Photo: Former Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar
By Chuks Okocha, Tobi Soniyi and Toba Suleiman
The build up to the 2015 general elections, especially as it concerns President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid, assumed a new dimension Sunday, as youths in the Niger Delta region declared that they would declare war if President Jonathan was not allowed to seek re-election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The youths’ position also came on a day a Niger Delta youth leader, Mr. Timi Frank, dismissed as an empty threat, the alleged plan by some Niger Delta militants to declare former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar a persona non grata in the region, as a result of the ongoing crisis in the PDP, stressing that the threat was devoid of common sense.
While the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) urged the ex-militants to withdraw the threat it issued against Atiku in the interest of peace, national cohesion and stability of the country, the Minister of Police Affairs, Navy Capt Caleb Olubolade, declared that the crisis rocking the PDP, at the national level was an indication that the party remained the only one among other parties which allows internal democracy to thrive.
The ex-militants had declared, at the weekend, under the aegis of Leadership Peace and Cultural Development Initiative, that they would declare Atiku a persona non grata in the region, following alleged insinuations in some quarters that his involvement in the factionalisation of the PDP was aimed at stopping Jonathan from seeking re-election in 2015.
However, the youths, who made their position known through the Niger Delta Progressive Alliance (NDPA) also demanded that President Jonathan be allowed to exercise his right to seek a second term in the 2015 elections.
In a statement signed by the group’s President General, Mr. Angonemi Fedude and General Secretary, Akpata Okorodudu, said: “But in the event of any attempt by any individual or group to deprive him (Jonathan) of his rights, we have resolved to match force with force, even if it will lead to Nigeria’s disintegration.”
It noted that the same set of people who unleashed the Boko Haram insurgency on the president to de-stabilise him had now resorted to political blackmail to achieve their aim.
According to them, “the only plausible reason why they are bent on removing Jonathan from office is because he is a minority from the South-south region who has become a stumbling block in their quest to perpetually control the oil wealth in the Niger Delta.
“They are pained and angry because it is no longer business as usual, and perhaps, the resources, which they had brazenly starched away in local and foreign currency over the years might have depleted to unimaginable level.”
“Let there be no pretence about it: Nigeria’s unity is today being preserved by the petro-dollars from the massive crude oil in the Niger Delta region, whose people are ironically the least beneficiaries of their God-given wealth. While the inhabitants of the area are bearing the brunt of the destructive oil exploration and exploitation activities by the multinational firms, the proceeds are used to develop and industrialise other parts of the country that now regard the Niger Delta people as second class citizens.
“Yet, the people had exercised caution and refused to make inflammatory pronouncements or engage in actions capable of breaking up the country. This is not a sign of weakness, but sacrifice they have borne for decades even with the stark reality that the project called Nigeria is a total conspiracy against the Niger Delta.
“Consequently, we hereby serve the notice below: President Jonathan must be allowed to exercise his constitutionally-guaranteed right of seeking a second term in the 2015 elections. But in the event of any attempt by any individual or group to deprive him of his democratic rights, we have resolved to match force with force, even if it will lead to Nigeria’s disintegration.
“Since it is all about oil politics, we shall ensure that those lusting to grab political power as a means towards amassing our oil wealth will no longer see a single drop of oil. We shall henceforth take appropriate measures to ensure that our God-given wealth is protected from the grip of people who do not wish us well.
“As the popular saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine; but we reiterate that we are no longer bothered even if Nigeria should break up tomorrow. If they say the panacea for peace to reign in this country is for Jonathan not to contest the 2015 presidential election, we are saying he must contest, and heavens will not fall. We are waiting anxiously for the D-Day.”
Dismissing the ex-militants threat, Frank said the position depicted the ignorance of the group and consequently, showed their lack of understanding of the crisis in the party.
The youth leader said it was wrong for the group to declare Atiku, any northerner or Nigerian involved in the current crisis a persona non grata, as the issue at stake was purely a party matter, which should be devoid of tribal, ethnic, religious or regional sentiments.
“It is on record that the Niger Delta region and its youths have benefited immensely from the vast business interests of the former vice-president even as till date it remains to be challenged that Atiku remains the single highest employer of labour in the Niger Delta region and has empowered both investors and politicians from the region like no other Nigerian has, making him the bridge builder between the North and the South-south region.
While calling on security agencies to immediately arrest and prosecute any individual or group(s) which tries to incite the public through inflammatory statements, Frank, however, advised security agencies to remain neutral in the ongoing crisis, as actions such as the sealing-off of the New PDP secretariat was unlawful and could lead to eventual breakdown of law and order.
“Neither Atiku nor the G7 governors are fighting a selfish cause nor a regional cause. The crisis in the PDP is purely a battle between progressives in the party and those opposed to party democracy. We believe that it is also the intent of the struggle to also save the president from those that are misleading him.
Reacting also, the ACF said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Anthony Sani, that the ex-militants were by their misguided action crossing the fiducial mark that was alien to democratic tenets.
According to ACF, threats such as the one from the Niger Delta ex-militants is a negation of dialogue and the political process playing itself out on account of the breakup of the PDP into factions.
The Forum warned that the threat from the ex-militants is counterproductive and an ill wind that will do no one any good, stressing that: “This is because democracy is not a matter of threats and intimidation, but contest of ideas and reasons.”
Despite this, the ACF called for the promotion of democracy that is premised on the triple foundation of liberty, justice and common decency instead of resorting to threats and intimidation that have no place in democracy
Meanwhile, Olubolade, while fielding questions from journalists at his country home in Ipoti-Ekiti in Ekiti Central senatorial district of Ekiti State, said the PDP crisis, which was the fallout of the special convention held on August 31, would soon be laid to rest.
The minister, who also spoke on the factionalisation of the PDP into the Bamagar Tukur and Alhaji Kawu Baraje’s groups, said PDP as big family had the machinery of settling its crisis among members amicably.
The PDP governorship aspirant, who also disclosed that leaders of the party were currently meeting towards find a lasting solution to the problem, assured party faithful that the crisis, which appeared to have polarised the party would soon be over.
The minister said the task of dislodging All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state was a collective responsibility, urging them to shun ego and coalesce efforts for the dream to be actualised.
Olubolade said: “Nobody can say among the aspirants that he is against consensus, except the bad ones. If we adopt consensus, Mr. President will go all out to support us. No aspirant can force the leaders into primaries only the party members like you can decide.”
Source: This Day