ON THE ENDORSEMENT OF ALHAJI ATIKU AS CONSENSUS CANDIDATE BY THE LEADERS OF THE IJAW NATIONAL CONGRESS, HELD AT THE IJAW HOUSE, YENAGOA , BAYELSA STATE ON THURSDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2019.
1. The Steering Committee of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and Leaders of the Ijaw Nation held a crucial meeting at Ijaw House, in Yenagoa, capital of Bayelsa State on Wednesday February 14, 2019. The meeting which was attended by various leaders of the Ijaw people held under the Chairmanship of Prof. Joseph Ajienka, President of the INC Steering Committee, focused on the State of the Nation; in particular, preparations for the 2019 General Elections.
2. The INC Steering Committee and the Ijaw Elders reaffirmed the position of its leadership, including, its highest organ, The Council of Ijaw Traditional Rulers and Elders (CITRE) Meeting held in Yenagoa on Jan 7th 2019, that the 2019 elections offer Nigerians the opportunity to support candidates who believe in restructuring the country for the purpose of peace, harmony, equity, fairness and justice. The INC Steering Committee, also aligns itself with the views, well espoused by its son, the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State, H.E. Hon Seriake Dickson who has repeated on several occasions, that ‘’the 2019 Election is a referendum on restructuring the Nigerian polity’’.
3. The INC Steering Committee and the Ijaw Elders and Leaders took stock of the electioneering campaigns which had held in the past few months, including reviewing the positions of the various leading candidates for the Presidential Elections as it particularly pertains to the question of Restructuring. This is the principal theme of interest to the Ijaw people at this time as we have suffered unimaginable deprivations, exclusion and environmental scourge as a result of the faulty federal system being practiced in the country; which itself is a far departure from the original dreams and covenants put in place by the founding fathers of the Nigerian federation.
4. In this regard, the INC took the following positions:
a. The APC and its Presidential candidate, President Mohammad Buhari, have made very little comments with regards to the question of restructuring throughout this electoral process. Even when the Party’s erstwhile Committee on True Federalism (Restructuring) led by the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El Rufai, submitted its report on this matter to the Party and to His Excellency President Buhari in February, 2017, virtually no commitments whatsoever have been made with regards to implementation.
b. Of greatest concern and shock, President Buhari stated during his just concluded visit to Bayelsa State on the 12th February 2019, that the present Nigerian Constitution and structure which gives Kano State 44 LGAs and Bayelsa only 8 LGAs was perfect since both states have 3 Senators each. This statement made before live national television is not only insensitive to the feelings of we the Ijaw people over this gaping and unacceptable injustice in the Nigerian political order but also confirms his aversion to this question of restructuring which is of great importance to us as a people irrespective of political affiliation.
c. The ruling APC and the Federal Government which it runs, has continued to show disregard for the feelings of the Ijaw people despite our enormous contributions to all spheres of Nigeria’s national life. The INC noted that at present the highest Ijaw person in the Federal Government is a Minister of State despite the fact that the Ijaws are the 4th largest ethnic group and indigenous in 6 states in the country. (Akwa Ibom , Bayelsa, Edo, Delta, Ondo and Rivers States ). The unceremonious sacking of Mr. Mathew Seiyefa, from Bayelsa State, who attained his professional peak as Director General of the Department of State Services and his replacement with a retired personnel from the home environment of Mr. President was a further demonstration of the repulse and disdain with which we the Ijaws have been treated by this Federal Government since its assumption of Office.
d. Additionally, the INC noted that to underscore its disregard for the Ijaws and other peoples of the Niger Delta the President on Friday, 8th February, 2018 presided over a ceremony in Aso Presidential Villa, Abuja where along with the World Bank, African Development Bank, Afrexim Bank, $30billion Special Economic Zones Agreement was signed with the Federal Government. The Three Special Development Zones for the country’s industrial development are unveiled to cover Lekki in the South West, Aba in the South East and Funtua in the North to the exclusion of the Niger Delta zone from where the counterpart funds needed by Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) would be derived. Also being the hub of the country’s Energy Sector, the mainstay of our national revenue base, the Niger Delta should have been prioritized as the first Special Economic Zone. This is the height of injustice and total disregard to us.
5. The INC Steering Committee and the Ijaw Elders and Leaders noted in the contrast, that the Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and former Vice President, His Excellency Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, severally in the past and throughout his campaign restated his belief and commitment to restructuring the country. His views and blue print on the matter have also been sufficiently articulated and published.
6. The meeting also noted that its larger group, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) as well as other leading socio cultural groups such as Afenifere (for the Yorubas), Ohaneze (for the Igbos), Northern Elders Forum (for Hausa-Fulani ) and the Middle Belt Forum (for other ethnic minorities in the North) have equally confirmed their endorsement of the PDP candidate, Alhaji Abubakar.
7. Arising from the above, the INC:
i. adopts the candidate of the PDP, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the unanimous candidate of the Ijaw ethnic nationality as his views and position reflect the aspirations of the Ijaw people.
ii. therefore, calls on all Ijaw people, that is men, women and youths to turn out in their large numbers on Saturday the 16th of February and without a single exception to stand behind Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and vote for him.
iii. This task must be undertaken by every true Ijaw son and daughter as a sacred duty which we owe to our people, owe to the labour of our heroes passed, owe our able youth of today and owe to our generations yet unborn.
iv. All true Ijaws must unite along this position.
Issued in Ijaw House, Yenagoa, this 13th day of February 2019.
Prof. Joseph Ajienka,
For INC Steering Committee
Chief Francis Doukpola, MFR
For Ijaw Elders and Leaders