…Ambakederemo, Ekariko, Amaechi, others disagree
By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Emmanuel Una, Chioma Onuegbu, Ikechukwu Uche, Davies Iheamnachor, Emem Idio, Godwin Oghre and Sunday Bomadi
THE fury over President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the nation’s diversity and sharing of wealth has not abated with leaders and stakeholders of the Niger Delta region who painted him as a sectional leader, fingering his government for the mounting agitations in the country.
However, there were those who rejected the clannish label, saying the President has prudently applied funds for the development of the country.
They spoke on the backdrop of the recent revelation by the President of the World Bank, Jim Kim, that President Buhari directed the financial institution to focus development in the northern part of the country.
He’s unfair – Essien-ex -Minister
Ex- Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development and former member of the House of Representatives, Chief Nduese Essien, said: “I think what I would say is that it is not a surprise that he directed the President of the World Bank to concentrate development in the north because all along he has shown a tendency to be discriminatory in favour of the North. Right from when he was Head of State, appointees into his ruling council were more from the north.”
Essien, who spoke to one of our reporters in Akwa Ibom, recollected: “When he (Buhari) was Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, he displayed that tendency very glaringly by concentrating most of the projects in the north and to the absolute exclusion of the south- south. And in this administration he had said that 97 per cent of the people who supported him are the ones that will benefit. And this 97 per cent had to be from the north and the south-west.”
“He has kept to that policy even though he has not treated the south-west well. From all the appointments – Chief of Staff, Director, name them, they are all picked from the north. So that he told the World Bank president to concentrate development in the north was not a slip of the tongue, that is how he will be throughout his tenure,” he asserted
On way out of the drift, the former minister said Nigerians should use the forthcoming 2019 election to correct the situation, adding: “It does not mean that a northerner should not be president but Nigerians should elect a northerner, who is a nationalist to be president and not a sectional leader.”
Poor management – Bozimo- PANDEF leader
In Delta state, former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, told Saturday Vanguard: “President Buhari should think of working for the well-being of every part of the country. His handling of the system is lopsided, or is it because he got massive votes from the northern part?
“To me, he should be able to work hard to bring every part of the country together. You must work to show that you are not in government to favour one section of the country, and you must prove this through your appointments and service delivery to the people,” he noted.
Bishop Adeleye fumes
Archbishop of Anglican Communion, Cross River State, Bishop Tunde Adeleye, in his reaction, said: “ For a President of a country to have told the World Bank that is unfortunate and the man needs to make amends now before it is too late.”
“Nigeria should have been his constituency as a President, but since he came into power, he has consistently shown, through his actions and utterances, that he has many biases, which is unfortunate. The man should change,” the clergyman said.
Blatantly partial – King Diongoli
From Bayelsa state, the Ibedaowei of Opokuma Kingdom and member Pan Niger Delta Peoples’ Congress, PNDPC, His Majesty, King Okpoitari Diongoli, (Opu Okun IV), retorted: “Not just his style of wealth distribution, but his style of leadership in general. By his style of governance, body language and utterances, he presents himself as a sectional leader and not President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“The service chiefs, Inspector General of Police, IGP, head of agencies, for example, Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and its subsidiaries and many more that time and space would not allow me to mention are all headed by his people. His principal staff and personal aides are mainly from Daura, his birth place. How many Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists have been arrested and members of IPOB are being harassed every day.”
“Same for Niger Delta agitators who are demanding for a better deal from the Federal Government and IOCs but are resisted by federal might instead of addressing the issues. My concern is that if the administration continues in this manner, it will further fuel the clamour for restructuring, true federalism and devolution of powers along regional, ethnic, linguistic or religious lines which is growing louder by the day,” the monarch asserted.
Violating the constitution
Secretary of the Bayelsa Elders Forum and PANDEF member, Chief Thompson O. Okorotie, fondly called TKO, said: “Well, I read about the Presidency refuting the claim by the World Bank, I do not know who is speaking the truth. Even if it was said that the World Bank should concentrate on the north east, I will still want to ask the question, at what time did they ask the World Bank to concentrate on the Niger Delta where there have been sufficient disasters, sometimes deliberately caused by state terrorism by the Federal Government?”.
Okorotie declared: “There are people who are still today homeless in many part of the Niger Delta. When Operation Crocodile Smile, that acronym that is a mockery of our people, went into the area, they devastated communities, they destroyed, people died and families have never been the same again. When had the Federal Government directed the Work Bank to pay attention there?
“We have been saying that the constitution is being violated by the current federal government. The constitution requires that the wealth of the country be managed in such a way that all parts of the country share and have a sense of belonging. So, there has to be equal proportion of distribution of amenities and appointments.
“This is not what is happening and I think it is unfair. These are the causes of agitations across the country. When you do not rule well, there are bound to be reactions and this is why agitations are all over the place. We need peace in the country; we need a united country but let us rule to ensure that the sense of belonging is giving to all part of the county so that peace and unity can be engendered,” he advised.
In his riposte, Secretary, PNDPC, Prof Benjamin Okaba, said: “For me the picture is very clear, and as to what it portends for us, let us look at Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in spite of his weaknesses, he was a true nationalist. When the issue of 11 federal universities came up, they were sighted everywhere especially in the north, and even when he gave appointments, he religiously followed federal character, and so no part of the country would say Jonathan neglected them in terms of appointments and infrastructure.”
“In fact, to the extent that he washed the face of other people rather than wash his face. If Jonathan were like some people, Otuoke would be a city,” Okaba said.
President-general of Ogbakor Ikwerre worldwide and former vice chancellor of Rivers State University, Prof Simeon Achinehu, who spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, said: “We have been reading on the pages of newspapers on the appointments the President has made since he assumed office and it is clear that he is concentrating on the northern part of the country. Many of his appointments favour the north.”
“So, if he made the statement, it is not surprising to anybody because he has already shown that he is sectional. All the sensitive appointments, like the security chiefs are all from the north.
“I am worried about the statement to the World Bank. We are in Nigeria and the issues on the equality of all the states should be given attention because one state cannot be above the other in terms of Federal Government attention.
“It is against the constitution and it violates the established federal character. No part of the country is better than the others. When somebody begins to create inequality it becomes unfair. It is against justice,” he said.
N’Assembly, NGOs should act- Omare
Factional President, Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Mr. Eric Omare, avowed: “Buhari’s style of wealth distribution which is based on his 97 per cent and 5 per cent constituencies and approach to national governance is unacceptable and a recipe for acrimony.”
“Indeed, his discriminatory and sectional style of leadership is responsible for some of the agitations all over the country. The concentration of wealth in the north at the expense of other parts of the country is not only politically wrong, but also unconstitutional.
“The IYC is afraid that if this continues, the agitations would also increase. Moving forward, I think that the National Assembly needs to step up their oversight functions so as to checkmate the sectional tendencies of Mr. President. And also, civil society groups need to speak out against the sectional method of wealth distribution by President Buhari.”
President is insincere- Pourri
Chairman Ijaw Youth Council Central Zone, Tari Pouri said
“For Mr. President to direct international organizations to concentrate development in the north portrays him as the president of northern Nigeria and we want to put the federal government on notice that in the next few weeks, all multinational oil companies operating in the Niger Delta would be shut if they do not relocate their headquarters to the region,” Pourri said..
Nothing short of inequality- Dr. Kelly
Dr Efe Kelly said: “In the light of academic discuss, diversity and multiculturalism are key components that emphasize sentiments if not operated in a transparent and accountable manner. Diversity in the true sense refers to age, disability, race, sex, national origin and religion. These components can make or mar a nation.”
“The wealth of the Nation is gotten from the black gold – the oil and gas which is exploited purely from the Niger Delta region, yet there is nothing practically to show for this economic contribution from the Niger – Delta domain to the Nigeria nation. The people of the region live in water and yet spit on their palms to wash their face.
“The country is diverse in nature and of different ethnic nationalities. For equity and fair play to be displayed, government should treat the people equally in the areas of resources allocation, appointments and other incentives,” he said.
Kelly added: “It is obvious that Buhari’s administration lacks fair play and does not emphasize true diversity and multiculturalism which is supposed to be the hall mark of true democracy.”.
Loans exit on newspaper pages
If the Buhari’s government argues that he is fair, why is it that only the northerners are enjoying the Bank of Industry and Agriculture loans?
“It is only on newspapers the loans exist in the Niger Delta region. The resources from the oil and gas the federal government is carting away, the agriculture loans are not readily available to the people of the region; how are they inclusive of the economic diversity to bring about the much needed Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and increase per capital income of the people? I think the federal government needs to be fair
Poor performance – Gbemre
National Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, NDPC, Zik Gbemre, said: “Buhari has not done well in the reported instruction to the World Bank to concentrate development intervention in the north to the extent that he was unfair to the Niger Delta, which produces the wealth of this country and has its peculiar critical development challenges.”
“Inside the Niger Delta, you cannot access Escravos, Forcados, even Bonny where oil is being taken without going through tortuous ferries. The people have no light, but this where the money is coming from. These areas need to be connected with good road networks, rails and basic infrastructure running well.
Militant leader cautions
Niger Delta agitator, self-styled “General” Simply of the Bakassi Strike Force, BSF, told Saturday Vanguard through his counsel, Ozinco Ozinco Esq., that the president’s statement was provocative.
His words: “ The region has suffered a lot. The south -south should also be recognized, we are all Nigerians and we want development too, we love peace , we want development. Our fears still lie in the fact that we believe that Buhari’s is sectional and partial. The south- south must not be neglected, development must be even, it must be across board.”
Ambakederemo, Ogbonna differ
Not everybody in the region subscribes to the sectional branding of President Buhari. One of them is the Coordinator South -South Reawakening Group, Mr. Joseph Ambakederemo. He stated: “We have heard people who have knowledge about this issue speak and they have denied all of the stories and I think this matter should be put to rest and we move on to more productive things.”
“Having said that, I think we should concern ourselves with the judicious usage of the funds and any other funds from international agencies such as the World Bank and others. The question to ask is have previous funds been applied judiciously and we still see abject poverty and deplorable infrastructure staring us in the face everywhere you turn?
“Whether it is north or south, have those saddled with such responsibilities delivered on their mandate? It is still the matter of misappropriation and misapplication of such funds with nothing to show for it. Therefore, it will be uncharitable for people to allow their comments to be laced with sentiments of north and south when everywhere you turn, none is better. The real issue here should be the judicious and religious use of the funds.”
President, Itsekiri Movement for Peace and Justice, Amaechi Ogbitse Ogbonna, completely agrees with him, saying: “Let us tell ourselves the truth. This country has four, not six geopolitical zones. They are Northern, Western, Eastern and Mid-West regions. Three of these have been growing but the Mid-West (Edo and Delta) has been stagnated.”
Now, before Buhari came we were not faring well as and when Jonathan came, nobody grumbled when he appointed Ijaw as Minister of Niger Delta, NAPIMS head, Ijaw, Minister for Petroleum Ijaw, NIMASA, Amnesty heads, Ijaw. Nobody grumbled when Itsekiris were getting 200 Amnesty placements and Ijaws were getting 25,000.
“Now they want to say Buhari is a Hausa man, he is clannish and tribalistic, but Jonathan came and gave all the South- South appointments to Ijaw. Buhari is not Hausa. He is a Fulani man and has spread his appointments fairly well across all the geopolitical zones, unlike what Jonathan did; giving the entire key positions to his Ijaw folks. Before Harmattan, there was cold, nobody should cry foul,” he said.
President doing well – Dr. Ekariko
Foremost historian, Dr Vincent Ekariko, told this paper: “In attempting to address the diversity issue of the country, and to attempt to check President Muhammadu Buhari’s project spread across the country, we must realize that the country is a multi-ethnic society. We must know as a result that all the different ethnic groups want to be attended to at the same time and at equal opportunity.”
According to him, “President Buhari is for fair to every part of Nigeria. He is putting an end to Boko Haram in the north and high wave of other criminal activities in the south, even as he needs to augment the poor treasury occasioned by a high rate of corruption perpetrated by greedy politicians.”
Like Buhari like Jonathan – Otumu
Correspondingly, Chairman, Police Community Relations Committee, PCRC, ‘B’ Division, Warri, Delta state, Chris Otumu, said, “Even Jonathan in his time concentrated more in the north than Buhari is being accused of doing, to the extent that apart from the clannish choice of his native Ijaws for all the key appointment, he made from the Niger Delta, most of Jonathan’s appointments went to the north.
“In terms of physical infrastructure, it was the north all the way for Jonathan to the extent that he failed to even complete the East -West Road he inherited and which passes through his home state. While Jonathan concentrated development in the north in his time, his interest in his home Niger Delta was to develop and make billionaires of a bunch of few fronts and associates,” he said.
Unhurried but evenhanded – Akamovba
On his part, Partick Akamovba, leader of Niger Delta Revolution Movement, “Buhari is trying though he is quite slow. The anti-corruption drive is also very slow. Nigerians are looking forward to when the anti-corruption drive of the President is rapidly fulfilled. In the area of development, I do not think he is sectional as some people believe.