerners, the national coordinator of SSENA, Chief Favour Izoukumor, listed the reasons for the endorsement to include, among others, Atiku’s promise to accede to the age-long agitation for restructuring and resource control.
Chief Izoukumor, who was flanked by SSENA’s National Secretary, Chief Alwaye Oweredaba (Rivers State), National Publicity Secretary, Dcn. Robert Igene (Edo State),
National Deputy Coordinator, Hon Eno Udongwo, (Akwa Ibom State), State coordinator,
Mrs Sambo Patricia (Bayelsa State), and National Treasurer, Hon Victor Okokon (Cross River State), opined that Atiku Abubakar, unlike President Muhammadu Buhari, will not renege in his promises.
“H. E Atiku again promised to restructure Nigeria if elected president. We must recall that the critical demands of the people of the Niger Delta over the decades of marginalization have been restructuring and resource control, as were the cases during both CONFABs convened by former Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan.
“One of the demands of the people of the Niger Delta presented to the Nigerian government was to restructure Nigeria, so that the people of the Niger Delta would benefit from their God-given natural resources.
“We are aware that of all the candidates and political parties, only PDP’s Atiku has categorically promised Nigerians restructuring and resource control.
“We believe that this will bring peace and transform the Nigerian economy, as it would galvanize all regions to explore their options and available resources for their growth and better lives for their citizens,” Izoukumor stated.
Chief Izoukumor stated that since the inception of the new democratic dispensation in 1999, the South-South has benefitted immensely from the PDP administration.
“It was under the leadership of these great men (Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan) regime that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was created, 13% derivation fund was allocated to the oil-producing Niger Delta states, the Presidential Amnesty Program, the Niger Delta Ministry, the Nigerian Maritime University of Okerenkoko, the Federal Petroleum University, Effurun-Warri, the Federal University of Otuoke and many others were created.
“These institutions and their policies were geared towards the development of our region. It is fair to say that the current peace and tranquillity in the Niger Delta is the product of the then-PDP-led Federal Government.
“With the glaring performance of the then-PDP-led government, Nigeria regained its rightful place in the comity of nations as a leader of the African continent. The Universal Basic Education Programme (UBE) was established.
“PDP brought about astronomical growth of the Nigerian economy, with a 100% GDP growth from 3% to 6%; resuscitation of the National Fertiliser companies in Kaduna and Onne (Rivers) as well as grew the excess crude oil account from a paltry sum of $2bn to $43bn, while managing to forge an $18bn debt relief deal with major creditor nations and groups, including the Paris Club.
“Worthy of note is how the PDP considered the South-south region in the equation of Nigeria politics, by making a minority ethnic nationality, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a Vice-President and subsequently President of Nigeria.
“It was the highest political office attained by a minority from the South-South and went ahead to make him the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Under Jonathan’s formidable economic team, Nigeria’s economy was rebased for the first time in a decade, leading to the country’s emergence as the largest economy in the continent, after overtaking South Africa,” he noted.
The Ogbe-Ijoh-born chief further averred that the choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as Abubakar’s running mate exemplified PDP’s equity and love for minority ethnic nationalities in the country.
“We are now in 2023 and the PDP has again demonstrated its ‘organicness’ and love for minority groups by picking Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa from Delta State as the Vice-Presidential candidate.
“Okowa symbolizes a bridge between the South-South and South-East. His adoption by the party was borne out of his sterling performance as a governor of Delta State.
“His giant strides are evident across the land and are visible to the blind and audible to the deaf.
“His landmark achievements in Delta State are evident, particularly in riverine communities, where his carefully thought-out programs and policies have created wealth for Deltans,” he submitted.
Speaking further on the reason for the choice of Abubakar, Chief Izoukumor said the PDP presidential candidate, “has shown interest in the South-South and the Nigerian people, and with his charisma and willpower to pull Nigeria out of the quagmire of hopelessness and to rescue it for a better and greater nation.”
According to him, “It is pertinent to recall that under the PDP government (1999 – 2007), during which Atiku Abubakar served as Vice President, and also as Chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC) (from 1999-2011), Nigeria recorded the highest economic growth in history. In 2002, Nigeria recorded the highest GDP growth rate of 15.33%.
“The PDP government initiated the fight against corruption through the establishment of anti-corruption agencies such as the EFCC and the ICPC.
“Under the PDP, Nigeria witnessed private-sector reforms in telecommunications, banking, and pension administration. It was the PDP-led government that paid off the foreign debts inherited by the civilian government.
“The chronicles of PDP achievements over those years cannot be written without His Excellency Atiku Abubakar getting a prominent mention, both for his tireless effort as a backbone of the reforms and as chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC).
“In addition, Atiku Abubakar’s wealth of experience in both the private and public sectors gives him an edge over all rival candidates in the 2023 elections.
“He has created thousands of direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians in his home state of Adamawa and other parts of the country.
“Atiku has already pledged a whopping sum of $10 billion to small and medium-sized businesses to create jobs that will solve the unemployment crisis we face if elected president.”
Meanwhile, Hon. Patrick Fregene, one of the leaders of the South-South Ethnic Nationalities Assembly, had earlier underscored the essence of the group which he says must take its destiny in its hands, saying as a region laying the golden egg for the economy of the entire country, the area of leadership and governance should not be shied away from by the people.
The South-South has good political leaders as a region that lays the golden egg for Nigeria’s economy. That only Atiku has been emphatic on restructuring and that such a candidate should be supported as the region takes its destiny into its hands.
Ethnic nationalities from Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Arewa were all fully represented across age grades and gender at the occasion.
READ FROM ALSO NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
South-South Ethnic Nationalities endorse Atiku Abubakar/Okowa presidency