Members of the disbanded Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have regrouped ahead of the 2019 general elections and have commenced intense mobilisation for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
New Telegraph gathered that the mobilisation is being coordinated by an influential former top public officer from the Niger Delta, who once manned a multibillion naira agency.
The Niger Delta politician may likely be named Niger Delta Liaison Officer at PDP Presidential Campaign Council. This is as the ruling APC intensifies efforts to woo the South-East with a promise of returning the zone to mainstream politics if the Igbo vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general elections.
While it could not be confirmed if the leader of the disbanded MEND, Chief Government Ekpomupolo, otherwise known as Tompolo, is part of the regrouping and mobilisation, it was gathered that top commanders of the defunct MEND, popularly referred to as the “Big Five” are deeply involved. Members of the “Big Five” include Ateke Tom (now a traditional ruler in Rivers State), Farrah Dagogo, Victor Ben (Boyloaf), Joshua Macaiver and Bigbopere Ajube (Shoot at Sight). Ajube is said to be the one coordinating his colleagues.
A source close to the PDP Presidential Campaign Council told our correspondent that series of meetings have been held by the ex-militant leaders in Warri, Port Harcourt and Abuja in respect of the need to support Atiku in the 2019 presidential election.
His words: “We are on top of the situation in the Niger Delta region because all ex-agitators from the region, especially those we call the ‘Big Five,’ are solidly behind our presidential candidate.
“Although they had their initial reservations about Atiku because of his role in the ouster of their kinsman, Goodluck Jonathan, they have finally agreed to work for Atiku after certain concessions were made in terms of their continued involvement in the surveillance of oil installations.
You will recall that the arrangement was stopped by the current government, so they are not happy with Buhari.” The source further revealed that in a move aimed at firming up arrangements for the Atiku project, Ajube has dumped his long-time political ally and former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, for PDP. Both Ajube and Mimiko have been friends for over eight years and the latter was in charge of the riverine security contract in Ondo State until the present administration of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu stopped it.
Meanwhile, PDP has stated that President Buhari has failed the North West geo-political zone where he comes from.
The party, which flags off its campaign for the 2019 presidential election in Sokoto State today, noted that the North West bears heavy imprints of neglect by Buhari’s administration.
According to New Telegraph in a statement made yesterday by the Director, Media & Publicity of PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Kola Ologbondiyan, said President Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) cannot point to any key development project articulated and completed by the administration in the North-West in the last three and a half years, despite the huge resources it claims to have channelled to the zone.
According to PDP, the zone is hugely disappointed in President Buhari, who had failed to fulfil any of his 2015 campaign promises. The party, however, said its campaign would focus on issues as well as address the concerns, plights, fears and aspirations of Nigerians in the geo-political zone, in line with the policy document of its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Meanwhile, Kano State governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, who gave the assurance of the APC administration’s determination to return the South-East to mainstream politics, recalled that effort was made in this regard in the Second Republic, but was truncated by the military.
Ganduje, who addressed a peace and reconciliation meeting of APC members in Enugu State, yesterday, said if not for the intervention by the military, then President Shehu Shagari would have handed over power to his vice, Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
The Kano governor recalled that on two occasions, Buhari ran for presidential elections, he chose running mates of Igbo extraction, but he was not given opportunity to win.
His words: “We are praying for the South-East to return to mainstream Nigerian politics, but it cannot happen until they come together and vote for President Buhari, our governors, national and state Assembly candidates.
“There is no better presidential candidate than Buhari. He is not a tribalist, he does not accumulate wealth, he wants the economy to be fat while he will not be fat. “What did PDP do for 16 years with our infrastructure?
Mr. President has taken up railway now. He promised that in the next level, every state will have a railway system.
What about the Second Niger Bridge and roads? In the South- East, there is a revolution. People are embracing APC.
All that is required is to put our house in order to ensure that President Buhari and our other candidates win.
“In politics, one important variable is patience. If you are not patient, you miss the road.
In other words, to win will be difficult. We are a young democracy. In other places, their democracy is over 200 years.” He said the president is committed to reforms in the party to hand it over to the people at the grassroots and end the era when some people decide who get what in the party from Abuja. Earlier, an aggrieved governorship aspirant, Ben Eche, condemned the primaries held in Enugu, saying it was flawed.
“The party at the national level did 419 to the aspirants. They did wayo to us after collecting N22.5 million from each of us. We were about five aspirants.
So, the thing that will bring peace is for the party to return our money,” Eche said. The party’s governorship candidate in the state, Senator Ayogu Eze, assured of 90 per cent of Enugu State votes for Buhari as well as a resounding victory for APC in other elections.