Being text of remarks by His Excellency, Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, at the General Meeting of South-South People’s Assembly (SSPA), held at Protea Hotel, Warri, on 6th September, 2012.
It gives me immense pleasure to host this august gathering of prominent statesmen and women of the South-south zone under the aegis of South-South Peoples Assembly (SSPA). SSPA led by the towering and indomitable Chief Edwin Clark, whose list of accomplishments spans many pages, has become a redoubtable forum for the people of the zone.
Since your founding, the SSPA has not been afraid to take a firm position on any issue as it affects the zone or indeed the country. SSPA has become the voice for the people of the zone. For your steadfastness in standing with the people of the zone, by not betraying the people of the zone, I especially salute you all.
I am truly delighted that this meeting has been called at this point in time. The South-South zone appeared for some time now to have gone quiet, some might even say, the zone appeared to have lost its voice.
Across the country there is an increasing concern by our well-wishers and observers that the zone is no longer on the frontline of national discussion as used to be the case in the recent past. What I hear those voices say is that, the South-South Zone appears to have retreated from providing the intellectual leadership that it is noted for.
My opinion is that such notions are not correct.
We could not have lost our voices. Nor could we have abandoned the robust engagement we have often provided. It is therefore a happy occasion that we are having this session here to prove to the world that the zone has not lost its energy, consistency of principles and unity of purpose.
It is, I am sure, not a coincidence that this meeting is taking place now. Recent developments in the country warrant that we step forward and put forward our position as strongly as we have always done.
Nigeria needs to hear our voices and be clear about our position.
Today in Nigeria several challenges assail the country, but I want to touch on two very briefly. First is the issue of insecurity and violence in some parts of the country. My position is that while violence should be deplored in the strongest term possible, as it can hardly yield any positive dividend, we should lend in every possible way our support to the efforts of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to bring peace and stability to the affected areas. It is obvious that there are some people who do not wish to see a united, prosperous and strong Nigeria.
Our task therefore is to deny them the fruit of their ambition.
Nigeria shall remain a strong and indivisible union under God, built on the foundation of peace and justice.
It is this theme of justice that brings me to the second issue I want to touch upon. In recent times, for some reasons we have noticed some obvious attempts being made to reverse the settled issue of the abrogation of on-shore/off-shore dichotomy in revenue sharing formula.
In a democracy free speech is guaranteed and it is not in my position to demand that we ignore this central foundation of a civilised system; however, I worry when some leaders overlook the obligation placed upon them in not applying restrain in the position they take, such as on this issue of derivation.
I say so because, the tension and crisis over derivation, in particular over on-shore/off-shore dichotomy, is too recent in our collective memory to be reopened by anyone for debate.
The fear in many quarters is that if they succeed in reopening and reversing this settled issue, then we can be sure that before long they will ask for reduction of 13 per cent derivation.
Where is the justice? I ask.
I say to all those agitating for reversal of onshore/offshore dichotomy, drop it. Drop it because it is a move that will do the country no good.
Now let us not forget that the South-South zone has long demanded that even the 13 per cent derivation is terribly insufficient to address the neglect and environmental damage to the soil, water and vegetation of the zone. Let us remember that at various times, the zone has asked for a return to first principle of derivation, which is a return to 50 per cent as was the case in the first republic.
I charge us not to relent in this demand
I know SSPA stands for the unity of this country, I urge you to continue to use your wisdom, connection and experience to work for the peace and unity of Nigeria.
For us to come out boldly in strong support for our President and the unity of this country, we must be united back home. I am happy that today, we have a more united SSPA. However, we must not ignore the ethnic grumblings going on in the South-South. All the ethnic groups big or small must be given a sense of belonging, accommodation and protection. All the inter-state disagreements must also be carefully dealt with. I want to implore the SSPA at this juncture to urgently intervene in the current disagreement between Cross-Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states over oil wells before it degenerates further.
At the Governors level, we are doing everything possible to live in unity. We need your strong support and fatherly advice.
Finally, let .me remind all of us again that for the first time, we have a President of Nigeria from the zone. It is true that President Jonathan was elected by Nigerians across the six geo-political zones to govern the country; this is clearly a sign that the South-South zone is accepted as an equal and significant part of this country.
He has come into office at a time the world economy is at its worst. All over the world, there is the problem of economic depression leading to very high rate of unemployment. This is made worse by the astronomical rise in our population. All these pose a big challenge to any leader. We must therefore be more rational and understanding in our criticism. .
His job is not an easy one, I ask you to continue to give him the support in every way possible to succeed. His success is our success.
Our people say that whatever name you give to your cloth will determine what others call the cloth. Let us give ours the best names.
I wish you happy deliberation.