The PANDEF chal­lenge and the 16-Point Agenda

Daily Trust - - PHOTO NEWS -

In the wake of the cease­less and ru­inous at­tacks on na­tional oil and gas as­sets by the nu­mer­ous Niger Delta armed groups, the Ag Pres­i­dent, Pro­fes­sor Yemi Os­in­bajo had em­barked on whis­tle states­man­ship dur­ing which he vis­ited the var­i­ous states in the re­gion to af­firm the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to di­a­logue to re­solve all thorny is­sues mil­i­tat­ing against peace­ful and pros­per­ous life among the peo­ple. Aris­ing from that, the var­i­ous Niger Delta groups de­cided to con­sol­i­date into one plat­form that rep­re­sents all shades of opin­ion and sit at the ta­ble with one voice to ne­go­ti­ate for a bet­ter life with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Hence, they formed the Pan Niger Delta Fo­rum (PANDEF) for this pur­pose and drew up a 16-point agenda they want the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to im­ple­ment.

Well, the Pan Niger Delta Fo­rum (PANDEF) is in the news again. Last week, the Fo­rum, co­or­di­nated by the former Fed­eral Com­mis­sioner for In­for­ma­tion, Chief Edwin Ki­ag­bodo Clark, is­sued an ul­ti­ma­tum to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to wit: “If at the ex­pi­ra­tion of Novem­ber 1, 2017, ul­ti­ma­tum, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment ei­ther fails or re­fuses to ac­cede to these law­ful and le­git­i­mate de­mands of the Niger Delta peo­ple, PANDEF may con­sider pulling out of the peace process in the Niger Delta.” At about the same time, yet an­other mush­room group, the Niger Delta Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Cru­saders (NDRC) handed out a threat to re­sume the de­struc­tion of na­tional oil and gas as­sets, claim­ing that “re­source con­trol, fis­cal fed­er­al­ism and de­vo­lu­tion of pow­ers are the only panacea” to our na­tional prob­lems.

From all in­di­ca­tions, PANDEF will con­tinue to have prob­lems with its spon­sors if it ever imag­ines that this gov­ern­ment will im­ple­ment its su­per­flu­ous 16-point agenda any time soon. PANDEF’s heav­ily loaded agenda in­cludes some mat­ters as sim­ple as the con­tin­u­a­tion of the Pres­i­den­tial amnesty and the in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of such life­time thing as fis­cal fed­er­al­ism. In be­tween, PANDEF wants the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to en­sure the im­me­di­ate take off of the Nige­ria Mar­itime Univer­sity in Ok­erenkoko which land the Jonathan gov­ern­ment bought from Gov­ern­ment Ep­kemupolo alias Tom­polo for bil­lions of Naira; the erec­tion of a deep sea­port in Gbara­mantu; the de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion of Niger Delta; the re­sump­tion of the es­tab­lish­ment of Ex­port Pro­cess­ing Zone com­pris­ing of Gas City project at Ogidig­ben (re­call that Good­luck Jonathan flagged off the project af­ter three false starts ow­ing to Tom­polo’s state­ment that he couldn’t guar­an­tee the Pres­i­dent’s se­cu­rity); progress in Ogoni clean up and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion; in­clu­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion (of Niger Delta peo­ple) in oil in­dus­try and own­er­ship of oil blocks; build­ing re­gional in­fras­truc­ture; reg­u­lar power sup­ply; re­struc­tur­ing and fund­ing of the Niger Delta Devel­op­ment Com­mis­sion (NDDC); en­force­ment of law/jus­tice; se­cu­rity sur­veil­lance and pro­tec­tion of oil and gas in­fras­truc­ture; ame­lio­ra­tion of the plight of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons; eco­nomic devel­op­ment and em­pow­er­ment of the peo­ple of Niger Delta and re­set­tle­ment of Bakassi in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple.

Of course, there was no such agenda when Dr Good­luck Jonathan was the Pres­i­dent, these de­mands only cropped up when, con­trary to all ex­pec­ta­tions, Muham­madu Buhari floored Jonathan in the 2015 elec­tion. Nei­ther were the ac­tors dif­fer­ent; ac­tu­ally, Edwin Clark was Pres­i­dent Jonathan’s well known God­fa­ther, but in­stead of de­liv­er­ing pros­per­ity to the peo­ple of Niger Delta, he cor­nered it for him­self. Chief Osita Okechukwu, the Direc­tor Gen­eral of the Voice of Nige­ria, was one of the nu­mer­ous Nige­ri­ans miffed by the ul­ti­ma­tum that Chief Clark is­sued Nige­ria. Ac­cord­ing to Okechukwu, Chief Clark “started build­ing a univer­sity, mar­ried a new wife and was en­joy­ing him­self with­out show­ing se­ri­ous­ness in mat­ters af­fect­ing the re­gion (Niger Delta) and its peo­ple.” Yet, Clark is now fully back as the lead ne­go­tia­tor for a good deal for the peo­ple of his re­gion.

Chief Clark’s co­or­di­na­tion of PANDEF, among other things, af­fords him the op­por­tu­nity to blame the North for his peo­ple’s mis­for­tune. In­stead of con­fin­ing him­self to their 16-point agenda, Clark re­turned with an acer­bic punch aimed at North­ern Nige­ria. Hear him: “Sud­denly, the word ‘Re­struc­tur­ing’ has be­come a pain in the ears of a few cham­pi­ons of wicked hege­mony. All we are say­ing, let us go back to the ne­go­ti­ated 1960 In­de­pen­dence Con­sti­tu­tion…. any­thing else is most ob­nox­ious and to­tally un­ac­cept­able to the peo­ple of the en­tire South­ern Nige­ria and Mid­dle Belt ar­eas of Nige­ria.” Does PANDEF now in­clude Mid­dle Belt? Is PANDEF now a plat­form for en­tire South­ern Nige­ria?

Con­tin­u­ing his lamen­ta­tions, Clark de­cided to drop off the gloves and went straight for his ad­ver­saries: “You can there­fore un­der­stand why some North­ern el­e­ments are con­stantly op­posed to any in­crease in the deriva­tion for­mula of 13 per cent…..it is on record that dur­ing the 2014 na­tional con­fer­ence, prom­i­nent North­ern del­e­gates, again, op­posed the in­crease of deriva­tion rev­enue from 13 per cent to 25 per cent…..some North­ern del­e­gates were op­posed to it be­cause Kano and Kaduna were not in­cluded.

Ev­i­dently, some of the items on the 16-point agenda are re­solv­able in the short term, while others will take a longer time to ad­dress. Chief Clark and his as­so­ciates need to over­come their cyn­i­cism, they need to sign off from po­lit­i­cal at­tacks on other peo­ple and, in­stead, go into earnest ne­go­ti­a­tion with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing their de­mands. Every pa­tri­otic Nige­rian is de­sirous of a peace­ful and pros­per­ous life that may re­sult from a ne­go­ti­ated so­lu­tion to the prob­lems in Niger Delta. How­ever, to achieve this, Chief Clark should put his per­sonal in­ter­est aside, stop is­su­ing mean­ing­less ul­ti­ma­tums, quit the blame game and face his 16-point agenda squarely. There is no need for con­tin­u­ing blus­ter, we all have a stake in the coun­try and want it to work for ev­ery­one.

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