Youths from the nine states of the Niger Delta have decried the alleged perennial leadership failure in the region, saying the menace has unleashed poverty, sorrow, under-development on their people.
The youth, under the aegis of the Pan Niger Delta Youth Leadership Forum, said the situation was curious, unthinkable, unfortunate and worrisome considering the trillions of naira that had been appropriated to the region by the Federal Government, state governments and intervention agencies.
The President, PANDLEAF, Mr. Richard Akinaka, expressed the position on Monday after its meeting with Presidents of Ijaw Youth Council, Urhobo Youth Council and Itsekiri Youth Council as part of its ongoing engagements with ethnic youth leaders in the Niger Delta.
Akinaka said PANDLEAF met with leaders such as Eric Omare of IYC; Ahbateyiniro Weyinmi of Itsekiri, and Festus Igherebuo of Urhobo, noting that the essence of the meeting was to instil a renewed sense of responsibility among youths in the region.
The PANDLEAF boss noted that after years of budgeting and deploying trillions of naira through Federal Government, states and intervention agencies, the region had nothing to show for the huge budgetary appropriations.
Akinaka said, “For instance, after the first two to three years of the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission, the agency has perpetually become an instrument in the hands of those who control the region from Abuja to finance elections.
“Leadership is not given but it is a responsibility taken and as such we have to wake up now. Our region is not without resources or institutions, but our region only lacks accountable leadership.
“The major problem of the region is that of perennial leadership failure. We are embarking on this engagement with ethnic youth leaders in the region to instil a renewed sense of responsibility to peace, harmony and common development.
“We are here to talk to ourselves to promote ethnic harmony, peace as a generation, to advance a common economic, political and social agenda through objective political participation of youths.”
While stressing the need for peace among the various ethnic groups in the region, Akinaka said language, which seems to be the defining instrument of ethnic differences, is just a mere tool of communication and must not be allowed to divide the region.
He said the Niger Delta is one people with a common destiny, stressing that the crises the region had had were all functions of failures of leadership.
He said though militant activities in the past were intended to secure attention to the marginalisation of the region by the Federal Government and the multinationals, that phase caused the region more woes.
He said militancy led to the relocation of economic activities to the western parts of the country, insisting that the region must take deliberate steps to advance peace to cause those companies to relocate to the Niger Delta.
Akinaka also explained that the ethnic youth leadership engagement exercise was not a political movement but the gathering of youths, irrespective of political affiliations.
He added, “The engagement is not about political parties but about the collective peace, unity and progress of the region.
“Young people who have been privileged to be part of government must not see those privileges as rewards for followership to advance personal interests but see such opportunities as platforms to add value to society by demonstrating capacity.”
Also speaking, a member of the National Executive of PANDLEAF, Dr. Selekaye Victor-Ben, noted that the poor leadership problem identified was caused by the imposition of political leaders on the people of the region.
Victor-Ben said, “Most of the young men imposed on us have failed because they listen to the dictates and old ideology of their sponsors.
“We must unite and stand up for peace and development in the region. The youths of the present Niger Delta must come together and uplift the unity and cohesive development of the region.”
In his remarks, the IYC President, Eric Omare, said while the region sought to address the leadership failure that had pervaded the region, the youth must know that those who benefited from the ills of the past would resist the people.
He took all youths to task to be ready to take the challenge to liberate the region from impostors, bad and corrupt leaders and never-do-wells.