The Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark has once again stated reasons why Nigerians should vote for President Goodluck Jonathan in the coming elections.
The convener of the South-South Peoples Assembly and co-convener of the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, SNPA, in an interview bore his mind on political issues ranging from election postponement to former President, Olusegun Obasanjo’s exit from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Read excerpts from the interview below:
2015 elections have been fixed for March 28 and April 11 respectively. How prepared are we as Nigerians?
This question should be taken in two parts. How prepared is INEC? How prepared are the people of Nigeria? Well, I think Nigerians are prepared for the elections if all the materials are provided by INEC. A situation whereby we do not have PVCs for about 23million Nigerians particularly in Lagos and other places, that is not good enough.
INEC has made it difficult for people to have voter cards. They are discriminating against certain areas where they think Jonathan has support.
How do you describe a situation whereby Lagos State, the most sophisticated and educated state in this country, has not been able to secure up to 50% of voter cards compared to Borno, a war ravaged area where the people have left their homes and non-indigenes have deserted but which has 80% voter cards? Let INEC explain that situation.
That is the reason the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, SNPA , addressed a press conference to let the world know that at a meeting between some INEC officials and northern leaders, they decided that where Jonathan has strong base, they should be very strict in registering people.
And we alleged at that conference that some northern leaders collected money from some governors who parted with N167,000,000 and that has helped the northern leaders to secure 150 laptops for each state of the North. They gave them to some INEC officials to use to have double registration, to increase the registration in the North. Why did Jega not allow similar things to happen in the South?
But apart from these irregularities, in the PVCs distribution, INEC is not ready for the polls. For instance, producing the PVCs, INEC awarded the contract to a local contractor from Kano and they decided to produce this material in Abuja. We have the video, the photographs of that mini-factory, where they were producing the PVCs.
But when they couldn’t cope, they decided to contract it out to a company in China. And, as we are talking, some of the PVCs have not arrived. Some arrived Lagos sea port two weeks ago. So what we are saying is that Jega was not ready; one, he has not been able to start the training of about 700,000 ad- hoc staff all over the country. If he has started in some places, majority of the areas have not been covered.
And having regard to the technology involved in PVC, the card readers are not ready. The few that are ready have manufacturing defect, some of them are not functioning and they have not been tested to see whether they can do the job for which they were acquired.
So against the back drop of all these, what do you suggest?
The elections would be held.
What about Jega?
Jega should go. We believe he should go not only because of inefficiency; we believe he is working with some northern leaders to declare a northern presidential candidate the winner of the March 28 election, that’s Buhari. And to do that, he is not thinking about the success of the election of that day. If there is confusion, he will still declare Buhari the winner and say any aggrieved person should go to court.
The northern leaders are alleged to have boasted that they had set up a committee to liaise with the judiciary, northern judges in order to give them favourable judgment. And they have employed 34 lawyers 14 of which are Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SAN. In fact, they have started going to court. So everything we said in our press conference has come to pass. They have started taking Jonathan to court that he is not qualified. The number of SANs prosecuting that case shows clearly that it is no ordinary person that took President Jonathan to court. It is being done between the APC and the northern leaders.
After the press conference by the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly, what next ?
Jega is not indispensable, he is just first among equals. There are about 13 national commissioners in INEC. If Jega has lost the people’s confidence to conduct election, any one of the others can be made to act to oversee the elections on March 28 and April 11. We are not running away from the elections despite all the intrigues.
Even if President Goodluck Jonathan who appointed him refuses to remove him, the elections should still hold?
They should hold. We will watch him.
And you will believe him?
We will not believe him, but we will see what will happen. If we say without Jega the elections would not hold, they will say we want elongation of tenure which Jonathan is not contemplating. But we have asked that he should go.
And if the President does not want to remove him, he should have the honour and feeling that he is no longer wanted by the people of Nigeria to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
We have the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, and the PDP presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan. How which has become international.
There are comments from some quarters that some supporters of President Jonathan are overheating the polity with threats and, for this reason, a former Minister of Defence, General Theophilous Danjuma, called for the arrest of Tompolo, Dokubo-Asari, among others. What is your perspective?
My comment is very simple. It is true that anybody who makes a statement to threaten the very existence of our country should be condemned. I have always maintained this statement.
More than a year now, when Kingsley Kuku, Special Adviser to Mr President, and Dokubo Asari were alleged to have made such statements, the House of Representatives passed a motion that these two men should be arrested by the Inspector General of Police and tried. There was nothing wrong about that motion.
But what I said is that it should be total, don’t be selective. Others in the North have made similar statements. Lawal Kaita said there will be no Nigeria if there is no northern president in 2015 and somebody who said that he would declare war, which of the statements is stronger?
If you declare war like the Biafran war and Nigeria is fighting, Nigeria will still be there. But if you say there will be no Nigeria if a northern president is not installed in 2015, which statement is stronger? Buhari himself said that if a northern president is not elected, Nigeria will become Somalia. Others said they will make Nigeria ungovernable for Jonathan, Atiku said so.
All I am saying is that anybody who has made such statements, be he a minister, be he an ordinary man, he should be arrested and tried. Don’t say only Dokubo-Asari, Kingsley Kuku and Tompolo should be tried. When you make provocative statements and there is a reaction to such provocative statements, people should not be selective.
All I said, I have high respect for T.Y. Danjuma, he is one of the persons who have been helping this government. But it was not fair for him to refer to these two people alone, when he knows that some of the utterances of his colleagues and northerners who have been governors, ministers, vice presidents were equally provocative.
Last month, you called on the PDP to expel former President Olusegun Obasanjo but the party did not heed your advice. Now he has dumped the party by tearing his membership card. How do you react to this development?
You asked me earlier whether some of the party leaders surrounding Jonathan are not contributing to some of the problems that people alleged have been committed and I said yes. Some of them were with Obasanjo, past governors; some ministers who were appointed by Obasanjo during his tenure see nothing wrong with Obasanjo. They continue to beg him when they know that the man has taken a position against the PDP. When people like us criticize Obasanjo, they say we are controversial, that we heat up the polity.
Today, Obasanjo has told them; he did not only dump them, he told the public, ‘here is your membership, take it’, and he tore it into pieces. Is that action normal? But it is now clear to the PDP men, leaders who were protecting Obasanjo when I called that he should be expelled. They said that there was no reason for me to say that. But now it has happened, it is now clear.
As far as I am concerned, Obasanjo has been engaging in anti-party activities and should have been expelled since then. Immediately he resigned the chairmanship of the BoT, he engaged in anti-party issues.
Will his leaving affect the PDP?
It will not. The man, even in his ward, PDP could not win election in 2011. Nobody takes notice of him politically in Ogun State not to talk of Nigeria. In fact, his going will strengthen the party.
In Delta State, before the primaries, we were hearing of endorsement of Obuh, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan was going to the Senate to replace Senator James Manager, in fact, Okowa was not in the reckoning. But at the end of the day, the governor dropped his senatorial ambition, Obuh did not get it, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa is now the PDP candidate. As a father, what role did you play?
As a father, I contributed to the peaceful primary elections that took place in Delta. When the governor was said to be supporting Obuh, on two occasions, I invited him and he said he was not supporting Obuh. Yet he was the one providing everything for Obuh. I asked him, ‘I learnt Obuh has been your Permanent Secretary for the past 10years’, he said yes. ‘But it is not fair for you to push aside all the politicians, some of them were Obuh’s bosses when they were commissioners. It is not fair for you to do that, Obuh is not a politician’; he continued to say no, he was not. Until the last two days, to the primaries he came to me to accept that he was the one promoting Obuh, but I said ‘we cannot take Obuh’.
The next thing he did was that he went home, met with the Urhobo Progressive Union, UPU, to present a candidate and he told me personally that the candidate they produced was Mr David Edevbie. That after he went to the northern senatorial zone which refused to take Obuh, he decided to move down, that was why he asked for an Urhobo candidate. And he thought it should be Mr David Edevbie , who was James Ibori’s Commissioner for Finance, he was Ibori’s nominee to Umaru Yar’Adua’s cabinet as Principal Secretary.
So when we saw that the governor had left Obuh and he was now trying to divide the place by going to take a candidate that we were not expecting, I decided to team up with Okowa because we had agreed that the governorship should go to the north senatorial zone to give everybody a fair opportunity. That is why I supported Okowa. But we have now settled.
All the governorship aspirants at the time have now taken it that way and they are working together, except some that have gone to contest elections as senatorial candidates in other parties. Otherwise everything went very well.
But I must comment on one thing, Uduaghan was responsible for the peaceful and democratically conducted primary. He phoned me that every aspirant was going to get his ward or his local government and there was not going to be a winner takes all. Every aspirant was given the opportunity to retain his ward and his local government and, for that, I must commend him.
Nigerians are going to the polls; Nigerians will decide on March 28, that is the main election. What message do you have for Nigerians especially against the back drop of the peace accord signed by the presidential candidates. And even after the peace accord, we have been having some cases of attacks especially on the convoy of Mr President. What message do you have for Nigerians, for the parties, for the two parties, the presidential candidates? And is Jonathan winning the election?
Jonathan will triumph, he will sail through based on his record of performance, achievements. Jonathan has the qualities, he has performed, he has built schools, built universities which nobody else did. The number of federal universities established by Jonathan surpassed the number of federal universities established by all the rulers of this country since 1960 put together.
The railway was abandoned throughout the period. People no longer travel by rail. In the past, when I was the commissioner, I used to follow my governor travelling by rail to Gusau in Zamfara State, to Maiduguri, to Kano. But it is Jonathan who has now refurbished and re-established the railway lines and people are now travelling.
Agriculture, today, fertiliser is supplied at a cheap rate, no middlemen again. Farmers now get fertilizer at very cheap price.
On power, people may say Jonathan has not improved in the generation, that is not true. After Obasanjo had spent billions of Naira to resuscitate the power sector and failed, Jonathan had a master plan and he was able to privatize what we used to call NEPA and various companies took up the distribution and generation of power.
No government had the courage to privatize the power sector in this country. Give him some time, but people are very impatient. I believe these companies will perform and government continues to seek foreign assistance for power to improve.
If you are talking about corruption, we have looked into records, statistics; there are more conviction of corrupt persons in Jonathan’s government than they were in previous governments, including Obasanjo’s government. It is not enough to say ‘I will detain you, I will do this’, perhaps corruption has now taken a turn for the worse and you need new ways to fight corruption and Jonathan is doing it.
So I believe Nigerians should be patient, they should assess the various candidates who have done what for Nigeria, what does that person offer for Nigeria? And my advice to the voters is that they should not vote on sentiment, they should not cast their votes on religious or ethnic basis.
Look at the man, is he the man who will rule Nigeria, who will take Nigeria forward? Not the man who will return you to darkness, who will not practice democracy, who remains what he was before.
Two, Nigerians should realise that we have no any other country to go to, we all are Nigerians and we have a duty to remain as one country. Politicians will come and go, but Nigeria will remain. If there is no Nigeria, then you have no way to contest elections. You cannot be president where there is no Nigeria. So we should emphasize what will bring Nigeria as a united country, a Nigeria which is free from ethnicity, free from religious bigotry. Nigeria will not break, nothing will happen to Nigeria come March 28 and April 11.
do you look at these two individuals?
In what way?
Generally, by telling Nigerians who they are.
Without being biased, Jonathan has been a deputy governor in a democratic system of government. He has been governor of Bayelsa State in a democratic set up and he was prepared to contest to be re-elected as a governor of Bayelsa State. He became Vice President to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He contested elections in 2011 and he was elected by the people of this country.
So he has always been qualified and he has always been part of a democratic system. He is a very well educated Nigerian, he has a good background, he has a Ph.D. He is humble; he is a man who respects the feelings of others. How many journalists have gone to prison since Jonathan took over? How many of them have been arrested? Jonathan is the most abused President in this country, but he doesn’t care; he is going on with the job. He has done a lot for the people of this country.
For instance, I have just received an Almajiri delegation; they came to show their appreciation to Jonathan. These were young boys moving around in the North begging for money and food. None of the northern rulers ever thought of their welfare, but Jonathan established 120 schools for them. Jonathan has given northerners 12 universities, nobody has done it before. Jonathan cares for the unity of this country and he believes in the democratic system.
Whereas the other man, Gen. Buhari, contested elections in 2003, Nigerians rejected him; he contested elections in 2007, Nigerians rejected him; he contested election with Jonathan in 2011, Nigerians rejected him. What change is he now bringing to Nigeria?
This is a man who is not well educated, Nigeria is a sophisticated country. It is true he was a general in the army, but the Constitution of Nigeria says you must have a minimum of school certificate. Buhari hasn’t got it.
The first time, he swore to an affidavit. That affidavit says his credentials are with the army where he served and the army said they did not have it. The next thing we saw was a testimonial from Katsina Government College, showing the number of subjects Buhari was to take. Thereafter, we saw a statement of result with the picture of Buhari in his old age, which cannot be said to have been taken at the time that statement of result was said to have been issued. To show again that INEC is working with APC, the same man went and submitted his documents to INEC when the date of receiving the documents had elapsed. How did he submit them? Why should INEC accept them from him? That is another area we believe constitutes the continuation of the conspiracy to force out Jonathan.
Buhari is not a democrat. I was asked the question if Obasanjo, a soldier, a general, could become President for eight years; I said Obasanjo is a democratic. In 1979, he voluntarily handed over to a civilian government under Shehu Shagari. And it was the same Gen. Buhari who overthrew Shehu Shagari and locked the second republic politicians up. When did he become a democrat?
One of the things the main opposition party (APC) said they want to change is that they want to fight corruption. What is your take?
Who is going to fight corruption?
The APC people or Obasanjo? They only pay lip service to fighting corruption.
Buhari himself is not clean. What is corruption? Malpractices, parading questionable certificates, swearing to false affidavit, they are all part of corruption. And in the 1970s when Buhari was federal commissioner for petroleum, about $2.8billion oil money went missing. It was later discovered that this amount was paid into a British bank where it yielded about N400million interest, nobody knows where that money is. Buhari said he did not know about it.
Yet they accuse Jonathan of being corrupt. Does Jonathan know the type of corruption going on in this country? Buhari could not account for $2.8billion paid into a British bank.
Secondly, he was appointed by Abacha as the Chairman of PTF. My own brother, Prof. J.P. Clark, was a member. In fact only, Prof. J.P. Clark and Buhari are still living members of PTF. Buhari brought his brother-in-law as a consultant and later handed over the entire administration of PTF to him and others. They had the authority to execute all projects. At the end of it all, they left and Obasanjo dissolved the board and removed all of them.
Then Obasanjo set up a Commission of Enquiry to probe the PTF and the report, which has just been published by some newspapers, shows that N25billion could not be accounted for by Buhari and those who administered the place. Yet Obasanjo came out to say the only thing he found against him was that instead of building roads and houses, he was busy buying mosquito nets with PTF money.
There are insinuations from some quarters that what may not work well for President Jonathan is the fact that some people around him, even the party itself, the people around him and then decisions taken in the past, even at the party level, the National Working Committee, NWC, especially issues like Bamanga Tukur and five governors leaving and they could not manage the issue and the governors forum election issue where 17 was more than 19.
I am a member of PDP, but I am not in the leadership of the party. Like every other party in Nigeria, they also have their problems. I agree to a certain extent that some of the people who are in the PDP leadership have not done their job properly. For instance, the National Chairman was praising Obasanjo last week, saying nothing was wrong with Obasanjo, that he was a true party leader, that he would not say that he is not supporting Jonathan, that it is not true that he was supporting Buhari.
Some of these leaders in PDP were Obasanjo’s men. So they see nothing wrong with Obasanjo. Some of them have double loyalty. But the party must go on; you have good people and you have bad people. But the PDP has continued, from 1999 to this day, to rule this country.
Whereas APC is a parchment of all sorts of things with the sole aim of removing Jonathan from office and installing a northern president, Buhari. If Buhari is not there, there is no APC. Buhari is the only thing that put them together and their sole aim is to secure power for the North, that’s all.
The issue of Boko Haram is another issue some people are saying Mr President did not handle well. Critics say Mr President abandoned the North- east to insurgents. Do you agree?
I do not. Boko Haram started about 2002. It was in 2003 to 2009 that it spread from Bauchi to Gombe, then to Yobe and finally to Borno and so many people have been killed during that period. In 2009 when Jonathan was the Vice President, there was trouble between Boko Haram and the security forces and, as a result, their leader, Yusuf, was killed. At that time, Umaru Yar’Adua was still in government, that was 2009. When Jonathan took over, he started to attack them. But some northern leaders, including Buhari, said they should not be fought by Jonathan, he should leave them alone. There are documents to that effect, that government should negotiate with Boko Haram. Jonathan appointed a committee, under the chairmanship of the Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, SAN, that went round the whole of the North and Boko Haram asked for a representative because the people were faceless. Boko Haram nominated Gen. Buhari to represent it. Thereafter, even though Gen. Buhari did not accept the offer, he continued to encourage them.
Jonathan told Nigerians and the whole world that the military he inherited was not properly equipped. Nyako accused him of genocide, asking why should he fight Boko Haram. Nyako, a former governor of Adamawa State, Obasanjo’s henchman and Gen. Buhari’s colleague, said Jonathan was carrying out genocide against northerners.
And some of the northern governors went to Washington to criticize Jonathan, claiming he was waging war against northerners, and that is one of the reasons the American government is not willing to sell arms to the Nigerian government because they said he was just killing people.
Jonathan has done his best. Now, the president has secured arms, weapons and they will soon settle the problem of Boko Haram.