PANDEF RESTRUCTURING SUMMIT :Four regions agree, two sitting on the fence
We’ll stop oil flow if FG doesn’t take the right step – IJAW YOUTH
Revisit 2014 National Conference Report- Ex-President Jonathan
By Emma Amaize Regional Editor South South, Sam Oyadongha and Emem Idio
FOUR of the country’s six geo-political zones namely South-South, South-East, South-West and North Central regions have finally taken a common position that the structure of the country be altered for a new beginning, admonishing President Muhammadu Buhari and current leaders of the country to respect the voice of the people.
The regions symbolized by the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF (South-South), Ohaneze Ndigbo (South-East) , pan Yoruba group, Afenifere (South-West) and Middle Belt Forum (North Central) stated their stand unambiguously at the mega rally on “Restructuring the Nigerian Federation” organized by PANDEF at Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa state, last weekend.
Two others, North East and North West are still undecided on the matter, but former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was the special guest of honour at the event, entreated Nigerians to closely study the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference with a view to finding a common ground in resolving issues agitating the people.
The mega rally, clearly the biggest summit of four regions, had in attendance former Secretary to the Federal Government, SFG, Chief Olu Falae, former Federal Commissioner for Information and PANDEF Convener, Senator Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, Yoruba leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ohaneze Ndigbo leader, Chief John Nwodo, Middle Belt leader, Dr Bala Takaya, former Minister from the South-South region, Alabo Graham Douglas and former governor of old Rivers state, HRM King Alfred Diete-Spiff.
Newly inaugurated Chairman of PANDEF and former military administrator of Akwa Ibom state, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd), former Minister and South-East leader, Dr Walter Ofonagoro, Co-Chairman of the Central Planning Committee of the rally, Prof Godini Darah, his Co-Chairman and top PANDEF leader, Ambassador Godknows Igali, former governor of Ondo state, Olusegun Mimiko, Senator Jonah Jang from Middle Belt, former Deputy Governor, Delta state, Prof Amos Utuama, erstwhile Deputy Governor, Akwa Ibom state, Engr Chris Ekpenyong, Senator Stella Omu, Prof Faji Akintoye and Senator Ewa Henshaw graced the occasion.
The grand pavilion of the Ox Bowl Lake, Yenagoa, and venue of the summit was visibly overstretched and security operatives had a hectic time controlling the crowd.
Saturday Vanguard reliably learned that the leaders from the four geo-graphical zones met the previous night at a location in Yenagoa where they harmonized their views before the rally.
Darah’s steals a look
Co-Chairman of the Central Planning Committee of the summit, Prof Darah, gave a peep into what later unfolded in the day in his welcome address when he said it was “a festival of unity and restoration of federalism in Nigeria” as well as a follow up to an earlier summit organized by the South-west zone in Ibadan, last year.
Why we want restructuring – Clark
National Leader of PANDEF, Senator Clark adumbrated further: “The purpose of this rally is for us to manage our own resources and if the Governor of Bayelsa state as a federating unit of Nigeria is allowed to manage its own resources, what we are seeing in Yenagoa today would be different. There will be more improvement and that is why we are gathering today. The gathering today is the greatest gathering of the people of four regions in one place.”
“What are we fighting for? – restructuring. We want quality in this country, we want to feel that we are all members of this society, a situation whereby the resources I have in my backyard are been mismanaged by others and they feel that I should be thankful to them for the privileged they have given to me, I will never allow it and that is the purpose of our gathering. We must trust ourselves, no more going back, nobody should chicken out, nobody is more important than us in this country, we are all equal,” he said
Ohaneze leader clears doubt
If there was any vagueness at the purpose of the assembly, president general of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief Nwodo, diffused it in his powerful oration.
“We have come here to dramatize the solidarity of the people of southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt of Nigeria in the call for a new structure of Nigeria based on equity and principles of federalism. Why do we want restructuring? For young people who have come here, I want you to be the apostles of this principle, which is why I am asking this question like a teacher would ask in the class and I will help you to answer it. We want restructuring because every country is moving forward but our country s moving backwards, the reason I say this is as follows:
“Let me first talk about unity, the essence of a federation is to crystallize unity of the federating units. When I was a young boy, growing up in Enugu, in the early sixties, I was privileged to watch a campaign in Enugu, it was a campaign for who would become the mayor of Enugu municipality. It was done by adult suffrage, that means one man one vote, so long as you were above 18. The parties fielded candidates, the NCNC which was in power in Eastern Nigeria fielded a Katsina man called Umaru Altini to run for mayor of Enugu municipality, and he beat an Igbo man who was fielded by Action Group, AG. That was unity in practice.
“In western Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and the coalition of Ibadan Kparapor stood for election into the western House of assembly, they won majority of legislators and Dr Azikiwe, an Onitsha man would have become Premier of Western Nigeria but for carpet crossing. In Lagos, Mbonu Ejike was Deputy Speaker of the House. As we grew up in Enugu, I saw the Accountant General of The Federation, a Yoruba man who was a civil servant but working in eastern Nigeria government and reaching the point of an accountant general. There was a time in the Northern House of Chiefs that an Igbo man was a member of the House of Chiefs, it was when Nigeria was united, but we no longer are united,” he asserted.
Nwodo added: “Today, Nigerians are killing Nigerians everywhere. In Ondo, they nearly murdered the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation in his own farm. In Benue, they are killing them day by day. In Plateau; they are butchering them day by day, in Enugu they came to Uzuwani Local Government and they killed 100 people. In Agatu in Benue state, they killed 500 people. It has never been this bad. That is why we want restructuring.”
Benefits of restructuring
“When you restructure, you have domestic police, your state will make laws for the good governance of your state and any herds man coming here will only come in the condition of the state government, in the same way our people going to any other part of Nigeria will go on the terms of the government of that state, that promotes a more peaceful society.
“Sometimes my friends in northern Nigeria tell me that I support restructuring because we in the south want to perpetrate monopoly of oil so that they will not have access to oil money. Well, at the end of the war, they overthrew our constitution and threw away the constitution negotiated by Nigeria in 1963 and they brought us a unitary system, and they took the oil and distributed it according to local government and state, which they created as they like and Oloibiri, the first oil well in Nigeria, it’s states has only eight local government areas, but some other people who have no oil have forty something local governments.
“And the local governments get the same share as the eight local governments get here for each local government, is that unity? Is that equity? We were only reminded a few days ago that our development was so concentrated on mortar and bricks and disregarding human capital development and health.
“When I sat entrance for the University of Ibadan, my people didn’t know anybody in Ibadan, 79 of us were admitted to the Faculty of social sciences, and our names were published in Daily Times according to the other of merit. When I got there, I stood for election as president of the student union government and the Yoruba students were 65 percent of the population of the university, but I won because Nigeria was restructured.” he said.
The Igbo leader stated: “If my generation dies leaving our children without seeing the kind of society we saw and grew up in, we are failed fathers, what we have come to tell you today is: This struggle requires everyone’s hands on deck. The peace we have in our country is an uneasy peace; it cannot be a well grounded peace until we are all happy and count to be equal members in the federal republic of Nigeria.”
Afenifere came to celebrate – Adebanjo
Afenifere leader, Chief Adebanjo was emphatic in his speech: “Afenifere is here, not to join people to ask for restructuring, we have come here to celebrate that the battle we started since 1954 and people were mocking us, telling us to be separatists, regionalists, tribalists, all sort of names. See what creation has done for Bayelsa state, see what Dickson has done. If there had been no creation of states, if there were no recognition of minorities, would you have it?
“When we were going to the London Constitutional Conference in 1954, the leaders of the parties in the country then except chief Awolowo did not believe that you minorities existed; it was Chief Awolowo who insisted that there were minorities here. I want you, Bayelsa to listen. Afenifere is not here to come and campaign. Afenifere – we have come here to celebrate that the battle that we carried on over the years has bore fruits. When we were going to the London Constitutional Conference no other political parties allowed representation from the minorities.
“The Eastern region, the Northern region, they didn’t regard any minorities there; it was chief Awolowo who put forward the minorities in the western Nigeria delegation in London; the Tarkas from the Middle Belt and Briggs from Rivers and all other minorities who represented Nigeria at that time. It was then that the colonial government was convinced that they were minorities when others said they were not. It is that decision that gave rise to the Wilinks Commission of inquiry as to the minorities in Nigeria, thereby the creation of states started, and we thank God for His mercies.
“Now, we have achieved what we wanted. But some rascals drew us back in 1966, it was the basis of this federalism that we got the independence, but when the rascals came in 1966, they reverted the situation and took us back and when they decided to go in 1998, we now said gentlemen, you are military officers, you forced yourself on us and you force a unitary constitution on us, send us to where we were, which is federalism. This is the beginning of restructuring, because the military restructured Nigeria without restructuring back to federalism,” he said.
Those who want to break Nigeria
His words: “The question I always ask Buhari, he cannot be more northerner than the Saurdana. Saurdana, Azikiwe and Awolowo, who gave us federalism and we say send us back there. If anybody doubts about what is restructuring, that is what it means; it means send us back to the constitution under which we had independence. If anybody doesn’t want to cheat, if anybody doesn’t want to cause confusion, they should do that for us, simple so that everybody can have equity.”
“We are not asking for anything unusual, if everybody believes in equity, peace, and unity of this country, that is the definition of restructuring, nobody should confuse anybody by saying that restructuring is breaking the country. That is deceit and propaganda. Anybody who doesn’t want restructuring is the man who wants to break the country.
“If Buhari and APC are opposed to restructuring, they are the people who want to break Nigeria and we will not stand under a constitution written by the military and by a section of the country, not in my lifetime,” he pointed out.
Send IGP after herdsmen
Adebanjo stated: “All that has been happening is because we are under an oppressive government. I accused the government of aiding and abetting the herdsmen to kill us and I mean it. I don’t want Femi Adesina to come and make a release that this is not true. What the President should do to refute my accusation- he should declare the cattle rearers a terrorist organization, why? How many people did IPOB kill before he declared them a terrorist organization? Here is an organization that has been killing and raping over the country. Should there be some hesitation about that? That is to refute my allegation they are condoning the action of terrorism in the country.”
“If the killings had been addressed seriously, there would be no problem disarming the herdsmen. They don’t rear cattle with AK 47 rifle. The President should declare immediately that the people must be disarmed. He should send the IGP after the cattle rearers that anybody with arms should be arrested.
“ Buhari is the President of Nigeria and is not the President of Katsina. The governor of Benue state, Ortom, produced a letter written to him by the cattle rearers, that they were coming to invade his territory, that they should leave that place for them. Those people are known, and they are not unknown. We have the IGP; we have the DSS, for Buhari as the President of this country, who does not aid cattle rearers in destroying us, he should send the IGP to those who wrote that letter, get them arrested and then prosecute them and until he does that, many people will continue to say that he is aiding and abetting them,” he continued.
Battle for the youth
“I come back to you youths, this battle will not be fought with pen and paper. The battle is for you and not people who are ninety, not for E K Clark or for those of us who are old. We are there reminding you of your rights, to get the right things done for uour country, you youths must be up and doing and in this connection, I congratulate you youths from the Niger Delta and the South East. They are now saying they are going to do restructuring and his party, if it is not for propaganda for election, let them do restructuring before 2019.”
Restructuring- concluded affair in Middle Belt – Takaya
Middle Belt leader, Dr. Takaya, told the gathering: “I bring you greetings from the Middle Belt community and in bringing you greetings; they want me to pass one message that the issue of restructuring is a foregone conclusion as far as the Middle Belt community is concerned.”
“On restructuring we stand. They also want me to make a reminder, that in coming here that I should remind you that I, their son, they are sending me home because there is a lot that is common between the Middle Belt and the people of the South- South in general. They call us minorities in the Middle Belt; they call you minorities in the South. Are we really minorities? Numerically we are superior. If we are not minorities lets show it in ballot box, let’s show it in our movement for restructuring Nigeria.
“We are also the backbone of unity of Nigeria, physically it is God that has planned it that way, without the Middle Belt, the north and the south cannot unite and without the South South the east and the west cannot unite, so we are the glue that holds Nigeria. With this common heritage that is natural, let us rise to our responsibilities ad makes sure that we turn Nigeria around and change the paradigm of Nigeria politics once and for all. Let’s get up on our feet.
“When we fought the civil war, the Middle Belt, and the South South fought to keep Nigeria because we love our brothers and we wanted to put this message across in action and till today, we love Nigeria, we do not wish a situation where any ethnic group in Nigeria will break away from Nigeria, that was what we fought for and we wanted to make sure that the unity and brotherhood continues. There may be mistakes that were made by officers and groups during the war but that is the character of war, you cannot predict all parts of it but may God forgive us and may we forgive one another.
“From now on, our request is, remember the Middle Belt and the South South are the same people, the Middle Belt and the South South are the glue that binds Nigeria and the Middle Belt loves every corner of Nigeria and will not want to part friendship with neither the west nor the east. Certainly also, we are not against the north, that is our position from the Middle Belt,” Takaya said.
Revisit 2014 national conference
Ex-President Jonathan represented by Senator Nimi Amange said:.”I convened the 2014 National Conference as my own answer to that national yearning I always explain to people that in convening the confab, I had my mind trained on establishing a polity that would work for our people and further unite our country, one that would close the gap along tribal, ethnic or religious line.”
“It seems that until we come up with a more generally acceptable way of running our Republic, there is likelihood that our nation will continue to witness agitation and protests from groups and individuals. The goal of the 500 member confab made up of the young and old diverse people from all walks of life and representatives of all interest groups in our country was to thoroughly and truly discussed and to agree on every issue that have agitated the minds of Nigerians on how best to run the federation.
“It is a confirmation of the fact that the 2014 confab report needs to be looked into, I believed the confab report contains recommendation that provides recommendations to most of those questions that agitate the minds of Nigerians today. I am delighted that the forum like this one and many others appeal to further focused attention to those issues that have been comprehensively covered in that report,” he declared.
Restructuring only way to go- Gov Dickson
Also speaking, Bayesla state governor, Seriake Dickson, in his address noted that only restructuring would guarantee the development, unity and peaceful coexistence of the country, insisting that those championing the cause of restructuring were the patriots and true believers in the Nigerian project.
He emphasized the need for consensus building to foster better understanding on the issue and convince opponents of restructuring, noting that no amount of military intimidation, blackmail and wanting killings would suppress the agitations for resource control, environmental justice, equity and proper federalism generally.
His words: “We are the real lovers and believers of the Nigerian project and no intimidation or blackmail should sway us to abandon this cause, our nation is crying for justice, freedom and prosperity and unity. Unity that is sustainable and founded on justice, and so in this assembly we are here as brothers and sisters.”
“People who are far away may just talk of restructuring as a slogan or as an ideal, here in this state and in this region, we feel, the pains of it, we live with it and we have lived with it for decades and so when there is a call to reorganize our country and make it more stable, equitable, just and more prosperous, we in Bayelsa state are totally in support of that.
“We thank and appreciate you, we urge you to sensitize our elected leaders in the National Assembly and States Houses of Assembly and leaders of opinion so that we can all form a united front to push for appropriate constitutional front that can bring about the restructuring we are talking about.
“Here we live with degradation of our environment, here we produce resources from under our feet and people stay in Abuja and Lagos and other capitals of the world and apportion it the way they like and call it oil blocks and give them to whoever pleases them. I have said it over and over again that what they sit down in Abuja and call oil blocks are in fact and in truth the historical and ancestral properties of the people of the Niger Delta.
“As a necessary element of restructuring, we are talking about the control of our resources, devolution of powers. When you hear about the killings that are going on, the answer to that is restructuring, so that you in your respective states would have the capacity to be responsible for your own internal security,” he said.
Let’s us go for alternative to restructuring- Dokubo-Asari
Former militant leader, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who raised the roof at Yenagoa, asserted: “I want to say that am going to say what a lot of people will not like. Our people should be given three options; we should do internal plebiscite, referendum on three key issues and these questions are: do you want to remain in Nigeria as it is? Do you want a restructured Nigeria? Or do you want like I want, a destroyed Nigeria?
“I am an Ijaw man; God did not create me a Nigerian, God never made a mistake when he made me an Ijaw man. If God wanted to make me a Nigerian he would have created me a Nigerian. So the choice is before us, every one of us that is seated here. I can see His Royal Majesty Alfred Diette Spiff, let HRM ask himself some questions, are you like those who were like you in 1967? Do you have the same access like they had to all offices of government? Even though you were a wonder governor, why should you be restricted to Bayelsa? It is because some people believe that we are mere appendages that this country does not belong to us, that they are giving us just a piece of it.
“We are strong and powerful, we are small but courageous and brave and anybody who attempts to subdue us will be subdued. What I believe is this, I want to ask Pa Clark a question. You were a minister in Gowon’s government, the same time with Olusegun Obasanjo. You were a senator. Do you have the same access to offices of government like your colleagues when you were serving in the same government?
If it is no, then there is nothing to restructure about Nigeria. If you have suffered with all your education, qualifications and all the titles attached to your name, who am I, to stand before all these people, the only way is what the good book says, the kingdom of God suffered violence and violence taketh it by force.
“The wise book also says, I saw slaves riding on horseback and princes walking on foot. That is what describes us aptly. My belief is this, when the enemy shall come like a flood against us, if you are going to be a standout against them please stand up and indicate it. We are going to stand up together shoulder to shoulder, hands to hands and we are going tell tyranny you cannot cross this line.
“Restructuring is good but they say they don’t want restructuring. Are we going to beg them for restructuring? So for me, let us look for other options and the only option is…..and the Urhobos, the Itsekiris, the Ijaws, the Tivs, will become themselves again.”
We’ll stop flow of oil if – IYC warns
Siding Dokubo-Asari, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, leader, Mr. Oweilaemi Pereturbo, said: “Our message here is clear, that we as a people have decided to encourage the Federal Government with the restructuring project, that is if and only they are sincere. If they are not sincere, I want to warn on behalf of Ijaw Youths Council and on behalf of the youths of the Niger Delta that if a group of politicians choose to play politics with restructuring, then Nigeria as a country would be history.
“We urge all Nigerians and politicians to be sincere about restructuring, if they choose to play politics with restructuring, we will stop the flow of oil from the Niger Delta to anywhere in the country, we have done it before and we will do it again. If politicians play politics with restructuring we will stop further siphoning of our oil to any part of the country, we will reduce oil production in Ijaw territory and the Niger Delta at large. We have done it before and we will do it again, no military might or military presence in the creeks can stop this.
“We are calling on the federal government to ensure that restructuring is a reality. For us as a people, the next round of election in 2019 is a referendum for the Ijaw and Niger Delta people,” he said.
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