• Clark, Oyegun, Dickson lead onslaught
From ADE ALADE, Abuja
At a time the North and the South eastern parts of Nigeria have intensified their campaign to have the nation’s number one political seat conceded to their region in 2015, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan appears bent on having another shot at the highly coveted position, as a couple of his undisputable allies have begun a discreet move to actualise the project.
Towards this quiet but steady move, notable Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, former Edo State governor, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and the current governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Edward Dickson, have, in recent weeks, been working hard to build a strong South South regional campaign for a retention of the presidential seat in the zone in the next election. The campaign, which is billed to go full blast before the end of this year, will start with the General Assembly of the South South Peoples Assembly, SSPA billed to hold soon.
Oyegun as national chairman is currently leading the body, which is still putting its house in order. Saturday Sun gathered that efforts to provide a common front and voice for the South South region under SSPA have been intense in the last two months. When asked about the agenda, Oyegun confirmed the development, but denied it was for the sole aim of campaigning for Jonathan’s second term bid. According to him, “that’s not strictly so, but of course we think that a lot of what is going on in the country has not been fair to Jonathan and we think that we too have been part of the problem because we have not stood up enough, both to support him and to guide him. And that’s what we are trying to do a little bit more forcefully now.
But I have nothing to do with second term. Second term is for an institution and that’s for the PDP. We are not PDP as a group. Individuals are PDP and no other party but we are not as a group. And when President Jonathan makes up his mind whether or not to contest, when the PDP decides whether he will or he will not be their candidate, then things will fall into place.” Saturday Sun gathered that the decision to use the SSPA to launch President Jonathan’s second term bid was suggested by Chief Clark, who has never hidden his support for another term for the president because the group, from its inception, has remained in the forefront of the campaign for a South South president until about two years ago when the Ijaw leader led a faction to break away from the main body led by Chief Raymond Dokpesi.
While Oyegun led the Clark faction, the Dokpesi group was led by himself and Senator Aniete Okon. The last two months have however, witnessed frantic efforts to reconcile the factions and make the group ready for the Jonathan’s project. Some progress was made on Friday, September 28, 2012 when the factions at a harmonisation meeting held at Grand Hotel, Asaba, Delta State agreed to allow Oyegun emerge as Chairman but failed to agree on which faction will produce the secretary. The stalemate notwithstanding, Saturday Sun learnt that funds were being mobilised by some state governors from the region and the presidency to enable the body engage in various activities that will increase its public showing and visibility, with a view to properly position it for the second term campaign.
To explain this, Oyegun said: “I have been the national chairman for years and we are not just returning; we have always been there. We have been visible; it’s just that there has been internal division as a result of which we have been operating under the canopy of South South leaders and elders’ forum. But now, we decided to return to the name that everybody knows, SSPA brings all groups in the South South together for unity and that process is ongoing but we have always been.” He however confirmed that several activities have been lined up for the SSPA, including a General Assembly but failed to say for which purpose.
“You just watch out; we are already working and you will see the signs with everyday that passes. We are going to hold a general assembly soon. We will have that within the next two or three months,” he stressed. As part of efforts to smoothen the path for President Jonathan’s return in 2015, Governor Dickson has not only limited his resources and efforts towards bringing the region together, as a stable and united entity, he has equally been reaching out to prominent leaders across other geo-political zones through courtesy visits.
Saturday Sun gathered that one of such visits has been tentatively scheduled for Lagos, where the governor is expected to confer with former governor of the state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is the national leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, which controls five states in the South West zone and Edo State in the South South, in addition to a large number of federal lawmakers in the National Assembly spread across all the six geo-political zones of the country.
One of Governor Dickson’s top aides, who will not want to be named, confirmed the planned visit, stressing “I am aware there is a pending visit to Senator Tinubu but where and for what purpose is what I cannot tell you because I don’t have such details as we speak.”