Not known in the past for much success in harnessing and aggregating issues of common interest to people of the zone as would have been expected, the South East Governors Forum has further slipped into limbo.
One of the reasons for this inertia may be the uncertainty over the outcome of election cases pending in courts for three of the five governors in the zone.
The fear over what lies ahead for them have pushed to the backburner the likelihood of governors of the zone coming together under the aegis of Southeast Governors Forum anytime soon. Already, stakeholders want the forum scrapped for not being of any use to the people of the zone.
Investigations by The Guardian reveal that nearly eight months after the last chairman of the forum, Senator Theodore Orji, served out his tenure, no attempt has been made by the governors to select a replacement or meet despite critical issues demanding attention in the zone.
Sources close to the South Eeast zonal office of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for instance, told The Guardian that none of the three governors produced on the party’s platform was free of election-related challenges, a situation that has discouraged them from convening a meeting or electing a chairman for the forum.
“Here in Enugu, all is not well despite the confidence being exuded by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, because Senator Ayogu Eze has continued to rebuff the entreaties of elders and influential stakeholders from Nsukka cultural zone on him to drop his pre-election matter in the court,” they said.
In Ebonyi, Governor David Umahi is facing a pre-election matter relating to his nomination as former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu is challenging the primary election that produced Umahi. The case is currently at the Court of Appeal,” they added.
While expressing the fear that the situation in Abia State may further jeopardise the troubled position of the party in the zone, the PDP chieftain, who hails from Anambra State pointed out that the culture of impunity and imposition had come to hurt the party drastically now.
“All these make it improbable for any governor to start championing the idea of reconstructing the Southeast Governors Forum,” he added, stressing that although Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State seemed to be free from election hangover, his hands were full with domestic problems.
Meanwhile, despite talks about the forum in the media, some stakeholders in the South East yesterday passed a vote of no confidence in the forum, insisting that 16 years after it was instituted, it had made no positive impact on the lives of the people of the geo-political zone.
In separate interviews with The Guardian in Enugu, some Igbo stakeholders said the forum had nothing to do with the people of the South East, as issues confronting the zone before the return of civil rule in 1999 were still prevalent 16 years after.
observed that the forum had not been effective on the development of the zone, stressing that they had not been able to forge a common agenda that could ultimately benefit the people.
“Igboland is bigger than any single individual and when a forum like this is forged, the hope is that it will be for common good. But so far , they have not been able to carry Ndigbo along and forge a leadership acceptable to all. They still see Ohanaeze as a rival instead of partner in the effort to develop Igbo land.
So we want a forum that can pursue Igbo interests both here in the five states of the South-East, South-South and Middle Belt where Igbos are residing”, Nworgu said.
The former National Chairman of the Justice Party (JP), Chief Ralph Obioha said: “That forum has not made any meaningful impact. The coming together was to facilitate development. But they have failed woefully in initiating the development of the zone. Many moribund industries that litter the South-East which ordinarily should generate employment and boost the economy of the zone if attention were given to them still lie unattended to. Look at Nigercem factory in Nkalagu, Golden Guinea Breweries, the Presidential Hotel, Ceramics Industry in Umuahia, Ikenga Hotel, Niger gas and Niger steel and even the Premier Breweries among many others.
“These are industries that functioned in the past that the forum should have found answers to and there is no particular thing you can point at that they have achieved.The forum is not proactive. Two items, palm oil and cashew are cash crops that, if exploited properly will impact on the zone.
“If you go to the West for instance, some of the old legacies, which their governments inherited have been revived and are now yielding revenues.
“The governors of south east have not been able to summon courage to take leadership position in Igbo land; there is total degradation of our school system, rampant kidnappings and what have you. So I strongly feel that since they decided to come together, they should find ways of putting resources together for the good of the zone”, he said.
Also, Enugu State chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Ben Nwoye who queried the rationale for the gathering said: “They have made no impact or we won’t have the Aba-Port Harcourt Road, Onitsha –Enugu and Owerri -Aba roads in the terrible shapes they are in.
“Members of a forum like that should complement each other; they should find a way of coming together to pull resources to sustain the zone.
“They should know that since Ebonyi has vast rice producing areas, Aba noted for textiles, they should specialise in these areas and people of the zone should patronise their products among others.”
According to Nwoye, with the drop in oil revenue, there is the need for the governors to put resources in ventures that could transform lives rather than what is currently obtainable in the zone. (The Guardian)