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How Afenifere, Middle Belt, PANDEF, Ohaneze, Northern elders chose Atiku



Atiku birthday

By Dr. Alfred Mulade, PANDEF scribe

 When on Sunday, February 3, 2019, the Nigerian Elders and Leaders Forum (NELF) held its historic summit in Abuja, the resolution was clear and unambiguous. The summit endorsed the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) Presidential candidacy of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, GCON, Waziri Adamawa, for the February 16 election.

 2.The Elders and Leaders comprised representatives drawn from AFENIFERE, for the South-West, led by Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Middle Belt Forum, for North Central and its catchment states, led by Dr. Pogu Bitrus; Ohanaeze Ndigbo, for the South East, led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo; Northern Elders Forum (NEF), for Northern Nigeria. led by Professor Ango Abdullahi; and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), for the South-South. The NELF is a body of patriots and distinguished leaders who have served Nigeria meritoriously, for decades. Their opinion has great weight in charting a new way for our people.

 3.The build-up to the endorsement of Atiku Abubakar was a series of robust engagements, alignments and realignments among leaders, elders and critical stakeholders of the six zones of this country. There was a constructive evaluation of the manifestoes of the various political parties and robust interaction with respective candidates at various times to arrive at the opinion on who is best fit to satisfy the nation’s desire to live together in a truly democratic nation that will guarantee peaceful co-existence, mutual respect, practice of true federalism and security of lives and property. In the interaction with all the prospective candidates, Atiku Abubakar excelled in his grasp of issues and the programmes for the emancipation of Nigeria.                                                             

4.In arriving at the decision, NELF acknowledged that:

several of the younger candidates who presented themselves for the Presidential election, demonstrated great capacity and promise to lead this country creditably and ensure that it engenders proper social and economic development to its people.

However, most of these qualified younger candidates do not, at present, have the machinery and structures to win a Presidential election in Nigeria; and therefore, adopts Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), as the Consensus Candidate for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as he has demonstrated the deep understanding of the critical need of the country at this time and possesses the capacity to proffer clear solutions in that respect.”

5. The restructuring of Nigeria’s political and economic system is a dominant factor which determines where the pendulum swings, as to which Presidential candidate enjoys the support and cooperation of the regional organizations. Each of the zones had rallies on Restructuring of the Nigeria Federation, to ensure fiscal federalism, resource ownership, equity, justice, fair play, security and sanctity of lives and property. The purpose of these mega rallies was to mobilize the peoples of the respective zones in the country to come to affirm the need to restructure the country, to promote true federalism, equity and justice.

 6.It is noteworthy to intimate my dear compatriots that the Southwest had its rally in Ibadan in September, 2017; the Hand shake Across The Niger jointly hosted by the Southeast and the Southwest at Enugu in January, 2018; PANDEF led the leaders and stakeholders of the South-South Region, and representatives of the other zones of the country to an historic Mega Rally, with the theme:Restructuring The Nigerian Federation, which was held at Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, in March 2018;Ohanaeze Ndigbo hosted the South East edition of the mega rally on Restructuring at Awka, Anambra State, in May 2018; and the Middle Belt took itsturn in June 2018 at Makurdi, Benue State.

 7.In each of those events, delegates were drawn from the various segments of the ethnic-groups and stakeholderhips in the respective regions comprising traditional rulers, ethnic organizations, religious leaders and political leaders, youths and women. The Governors of the respective States used the occasion to deliver keynote addresses on the need for restructuring of the nation and the benefits derivable therefrom. For instance, on January 7, 2019, the traditional rulers and Elders of the Ijaw Nation, under the aegis of Conference of Ijaw Traditional Rulers and Elders (CITRE) rose from an extra-ordinary meeting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Capital, and the outcome was definite. It could not have taken long to communicate their feelings to the Nigeria Nation, the difference between political correctness and exigency of the moment. It remains unequivocal, however, that the need for restructuring of the Nigeria Federation is a subject that has continued to resonate across the country – North, South, East, and West and among every strata. It is an idea whose time has come. His Excellency, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State used the occasion to reiterate the significance of the question of Restructuring in the front burner of contemporary discourse, where he likened the potency of the 2019 Presidential election as a referendum on restructuring, hinging on the very existence of the people of the Niger Delta region, irrespective of political, religious or ethnic divides. It is a classical re- echoing of the position of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum made up of Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, PANDEF and the Middle Belt Forum.

 8.Before 1st January, 1914, when the Northern and Southern protectorates were brought together, which gave birth to what we now know as Nigeria, the various nationalities had existed independently in their geo-political and cultural enclaves. By 1960 when Nigeria gained Independence from the British rule, several constitutional development paradigms were experienced towards attaining better statehood. These largely served the primordial interest of the British Imperialists. It remains to add, however, that the constitutional arrangement that provided for three, and subsequently four regions, was good for a federal system. This was the pre-1960 and the 1963 constitutions. Today, these regions have given birth to 36 states and Abuja, as federating units, complete with 774 local government areas.

9.The defunct Northern region gave birth to 19 states; Western Region, 6; Midwest region, 2; and the old Eastern regions had 9 states carved out of it. There were four constitutions at independence in 1960. Each region had its own constitution. There was regional autonomy and fair competition for growth and development among the regions. The Western region  was able to establish the first Television Station in Africa, that is Western Nigeria Television in 1959, the University of Ife (now, Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile-Ife, introduction of Free Education policy etc.

10.The Eastern region under Nnamdi Azikiwe established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, from the Palm Oil resources from the region, while Ahmadu Bello established the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and other iconic Infrastructure, with resources from groundnut, cotton, hides and skins resources from the Northern region. All these laudable legacies were eroded by means of the military incursion into politics in 1966. Nigeria now operates a unitary- like federal structure where the centre has become enormously powerful and incompetent.

 11. The government controls 68 items in the Exclusive Legislative List, ranging from mining rights, interstate highways, educational establishments and railways, power, currency, Foreign Policy, immigration and several others.  Competition for control and involvement at the centre has become so ridiculously desperate. Of course, corruption has become a natural tendency. It is now the survival of the fittest, by any  means  necessary. Oil wealth from the Niger Delta has become the main stay of our economy. Nigeria operates a mono-economy.

 12.What then is the portrayal of restructuring, as envisaged? The Bayelsa State position paper on this subject captures it thus:

 “Restructuring Nigeria  and by the  ethnic  nationalities, is  opting  for are configured number of  federating units through  a totality  of non-coerced efforts, acts and legislations to enthrone  a new  constitution, in order to achieve true federation and full Resource control/ownership  by the federating  units  that  pay  prescribed  taxes  from  revenues  they earn  to a federation  tier  of  government  vested  with  voluntarily  ceded  exclusive  legislative  functions”. This  postulation, in  order  words,  stands  on  three  pillars:  freedom,  justice, equity,  security,  fairness and  prosperity.

 13.Obafemi Awolowo pointing towards the appropriateness and applicability of state controlling their resources observed that:

“In a  capitalist  sovereignty, whether it is  a  federation  or not, it is  dishonest in the  extreme  to insist  on  sharing  another  state’s  wealth  on  any  basis  other  than  that  which  the  rules  of the  capitalist  games allow.  In this kind of society, every state is entitled to keep whatever accrues to it”. In fact, it is a moral cross upon which agitation for resources control and true federalism finds a soul-mate.

 14.Aside from the fact that the Niger Delta produces the oil and gas resources that account for over 90% of the nation’s foreign exchange, it remains to add incontrovertibly that he need for us to restructure the nation to encourage the development of other sectors of the Nigeria economic is very important. The urgency is as good as now. The crude oil, which we depend upon today, is a wasting asset, declining in value in the International market.

 15.China and some European countries have placed a time limit between 2020 and 2024 to stop production of any machine that runs on fossil fuel. The implication of this is that there is going to be drastic decline in the demand for oil in the world market. Furthermore, within the next 10-15 years, oil will no longer be required, as machines will be largely run on alternative sources of power.

 16.Nigeria has potential for generating revenue for more than what she gets from oil and gas presently. A ready example is agriculture. Netherlands earns over $100Billion yearly on agricultural produce like vegetable and dairy. This is far higher than what Nigeria earns from oil export. This is besides what we can earn from our groundnut pyramids, palm oil and cocoa export.

 17.In his address at the Chatham House, London, while canvassing for the need to diversify the economy by restructuring the Nigeria Federation, John Nwodo, President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo asserted:

“Those campaigning  against  restructuring  in Nigeria have painted an  unfortunate and untrue picture that those of us in support of  restructuring  are  doing  so in order to deny the  Northern  States  who  have not  yet  any  proven  oil  reserve  of the  ability  to survive. This is unfortunate. The new  model we propose for Nigeria recognizes that  revenue in the  world  today  is promoted by  two  main  sources,  namely: human capital development  leveraging  on technology to drive the critical  sectors of the economy and  agriculture. Ten years ago, among the top ten companies in the world were the likes of ExxonMobil, Shell, and Total. The top eight companies in the world are represented by technology-related companies. They include Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon, among others. The example of Netherlands in agriculture is also relevant here. The Netherlands is the 18thlargest economy in the world. It has a land area of about 33.9,000 square kilometers. Niger State, has about 74,000 square kilometers. Netherlands earn over $100 billion from agricultural exports annually, contributed mainly by vegetables and dairy. Nigeria’s oil revenue has never in any one year reached $100 billion. Northern Nigeria is the most endowed, agriculturally, in Nigeria. Its tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, cucumbers, tubers, grains, livestock and dairy feed majority of Nigerians in spite of its huge reserve of unexploited export potentials. In a restructured Nigeria, Northern Nigeria, with the right agricultural policies, will be the richest part of Nigeria”.

18.While interacting with the leadership of the Nigerian Senate, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) led by Chief Edwin Clark noted the pivotal role of the National Assembly, especially at a very difficult time in the history of our country. The National Assembly, SMBLF noted, occupies a unique position in our constitution. The parliament is a microcosm of the people because every section of the country, has by adult suffrage, delegated its voice to this parliament; and by extension, the conscience of our country. The Forum noted that in situations like this, the National Assembly needs to rise like one man, with a conscience, the commitment and patriotism to unveil the facade of partisan politics and partisan advantages, and to face real issues of the nation, as the nation stands on the edge of a precipice. SMBLF added that the delegation had come as elders, fathers, and as heads of different social-cultural organizations of this country, who look up to the Assembly for leadership to speak in moments of this nature:

“We have looked at the problem of our country, and we think that it is solvable. But we think that it is lack of will. We have come to ginger you to develop that will and seek a consensus of the leadership of the National Assembly, who have the necessary legislative empowerment by our constitution to make decisions that can reverse our situation. At time like this, partisanship is criminal.”

19.The leaders told the NASS that, in their view, Nigeria is in crisis because of overconcentration of power in the Federal Government contrary to the agreement of our founding fathers. They noted that sometimes history brings one in particular junction to change the order of things. The NASS is at a particular junction to prevent further bloodshed in this country and prevent further drift into our ethnic cleavages:

“So we’ve not come to make an ethnic representation. We’ve come to make a patriotic representation that is an urgent need for restructuring of this country. This should happen to prevent the temptation of resorting to sing the nunc dimittis of our country.’’

20. Our country today is at a cross road. It has never been this divided. We want a leadership that would unite the people of this country. A leadership that would appreciate our diversity and respect our uniqueness; a leadership that would have respect for rule of law, security and sanctity of human life; and a leadership that would be truly committed to the restructuring of this country. This is the leadership that is found in Waziri Adamawa!

Dr. Alfred MULADE, National Secretary, PANDEF wrote in from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State

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