Blessing Iruoma, Port Harcourt
The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) is demanding an unreserved apology from the federal government for shunning the South-South geographical zone stakeholders meeting without a pre-information of absence.
This was the group has described the failure of a federal government delegation to show up for the meeting, planned at its instance, as ‘one insult too many’.
The meeting, which was scheduled to hold, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, last Tuesday, to discuss critical national issues, was botched at the last minute, after traditional rulers, the governors, the clergy, elders, leaders, women and youths of the six South-South states had gathered in Port Harcourt and waited for hours.
In a press statement issued by Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), National Chairman, PANDEF and a former Military Governor of Akwa Ibom State, said the Federal Government was a clear demonstration of contempt and disregard for the entire South-South Zone, adding that the reason offered for the deplorable action is completely untenable and unacceptable.
“PANDEF restates the demand of the governments and people of South-South Zone that the presidency, and indeed, the Federal Government, should offer an unreserved, public apology to the Zone.
“They won’t treat a district head in their areas, the way and manner, they treated our traditional rulers, elders and our governors.
“They have to publicly apologize otherwise they should forget any further thought of a meeting with our people. Enough is indeed enough.
“How else can anyone explain what happened? If not an act of disrespect, disregard, and contempt to the entire South-South Zone.
“They went to the North, South-West and South-East, met with the people, no emergency security meeting was summoned to stop them from attending those meetings.
“But when it was for the South-South zone, an emergency arose to scuttle the meeting. We have cross-checked and are yet to ascertain that there was any national security threatening situation to warrant their staying away.
“What they have told us, in essence, is that we do not matter but the truth is that We Do Matter.
“It is awful and preposterous for anyone to delude that we do not matter. That they can treat the region that has sustained the country for decades, in this way and manner, only speaks to the kind ‘upside-down’ thinking that has kept the country in its unworthy state.
“It is even more unfortunate that the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a seasoned diplomat of global repute, who should know better, is involved in this ignominious display.
“We are curious that the Ministers and other top government officials from the south-south geopolitical zone were also not present for the meeting, and did not deem it fit to call the Governors or leaders.
“Were they also part of the emergency security meeting at the Presidential Villa or they had foreknowledge of the plan to botch the meeting?
“We are, however, not overly surprised at all of these occurrences because we have been talking of the inconsistencies, discrimination and injustice against the Niger Delta region by this administration for the past five years.
“Let it be known to them that whether they desire to meet with us or not, the people of the South-South Geopolitical Zone have taken a firm stand on the issue of restructuring of Nigeria. We are the biggest victims of Nigeria’s flawed federal system. All we want is true federalism!
“Nigeria is not the only country operating a federal system of government in the world. They cannot continue to pretend that they do not know what true federalism or fiscal federalism implies. Nigeria has to be restructured, things have to change.”