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Why Niger-Delta Leaders Don't Want Another Summit

Vanguard (Lagos)
Emma Amaize, Lagos

ONE thing (read obsession) you cannot take away from the 80-year-old South-South leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, who robustly believes that a Hippopotamus can be made invisible in the dark waters, is his outspokenness and eloquence in ventilating his viewpoints, and that of his people at any point in time, no matter whose ox is gored.

And that was exactly what he did, last weekend, when he and other Niger-Delta leaders, including Itsekiri business mogul, Chief Hope Harriman, apparently suspicious of the game the Federal Government was playing with its planned summit on the Niger-Delta, detonated like a time bomb, describing the summit as a jamboree. To them, if one's house is burning, he cannot go hunting. As far as they were concerned, the Yar'Adua administration just wants to go hunting again and is merely looking for co-hunters whose time would be wasted.

Since that outburst, officials of the Federal Government involved in the packaging of the summit have been running round with one file or the other, following a post-mortem from above, that they should explain their actions and inactions on certain things, expected to have been perfected before now.

Chief Edwin Clark

Given Clark's towering personality in the Niger-Delta region and his Relationship with those in high places, it would have been expected that he would have been briefed on the planned summit before now, but, the former Minister of Information practically swore to Vanguard in an interview at his country home, Kiagbodo in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State, Tuesday, that he was in the dark.

In fact, he is not asking why Clark has not been consulted; but he is asking why the known leaders of the region had not been generally appraised of the reasons for the summit up till this moment. Pray, if Chief Clark is in the dark about the planned summit, who then is in the light about it? Who and who has the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the man that is in-charge of the Niger-Delta peace process in this government and the Minister of Special Duties in the Presidency, Elder Godsay Orubebe, who is assisting him in handling the Niger-Delta crisis consulted?

According to Clark, "I want to say that we, the elders have not been consulted about this summit. Three weeks before this government came into being, it was mooted that there was going to be a Niger-Delta summit on the development of the region. It was being arranged by certain officials in the Presidency and when we asked questions, it appeared there was no proper arrangement and that it was being postponed.

That was why it did not take place in the first instance. The next thing we heard was that the summit was now going to take place with Ambassador Gambari as chairman. As leaders of the people, we have not been briefed, we don't know what is going on, and we are asking, is this summit going to be a summit of all Nigerians, what is the definition of stakeholders, we do not know the people who are going to be involved. And why is that Ambassador Gambari of the United Nations, who has never been to the Niger-Delta, who has very little or no knowledge about Niger-Delta physically (he may be reading them from books) is going to be the chairman."

Where are the previous reports?

Though reasonably important, the more crucial matter now is not who has been consulted. The Niger-Delta leaders are angry that so many conferences have been held in the past and beautiful reports on how to resolve the Niger-Delta crisis produced, but, none has been implemented.

Yes, that is our anger, Clark intoned, querying, "How many summits were held before Abuja was developed to become the capital of Nigeria"?

Perhaps, the most authoritative report on the Niger-Delta at the moment is that of 2005, which was headed by the former Chief of Defense Staff, General Alexander Ogomudia (rtd). The Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas, made up of 100 knowledgeable and eloquent members drawn from the different strata of the Nigerian society gave the immediate, short term and long-term plans for the development of the Niger-Delta.

Members included but was not limited to General Alexander Ogomudia rtd (chairman), activist and environmentalist, Ledum Mitee, former minister, Prof. T.T. Isoun, Admiral Festus Porbeni, rtd, Justice Babatunde Belgore, Prof. Maclean Geo-Jaja, Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu, former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili, managing director of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, Chief Timi Alaibe, former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Austen Opara, Sen. Florence Ita Giwa , Prof Jubril Aminu, former group managing director of the NNPC, Engr. Funso Kupolokun., celebrated clergy, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, Dr. Abubakar Momoh, Chief Onyema Ugochukwersu, Chief Albert Okumagba and Gen. Appah.

Others were Gen. Oladayo Popoola (rtd.), country chairman of the SPDC, Basil Omiyi ,Chief O. C. J. Okocha, SAN ,Navy Captain Olubolade Omoniyi (rtd), D.I.G Fidelis Oyakhilome (rtd) ,Prof Olu Odeyemi, former governor of Cross River State,Chief Clement Ebri, Oba Dokun Abolarin, current chairman of the NDDC, Amb. Sam Edem, Amb. O. Otiotio, Amb. Joe Egbuson, Amb. I Ajuru, Prof. Augustin Ikein, Senator. Mieba Lee, chairman of the Federal Government Committee of Peace and Conflict Resolution on the Niger Delta, Sen. David Brigidi, Godwin Omene, Admiral Victor Ombu, Sen. Ben Birabi, Hon Abiye Sekibo , Gen. Stanley Diriyai ,Chief Jasper Jumbo, HRH Frank Okoroakpo,Prof. Winston Bell-Gam, Prof. Joseph Ajienka,Prof. Brambaifa Nelson, president of the Ijaw National Congress, Prof. Kimse Okoko ,Chief G.M. Odumgba, Dr. Omokaro Obire, Prof. A. Awariete, Prof. Kio N. Don-Pedro, Hon. Ebikeme Ere, Hon. Ken Etukuche, Chief Ephraim Faloughi, Prince Billy Harry,Dr. Chris Ifeadi ,Chief Timiebi Koripamo-Agari ,Lucky Eleanya ,Steve Erebo, Victor Sami, Daukoru Dikibo, Don Etiebet ,Barr. Aliyu Jemide, Alabo Tonye Graham- Douglas.

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