Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) leader, Chief Chief Edwin Clark, has said that the 2019 elections will likely determine the fate of the country in the next four years and beyond, also predicting that the outcome of the polls is sure to shape the fate of future generations.
He therefore, stressed the need for Nigerians to shun religion, tribe and tongue and work together to ensure that positive things work out.
Clark spoke when a group, Christian Campaigners of Nigeria paid him a courtesy call at the weekend.
The former federal commissioner of Information who described the visit as timely as the elections were just weeks away said: “This forthcoming election is also important because our national economy has suffered the most negative downturn in recent years. We have lost millions of jobs in recent times; unemployment continues to soar to the rooftop, and prices of even basic foodstuff are now out of the reach of the average Nigerian.
“Therefore, it is an election that will most likely determine the fate of this country not only in the next four years, but actually its future, the future of our children, the future of generations yet unborn. That is why it is important that every facet or groups should be involved. All hands must be on deck.”
On skewed appointments that favour certain parts of the country, Clark said the country was at crossroads hence the need for restructuring.
“This country is at crossroads today. If you are from certain parts of the country, it is most likely you will not get some jobs, despite the provisions on Federal Character in our constitution. For instance, it is still fresh in our minds, what happened just a few days ago on the floor of the Senate when names of Nigerians were sent to the Senate for clearance as members of the Board of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and some zones of the country: the South-South and the South East zones, were conspicuously left out from being nominated to serve on the board. This will not be the first time though. It also happened in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which is the engine room of the oil industry, when its board was constituted.
“Out of a board of nine members which includes the chairman, six are from the North, a non-oil producing area; and these six include the present Chief of Staff, whose schedule of duty is already very tight. One is from the South West, an oil producing zone; only one is from the South-South which produces 90 percent of the oil and non from the South East, an oil producing zone. If things are done equitably, the headquarters of the NNPC ought to be in the South-South which is the zone that produces the highest percentage of oil, the commodity that sustains the country. Apart from the exploration that takes place in the South-South with its attendant consequences of environmental degradation, every other activity takes place outside the zone of exploration, beginning from recruitment of staff to award of contracts, etc.”
The Ijaw leader described as worrisome, the desecration of national institutions through the use of the military and the police for political gains.
“I am also very worried at the increasing trend of desecrating our national institutions, particularly the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force for political gains. More and more, certain persons in the political class have continued to drag the police to become surrogates in achieving their nefarious political ends.
“This is the reason why I support the restructuring of this country, and will support any presidential candidate that has the restructuring of this country genuinely at heart and sees it as one of the cardinal things he will do, if elected into office. This is because restructuring will check this inequality, this injustice. Restructuring will make or force states to be viable, because they will begin to think outside the box, if they must survive.”
Clark said the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been in support of restructuring since 1994, hence majority of Nigerians are in tuned with his plans to restructure the country.
The Ijaw leader said: “Alhaji Atiku Abubakar believes in the restructuring of the country, a believe he has held since 1994 when he served as a member of the Constituent Assembly, together with people like the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and my good friend, Prof. Ihechukwu Madubuike.
“It is also for this reason that I will advise that as clergy men, you do not stand aloof. I agree 100 percent with the Most Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto that all Christians must be involved in politics and not to leave it for those who see themselves as professional politicians. You have to encourage your members/followers to be active in politics, to come out and vote in the forth coming elections and in doing this, they must vote their conscience. Do not allow people to intimidate you, to coerce you, or give you money which they stole from our common purse.
“In the course of our interaction, we met with the presidential candidates; they all professed favourably on the issue of restructuring. Now most of them have made a u-turn.
“There is so much ethnic and religious bias. No Nigerian is more of a Nigerian than the other Nigerian. This country belongs to all of us. If you want this country to be great again, if you want this country to work again, then come out and vote, and also tell your congregation, tell your followers to come out and vote.
“Perhaps, the question I will like to leave with every one of you is this, ‘did Lord Fredrick Lugard in the process of amalgamating this country, say that one part should be more superior to the other?’ This question I want you to depart with.”
Earlier, the group’s Coordinator, Ayuba Kantiok, said the movement has a mandate to restore Nigeria.
“This is a mandate of restoring Nigeria; it is about reorientation of Nigerians on the need to move the nation forward.
“We came to consult with Pa Clark because we have observed that Nigeria is not working, hence the decision to put this group to rescue Nigeria.
“We are Christian ministers but we are advancing the cause of Nigeria and not religion. The election is coming in 2019 and we have the mandate of God that it is for the church to rescue Nigeria. Our campaign is that of justice, inclusiveness which we have observed is not happening.
“We decided to mobilise the youths to champion this cause. The youths confronted me and said Nigeria is dead so they are championing their own cause but I told them it is not.
“We are not in doubt that in Nigeria, we see you as one that youths have been looking up to for speaking the truth which many are hardly doing these days.
“The programme to rescue Nigeria commenced today with this visit. We are here to essentially tell you that we are for direct action. We will no longer anoint people to go and campaign, we are going to take the lead to rescue Nigeria.”