By EJIRO ANIDI
They christened their pressure group the Niger Delta Youth Forum and also delight in describing it as a non-violent forum preaching and advocating for justice and equality, as well as canvassing for unity and moral values among youths of the region.
The President of the body, Comrade Daniel Ezekiel, was recently at Vanguard where he used the opportunity to speak more on the vision behind the formation of the Forum and about a summit organised by the group coming up this weekend.
He informed that the mission of the three-day summit was essentially to correct the long-held impression that most Niger Delta youths are militants or potential militants, just as he blamed government officials and politicians for the sporadic outbreak of violence in the region, with youths at the vortex of it all in most cases.
“When you look at the society, you can see that there is election fever everywhere. The book of Proverbs says that the glory of the youth is in their strength, and politicians having realised that we the youth are the strength of the society, have been using us for their own selfish end.
But having realised that we’re being wrongly used, we of the Niger Delta Youth Forum are saying, enough of that. We no longer want to be used as cannon fodder by politicians in their quest to actualise their selfish ambitions through violent means. That is why we’re organising this youth summit in Benin City,” he said while expressing appreciation for the kindly gesture of Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in granting them permission to organise the summit in the state.
Continuing he said: “The summit is about first and foremost to correct the erroneous impression that Niger Delta youths are militants; we are not and after the event of that day the Niger Delta youths would be seen in a different light. There would be music, concert, cultural carnival and cultural displays from each of the Niger Delta states.
On the last day of the summit, we shall give awards to distinguished Nigerians such as the Petroleum Resources Minister, Deziani Allison Madueke; Globacom owner, Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Kanu Nwankwo, Tuface Idibia as well as the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan who will be honoured with the award of Mother of Nigerian Youths. There will also be posthumous awards to Adaka Boro and Ken Saro Wiwa”.
One issue they also wish to use the summit to address was the resurgence of violence in the Niger Delta late last year which he attributed to government’s poor implementation of the Amnesty Programme. According to him, launching a full military offensive in response to John Togo’s rebellion was an overkill in the sense that it led to the death of several innocent people in Ayakoromo and neighbouring areas in Delta State. “We condemn in strong terms the burning of Ayakoromo town under the guise of searching for militant leader, John Togo.
It was a clear case of genocide. Mr President and the National Security Adviser should know that it is the sacrifice of people of the region that got them to where they are today. It is very unfortunate that they have to look the other way while innocent people were being killed,” he lamented. He did stop there.
“The recent resurgence of militancy in Niger Delta is two way fold. The point is that people in power sometimes act deaf. Since February last year, it was made known to government to make post-amnesty an all inclusive affair, that is, bring in non-violence agitators.
But they started by treating the ex-militants like royal princes to the detriment of the generality of the youths. So for youths to get the attention of government of the day, they have decided to go into militancy. Secondly, militancy is politically sponsored by opponents of Mr President. It is a pity that John Togo allowed himself to be used by the enemies of the region.,” Comrade Ezekiel stated.
With the fever of the 2011 general elections being heightened by the on-going voters registration, the Niger Delta Youth Forum are of the view that the youths could help to make it a success if they are well guided.
According to him: “We would also be using this summit to educate the youths on how to play a positive role in the forthcoming elections, beginning with the voters registration exercise. We will teach them to refuse to be election riggers, ballot box snatchers, etc.
On that day we will be launching an appeal to build a Niger Delta youth resort centre, not only for Niger Delta youths but for all youths in the country which is going to be managed by Prof Pat Utomi”.
Expected at the occasion are some Nigerians who he said “our youths hold high esteem”, and they include Comrade Joseph Eva, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Dora Akunyili, Mr Ben Murray Bruce, Prof Pat Utomi and ex-militant leader Victor Ebikabowie aka General Boyloaf.