From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
In his reply to the interview by Prof Kimse Okoko, elder statesman and leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark expressed disappointment that the former president of Ijaw National Council accused his leadership of pursuing selfish interests.
According to him: “I am really peeved, disgusting and amazed that my brother Prof. Kingsley Okoko of the University of Port Harcourt, would open his mouth to accuse the leadership of PANDEF of seeking their own interest and being selfish and unprogressive and that it is the main reason of his not joining forces with us when he was invited to do so.
“I am the leader and convenor of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which was formed on Friday 19, August 2016, as a result of the crisis in the oil rich Niger Delta, when pipeline vandalisation and stealing of crude oil, damaging of oil platforms was the order of the day.
“To prevent this, the Federal Government mobilized Military men including a group called “Operation Crocodile tears” which was launched at Sapele and Rivers State by the Chief of Army Staff.
“The situation became very dangerous and explosive. It was at that juncture that I led the group including some concerned men and youths to form PANDEF. It’s membership includes eminent personalities in the Niger Delta region like Prof. Dara, Chief Bozimo, former Minister of Police Affairs amongst others.
“A list of all invitees to the inaugural meeting was published in the dailies numbering over 500 personalities, youths and women including the name of Prof. Kingsley Okoko, as one of the leaders in the state. Apart from being a Professor and elder statesman, he was President of the Ijaw National Council (INC) and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of INC.
“Meetings were held including the one at PTI Efron which was well attended by about 500 delegates including traditional rulers from all the six states in the Coastal region. “It was the meeting that gave rise to the ceasefire which we now enjoy today because the various youths organisations man dated use to negotiate on their behalf with the Federal Government. It would be remembered that on November 1, 2016, on a Monday, a delegation of over 100 delegates including Traditional rulers, politicians, former governors, National Assembly members, women and youths had a historic meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa. At that meeting, we submitted a 16-point agenda to the Federal government which has now been accepted by the Federal Government as a working document.
“This was followed up by a tour of the region by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo in his capacity as the Acting President. In all of these visits, PANDEF was fully involved at its own cost. No one has given us any kobo or financed us and no one has asked for his personal gain.
“For Prof. Okoko to accuse me of selfishness, he has really goofed and no Ijawman will take him seriously. Today by the grace of God, the entire Ijaw people regard me as their leader and father because of what I have done for the Ijaw people.
“In my time as Commissioner for Education and Finance, I was responsible for the building of hospitals in Ojobo, Bomadi, Patani, Gburutu etc. I increased the number of Secondary Schools in Ijaw land from one to ten. All female students gained admission to tertiary institutions on automatic scholarship and all young men were on schoolarhip.
“Today, eduction in Ijaw land has almost come to a stand still, but we thank the Bayelsa State governor, Dickson who has declared a State of emergency in education since 2012 and the educational revolution taking place on the state today with free education at Primary and Secondary level, with full boarding and free uniform has not been equalled anywhere in Nigeria.
“I now wish to ask Prof. Okoko as a citizen or indigene of Bayelsa what contribution has he made to the development of even his own village in Bayelsa State.
“As President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), he made no progress as there was confusion everywhere and he was forced out because of his ineptitude.
“PANDEF is a regional organisation recognised by the Federal Government and other regions in Nigeria. We are not out to enrich ourselves but to fight corruption, marginalisation, oppression and to see that our people benefit from the oil industry which has devastated their environment.
“I am not surprised at his mischievous and unwarranted attack on the leadership of PANDEF, that has been his style since the first civilian Government when Chief Melford Okilo was governor. But when he was appointed Commissioner for Housing during the Military regime, he did not perform and today, he cannot point to anything done in his own time.
“Once again, I am inviting my dear brother Prof. Okoko to work with PANDEF because the various ethnic nationalities are all part of PANDEF. I am aware that he belonged to an organisation known as Ethnic Nationalities. Let us not dissipate our energy, PANDEF is big enough to accommodate all. It will also not allow any exploitation of our resources without our participation. “I am now 90 and above, waiting for someone to take over from me and Prof. Okoko and his likes should face the realities instead of being academic at all time. Face the problem of your people and there the honour lies.
“As long as I am leader of PANDEF, no amount of distraction or fifth columnist will affect the unity and determination of the Niger Delta people.”