The re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general elections has split the camps of former Niger Delta militants.
Why some of the ex-agitators have declared support for Buhari on the basis of his performance in the oil-rich region, other leaders of militant groups yesterday stated that there is nothing on ground to justify a re-election of the President in 2019.
This is as the Presidency intensified its lobby of militant groups in a bid to secure the support of Niger Delta people ahead the 2019 general elections.
But a coalition of Niger Delta agitators yesterday described the Buhari administration as a total failure for not fulfilling its electoral promises to the people of the Niger Delta and the country in general.
In a statement signed by the coalition’s convener, General John Duku of the Niger Delta Watchdogs, and other “Generals” heading the other groups, the agitators distanced themselves from the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), which endorsed Buhari’s re-election.
The coalition said: “The present administration under President Buhari is a total failure without any infrastructure, the country’s debt profile under Buhari has skyrocketed within three years and killings across the country has become a norm with the President promoting his tribal agenda even in the pool of blood of innocent Nigerians.
“With all sense of responsibility, President Buhari does not deserve a second term and should be shown a way out.”
While acknowledging the right of the RNDA to endorse Buhari for re-election, the coalition picked holes in the comment made by RNDA that the President performed “much better for Niger Delta than any of his predecessors.”
The coalition added: “While we acknowledge the right of RNDA to adopt, support and vote for any candidate of their choice, we want to state categorically clear that the RNDA did so on their own selfish and pecuniary interest and not in the overall interest of the Niger Delta people or militants as they did not consult or seek opinion of the people that matters in Niger Delta struggle before their hasty adoption of a person who has divided the country along the ethnic lines than he met it.
“We want to ask the RNDA and the Federal Government the following questions: Where is the much publicized Coastal Rail Line they promised that would link the Niger Delta states with Lagos? Where are the Modular Refineries they promised?
“Why is it so hard for President Buhari to implement the 16-point demand of the PANDEF that led to our ceasefire in 2016 till now? How many years would it take the Federal Government to complete the East–West road? Why are the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NDDC and the Amnesty Office underfunded?
“While we acknowledge that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan did not do much for the Niger Delta people, we commend him for the massive projects he executed in the North, his fair distribution of appointments, respect to the rule of law and upholding the unity of the country when it matters most.
“The recent appointment of a retired officer from the North, Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi, in preference to Mr. Matthew Seiyefa, a Niger Deltan is a case in point. The treatment of indicted members of his government found culpable in various corrupt and criminal offences as sacred cows has also proven the President as very tribalistic and self-centred.
“Finally, we want to call on the good people of Niger Delta to remain calm, focused and disregard such endorsement as the RNDA has been dragged into dirty politics with money exchanging hands from the office of the Minister of Transport.
“They have been commissioned to destabilize the Niger Delta region, cause disunity and destroy the efforts of the PANDEF in the region, but we shall not allow it.
“At appropriate time, we shall consult widely and adopt a candidate that shall ensure that the resources of the Niger Delta people are properly utilized and fairly distributed for the overall benefit of the Niger Delta people, a person that has the mental capacity, charisma and political will to bring Nigeria out of the present failure championed by this Fulani tyrant to an enviable height.”
Other generals in the coalition include General Ekpo Ekpo of the Niger Delta Volunteers, General Benjamin Simple of the Bakassi Strike Force, and General Osadalot Nedam of the Niger Delta Warriors among others.
Meanwhile, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Prof. Charles Dokubo, met with the leaders of ex-agitators enlisted in the first phase of the Presidential Amnesty Programme where he charged them to shun all distractions and support President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid in the forthcoming presidential election.
At the meeting, which held in Abuja on Tuesday, Dokubo described President Buhari’s administration as reliable and said it was imperative for the people of Niger Delta to support it so as to be at the mainstream politically, rather than being at the periphery.
“I want all of us to think deep and fast on what we will benefit if our people do not support this administration and bring back President Buhari; the alternative will be too ghastly to even contemplate. This programme is on and for me, this government has been so reliable; we just have a little hitch in the releases, but the support of this government for the programme is enormous.
“I want the Niger Delta to be in the mainstream of this government, that this government should be our own government. Don’t distract attention; let us focus on what we are supposed to do and gain. Instead of agonizing, let us organize ourselves better in groups, not individually. I am now making a political plea because you said you want to know where you can lean or move.
“As you go home to your camps, let us do all that it takes to return this government so that our own areas can be at the centre and benefit from it. It is the only way to sustain this programme,” he said.
Dokubo warned them against accepting some juicy offers that would be made to them from other quarters in order to secure their support for the 2019 elections.
“They can tell you all sorts and promise you heaven on earth, but let us be focused and move this programme to higher heights and achieve all that we have set for ourselves and make the Niger Delta great again. I will not fail you. These are political times and there is temptation. There are people parading themselves as leaders. They will come and seek your opinion, tell you they will do better, but be wise,” he admonished.
Earlier, Pastor Reuben Wilson, who led 31 ex-agitators in the Amnesty Programme to the meeting, said his group would consult with Dokubo for a clear direction on political alignment of the Niger Delta people.
Wilson expressed appreciation to Dokubo for the changes he had brought on board since his assumption of office, especially for recognizing the leaders and empowering them.
According to him, the ex-agitators had never had it so good in the past.
“Let me, from this point, explain why we said we needed this meeting with you. This is an hour of politics; people are moving from one political party to another.
“Presidential aspirants are meeting people every day and night, but we the committed leaders of the Amnesty Programme, have not had a say. The reason being that we have a leader who is the head of this programme and the leader is no other person than you, sir.
“We are here to get directive from you; we are here to know where we will dance to and to know your mind. We are here to get everything about this forthcoming election from you so that the leaders under this programme will know what to do. Even though most of us here have been pressured by some groups to dance right or left, but we still believe we have a leader who is overseeing this programme and before we take a decision, we have to hear from you,” he said.
Wilson said that the militants were often cajoled to support previous administrations during elections and later dumped by the same people.
He expressed hope that it would be different this time.
“Even if the leaders and followers have been abandoned after working tirelessly for previous governments during elections, we believe it is necessary to hear from you. We pray that if you say we should dance to left or right, we will not be abandoned again because it is not easy for people to struggle, others win and those that suffered will remain the same,” he said.
In attendance at the meeting were leaders of Niger Delta ex-agitators from Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Imo and Edo states.
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