Which is now the authentic leadership platform representing the Niger delta region in negotiation with the Nigerian government? This is the question in the lips of concerned Niger Deltans as well as the Nigerian government. Two groups are now holding on to this enviable position. The Pan Niger Delta Forum PANDEF led by the inimitable Chief Edwin Clark and a self-styled Pan Niger Delta Peoples’ Congress PNDPC led by the former National Chairman of Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria TROMPCON and paramount ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom His Majesty Charles Ayemi-Botu.
It would be recalled that some months ago a coalition of nine militants groups convened by the leader of the reformed Niger delta Avengers RNDA the self-styled Major General John Mark Ezonbi announced the withdrawal of approval and support given to the Pan Niger Delta Forum PANDEF an umbrella body of Leaders, Monarchs and stakeholders of the region under the leadership of Chief Edwin Clark.
In its place, the Militants forum had decree into existence another umbrella body of leaders and stakeholders called the Pan Niger Delta Congress PNDPC. The militant’s group had gone ahead to appoint His Majesty Charles Ayeni-botu as national leader whilst Chief Mike Loyibo was appointed National Coordinator.
Edwin Clark of PANDEF
The opposition against Clark led PANDEF is gathering strength as more and more militant groups are declaring support for the newly formed PNDPC which they claim are energetic, vibrant, sincere, focus and well-meaning than the Clark led PANDEF which they see as old, recycled corrupt spent force.
A terse statement released by the self-styled leader of nine militants group Major General Ezonbi explain their rejection of Clark thus “The decision to change the leadership of the region under Clark, was informed by the need to do away with the old brigade and refocus the region. “Chief Clark is too and should have remained an opinion leader, rather than take up such responsibility when he was among those who created the under development of the region.
“Chief Clark cannot continue to hold the region to ransom and more painful is that most of the members of PANDEF had held various positions in the past but did not do anything meaningful for the region. Why did they not form PANDEF when Jonathan was president? They were in the corridors of power. Contracts and other decisions were taken at their Abuja house for themselves.
PANDEF in a Session
Insisting on the rejection of PANDEF as the leadership platform for the Niger Delta People the Militants group stated “We reaffirmed our position that the Clark-led PANDEF, can no longer enter into negotiations with the federal government on behalf of the region because PANDEF members are made up of people, who could best be described as idols of underdevelopment in the Niger Delta region”.
However, it is reliably gathered that PANDEF is not going to surrender easily to what a prominent member of the group described as the ranting and blackmail of a few misguided ruffians parading themselves as spokespersons for the Niger Delta Region. PANDEF as a responsible and embracing platform for the region is reaching out to the disaffected persons and groups in order to unite and confront the challenge facing the region.
Meanwhile, many other groups within the region are still in support of Chief Clark and PANDEF. One of such group is the Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative IPDI, in a statement released by their spokesman Mr. Ezekiel Kagbala said “the purported conveners of the militants’ coalition and leader of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers John Mark Ezonbi and others are paid media groups and do not have the backing of the Niger Delta region to topple Pa Clark”.
Also, the spokesperson for the Niger Delta Revolutionary Council NDRC W. O. I. Izon Ebi stated that PANDEF led by Chief Clark is neither an Ijaw affair nor an extension of the fiefdom of Chief Clark. According to him “those behind these acts who are bent on frustrating the peace process should have a rethink. We advise those mentioned as members of PNDPC to renounce the traitors because we also know that they profit from chaos and anarchy.