Tuesday Last week in Abuja, National Publicity Secretary Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) Hon Ken Robinson led a consultative delegation to the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) presidential candidate, Prince Adewole Adebayo. The PANDEF spokesman during an interview with newsmen says Southerners will not support any northern candidate in the February 2023 presidential election. EMEKA NZE reports
What is the thrust of your visit to the SDP presidential candidate Prince Adewole Adebayo?
The Southern and Middlebelt leaders met and insisted on power rotation to Southern Nigeria and therefore we agreed that we will interact with presidential candidates from Southern Nigeria and thereafter make recommendations to Nigerians. And so PANDEF in that series has been engaging with some presidential candidates. The distinguished Prince Adewole Adebayo is the second in the process and lastly we’ll engage with the presidential candidate of the Labour Party with other constituents of the Southern and Middlebelt Forum. Today’s meeting is PANDEF alone with the SDP presidential candidate. We have agreed in our interaction that after these consultative meetings, we will have a larger meeting in one of the Niger Delta states after our engagements with the presidential cabdidates. PANDEF is interested in who will turn Nigeria around and give us a better country, a more stable, more peaceful, more united country and a greater Nigeria. That’s our interest. We are also interested in who would be able to frontally deal with the concerns of the Niger Delta people, the agelong demand of resource justice, of proper infrastructure development and bring to an end the marginalisation that we have witnessed for several years. That is the conversation we have started to have with out distinguished presidential candidates. We hope that these conversations will go further. Thereafter, PANDEF shall make a declaration and make recommendations to Nigerians on who to support.
Are you in league with the Afenifere and other groups from Southern Nigeria as you go about your consultations?
I have had conversations with Chief Ayo Adebanjo; MiddleBelt leaders will send their delegation. We are fathers, we are leaders and if you close the door against some of your children, you might not be a very good father. You like all of your children, you don’t like some of their behaviours and then you give them opportunity to speak to you and you could offer fatherly advice. Thant is the role Southern and Middle belt leaders have decided to play towards 2023 elections and PANDEF is playing that role. We are leaders in Nigeria and we are playing this role to ensure that Nigeria is stable, to ensure that Nigeria belongs to a of us and every Nigerian, whereever you are, wherever you come from, you can rise to any level you want to rise in this country. We have been concerned with the nepotism that is going on in the present administration. As we speak, you know that Southern and Middlebelt Forum are in court challenging the serial, brutal, careless, calous violations of federal character and that case has been on since 2020. But as leaders we still need to have conversations with our people, where we need to offer advice, we offer advice, where we need to caution, we caution just to ensure that the nation gets the best.
You are from South South a place predominantly PDP. After your conversations with all the Southern presidential candidates, would you be able to convince the people to dump PDP to vote for another party?
There were reasons the people of the South South are pro PDP and if those reasons do not exist any longer, people are bound to change their minds. The people of the Niger Delta have been wisely directed in this country. As leaders of the Niger Delta people, we feel very sad and uncomfortable that in a diverse society like Nigeria, after eight years of northern presidency, another northerner wants to take over from him. Like I earlier said before the primaries, that should the two major political parties produce northern candidates, it would be a declaration of war with the Southern Nigeria. We are in a nation where an administration has operated in a system as if others don’t exist. There are 17 major paramilitary, military, intelligence agencies in the country, at the last count 14 of them are headed by persons from northern part of the country, three from southern Nigeria. There are six geo political zones, even if you say two per zone, you would have 12 and you have four or five left to distribute as you want. But there are 14 from one particular zone and three from southern Nigeria. The NNPC limited as it is called has 11 key management and board members, the South South had one person, and about 80 per cent of our resources come from the South South. The South East has two, the South West has one, that’s four to seven (4:7) and that kind of discriminative administration, for eight years, it has been so. Every southern office that is vacated is replaced with somebody from the north- NPA, NIMASA, Stock Exchange, we can begin to count them. And then, somebody, in that kind of scenario, want to retain power in the north. We are saying it is unfair, we are saying it is not proper and it is not welcomed. We are taking our campaigns when the campaign starts from Southern Nigeria to our friends in the Middle Belt, to the minorities in the northern Nigeria, to those Nigerians of goodwill and clear conscience in northern Nigeria, to the Fulanis who understand that we need to work together to exist as a country to prosper, to become greater than what we are, to become all that Nigeria should be. We must speak to every Nigerian, across Nigeria, the northern Nigeria, the Southern Nigeria why the next president of Nigeria should come from Southern Nigeria. Anything otherwise is not acceptable. We will mobilise our people in the creeks, in the farmlands, in the streets, across Nigeria who think that Nigeria should work together. There are northerners who don’t like what is going on. There are sincere Nigerians who are patriotic Nigerians who want Nigeria to be better.
Is PANDEF working to know the agenda of all the southern candidates to enable it convince them to work for one candidate?
PANDEF specifically is asking questions as to what they have for Nigeria- their vision, their agenda, etc, for Nigeria, to take Nigeria to the next level, to make Nigeria a country you could travel to anywhere in Nigeria without fear.We were in Owerri to represent our national leadership at the 80th birthday of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanuwu. There was already disappointment at turnout of dignitaries across Nigeria. That is the man that Nigerians from across Nigeria would have loved to be with to celebrate. But there were concerns. Even some of us when we were going, people were calling us asking are you going to Owerri? That was not the Nigeria I grew up to know. I have travelled to Owerri at 10pm from Port Harcourt and arrived Owerri at 12 midnight and I was not worried. I remember leaving owerri about 4pm. So we need to work together as a people and bring back the Nigeria that we used to know and improve on that old Nigeria and take us to where we should be for our fathers, for ourselves, for our children, those yet unborn. There is only one person that will become the president of Nigeria and there are a number of Southern presidential candidates. PANDEF is interested what’s your vision? what do you want to do differently? How can you address the concerns of Nigerians? What’s your programme? PANDEF will also care about the realities on ground. Who can win election? For us we have one candidate we don’t want. We have one candidate we don’t want to become the next president and then we have some candidates we feel that any of them can become the president of this country and one of them is the distinguished Prince Adewole Adebayo. So after this conversation, we will address them and say this is the direction we think we should go, what role can we play? We are fathers and we are trying to play that role.