Ahead of 2023 general elections, Pan Niger Delta Forum(PANDEF) has for the umpteenth time insisted that it is the turn of Southern Nigeria to produce the next president of the country in the spirit of fairness and justice.
PANDEF through its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson reiterated its stand on power rotation during a meeting with Prince Adewole Adebayo, the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party(SDP) on Tuesday in Abuja.
PANDEF, which comprises Southern and Middle Belt Forum, Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo had since May 30th 2021, made a call to Political stakeholders and political parties in the country to ensure the principle of power rotation between Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria is considered.
According to Ken, Southern Nigeria has suffered marginalization under the current administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari who would have by 2023 completed his statutory 8 years in the presidency and it will be unjust for another Nigerian of Northern extraction to succeed him.
He further stated clearly that any political party fielding a northern presidential candidate in 2023 can never have the support of PANDEF.
“There are reasons South South people are pro PDP and if those reasons no longer exist, people are bound to change their minds. The people of the Niger Delta are experienced, exposed and enlightened. And as leaders of Niger Delta people, we feel very sad and uncomfortable that a diverse society like Nigeria, after 8 years of a nothern presidency another northerner wants to take over from him.
” Let me repeat to you, I was on Arise TV early June this year after the PDP Primaries. We were asked because there were speculations that the APC will most likely go North, in fact the APC National chairman made a statement that they have a consensus candidates in the person of the Senate president. I said on that program that if the two major political parties produce northern candidates, it would be a declaration of war on Southern Nigeria.
“We are in a situation where an administration has operated in a system as if others don’t exist. There are seventeen major Paramilitary, Military and Intelligence agencies in the country. At the last count, fourteen of them are headed by persons from a certain part of the country. There are 6 zones, even if it is 2 per zone, you would have twelve and then have 5 left to be shared as you want but we have fourteen in one particular zone and just 3 in Southern Nigeria.
” The NNPC limited as it is called has eleven key management and board members, the South South has 1 person and over eighty percent of our oil resources come from the South South. The South East has 2, the South South has 1. In that kind of discriminatory administration of 8 years and then somebody in that kind of scenario wants to retain power again in the North, we are saying it’s unfair, we are saying it’s not proper and it’s not welcomed.
“We are taking our campaigns when it starts to Southern Nigeria, our friends in the Middle Belt and those Nigerians of goodwill and clear conscience in Northern Nigeria, to the Fulanis who understand that we need to work together, exist as a country, to prosper and become greater than what we are. We will meet people across Nigeria and let them know why the next president of Nigeria should come from Southern Nigeria, anything otherwise, and this is not a threat, it’s a statement.”
Ken also said, PANDEF is currently meeting all the presidential candidates from Southern Nigeria and will consequently reach an agreement to support whoever amongst them have what it takes to make Nigeria a better place.
“We need to work together as a people and bring back the Nigeria we used to know. There is only one person that will be president of Nigeria and there are a number of Southern Presidential candidates, all of them won’t be president, one person will be president but we want to know their vision and what they intend doing differently. How can you address the concerns of Nigerians?
” When we listen to those conversations, PANDEF will also carefully evaluate the realities on ground. Who can win the election? For us, we have one candidate that we don’t want to become the next president and then we have some candidates that any of them can be president and one of them is Prince Adewole Adebayo here.
“The distinguished Prince Adewole Adebayo is the second in the process. Last week, we engaged with the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) together with the other constituent members of the Southern and the Middle Belt Forum but today’s meeting is just PANDEF alone with the presidential candidate.
“We have agreed in our interactions that after this consultative meeting, we will have a larger meeting in one of the Niger Delta states to further engage the presidential candidates. PANDEF is interested in who could turn Nigeria around and give us a better country, a more stable county, a more peaceful country, a more united country and a greater Nigeria. That is our interest.”
In his reaction, the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Prince Adewole Adebayo stated his agenda and also used the occasion to emphasize on the importance of a united Nigeria.
“There is a conversation that has begun here today and it’s going to be a conversation that will continue with larger groups across Nigeria, the Middle Belt, the Southern Leaders and Niger Delta in particular. It’s also a conversation I believe God willing will continue because in this country, I only see Green White Green, I do not see any other color and I believe that as I have explained to the leaders, that the unity of Nigeria is number one.
“The entire purpose of my public life is to have a united Nigeria. There is no room for casting a doubt or a question mark or any but if condition on the continuity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It’s our heritage, and we’ll make it a prosperous one. No matter the problems we face in this country, no matter the difficulties, we will make sure Nigeria prospers and not a single square inch of Nigeria territory will be negotiated away. That’s number 1.
“Number 2, there is no problem that has been experienced by Nigeria that we can deny that the Niger Delta in particular has been carrying most of the weight for Nigeria over the years. There is no problem we see in that sector that we cannot cure with ease, in justice so that we can have peace.
“Thirdly, my attitude to Niger Delta is not just as a place that produces oil, I believe Niger Delta people as Nigerians. Let’s leave the oil first, without the oil, the Niger Delta is a valuable component of Nigeria. Before 1956 when we discovered oil in large quantities at Oloibiri, Nigeria could not have survived without the Niger Delta.
“The region has produced many great heroes of our history. That’s where our first commercial dealers dealing with the Portuguese, with the British, Dutch and this is where we had some of the greatest poets in the world. This is a place that produced Ola Rotimi and many others like that. So, it is not just a place that produces oil it is a component part of Nigeria. And we are dealing with the Niger Delta in our government as human being. So we emphasize the human component of it.
“The fourth thing is that, by the time you set up a good government based on justice, this division that we are mentioning now will cease to be relevant. Who becomes president will cease to be relevant. Because when a just man is in authority, people will not worry about the geography of his birth. That is why it is written in some books, when the righteous reigns, people rejoice.
“It is not written anywhere that when a northerner is on the throne, people rejoice or a southerner is on the throne, people rejoice. When Yoruba man is on the throne, people rejoice, when Niger Delta is on the throne, people rejoice. No, we need a righteous man and there are righteous people in every component of Nigeria.
” But, we must know that justice is both visible and invisible. The visible component of justice is that every Nigerian to look at any place in Nigeria and say it’s attainable to them. For this reason, I share the sympathy with the leaders of Niger Delta and leaders of Southern and Middle Belt Forum that the concept of people having the feeling that you can withhold back not only from region to region but from religion to religion.
” I also believe from gender to gender, from generation to generation, so, it’s something that is common and I believe that the power that rotates is better than the one that does not rotate. But rotation from one unjust man from the North to another unjust man from the South or an unjust man from the East or an unjust man from the west, that’s just rotation of suffering and that’s not the rotation that I believe in. I believe that if we should have this conversation, we will not look at ourselves from where we come from but where we are going. ” Adebayo said
When asked if PANDEF will be meeting also with the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), considering the Muslim/Muslim ticket which is against what is perceived PANDEF stands for, Ken
Answered in the affirmative.
He said, since the candidate is also from the South, he needs to be given a fair hearing to know if he ticks the boxes or not.
“Yes, we are going ahead to meet with the presidential candidate of APC. Our fathers and our national leader Chief Dr. Edwin Clerk is the supreme and national leader of the Niger Delta people but conversation has been ongoing and as leaders of people, it is proper to be broad minded and give fair hearing to everybody of your sons.
“They are all our sons and it is on that basis that he himself, Chief Dr Edwin Clerk directed that we should go ahead and have interactions with all the southern presidential candidates including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“We are leaders, Afenifere, Middle Belt PANDEF, Ohaneze Ndigbo are the apex social cultural leadership organizations of all zones of the country and the leaders of these organizations are persons who have distinguished themselves in various fields of life and they will continue to demonstrate that fatherly nature and character in Nigeria and ensure that Nigeria gets the best in 2023 and they are committed to that cause.”