IT was a test of power, during the week, in the Niger Delta region between two rival regional groups, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and Pan Niger Delta Congress, PNDPC, both at war over the leadership of the oil-region.
Whereas, the former is shepherded by former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, who is the National Leader and Convener, the later is headed by former national chairman of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria, His Majesty Charles Ayemi-Botu.
As at yesterday, PANDEF strongly believed that the point as to which is the authentic voice of the region had been settled in its favor, while the PNDPC feeling unbowed by the events that played out, had, observably returned to the drawing board.
Still troubled by the October 26 disruption of its fourth assembly at Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, PANDEF guardedly, last week, scheduled its November 21 emergency general assembly at its cradle, Effurun, near Warri, Delta State.
However, leader of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, and Coalition of nine militant groups, self-styled “General” Johnmark Ezonbi, which empaneled the PNDPC, swore barely 24 hours after that it would interrupt the assembly.
RNDA had warned, “Let us sound a note of warning that the planned PANDEF meeting scheduled to hold on Tuesday November 21, 2017 at the PTI Conference Centre, Effurun will not hold. We will vehemently resist any attempt by members of the disbanded Pan Niger Delta People Forum PANDEF to meet even if it will mean blood spilling. Enough is enough.”
Ezonbi noted that the botched October 26 PANDEF meeting in Port Harcourt “should have sent clear signals to members of PANDEF that the party was over,” adding, “The Federal Government should not hold us responsible if they allow the meeting to hold judging from the volatile situation in the Niger Delta, a word is enough for the wise.”
Clark’s retort, Mulade’s reassurance
When Saturday Vanguard called Clark few minutes after RNDA issued the threat, the elder statesman said he did not see why he should dignify the militant group with a comment and referred our reporter to PANDEF’s Coordinating Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, and others.
Dr. Mulade stated that PANDEF had contacted the Army, Police, DSS and other relevant security agencies to provide security for the meeting, adding, “The meeting is going to hold as scheduled, nothing is going to stop us.”
Loyibo, Ogulagha monarch’s revolution
Twenty-four hours to the meeting, there was upsetting in-house coup against PNDPC. The Coordinator of the group, Chief Mike Loyibo, Secretary, Prof Benjamin Okaba, the traditional ruler of Ogulagha kingdom, HRM Joseph Timiyan, pioneer national president of Ijaw National Council, INC, Prof Christopher Dime and others, pulled out of PNDPC.
In fact, they visited Chief Clark at his Kiagbodo country home in Delta state to denounce PNDPC, declaring the body dead with their exit.
The exit of the HRM Timiyan, who is a close friend of HM Ayemi-Botu really baffled PNDPC leaders
RNDA knocks Loyibo, others
Both the RNDA and PNDPC tried to make light of the impact of their exit, saying that Loyibo and his cohorts were good riddance.
According to RNDA leader, Ezonbi, “The purported defection of six members of PNDPC is a charade, out of the alleged six, four are non-members, namely Chief PerefughaKarawei, Chief Wellington Bobo, Chief Williams Borme and Chief D.S.P Oyadonghan.”
“Furthermore, it is on record that they said that the erstwhile secretary, Prof. Benjamin Okaba and Prof. Christopher Dime were never nominated by the RNDA, but brought in by Mike Loyibo to do his bidding as the interim secretary and twice, he forwarded his name for replacement with Professor Etim Eyong Eyo which we declined.
PNDPC dead, Loyibo insists
Loyibo, nevertheless, insisted that he was the founder of PNDPC and that the initial plan was for the body to complement PANDEF, but he and other well-meaning leaders and members of the group saw that some persons were turning the matter to a personality clash, with Clark as the main target, they had to exit the body.
He stated that those who left were the soul and spirit of PNDPC and with their exit, there was nothing left of the chief resistance group to PANDEF.
Security transform overnight in Effurun
Not many doubted the threat by RNDA to disrupt the Effurun meeting, despite the reassurance on security arraignments by PANDEF’s Mulade. And for those who witnessed the October 26 Port Harcourt episode, it was curious that men of the Nigerian Police Force, who mounted sentry, Tuesdaymorning, at the entrance of the Conference Centre of Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Effurun, venue of the meeting were not hostile.
Adjacent the entrance to the hall inside the premises, a team of soldiers clearly there to stop any intruder(s) was on standby. As hours rolled by until the meeting ended, it was perceptible that whoever pulled the strings that resulted in the Port Harcourt affair could not muster such power again.
Before then, the Minister of Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Brigadier General Paul Boroh (retd.) visited Chief Clark at Abuja, where they apologized on behalf of the Federal Government for the Port Harcourt humiliation.
Vote of confidence on Clark
At the Effurun emergency assembly, where leaders from the states of the Niger Delta region, passed a vote of confidence on Chief Clark, the South-South leader pointed out that the internal conflict posed by PNDPC had been resolved with the principal actors in the group-pitching tent once again with PANDEF.
He announced that the main character in the group, Chief Loyibo, was at the PANDEF meeting with other members. Loyibo ceased the opportunity when he spoke to revalidate all that Clark said, maintaining that PNDPC was no more.
From the former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Alabo Tonwe Graham-Douglas (Rivers), former Minister of Police Affairs, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo (Delta), former Minister of Lands and Housing, Hon Nduese Essien (Akwa Ibom), Col Tony Nyiam (retd) (Cross River), Chief Francis Doukpola (Bayelsa) to Dr. Mike Asemota (Edo), leaders of the region passed a vote of confidence on Clark.
They echoed that he was a blessing to the region and his time was not over, and so, nobody should be in a hurry to dethrone him as Niger Delta leader..
Alabo Graham- Douglas said, “If not for Clark’s patience, understanding and communication among the leaders, we will not be where we are today.”
Nduese Essien and Tony Nyiam said that Clark remained articulate at 91 years and Niger Delta people were proud of him as their leader.
Dr. Asemota said Clark has provided outstanding leadership for the region
Bozimo advises PNDPC leader
Alaowei Bozimo, who with Elder T. K Ogoriba, worked behind the scene to bring Loyibo and others out of PNDPC, asserted, “I congratulate High Chief Mike Loyibo, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, the young minds that were the driving force of the former group. The unity and understand displayed by our young men must be carried through in our drive.”
He had earlier at Clark’s home in Kiagbodo where Loyibo and others dumped PNDPC, stated that he has tremendous respect for the leader of PNDPC, HM Ayemi-Botu, but called him to join forces with PANDEF.
No retreat, no surrender – Ayemi-Botu
Commenting on the entire episode, which he described as a charade, PNDPC leader, HM Charles Ayemi-Botu, said the claim by Loyibo that the group had not merged with PANDEF was a lie from the pit of hell.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the purported merger of PNDPC with PANDEF is not only false and misleading, but also a mere figment of imagination of those who orchestrated the non-existent merger,” he asserted.
“On the contrary, at Opokuma summit of PNDPC, it was unanimously agreed that the PNDPC would continue to operate as an independent entity mandated by the agitators to open fresh dialogue with the federal government on the way forward.”
We will pursue core mandate
Ayemi-Botu stated, “As a credible body led by responsible leaders from the Niger Delta, the PNDPC shall continue to respect and uphold the rights of individuals to meet, form or belong to any organization and pursue their aims and objectives as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “
PANDEF feels rejuvenated
That PANDEF felt fulfilled with its Effurun general assembly was obvious in its communiqué where it bluntly told the Federal Government that military intimidation of Niger Delta people would not stop their fight for equity and economic justice.
The group stated that the federal government addressed only one out of its 16-point programme to the government, which is take-off of the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, since November, last year. Consequently, it asked it to set up its dialogue team with the group for the other unaddressed programmes to avert further trouble in the region.