Botched South-South Meeting: One Insult Too Many, says PANDEF

By Publisher
7 Min Read

Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, has described the failure of a federal government delegation to show up for a meeting, planned at its instance, with key stakeholders of the South-South Geopolitical Zone, as “one insult too many”. This was contained in a press statement signed by, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), National Chairman, PANDEF and former Military Governor, Akwa Ibom.

The press statement further stated that, the meeting, which was scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, last Tuesday, to discuss critical national issues was botched at the last minute, after traditional rulers, the governors, Clergy, elders, leaders, women and youths of the six South-South States had gathered in Port Harcourt, and waited for hours.

It was a clear demonstration of contempt and disregard for the entire South-South Zone. The reason offered for the deplorable action is completely untenable and unacceptable.

This is one Insult too many.

And therefore, PANDEF restates the demand of the governments and people of South-South Zone that the presidency, and indeed, the federal government, should offer an unreserved, public apology to the Zone.

They won’t treat a district head in their areas, the way and manner, they treated our traditional rulers, elders and our governors. They have to publicly apologize otherwise they should forget any further thought of a meeting with our people. Enough is indeed enough.

How else can anyone explain what happened? If not an act of disrespect, disregard, and contempt to the entire South-South Zone. They went to the north, south-west and south-east, met with the people, no emergency security meeting was summoned to stop them from attending those meetings. But when it was for the south-south zone, an emergency arose to scuttle the meeting.  We have cross-checked and are yet to ascertain that there was any national security threatening situation to warrant their staying away.

What they have told us, in essence, is that we do not matter but the truth is that We Do Matter. It is awful and preposterous for anyone to delude that we do not matter. That they can treat the region that has sustained the country for decades, in this way and manner, only speaks to the kind “upside-down” thinking that has kept the country in its unworthy state.

It is even more unfortunate that the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a seasoned diplomat of global repute, who should know better, is involved in this ignominious display.

We are curious that the Ministers and other top government officials from the south-south geopolitical zone were also not present for the meeting, and did not deem it fit to call the Governors or leaders. Were they also part of the emergency security meeting at the Presidential Villa or they had foreknowledge of the plan to botch the meeting?

We are, however, not overly surprised at all of these occurrences because we have been talking of the inconsistencies, discrimination and injustice against the Niger Delta region by this administration for the past five years.

Recall that on 1st November 2016, we visited  President and presented the 16-Point Agenda, which encapsulates critical concerns and interests of the People of the entire Niger Delta Region, to the Federal Government. Four years after, the 16-Point Demand has remained unattended to by the Buhari administration, except the establishment of the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State and the launch of Ogoni Clean-Up, whose status is unclear to us.

And the region continues to suffer untold neglect and discrimination, in terms of developmental projects, policies and programmes, appointments, etc, and now, even in simple issues such as meetings with the regions and zones.

That is why Zamfara gold is for Zamfara people while Niger Delta crude oil is for the whole of Nigeria. And why they have not added an inch of construction to the critical East-West road in the over five years of the administration.

This uncouth bias was also exhibited against the south-south States during the distribution of palliatives and facilities by federal MDAs to States to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Presently, following the looting and destruction of private and public property in the country, in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, the Niger Delta and South-South has again been relegated. We see visits by top officials of the federal government to Lagos, and we hear about “re-build Lagos”. Nobody is talking about rebuilding the Niger Delta or Calabar or even Oyigbo, despite the carnage that was also perpetrated in some cities in the South-South Zone.

Let it be known to them that whether they desire to meet with us or not, the people of the South-South Geopolitical Zone have taken a firm stand on the issue of restructuring of Nigeria. We are the biggest victims of Nigeria’s flawed federal system.

All we want is true federalism!

Nigeria is not the only country operating a federal system of government in the world. They cannot continue to pretend that they do not know what true federalism or fiscal federalism implies. Nigeria has to be restructured, things have to change.

Modalities on how the country could be restructured have been proffered in the 2014 National Conference Report. It provides sufficient guidelines for the restructuring of Nigeria.

This latest event has made it evident to everyone from the Niger Delta Region and South-South Zone, the extent to which this presidency can go in disrespecting the region. And so we have to be united and work together, that is the only way we can make any significant difference in the Niger Delta, for the good of present and future generations.

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