Why we dethroned PANDEF – John Mark
John Mark, the Self-professed Coordinating General and Leader of the Nine Militant Groups in the Niger Delta Creeks that goes by the name Renewed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), gives reasons why Chief EK Clark and other PANDEF Leaders will never be allowed to continue in office.
His call came at about 9.05 a.m. on September 30, 2017. His voice was truly that of an agitator, cracking and sharp. He asked: “Are you Mr. Gabriel Omohinmin?” I replied: “Yes, what can I do for you, Sir?” And the following dialogue held:
General Mark: My name is General John Mark.
Palace Watch: You are General what?
General Mark: General John Mark, the leader of the nine groups that make up the Renewed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA). I am calling you, Sir, from one of the Creeks in the Niger Delta.
Palace Watch: Yes, what do you want?
General Mark: First, I called to congratulate The Guardian On Sunday for an excellent and unbiased coverage of the disagreement that has arisen, due to our recent decision to effect a change in the leadership of the defunct Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
Palace Watch: My friend, do you just wake up one morning, and without any formal complaints just decide to relieve old men of their leadership positions in an organisation you did not know how, when and where it was formed, thus jeopardising their hard-earned integrity and reputation?
After a moment of silence, the self-styled General responded.
General Mark: Well Sir, you have a right to your own opinion. If that is the way you see things, we can’t change your mindset now. You are supposed to be doing your job dispassionately, which is why I called you. But we see things differently from your present position, Sir. We have very cogent reasons for taking the action we took. As for the people claiming to own PANDEF and are saying we did not know where and how the body was formed, let them come to the Creeks without our consent and approval. Whatever they get, let them take it. We are very, very ready for them.
Now to why we appointed His Royal Majesty Pere Dr. Charles Ayemi-Botu and other traditional rulers as leaders of the new group we formed, the Pan Niger Delta People Congress (PANDPC)… You see, for so long a time, Chief E.K. Clark and the group he leads have been taking the people of this region for a ride, and this can no longer be allowed to continue. For example, Chief Clark and most people in the defunct PANDEF have been in government since early 70s. All these years, they have been trading with people of the Niger Delta in particular and South-South Region in general. Over the years, Chief Clark and other PANDEF leaders have been so corrupted, that they no longer have the moral rights to lead anybody in this part of the country.
Palace Watch: Do you know the gravity of your allegation? Please, show me the evidence of any tribunal or court where Chief Clark and other leaders you are accusing of corruption have been tried and convicted or jailed for corrupt practices? You don’t just make wild allegations because you no longer like the old man’s face…
General Mark: The corruption issue, as it affects Pa Clark and other PANDEF leaders is not an issue I would want to spend too much time on now. Another time will come, when I will call you again; that is after I have sent you all the documentary evidence of their corrupt practices. The documents I will be sending will contain facts and figures about their misdeeds. We are not just making allegations about them, we are very much aware, as a matter of fact, that they are a very corrupt group of people that cannot continue to lead us. It took us quite some time and a very sober reflection before we arrived at the present decision about the current situation of things in the Niger Delta Region before we announced their removal and the body’s change of name. We have, therefore, appointed people that will be speaking for us in this region.
As you are very familiar with, we are on a very risky mission. It is not a good thing to abandon all the good things of life, and take to the Creeks to fight the cause of our people. We decided to go into this part of our struggle as a matter of last resort, because this is the only path to cross to get our region, which has been neglected over the years by successive governments. This is chief among other reasons we are putting our lives on the line. No matter what anybody might want to say today, we were part and parcel of PANDEF’s formation. We keyed into that body because, before now, we believed very strongly that PANDEF, as a body, would help bring about the much-required development to Niger Delta Region. But sadly, after the ceasefire, and after the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have keyed into the programme or agenda submitted by PANDEF, Chief Clark and his co-leaders are now trying to jettison us and take over PANDEF for their selfish interests and use.
We are very angry because Chief Clark had the opportunity for six years, when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was the president, to have convinced or used him to develop our region. But as ex-President Jonathan’s alter ego, this he failed to do. And we are again observing that the same thing that happened during Jonathan’s era is about to happen again. We have to say no; we can’t allow this opportunity to develop the Niger Delta Region slip again. We are the ones risking our lives; we are the ones putting the fire before the smoke begins to come out. We are saying we are not going to allow Chief E.K. Clark fool us the second time. During Jonathan era, when we discovered that Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke and Orubebe, who were the Ministers of Petroleum and Niger Delta Region then, were getting out of control, we had wanted to punish or discipline them in our own way. But Chief Clark intervened and told us that they were his children and that we should not do anything to hurt any of them. He shielded them. Today, the monumental atrocities they committed are staring us in the face. We are the ones putting our lives on the line, whenever the military decides to invade the regions. These looters are never there to face the fire. So, we can’t allow things to remain the way they are forever.
Yes, we are in the Creeks – we are no fools and neither are we stupid. Their children are not with us here. The reason we zeroed on traditional rulers as our new leaders is very simple. They are traditional rulers, the natural representatives of our people. They have their kingdoms and domains here. If and when they choose to misbehave, they cannot run and go to stay in Abuja, as Chief Clark and other PANDEF leaders are doing now. If they stay away too long from their domain because of any infraction or betrayal, they will be dethroned. If their offence is such that we can’t tolerate, we know what to do to punish them. And no traditional ruler in his true sense or senses will want to be disgraced in such a manner as are we planning to do. So, we are relatively sure they will not deceive us or our people, where matters of our general interest are concerned. Chief Clark and his types are never reliable. We have, therefore, resolved not to deal with them again.
We have ample evidence that the people Buhari government is presently dealing with in the name of the Niger Delta Region are not sincere. They are trying to deceive the government, and before the Buhari government gets to know what’s happening, it would have been too late. We are shouting now, but the government doesn’t want to listen to us. What we are saying is that these people want to fool this government once again.
Palace Watch: General, as you might be aware, a lot of energy and groundwork have been undertaken to register PANDEF with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), as well as establish all necessary structures across the six states that make up the South-South Region. And any moment from now, PANDEF constitution will be ratified and adopted in Port Harcourt. With you present position, all these works that have taken a considerable length of time to establish would be jettisoned or abandoned midway, because you and your group are aggrieved. Is there no way a compromise can be reached?
General: Honestly speaking, there is no way we can continue to deal with PNADEF leadership again. Let me tell you, On September 29, the leadership of the new group Pan Niger Delta People’s Congress met in the palace of His Royal Majesty Okpoitari Diongoli in Opokuma Kingdom in Bayelsa State. At that meeting, the new body resolved, among other issues, to maintain its distinct identity from several other organisations, and they also considered the report of the Strategic Committee on the administration and structure of the new body. The new body has ratified that there will be executives at the local, state, zonal and national levels.
Prominent Niger Deltans, such as Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo of the Bomadi Diocese and Revered Father Ernest Obi graced the meeting, endorsing the aims and objectives of PANDPC. At that meeting, the National leader of PANDPC, His Majesty Pere Dr. Charles Ayemi-Botu, presided while other kings like Ebedaowei of Ekpetiama kingdom, King Joseph Timiyan and King Bubaraye Dakolo Ibananaowe of Ekpetiama kingdom, alongside three university professors and leaders of thought were also present. These are people we can trust. We know that they will not gamble with our collective interest or future. They are the people we are dealing with.”
After listening to General John Mark, Palace Watch sought the reactions of PANDEF group on all the allegations raised by the General.
Again, High Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe told Palace Watch that he has PANDEF’s mandate to react to all allegations raised. He, therefore, explained that, “PANDEF is not a political party and can never be seen to work or be working with any political party or group(s) of politicians in preparation for the 2019 general elections.”
He said: “The allegations raised by the General are untrue, wicked and a deliberate effort to destroy PANDEF. There is time for everything. If Chief Clark is their problem against PANDEF, the fact they must realise is that Clark is just a symbol, while PANDEF itself is omnibus and a bigger organisation. But if they are not comfortable to operate under PANDEF because Clark is there, they reserve the right to leave the organisation and go set up their own body. However, the fact that must not be lost on them is that PANDEF is a body comprising all ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta Region. It is not a body made up of one ethnic group, such as the Ijaws alone. The Ijaw people, as we speak, have INC, as well as IYC. If they feel they will be more comfortable in these groups, they should go ahead and join them.”
He pleaded that the aggrieved people should “stop henceforth from throwing stones at the house, as it is not in the interest of the region, and neither is it in their own interest. What PANDEF, as a body, has achieved will not be appreciated, until they look at the recent happenings in the South-East region.”
He said: “What was going on in the Niger Delta was worse than what was happening in the South-East. Everybody has since seen government’s reaction to recent happenings in Southeast. We do not want others to learn from us in a negative manner; rather, we would prefer to learn from others. The PANDEF General Assembly will be holding any moment from now in Port Harcourt. They are free to come and contest and occupy positions, if that is what they want. Once they are elected, they will be free to air their views, as PANDEF structure is democratic.”
Palace Watch: If this is your position, what are you people doing to reach out to the boys in the Creeks?
High Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe: Like I once told you, we have Group B, which is headed by T.K Ogoriba. Ogoriba and his team have been talking to them. That group involves the likes of John Ben, Chief Dan Etekibe, Godspower Gbedekama and a group of others. We are open and can be discussing and ensuring that we protect the region, and at the same time making sure we do what is needful for our nation.
Niger Delta is a stakeholder in Nigeria, and as such, has the right to benefit from whatever is happening in Nigeria. We should, therefore, think of how best we should benefit. But if they have any problem, we should discuss such. In this light, we are already discussing with His Royal Majesty Pere Ayemi-Botu. So, if they have anything they want us to discuss, they can also come to that meeting for us to iron out issues. I beg them not to do anything that will put the Niger Delta in bad light. They should remain calm, and their grievances will be looked into, if we approach issues properly.
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