Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of the Pan Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, yesterday countered former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying the oil in the Niger Delta does not belong to Nigeria.
He backed the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Chief Edwin Clark who had engaged in a war of words with Obasanjo over the latter’s declaration that the resources in the Niger Delta belong to Nigeria.
Clark had in a letter titled: “Outburst Against the People of Niger Delta Region” accused Obasanjo of showing hatred for the people of Niger Delta when he spoke at a peace and security meeting convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa recently in Abuja.
The former president, in his reply, insisted that it was wrong and unconstitutional for Clark or the people of the Niger Delta region to lay claim to crude oil or any mineral resources found in the area.
“No territory in Nigeria, including the minerals found therein, belongs to the area of location and this remains so until the federation is dissolved,” Obasanjo had said.
But weighing in on the matter yesterday, Adebanjo described Obasanjo’s comment as provocative.
Addressing a press conference in Lagos, the Afenifere leader expressed shock and disappointment that Obasanjo backed his assertion “quoting profusely from the military imposed constitution on the country.”
He stated that he owed it a duty to intervene before the issue degenerated into “disputation between two respectable Elder statesmen.”
He said, “With my recent interaction with Gen. Obasanjo, I can appreciate his passion for a united Nigeria. But a united Nigeria does not exist from his own perspective and understanding only.
“Nigeria has existed before he became the President of the country with our founding fathers with equally great passion if not greater passion for a united Nigeria.”
Adebanjo recalled that there was peaceful co-existence among ethnic groups in Nigeria until 1966 when the military took over the government and “abrogated the constitution agreed to by our founding fathers and set up the present 1999 constitution.”
He said, “The obnoxious provisions of this constitution have been the cause of instability in the country. When General Obasanjo asserts that the Niger Delta Resources is not owned by Niger Delta but Nigeria, is the General suggesting that God created the resources in Niger Delta when Nigeria came into existence in 1914, or it was there before the amalgamation?
“It is the amalgamation and the decision of our founding fathers to live together under the conditions agreed to in the Independence Constitution that make other parts of Nigeria to lay claim to the resources of Niger Delta.
“The question of the protection of Niger Delta resources against external forces by the Federal government is not a big deal but a responsibility assigned to the Federal Government under the Federal System.”
He, therefore, appealed to Obasanjo “to join hands with the other patriots to bring pressure to bear on President Muhammad Buhari to ensure the change of the present fraudulent constitution by restructuring the present unitary constitution to the Federal system agreed to by our founding fathers before the 2023 elections to enable the nation to move forward peacefully in unity and progress.”