Leaders of various Niger Delta groups under the umbrella platform, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) rising from a meeting at the Banquet Hall of Government House in Uyo, AkwaIbom State have, again, insisted on the restructuring of the country as the only solution to the plethora of problems, even as the Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar spoke in the same vein, promising to restructure the country if voted into power.
Abubakar who addressed the PANDEF convention through his running mate, Dr. Peter Obi, maintained that restructuring the country was the only way to go to ensure the rapid and sustainable development of the states in particular and the country at large.
He said: ‘I am only joining to say that we need true federalism and we need it urgently. It will make Nigeria work. There is no country in the world that things are working as it is working in Nigeria. We must tell our leader the truth and we must demand that the do the right thing.
‘’Niger Delta is where the resources are and when you travel around, you are not able to see anything on ground. We are committed to building a better Nigeria. We will focus on turning things around and we will be governed by the rule of law’’
He accused the federal government of using security agencies to aid bad deeds, listing AkwaIbom and Rivers as states on the frontline of crisis. He added, “and nobody is talking and when you talk you become an enemy’’.
Governor Udom Emmanuel in his remarks noted that the country must be restructured so as to solve the mirage of problem bedeviling it.
He said: ‘’We want the country to have true federalism so that we will not have all these problems we are having. If we have a state police, it will be more law abiding.
They are using this restructuring to intimidate us in the Niger Delta. Everything is about politics. This 2019 election will come and go. Everything is now based on partisanship. It should not be. Even though they have sounded the drum of war, this state is still the most peaceful in the country’’.
Leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark expressed confidence in the candidacy of Abubakar and stated that there was no going back on his support for him as he has what it takes to preside over the affairs of the country.
‘’There is no going back on our support which is informed by the fact that some of the ideals which you stand for are what we believe and insist upon. These ideals that are founded on the objectives of building a new Nigeria.
‘’Our expectation is that your government after winning the election will mainstream the Niger Delta and its people in your masterplan for the socio-economic progress of our country.
Clark equally commended the Akwa Ibom governor for his performances noting, ‘’those who do not seem to appreciate you are only chasing the shadows ‘’ and urged him to be rest assured that the people of the region were strongly behind him.
Clark also expressed worries at what he described as increasing trend of desecrating national institutions, particularly the Army and Police by using them for political gains, noting that certain persons in the political class have continued to drag the Police to become surrogates in achieving their nefarious political ends.
‘’That is why in a place like Bayelsa State, eight Commissioners of Police have been posted and reposted in a matter of three months. In Akwa Ibom state, we have continued to see that the role which the Police is playing in being overtly partisan. In Ekiti and Osun elections, we all saw how men of the Nigeria Police were being openly used to intimidate political opponents and in some cases, directly perpetuating acts which by all standards violate every existing electoral law’’, he said.
While welcoming delegates, National Chairman of PANDEF, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga warned that the region would not vote for any candidate that does not supporting restructuring, noting that the forum was working in tandem with other regional bodies to ensure that the best was achieved for the country.
‘’Whether you are PDP, APC or APGA, if your candidate does not believe in restructuring, we will not vote for you in Niger Delta. We want to see the timeline and anybody who does not believe in restructuring wants to reap where he did not sow. I believe every region has something to live on,’’ he said.
He added, “With what is happening today in Nigeria, the Niger Delta is very much involved. The suffering is more in Niger Delta, because of our contribution to the economy of Nigeria, it is where the Niger Delta goes that the nation should go.”
Nkanga accused the federal government of foot dragging on the 16-point agenda affecting the Niger Delta agreed upon with the government.