IBADAN NEW MONAR­CHS: More Wor­ries Over In­creased Ex­pen­di­ture

• They Are A Few Un­e­d­u­cated Up­starts — Clark • We Have Lost Con­fi­dence In Our El­ders— Dion­goli

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE -

FOr­some time now, some tra­di­tional rulers in the Niger Delta area have in­ten­si­fied ef­forts to ef­fect a change in the lead­er­ship of the Pan Niger Delta Fo­rum (PANDEF). And over time, the strug­gle has be­come quite un­healthy.

Pre­cisely, th­ese tra­di­tional rulers want some PANDEF of­fi­cials re­moved, no­tably Chief Ed­win K. Clark, one of the most promi­nent Ijaw lead­ers, who is the con­vener of PANDEF, along­side other such South-south lead­ers as Obong Vic­tor At­tah, for­mer Gov­er­nor of Akwa Ibom State, and King Al­fred Di­ete-spiff, the Amanyan­abo of Brass, a for­mer mil­i­tary ad­min­is­tra­tor in Rivers State, who are the co-con­ven­ers of PANDEF.

PANDEF, as presently con­sti­tuted, is the only body man­dated to speak and ne­go­ti­ate on be­half of ag­i­ta­tors and South-south peo­ple.

Two weeks ago, a group of tra­di­tional rulers led by the para­mount ruler of Seibiri King­dom in Delta State, Chief Charles AyemiBotu, met in Warri along­side some ag­i­ta­tors drawn mainly from Delta and Bayelsa States to de­lib­er­ate on what they termed: ‘Mat­ters of ur­gent na­tional im­por­tance.’

They rose from the meet­ing after about four hours, with a dec­la­ra­tion that Chief E.K. Clark, King Al­fred Di­ete-spiff and other PANDEF lead­ers have been re­placed by a new ex­ec­u­tive, and as such, should no longer rep­re­sent or act on their be­half in any mat­ter.

In place of Chief Clark and oth­ers, the new group ap­pointed Chief Charles Ayemi-botu and Chief Mike Loy­ibo as co­or­di­na­tors, while His Royal Majesty Okpoitari Dion­goli the Ibe­daowei of Okpokuma King­dom was named chair­man, Strate­gic Com­mit­tee of the new body, which is now to be known as the Pan Niger Delta Peo­ple’s Congress (PANDPC).

The ag­i­ta­tors said Chief Clark and oth­ers have failed to pro­vide the type of lead­er­ship they re­quire, as they have failed to meet the yearn­ings and as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple of South-south re­gion as a whole. Hence, the ur­gent need for a change of ex­ec­u­tives and name of the body.

Ac­cord­ing to the new group, the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Chief Botu-led com­mit­tee two weeks ago in Warri has ef­fec­tively brought to an end the era of Chief E.K. Clark and other com­mit­tee mem­bers of PANDEF.

When Palace Watch con­tacted King Al­fred Di­ete-spiff on this mat­ter, he said: “I am hon­estly tired of be­ing in­sulted daily by peo­ple, who des­per­ately want power and po­si­tions. As far as I know, pub­lic ser­vice is about ser­vice. It is only the peo­ple that call upon the peo­ple they want to serve them; and not peo­ple forc­ing them­selves on peo­ple to serve, whether they like it or not.

“As far as I know, PANDEF and its ex­ec­u­tives are still in place. PANDEF Con­sti­tu­tion has been drafted and will be pre­sented for deli­bra­tion some­time in Septem­ber or early Oc­to­ber this year. Please ig­nore the un­in­formed state­ments from Charles Ayemi-botu and his men.”

Not done yet, Palace Watch con­tacted Chief Ed­win K. Clark, who took his time to ex­plain the ex­act sit­u­a­tion of things.

He said: “When young men and women from the Niger Delta Re­gion, who now go by the name of ag­i­ta­tors or mil­i­tants, were in the creeks van­dal­is­ing oil and gas pipe­lines along­side its plat­forms, as to be ex­pected, Nige­rian gov­ern­ment moved against them and started to at­tack them in what was then known as op­er­a­tion ‘Croc­o­dile Tears.’ “In a de­lib­er­ate ef­fort to halt the en­su­ing car­nage, I de­cided along­side some youths to form the Pan Niger Delta Fo­rum (PANDEF). Be­fore for­ma­tion of PANDEF, I called a meet­ing, which was well-pub­li­cised and at­tended at the Petroleum Train­ing In­sti­tute (PTI) in Warri. At that par­tic­u­lar meet­ing, I in­vited well over 600 peo­ple via the news­pa­pers and other news me­dia. Sur­pris­ingly, the PTI venue was filled to ca­pac­ity. The pub­lisher of This­day, Nduka Obaig­bena, Timi Alaibe and a host of other dig­ni­taries too nu­mer­ous to men­tion, along­side the gov­er­nor of Delta State were all present at that meet­ing.

“Be­fore this par­tic­u­lar meet­ing, so many or­gan­i­sa­tions had been formed by var­i­ous per­sons and in­ter­est groups. Even the present Min­is­ter of Trans­porta­tion, Ro­timi Amaechi, had his own group then. The sit­u­a­tion in Niger Delta was so bad, that even an ex­pa­tri­ate de­cided to ex­ploit the sit­u­a­tion and formed his own mil­i­tant group then. It was at that PTI meet­ing that I urged that we should col­lapse all th­ese groups into one for­mi­da­ble body. That was how PANDEF came into be­ing.

“On Novem­ber 1, 2016, I led a del­e­ga­tion of over 100 First Class and other tra­di­tional rulers, along­side politi­cians, for­mer min­is­ters and se­na­tors, to Aso Villa, where we met with Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari.

“The gath­er­ing was non-par­ti­san, as we had mem­bers of the rul­ing party APC, PDP and mem­bers of other po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the del­e­ga­tion. The pres­i­dent granted us au­di­ence and at that meet­ing, we pre­sented to him for con­sid­er­a­tion a 16-point agenda.

“The agenda in­cluded the mod­u­lar re­finer­ies is­sue, move­ment of IOC head­quar­ters to Niger Delta - I mean oil and gas com­pa­nies’ head­quar­ters to re­lo­cate to the Niger Delta Re­gion. In the submitted agenda, we in­sisted, for ex­am­ple, that Mo­bil head­quar­ters should be moved to Eket in Akwa Ibom State, while Shell should be moved to Port Har­court in Rivers State, Agip should move to Ye­nagoa in Bayelsa State, while Chevron should also be moved to Warri in Delta State. This was so that the peo­ple in th­ese ar­eas can ben­e­fit from the ac­tiv­i­ties and oper­a­tions of oil com­pa­nies.

“The is­sue of Bakassi was also dis­cussed, just like that of the Mar­itime Univer­sity that is about to open now. Also, we specif­i­cally re­quested that the mod­u­lar re­finer­ies should be es­tab­lished to mop up ac­tiv­i­ties of present-day il­le­gal re­finer­ies that are be­ing op­er­ated by var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties in the oil-pro­duc­ing ar­eas of Niger Delta.

“If I must say, this was what prompted Vice-Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, when he was Act­ing Pres­i­dent to go round Niger Delta Re­gion to see things for him­self. And he was well-re­ceived ev­ery­where he went, and was able to di­a­logue with the peo­ple and brought good re­sult.

“And in view of this, on Au­gust 3, a 25-man PANDEF com­mit­tee again met with Vice-Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo in an in­ter-min­is­te­rial coun­cil meet­ing. At that meet­ing, we had very use­ful re­sults. Sur­pris­ingly, a group of peo­ple who felt they were not in­vited be­came of­fended. It was at this point I told them that PANDEF is not an Ijaw af­fair.

“I made it very clear to them that what we are deal­ing with are is­sues con­cern­ing the en­tire South-south Re­gion and that I would not want to be pi­geon­holed. I told them that I wouldn’t be a party to an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­motes only the in­ter­est and as­pi­ra­tions of Ijaw peo­ple. Sadly, the peo­ple fo­ment­ing all th­ese trou­ble are a few Ijaw peo­ple, who are up­starts in ev­ery sense of the word.

“The tra­di­tional ruler lead­ing this pack, Charles Ayemi-botu, is a known con­fu­sion-mon­ger, who wants to be recog­nised at all costs, even though he has lit­tle or no ed­u­ca­tion, and there­fore does not have the ca­pac­ity for lead­er­ship.

“In their des­per­a­tion to be part of our group, Mike Loy­ibo, one of the lead­ers or pro­mot­ers of the Pan Niger Delta Peo­ple’s Congress (PANDPC), went to meet with Gen­eral Boro, the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­viser on Niger Delta Af­fairs. Gen­eral Boro, we were told, warned Loy­ibo and asked him, “Why do you want to de­stroy a well-con­ceived body like PANDEF?” Gen­eral Boro asked him to leave, that he was go­ing to plead with me to ac­com­mo­date him (Loy­ibo) in the scheme of what­so­ever we were do­ing. “Last week Fri­day, Gen­eral Boro came to see me with some other peo­ple and pleaded with me to for­give mem­bers of this group, es­pe­cially their lead­ers. And I told the Gen­eral that as far as I was con­cerned, there were no hard feel­ings; that I had al­ready for­given them. With this, I had thought this mat­ter had been put to rest. I have asked Alawi Boz­imo, the for­mer Min­is­ter of Po­lice Af­fairs, to take care of them, since all the peo­ple caus­ing th­ese trou­bles are all Ijaw boys.”

On the al­le­ga­tions that he and other ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers of PANDEF have been re­placed, Chief Clerk said: “Please ig­nore them; they do not know what they are do­ing. As I speak with you, some top mem­bers of PADEF are presently in Akure with the Min­is­ter of Niger Delta. Th­ese peo­ple, along­side the Spe­cial Ad­viser to Pres­i­dent on Niger Delta, are hold­ing meet­ings on how to de­velop the Niger Delta. The Vice-Pres­i­dent will join this group in Akure on Septem­ber 12, 2017.”

On the al­le­ga­tion that Chief Clark and King Spiff mis­ap­pro­pri­ated N500m given to PANDEF by gov­ern­ment, Chief Clark sim­ply asked: “Is it pos­si­ble for a man like Pres­i­dent Buhari to bribe any­body with N500m? It is known to ev­ery­one that I am not a friend of APC and Pres­i­dent Buhari’s gov­ern­ment. How on earth would such a gov­ern­ment want to bribe me or any or­gan­i­sa­tion that I lead? Th­ese peo­ple are sim­ply crazy and out of their minds.” On his part, His Royal Majesty Okpoitari Dion­goli, the Ibe­daowei of Okpokuma King­dom, who is the chair­man, Strate­gic and Con­tact Com­mit­tee of the new body

I made it very clear to them that what we are deal­ing with are is­sues con­cern­ing the en­tire South-south Re­gion and that I would not want to be pi­geon­holed. I told them that I wouldn’t be a party to an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­motes only the in­ter­est and as­pi­ra­tions of Ijaw peo­ple. Sadly, the peo­ple fo­ment­ing all th­ese trou­ble are a few Ijaw peo­ple, who are up­starts in ev­ery sense of the word.

known as the Pan Niger Delta Peo­ple’s Congress (PANDPC), said: “what has been hap­pen­ing over time with re­gard to the out-gone ex­ec­u­tive of PANDEF, Chief E.K Clark and his co-chair­men, is that there have been a dis­con­nect be­tween the lead­er­ship and peo­ple of the Niger Delta Re­gion. The ag­i­ta­tors have be­come dis­sat­is­fied, be­cause there have not been any feed­back mech­a­nism.

“When you rep­re­sent a peo­ple, it is only just, fair and ap­pro­pri­ate that you give them feed­back. So over time, the ag­i­ta­tors be­came wor­ried. There are is­sues bor­der­ing on di­ver­sion of funds meant for the body. Funds meant for the ag­i­ta­tors did not get to the ag­i­ta­tors. A few per­sons had cor­nered the money and made away with it.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the way the sys­tem works, when you are go­ing to sign for the money meant for a group of peo­ple, there must be one or two other per­sons who are within the of­fice ar­eas or chain where this money is to be signed for. Th­ese peo­ple within that sys­tem might be friends or re­la­tions of one or two ag­i­ta­tors or peo­ple who are not ag­i­ta­tors. So, if one thought that the in­for­ma­tion about such money will never get to a third per­son, such a per­son is mak­ing a big mis­take, be­cause some­how, some­day the in­for­ma­tion will fi­nally get to the peo­ple.

“It is also pos­si­ble that the ap­prov­ing author­i­ties might also want to black­mail such peo­ple, by leak­ing such in­for­ma­tion through a dif­fer­ent chan­nel. So, if any­body had thought that after col­lect­ing such money, they could be silent, die or do away with such money with­out let­ting the peo­ple it was meant for know, they are mak­ing a big mis­take.

“This present cri­sis has, there­fore, arisen be­cause of lack of con­fi­dence in the Chief E.K. Clark ex­ec­u­tive of PANDEF. So, there is a cri­sis of con­fi­dence. The ag­i­ta­tors are no longer happy and sat­is­fied with Chief Clark and oth­ers. It was the ag­i­ta­tors, who gave the man­date to Chief Clark and oth­ers to speak on their be­half, and they have now de­cided to with­draw that man­date, and be­gin afresh.

“As we speak, I have never met with any of the ag­i­ta­tors. I was just nom­i­nated to take up this po­si­tion along­side oth­ers in the new ex­ec­u­tive of the Pan Niger Delta Peo­ple’s Congress. I had cause to say dur­ing our in­au­gu­ral meet­ing in Warri: ‘Though the ag­i­ta­tors have given us their man­date, but I also want to hear from them di­rectly.’

“I stressed that I would want to know what their is­sues are, par­tic­u­larly those they have with the gov­ern­ment, as well as the de­mands they are mak­ing. I would also want to hear from them on the is­sues they had with the for­mer lead­er­ship of PANDEF. But the re­sponse I got was that they claimed they couldn’t come out in the open for now to meet ei­ther with me or any other mem­ber of the new ex­ec­u­tive. They in­sisted that they have al­ready given us their man­date, and that all we need do is to go about car­ry­ing out their man­date.

“That is on one hand. Chief Clark is 90 years plus. So, in the area of health, he is no longer fit. I was also told he is on the wheel chair. There is what we call men­tor­ship. For a man of 94, 95 years, I would have thought that, even if you have a com­pany, or you are run­ning a pri­vate com­pany, by this time he should have be­gun to groom one of his chil­dren to take over lead­er­ship from him. Sadly, Chief Clark has re­fused to re­lin­quish lead­er­ship of Ijaw peo­ple. Is he try­ing to say there is no young in­tel­li­gent Ijaw man or wo­man who could ef­fec­tively take over from him, es­pe­cially when he is no longer able to do so many things? I per­son­ally think it’s about time for Chief Clark and King Spiff to re­tire hon­ourably.”

In his re­sponse, Chief Clark said he is still in the strug­gle for the bet­ter­ment of Ijaw land and South-south, based on what an Ijaw chief came to do in his house at No. 20 Hitler Road, Apapa in La­gos many years back. He nar­rated: “One day, very early in the morn­ing, the late Oweikedi, an Ijaw chief came to my house and asked whether I had a bot­tle of dry gin in the house? I was shocked and sur­prised - very early in the morn­ing, when no­body had had break­fast. I told him, yes I had. The late Oweikedi took the bot­tle of gin from me, walked straight to the gate of my house, opened it and be­gan to pray, shout­ing all over the place, ‘E.K. Clark will not die, un­til he strug­gles to lib­er­ate the Ijaw peo­ple. Clark will never see death, un­til he lib­er­ates the Ijaw peo­ple.’

“Sur­pris­ingly, this man died of ac­ci­dent in his house three weeks after this par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent. Ever since, I had to reded­i­cate my­self to all that will make the Ijaw, the Niger Delta and South-south peo­ple great. I have no per­sonal gains in this en­tire thing.”

Chief Ed­win Ki­ag­bodo Clark

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.