You expressed anger recently on the treatment of the Niger Delta people which you said has been taken too far by President Buhari…?
(Cuts in) It is not only me that is unhappy, but the entire region. I think we have received great insults from President Buhari. He is acting like a mini-god, doing anything he wants to do with utter disregard to the rule of law. The situation has shifted from that of neglecting the Niger Delta region to that of insulting the people. I think he should stop insulting Bayelsans and by extension, the region. And he should be reminded that Bayelsa has produced great sons and daughters that have made great marks in the sands of our history, and I think they deserve respect, even as some are in their graves resting. I will not be surprised if Buhari wakes up tomorrow to change the Head of the NDDC to General Officer Commanding or General Overseer (G.O). Buhari should change the NDDC name to Niger Delta Gambling Centre (NDGC). Now he has changed the title of the head of the commission to administrator, I will not be surprised if by tomorrow he changes the name to GOC (General Officer Commanding), or General Overseer, insulting us, that we have no political leadership, that we do not matter in his scheme of things, that is what President Buhari is telling us. This is an agency (NDDC) that was established by law, where has it happened to just unilaterally change the name? He is just making our people a laughing stock and I think he should be called to order. An agency established by law, Buhari is changing the name like somebody changing cloth. You can’t just be changing the agency name with any title as if we are in the military dispensation. He does not have such right. The name administrator alone is enough to take the Federal Government to court. When will he stop insulting us? I am asking him for God’s sake, when will he stop insulting our people? If our governors are behaving as cowards, it does not mean that he will mess us up this way and do whatever he likes with NDDC. For the six years of the Buhari government so far, what will he tell the world that this is what he has done for the Niger Delta people with the NDDC? Senator Akpabio that is happy today that he has turned NDDC to a rag, to his own casino centre is feeling on top of the world, but all is just a matter of time. Let me even suggest to Buhari to re-name NDDC to Akpabio Casino Centre (ACC) to satisfy Akpabio as there is no obedience to rule of law, he can do whatever he likes. Let it go in history that it was during the eight years of Buhari leadership that NDDC was properly rubbished by Akpabio with his support. Let me even suggest to Buhari that the name of NDDC be changed to Akpabio Casino Centre, to satisfy him. Those of us who were involved in the struggle to establish NDDC during President Obasanjo’s time, we are pained at what is going on at the NDDC. We are pained that it is even now that NDDC has been turned to Yahoo-Yahoo Centre.Why? We risked our lives travelling to Abuja, all the nights to go and give documents of OMPADEC, that we want OMPADEC to come in the name of NDDC, that was what we struggled for. And in fairness to Obasanjo, he accepted and Obasanjo now said that the governors should also watch NDDC, today our governors are afraid of the centre. That is why we are talking about restructuring. Without restructuring, there will be no peace. How can our Niger Delta governors be this weak? Even in colonial times, we had great men from the Niger Delta, people like Festus Okotie Eboh, Dakpapriye, Chief Anthony Enahoro. Look even the appearance of Okotie Eboh alone puts fear in the British parliament. Chief Okotie Eboh’s dressing with the Niger Delta regalia and sense of fashion was intimidating that when he appeared in the parliament they were marvelled at his majestic appearance and they respected him. Even Queen Elizabeth shivered when Okotie Eboh appeared in the regalia of the Niger Delta. Today, look at the governors that Okotie Eboh people are producing? It’s a shame at what is happening in our region as if we have not had great men produced from the Niger Delta region. When Okotie Eboh spoke at the federal parliament even the Prime Minister takes him seriously and knew that if they were not careful there would be trouble. Let me tell them that nobody can intimidate the Niger Delta, despite the cowardly behaviour of our governors. The spirit of Okotie Eboh, the spirit of Dakpapriye, etc will be in pain today. During the struggle for Independence, was it not the great Enahoro from the Niger Delta region that moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence? Today, is it not a shame that his homeland, South-south is producing weak individuals as governors. Enahoro must be weeping in his grave seeing what is happening today, the type of governors on the saddle in his region, the situation of Nigeria and Nigerians today. We are producing governors that cannot threaten the centre even when great wrong, massive injustice is being done to the region. And the Yoruba are threatening the centre and getting what they want. Today, the Yoruba are threatening the centre, it was not the Yoruba people that first moved the motion for independence; it was the South-south people. Ernest Okolie is from Bayelsa State, an Ijaw man, he was the first editor of Daily Times. When he died before Independence Day the British last colonial master said there must be a minute silence for him. He earned respect because of who he was. Today, Ijaw people produce governors and they are afraid to talk in the face of injustice. Ernest Okolie’s pen was mightier than the sword during the struggle. He was one of the pioneer nationalists who even defeated the Yoruba people in Lagos in elections. Ernest Okolie is weeping in his grave, seeing what we have become today. Dakpabrieye was the first to establish a political party from the Niger Delta, Okotie Eboh, Anthony Enahoro, Ernest Okolie, Philip Effiong ( last Biafra leader), Clement Isong (a former Central Bank governor) etc, I can tell you are today, weeping in their graves looking at the type of very weak governors that we are producing today. We have a parade of stars from the Niger Delta region, so Buhari should stop treating us as if we do not matter. But I do not blame him because it is our weak governors that gave him such an opportunity to treat us with disdain. Buhari should ignore people like Akpabio who are gamblers and respect the Niger Delta region for what they are. We cannot allow this anymore. It is annoying that the key agency that should develop the Niger Delta region has been rubbished by the Buhari leadership. We have a standby board that was approved by law (National Assembly), the president is ignoring that and doing what he wants, playing games, playing crude politics with the lives of the Niger Delta people. They are causing confusion so that the budget will not be implemented for the benefit of the Niger Delta. We have told Buhari we support forensic audit, let EFCC, ICPC handle it so that the Board that was backed by law will continue in office while those that have been committing the crime in NDDC are dealt with by the law. Where is the offence in this argument? Can anybody go to the Northeast if Buhari is no longer in power and turn the Northeast Development commission into rubbish, will Buhari be happy? Even if Buhari is no more and people turn that agency to rubbish will Buhari be happy in his grave? There is no way he can be happy, so he should do to others what he expects to be done to him now that he is alive. He should forget about the manipulations of Akpabio, a betrayer, and respect our founding fathers that paid a lot of sacrifice for the country. Buhari should not push people to this self-determination or agitation struggle that Nigeria cannot contain. Since Buhari took over there is so much confusion and I ask what benefit is he getting from it? Next year will be election preparation year and everybody will be strategizing on who is going to be the next president in 2023, so what will it benefit Buhari to continue to cause confusion in NDDC until his tenure elapses?
You also complained about the trial of Sowore …?
(Cuts in) Thanks for reminding me of the issue. You see, I hate the way they are treating his case. They should set Sowore free, he was part of them and helped to bring them to power. He contributed to the emergence of this government, so why are they treating him the way they are doing as if he is a common criminal? If today Sowore remembers that Nigerians are suffering and decided to back out, why punish him? The change that Sowore joined them to preach which brought them to power, he is not seeing the manifestation. Sowore is not comfortable with their style of change, why will they continue to harass him? He is a patriotic Nigerian. He was already living a luxurious lifestyle in America, he was comfortable there, but he came down and joined them to remove then President Jonathan from power. The way they are harassing him as if he is a common criminal is unacceptable. We want to remind them that Sowore assisted them to enter Aso Rock, so they should banish those political harassments and maltreatment of his person. Those who are boot-leaker in Aso Rock, who are feeding Buhari with negative information against Sowore, we condemn them. Hijacking, capturing, harassing Sowore, and treating him as an ordinary criminal is unacceptable to all patriotic Nigerians. It is immoral for them to deny Sowore and to treat him the way they are now treating him. They should set him free and stop all those kangaroo arrangements against him. He remains the conscience of the Nigerian people. He saw that what was going on was against the Nigerian masses and he preferred to be on the side of the masses. He is not carrying arms, he did not carry bombs to attack anybody. He is using pamphlets like the late Gani Fawehinmi, his master. We thank God that Femi Falana is standing firm on the matter and the Amnesty International and we warn that nothing should happen to Sowore because he is speaking the minds of Nigerians.
You recently raised an alarm on the issue of the National Identification Number (NIN). What is your grouse?
Even if you did not ask this question I would have remembered to include it. I am already doing a press statement to that effect. This is the only government in the world that is forcing people to go and contact Coronavirus given the nature of the registration. What is in sim card registration that it must be now that this virus is ravaging the world that people are forced to go and register? United Nations must hear this, that our government is forcing people with all this their deadline pronouncement to get themselves crowded. Are you not watching television to see the crowd? You cannot see such anywhere in the world. What is the problem with the Buhari government? Even with what they are doing, with the people giving the president the advice that he should massively force people to go and register their NIN to contact Coronavirus is making Nigeria a laughing stock. Do you think the world is not laughing at us? Of course, the world is laughing at us and asking what is wrong with our government? You are telling people to keep social distance, the next thing you are forcing those same people to register, getting them crowded, giving them a deadline, I don’t understand this contradiction. Is it that the carriers of Coronavirus in Nigeria are not up to the number of South Africa and you want us to surpass them? What is happening is a shame to the advisers of this government. Can’t they tell Buhari that what we are doing is criminal and that we can be sued? Even Ghana, South Africa, and other smaller countries will be laughing at Nigeria. With this NIN exercise, I hope Nigeria will not face international criminal justice for forcing her citizens to go and contact Coronavirus. Maybe the government doesn’t even know that aspect and we have Ph.D holders in this government, those you think that they know, but they know nothing.
Now that we have new Service Chiefs are you optimistic that things may get better?
I want to thank all Nigerians who added their voice to ensure there was a change of Service Chiefs. They forced Buhari’s stiff hands and his hands had no choice than to bend as he was forced to make the changes. If not for Nigerians continued push, Buhari will not change them. Now that he has changed them what is the next plan of action? Even when you look at the body language of the Service Chiefs that were changed, you can notice that they are already tired. It was only Buhari that wanted the Service Chiefs to remain. People that have failed in their assignment, why still keep them? We want these new Service Chiefs to know that in this Boko Haram war, Nigerians are suspecting sabotage; Nigerians are suspecting that there is a huge business going on with money changing hands. So, they should change the story. The entire world is watching them; they should change the story that winning the war is possible. The new Chief of Army staff said recently that the Boko Haram war will soon end, let the journalists; both print and broadcast media, hold him on his words by creating space and doing a countdown for the Chief of Army Staff to remind him of his promise. If all the Service Chiefs do what is right the war will end, they have the capacity. They all know the secret and they should stop this business of Boko Haram and ensure the country is safe for us.
The Southeast region is complaining of being marginalized from the new appointment of Service Chiefs…?
(Cuts in) It is normal because in Nigeria if you don’t cry nobody listens to you, nobody takes you seriously. So, they should cry louder because the injustice is too much everywhere. We are also crying now because NDDC has been turned into a dustbin.
You did a tribute to the late Lateef Jakande, first civilian governor of Lagos State?
The late LKJ was a great visionary leader; his legacy is worth celebrating. I have advised Nigerian politicians to emulate his type of politics of service rather than self.The late statesman was the epitome of honesty, dedication, and selflessness, who used his position for the service of all. We the people of Niger Delta will remain ever grateful to him. He was a man of great foresight and insight. When Jakande clocked 80, the Niger Delta people went to give him an award. We gave him the award because his free education policy of 1980/81 benefitted our people immensely. Today, we have produced over 20, 000 professionals. All the Riverine areas of Lagos and all the areas where people who were, supposedly poor lived, not the Ikoyi-type people, the indigent people, like those that were living in Ajegunle, Kirikiri, Ajangbadi, Epe, Badagry etc, Jakande concentrated primary and secondary schools in all these areas for the common people to be educated and to be empowered. And because Lagos was federal capital territory before, the highest concentration of Niger Delta people outside our homeland was Lagos and Jakande free education in that early 80s produced over 20, 000 professionals of Niger Delta citizens all over the world. We are grateful to God for the good life of this patriotic citizen. His politics was unbiased; it was not concentrated to only the Yoruba, but equally distributed to all non-Yoruba that resided in Lagos. Jakande will remain one of the best public office holders in the political history of Nigeria based on his exemplary leadership style. We need more of the Jakandes to save Nigeria. If Nigeria must move forward, we must have politicians that have the type of spirit and vision of Jakande who believed in one Nigeria, not by mouth, but he was sincere, he was practical about it. So we, the people of Niger Delta we feel his exit from this earth and we pray God that Nigerian politicians of this generation will learn from his life and times. Nigeria is hopeless today because our politicians of today don’t want to copy or emulate the life of people like Jakande. No more Jakandes in this present dispensation and that is worrisome. May the great soul of Jakande popularly referred to as “Baba Kekere” rest in perfect peace.