N’Delta leadership split deepens as PNDPC insists Clark, PANDEF can’t speak for region

The dissenting voices over the leadership of the Niger Delta region seems to be worsening as a factional dialogue group, Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress (PNDPC) has given reasons why the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) led by Chief Edwin Clark is unfit to speak for the people.

The development came on the heels of a dramatic u-turn by some militant groups, who on Wednesday night declared their support to the Clark led PANDEF.

A coalition of the agitators led by General John Duku, had while withdrawing the quit notice, handed down to people of northern extraction and Yorubas who reside in the oil-producing area, also announced a change of mind in their earlier withdrawal of support to PANDEF.

But PNDPC in a statement on Thursday, describing Clark and his group as old fashioned and urged PANDEF members to accept their rejection and stop seeing themselves as representing the region in the ongoing negotiation with the Federal Government.

PNDPC’s Coordinator, Media Affairs, Chief Monday Whiskey, who appreciated the efforts of Clark and his group on the issues of concerns in the region in the statement, however noted that since the people of the region who in the first place mandated PANDEF to speak for the region have rejected them, that the best thing the group should do is to hands off.

Part of the statement read, “We are not opposed to the Clark group – Pan Niger Delta Forum. To be fair to them, they started this current process but there are people who gave them the mandate – the ex-agitators. But somewhere along the line, these ex-agitators discovered that their method of operation was not in tandem with modern day realities.

“It is these ex-agitators who withdrew the mandate earlier given to PANDEF that gave the same mandate to us in the PNDPC to represent them at this stage of the negotiation. We are not fighting with Chief Edwin Clark because he is our father but when those whom you represent decide to change the pace of the dialogue, you have no choice but to obey those who gave you the mandate.

“The peace process belongs to the people of the Niger Delta; they nominated members of PANDEF in the first place. If they have withdrawn the nomination and given it to another group, of course the new group takes over.

“We are not confronting or fighting anybody or group. Do not forget that most of the leaders of the PNDPC are also members of PANDEF and for anybody to say the two groups are fighting each other over who speaks for the Niger Delta mean such persons lack proper information about the two groups.

Read also: Militants reduce tension, withdraw quit notice to Northerners, Yorubas, issue fresh conditions

“Agreed that PANDEF had submitted the 16-Point Agenda but it is left for the Federal Government to implement it or not. Government can only implement whatever you have submitted in a peaceful atmosphere. Government can also decide on the ways it wants to implement it. We are even looking beyond what PANDEF submitted because there are so many demands that were not included in that document. We are looking at the possibility of including more things.

“As far as the Pan Niger Delta Peoples Congress is concerned, we believe that the government will give us a better negotiating opportunity now because we believe in dialogue, we don’t believe in being hostile to the government. We strongly believe that it is only when government has the enabling environment that we can achieve the desired development in the region.”

Stressing that PNDPC believed in the Nigerian project, Whiskey disassociated the group from the quit notice issued to Yoruba and northerners living in the region as well as the separatist agitation by a coalition of Niger Delta Agitators.

While the leaders of the oil region may not be unaware of the power of unity in achieving goals, the reason they have allowed this division to continue remains very much unclear. Some analysts however, are of the opinion that political manoeverings may have informed the leadership struggle in the region. DAILY TRUST. M

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