By Nathan Nwakamma
The endorsement of Peter Obi, the candidate of Labour Party for the February 25 presidential election seemed to have landed the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF into crisis.
Some leaders of PANDEF had recently joined leaders of other socio-cultural groups in the Southern and Middle Belt areas of Nigeria to endorse the LP candidate.
The leaders of the PANDEF had also called on called on Ifeanyi Okowa, the running mate to PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar to pull out from the presidential race.
But the Youth Wing of PANDEF has distanced itself from the endorsement of Obi as well as the call on Okowa to pull out of the race for 2023 presidency.
However, Mr Ken Robinson, Spokesman for PANDEF, dismissed the action of the youths as “childish” in a swift response.
The PANDEF Youths who made their position known after an emergency meeting on Sunday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa, the headquarters of PANDEF said those who purportedly endorsed Obi in a meeting of the Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt Leaders were on their own.
They claimed that Obi’s endorsement was done without due consultations with stakeholders, particularly the youth body of PANDEF, comprising national officers and state chapters chairmen.
Their position was contained in a communiqué after the meeting, presided over by the National Deputy Youth Leader, Mr Vincent Oyibode, and signed by Edo Youth Leader, Mr Don Ben; Rivers Youth Leader, Mr Henry George; Akwa Ibom Youth Leader, Mr Victor Asuquo; Cross River Youth Leader, Chief Ani Esin; Delta State Youth Leader, Chief Sylvester Okumagba and Bayelsa Youth Leader, Mr Berenengia Samuel.
The PANDEF youths said the purported endorsement was against the spirit and letters of the PANDEF Constitution in Article 1 (1) which stipulated that PANDEF was a non-political, non-partisan and non-religious organisation of the Niger Delta people.
They stated that in a meeting where sensitive decisions were to be taken, it must involve all the national executive officers and state chapters chairmen, including those of the youth wings.
They added that such meetings must be at the headquarters of the organisati on in Yenagoa.
The PANDEF youths stated: “There was no time PANDEF ever held a meeting to debate the need to participate or take a position as a group on the 2023 general elections and that those who purportedly endorsed Obi at that meeting spoke for themselves and not PANDEF and the South-South region of the Niger Delta.
“That the major focus of PANDEF is to promote sons and daughters of the region on issues of public interest that bear direct and indirect impact on the well-being of the Niger Delta people as that is the constitutional aim and objective of the PANDEF Constitution.
“That the same persons, without any meeting with stakeholders, have given ultimatum to a son of the Niger Delta, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, the Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to drop his ambition for reasons best known to them and that this does not have the blessing of the youths of region.”
“Those few individual members of the national exco of PANDEF who purportedly issued the statement of endorsement of Peter Obi do not have the interest of the Niger Delta region because they disobeyed the constitution of PANDEF by nominating themselves into the Obi campaign organisation.”
But Robinson insisted that claims that PANDEF’s endorsement was done without consultations were false as most of the signatories to the rejection were indeed in the meeting when Obi met with PANDEF in Yenagoa.
“We are going to deal with this internally as it is not tangible enough to warrant joining issues with a handful of misguided youths
“The mastermind of this is an appointee of a governor and he took few youths, about seven of them, on this misguided voyage.
“PANDEF’s endorsement of Obi stands, all the organs of PANDEF met Obi in December at Yenagoa and we promised to brief PANDEF leader, Pa Edwin Clark who subsequently endorsed Obi and so PANDEF is unanimously mobilising support, using our structures for Obi.
“We are also behind Pa Clerk on his call on Okowa to pull out of the race because as far back as 2021, PANDEF had resolved that for equity and fairness, power should shift to the South after eight years of Northern Presidency and Okowa was amongst those that took the decision,” Robinson said.