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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Niger Delta Boils Over CONFAB Nominations



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Major ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta are angry with President Goodluck Jonathan over the composition of the delegates to the national conference by the Federal Government.

Already, the Urhobo, Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic groups have protested their alleged exclusion and under representation to the Presidency.

Also, Jonathan’s kinsmen in the region, the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, had petitioned the president, protesting that its members were not appointed into the committee.

In a related development, stakeholders have also been clamouring for the inclusion of rights activist, and constitutional lawyer, Chief- Mike Ozekhome.

Reacting, Ozekhome said: “Some powerful people worked against me to ensure that I was excluded from the conference. This is against the will of the people. My name was in the list forwarded by Governor Adams Oshiomhole with a covering letter to the Federal Government but when the list came out, my name was excluded and another person was imposed on the people of Afenmai.”

The IYC, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Eric Omare, said: “IYC (Worldwide) frowned and reject the noninclusion of its delegate to the National Conference. The IYC views the exclusion as a deliberate attempt to deny Ijaw youths and by extension Niger Delta youths from presenting their age long struggle for resource control and self determination at the national conference.

“It is on record that the IYC has been one of the most consistent advocates of a national conference to discuss the future existence of Nigeria.

“Indeed, a national conference is one of the foremost demands of the IYC as enshrined in the historic Kaiama Declaration.

“Therefore, for the IYC, the umbrella body of all Ijaw youths worldwide, the fourth largest ethnic group in Nigeria to be excluded from a list that has a total of twelve nominees from youth organisations is totally unacceptable.

“The IYC agreed to participate in the national conference because we believed that it offers us an opportunity to correct the age long marginalisation of the oil rich Niger Delta region and to advance the cause for resource control and selfdetermination, which the IYC has been advocating all these years.

“We therefore call on the relevant authorities to correct the exclusion of the IYC from participation in the national conference without delay.”

Also, the Itsekiri group lamented total exclusion from the list of delegates made public by the Federal Government.

The Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, a major opinion group, it was gathered had protested to Jonathan over the matter.

Apparently to back their leaders, Itsekiri youths stormed the streets of Warri, Delta State, over the weekend, asking the government to correct the “error.”

The placard-carrying protesters with various messages such as “Itsekiris are the economic backbone of Nigeria”, “Confab without Itsekiri meaningless, unacceptable”, “Our Elders, Chiefs, representatives, please explain to us”, and “Itsekiris are Nigerians”, among others, described the action as unacceptable.

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One of the leaders of the protesters, who is also the Welfare Officer, Itsekiri National Youth Council, INYC, lamented, “We are very angry. We are wondering if this country belongs to all of us.”

Similarly, the Urhobos, the majority ethnic nationality in Delta State, have protested that no Urhobo man was appointed into the list released by the Federal Government.

The group said it was not satisfied by a nominee appointed by the state government.

It was gathered yesterday that the Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, the umbrella body for the ethnic group had also complained to the Presidency on the matter.

Second Republic Governor of old Kaduna State and elder statesman, Alhaji Balarabe Musa yesterday faulted the composition of delegates to the national conference, describing it as a mere presidential committee.

Musa, who said he has never supported the idea of a conference as conceived by President Jonathan, said the whole exercise looks suspicious as it appears that the conference has some hidden political undertones.

However, the South East Forum has vowed to unravel any hidden or anti-people agenda at the conference.

President of the Forum and one of the conference delegates from Imo State, Dr Ezekiel Izuogu said thought the idea of having a discourse of that nature is good, the incumbent administration would do well to excise itself from the conference proceedings or final outcome.

Both men spoke with our correspondent in a telephone interview last night. Izuogu chided the president for trying to tilt the conference outcome in his favour by the manner in which he has appointed some delegates.

“My opinion about the conference is positive. It is good for people to discuss. Even family members do discuss their challenges.

“However, there are insinuations that the president has a hidden agenda for setting up the conference. When we get there, we shall see that hidden agenda and then find a way of tackling it,” he said.

Izuogu added that the president having known that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo no longer represent the Igbos, decided to still pick his delegates from the group, ostensibly to serve his hidden interests.

“The quality of representation is tilted in favour of the president so that decisions to be taken can be in his favour. The president is working with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo. That body has already been mortgaged. They do not represent Ndigbo. Those are the people the president has picked to represent the South East.

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“Igbo sons and daughters have seen through Ohanaeze and now understand that they (Ohanaeze) represent only themselves. It is the same thing that the president has done in the other zones too,” Izuogu added.

On his part, Musa said the conference will not be better than all the previous ones convened by past leaders, chiding the president for attempting to play a prominent role in the whole exercise.

He also wondered why the conference report has to be forwarded to the president before being sent to the National Assembly, saying such a situation could give room for government officials to tamper with the document just to make it favour the president. ”In the first place, I do not support the national conference as conceived by the president. It is suspicious; it is not going to be qualitative or better than all the previous conferences convened by past presidents.

“Secondly, it is a conference that is just like a presidential committee. In the first place, the president conceived the whole idea; appointed the committee single-handedly and now he has also appointed delegates almost single-handedly.

“The conference committee will report to him. He will also be at liberty to tinker with the report before forwarding it to the National Assembly.

“There was no election too. Nigeria is a large country and it has passed the stage of representation without election,” he added.

But the Director General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Prof. Epiphany Azinge said that the convocation of the confab will bring Nigerians to talk on the problems confronting the nation.

Prof Azinge said that the conference will also enable the country surmount some of the security problems confronting her.

He said: “I don’t think that the confab is very much important than as it is now, this is the time that we need to be talking.

“What are the grievances of Boko Haram, do we know, do they want to secede, do they want to cut off from the rest of Nigerians? How do we know if we don’t talk at this point in time, now that we are hundred. Is it not high time we talk?

“The good thing that government has come to say is that the indivisibility of this country is not negotiable. Having said so, we need to know how we are going to continue in this Nigerian project as one united entity. Let everybody listen to one another and from there we take it up. There are so many things that we can sort out when we talk.”

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