5,000 fighters to evict Hausa, Yoruba from Niger Delta – Agitators
The leader of the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators, John Duku, tells CHUKWUDI AKASIKE of PUNCH on why his group issued a notice to quit to Yoruba and northerners in the oil-rich region, among other issues
Why did the Coalition of the Niger Delta Agitators choose October 1 as the deadline for Yoruba and Hausa to leave the Niger Delta region? Does it have anything to do with independence day?
Yes! We are aware that it is the day that Nigeria marks its independence, but that is also the day the northern youths (chose when they) issued their notice to quit to the Igbo. Let it be that the date that we got independence is the day we (will) go our different ways. We are doing this because of what they did to others. We feel that the notice to quit given to the Igbo was also given to us in Niger Delta. There is no way they (northerners) will be able to differentiate an Igbo man from the Ikwerre man from Rivers; the Itsekiri man and the Urhobo man. So, if they have given the Igbo a notice to quit, they have also given to us.
Why is your group asking two major tribes in Nigeria to leave the South-South?
The northerners are holding the Nigerian government and everybody to ransom. They have ruled this country for many years and almost all the oil blocks belong to them. To make things worse, the present government came in, sidelined other people and gave the major positions in the country to the northerners. The President of this country is from the North; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation is from the North; the Inspector General of Police is from the North; the Chief of Army Staff is from the North; the Chief of Staff to the President is from the North; the Minister of Petroleum is from the North; the Comptroller General of Customs is from the North, the Director General of the Department of State Services is also from the North. All the major positions are being occupied by the northerners.
So, if you believe in one Nigeria, why can’t we get some of these positions? The Senate President is from the North; the Speaker of the House of Representatives is from the North. All members of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation board are from the North. With this, how do you want the southerners who have oil to feel? They (northerners) don’t have oil.
You are talking about the northerners. Why did you also give the Yoruba an ultimatum to leave the Niger Delta region?
The Yoruba who come from the same South as us are the major managers of the oil companies. The cabals from the Yoruba make things worse for the Niger Delta people. If you look at Mobil, Chevron, Total — almost all the major oil companies — they are being controlled by the Yoruba. But they refuse to partner with us; they refuse to work with us and they are treating us as slaves. They help their people more than our own people. They are the ones that stopped the oil firms from relocating their headquarters to the Niger Delta. They hold the Nigerian economy to ransom. The Yoruba people have done everything possible since the Olusegun Obasanjo administration to stop other ports (other than the Lagos seaports) from functioning in Nigeria. We have seaports in Delta, Rivers and Calabar (Cross River). They are not working because of Yoruba interest. The Yoruba want everything to be in Lagos, Ogun states and the rest.
When the northerners asked some people to go, we felt that one day, they would also ask us to go. We cannot wait for them to ask us to go; we are asking them to leave. Again, you know that our first statement was directed to the northerners alone, but when we saw that the Yoruba said they wanted Oduduwa Republic, we had no choice than to support them.
If the ultimatum you gave to the Yoruba and Hausa expires and they are still in the region, what will your group do?
We are recruiting over 3,000 to 5,000 people that will fight this cause. We have already gone around all the Niger Delta states and our surveillance and intelligence teams are working very hard. They have all the information about their (Yoruba) businesses. We have all the information about their investments and we will start with that.
Let me make a point: Today, (Aliko) Dangote is building a refinery in Lagos — in Yorubaland. He is a Hausa man and he is building a refinery in Yorubaland, seeing us as slaves. They rob Peter to pay Paul. What stops Dangote from building a refinery in the Niger Delta region? But the cabal, who are the stakeholders of Dangote Group, will not allow that to happen. Taking the refinery to the far western part of the country so as to tap the oil from Niger Delta, pump it to that state (Lagos State) — can you imagine that?
Don’t you think Dangote did that because of the perceived insecurity in the Niger Delta?
It is not about insecurity. We can assure you of this, 100 per cent. As of that time, the situation in the Niger Delta was okay. We have never for one day attacked any refinery.
Why did you demand for a Niger Delta Republic?
We need a Niger Delta Republic so that we will be able to control our resources and develop our areas. Let me give you an example: they gave us the Niger Delta Development Commission, which was functioning well and not involved in politics. Today, the NDDC has been turned into a political party.
You have 13 per cent derivation already for the Niger Delta region. Is that not enough, considering that other regions also need to survive?
The 13 per cent derivation is not enough. Even the 13 per cent derivation has been going into the wrong hands. The governors in the Niger Delta are even making things worse.
Why do you say so?
Some of them (governors) were actually not elected. These are the people that do not care about the interest of the Niger Delta. But I can say that the governor of Rivers State has performed excellently well. I am proud to say that. However, if you go to other states in the Niger Delta, you (will) shed tears. We believe that 10 per cent should go to the oil-producing communities, but it has never happened.
What does your group intend to achieve by this threat?
We are not issuing an ordinary threat. We intend to achieve a Niger Delta Republic; we intend to control our resources in a way that will be in the interest of the Niger Delta people. We intend to move our people from where we are today to a good position.
Why didn’t your group issue a similar ultimatum to the Igbo?
The Igbo people are our brothers and we don’t have a problem with them. Even when the northerners issued a threat to them, they did not (retaliate). Nnamdi Kanu is just deceiving the Igbo people; he cannot achieve Biafra.
PANDEF said it is willing to defend Yoruba and Hausa in the Niger Delta region against any planned action by your group.
You have to know that it is a great joke.
Are you willing to fight against your brothers because of strangers?
Don’t even call them (PENDEF) our brothers; call them our elders because those people are not youths. They cannot run one metre. For people that are not close to the creeks to promise that they are going to defend some people, is that not false? When the Niger Delta Avengers started bombing oil installations, Edwin Clark said they were criminals and boasted that they (PANDEF) would protect the pipelines; were they (PANDEF) able to do that? Of course, they did not. So, if they could not, then how possible is it that they would be able to defend the northerners and the Yoruba? It is not possible.
Are you saying you would fight your own elders?
Our action will start in Niger Delta and any elder or traditional ruler who does not respect himself will have himself and his generation to blame because we are not going to take it kindly with them. At this stage, we have passed the era when anything would happen to the Niger Delta; a particular group would come and claim to be the leaders. They are not leading us. We have some credible people that we respect in the Niger Delta.
We see PANDEF working against the interest of the Niger Delta. The reliable information we have as of today is that those behind the creation of PANDEF are the youths. But the current members of PANDEF have pushed them away because of their selfish interest. So, how do you think the youths can succeed? It is not possible.
How does your group intend to achieve an independent and sovereign Republic of Niger Delta?
Before October 1, we will occupy the NDDC office as our headquarters. That is what we are going to do. After all, the current crop of NDDC was a plot to deceive the Niger Delta people. I have to say this. They have never commissioned one kilometre of road. Even before September, we will start with them. I am serious about this. We are having series of meetings and we are going to come out very soon on our position concerning the NDDC. We can assure you that we are not going to cripple only the oil installations, but all the investments that have to do with the government; we have to shut them down in the Niger Delta.
People feel you are angry because Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid and so, you want to destabilise the country.
I have never been a supporter of Goodluck Jonathan and I will never be because he was there as president for six years; he could not develop the Niger Delta. If (Muhammadu) Buhari was like (Umaru) Yar’Adua, we would have taken him as our son. The late Yar’Adua meant well for Niger Delta; he gave us amnesty. It was during his time that many development committees were set up to develop the region. Jonathan did not do a meaningful project in the Niger Delta. The cry today that the oil companies should relocate their headquarters to the region is what Jonathan ought to have done for us. I supported the government of Buhari until he began to disappoint us.
How serious is your group about the threat to resume attacks on oil and gas installations?
As of today (Wednesday), we have the blessings of about 200 groups. Our network is spread across the Niger Delta. We have the support of the Middle Belt and our brothers in the South-East. We refused to partner Biafra groups because we are not part of them. We have thousands of Niger Delta youths that are prepared to fight this battle. We are not alone as we have the blessings of some responsible people from the Niger Delta.
What is the alternative to all this crisis?
The only option that will bring peace is that, first, the northerners should withdraw their notice to quit. When they do that, we will do the same. Secondly, let the Federal Government set up a dialogue committee in the Niger Delta and call for representatives of various agitating groups; then we will know that the government means well. We are not interested in any secret committee called inter-ministerial committee. Yar’Adua set up a committee headed by Godwin Abe. The oil companies must be part of the dialogue because majority of the problems we have in the Niger Delta today is caused by the oil companies. With this, we can discuss and we would have no option but to say we remain one Nigeria. A new memorandum of understanding that will favour the Niger Delta people should be signed.