By Jude Njoku & Charles Kumolu
Mr. Affia, Mbuotidem Benson is the spokesperson South-South Solidarity Group. A former National President of the Union of Niger Delta Students and President of the National Union of South-South Students (NUSS) at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Mr Affia spoke to Vanguard on the need for President Jonathan to declare his presidential ambition now.Excerpts:

What is the name of your group and what do you stand for or intend to do towards the development of the South South?

It’s quite lot time, the problems in the South-South started before independence in 1960. Many people have been in the struggle. We finally joined in 2002 when I pioneered the formation of the National Union of South-South Students. In 2003, we went for our convention at the University of Port-Harcourt and I was elected the National President. We adopted the name, Union of Niger Delta Students.

Since then, we have been in the struggle, although we refused to carry arms. The struggle has been in the pipeline ever since. The time has come for us to rally round and produce for the first time in the history of this country, a President of Nigeria from the South-South extraction.

The South-South has never tasted power at the topmost level. We have a President right now from the South-South extraction and it is our hope and belief that all Nigerians will support him. We want him to come out and let Nigerians know that he has made up his mind to run for the number one position in the land so that we can organise ourselves and give him our full backing.

What would your group do to actualise this dream because the North is also interested in the slot?

We will not disagree with the North because they can aspire; any other person can also aspire to be the President of Nigeria but well- meaning Nigerians from the Northern part of the country will always want to support Dr Goodluck Jonathan and the South-South because they have been in government for a very long time.

We have never tasted it before. Dr Goodluck Jonathan with his background and coming with Yar’Adua is the man the people have tested and trusted. We want a change, it has happened in the United States and so many countries and here is our chance in Nigeria. We want to make things work. The only problem we are having with the government of Nigeria is the security situation. If the security situation is improved, everything will be in order.

Your colleagues that opted to carry out the struggle with arms have been settled so to say, but your group that adopted a peaceful approach was not considered. Are you also agitating that you should be settled?

We believe in justice, equality and fairness. We believe that since we are a group of professionals who go to the grassroots, educate and also carry the people along, we believe that someday, sometime, we will be settled. Most of us are employed and we hope to be recognised in a way, maybe by bringing some of us into government so that our interests can also be protected. We want to be consulted or carried along.

Do you think the Jonathan as President of Nigeria will solve the Niger Delta question because the Niger Deltans are complaining of marginalisation, oils spills, environmental degradation and associated problems?

Why not! He is from there, he knows the problems of the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta problem didn’t build up one day. It is something that has been building up for the past 50 years. So, he knows the question and how to answer it. The question can be answered by him; it can also be answered by any other person if he has the political will.
But our own contention is that we can not be in the same country with every other person and we are not carried along. We want to be in power as the President of Nigeria; that is our contention. Jonathan has all it takes to touch all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

In a nutshell, what your group wants is zoning or no zoning, Jonathan should declare his interest?

Yes! Zoning or no zoning, even when they want to look at zoning, it is also in our favour. If you want to look at the ticket, it is in our favour. Favour in the sense that Yar’Adua and Jonathan have the same ticket and ran as President and Vice President. Jonathan has never insulted Yar’Adua. If Yar’Adua were to be alive today, believe me, we will rally round him and say, go for second.

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