Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s remark that oil discovered in the Niger Delta area does not belong to the people of the Niger Delta has been condemned as unstatesmanly and unsatisfactory by Chief Edwin Clark, the chairman of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
In a personal letter to Chief Obasanjo, the former federal commissioner for information and South-South leader described his remarks as a continuation of his arrogant stance and disposition against the Niger Delta Region, just as he had withdrawn from the communique issued by Obasanjo at the end of the two-day meeting held last week in Abuja.
He threatened that PANDEF, along with other groups with whom they are collaborating, such as the Afenifere of the South West, the Middle Belt Forum, and the Ohaneze of the South East, would scrutinize any hypocritical dialogue that the former President might want to invite them to or co-chair until their constitutional rights are recognized and respected.
The letter read in part: “With all due respect, Your Excellency, your outburst towards your fellow participants in a summit, to which everyone present was invited, is, to say the least, disappointing, when you displayed a hate attitude against the people of the oil-producing states in Nigeria. You openly interjected both Engr. Wodu and Mr O’Mac Emakpore, each time they tried to speak.
“Your Excellency, we have known ourselves for several decades, since 1975, when we served as Federal Commissioners (Ministers) in the cabinet of General Yakubu Gowon’s government, together with His Excellency, late Alhaji Shehu Shagari, late General Murtala Mohammed, amongst others.
“Natural resources found in regions were controlled by the people of the regions in the country and enunciated in Section 140 of the 1960 Constitution. As a former Military Head of State of Nigeria, 1976-1979, and later a democratically elected President of the country, 1999-2007, I am certain Your Excellency knows that the principle of derivation, has always been top on the agenda of our national discourse, before and after the country’s independence. In fact, the principle was very much entrenched in the 1960 Independence Constitution and the 1963 Republican Constitutions; the principle was very well received and implemented by the nation’s founding fathers.
“Need Your Excellency be reminded that it was the practice of the principle of derivation that enabled your region, the Western Region, then under Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and the Northern Region, then under Sir Ahmadu Bello, to reap all the money that enabled them to develop far ahead of the then Eastern Region. The Eastern Region did not progress like the other two regions. From the benefits of the practice of derivation principle, the Western Region introduced free education, built universities, the first Television in Africa, among other economic and social infrastructure, including hiring at the time, an Israeli Company, Soleh Bole, to develop roads and other infrastructure.
“The implementation of this principle continued until 1956 when crude oil was found in commercial quantity in Oloibiri, in the present-day Bayelsa State. When this happened, the Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, sent a congratulatory message to the then Premier of the Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Okpara, “welcoming him to the club,” that will benefit from resources found in its area, as a result of the derivation principle.”