Comrade Joseph Evah, National Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the Niger Delta militants do not return to the creeks. Among other issues in this interview with Willy Eya, he particularly cautioned that efforts should be made to forestall the Egbesu boys joining the Niger Delta Avengers in the creeks.
Activities of militants are gradually rearing their ugly heads again in the Niger Delta; as a stakeholder in that region, what is happening? Are the militants trying to go back to the creeks again?
Now, what we are telling Buhari is that the Egbesu boys might join the Avengers soon. If Egbesu joins the Avengers, Nigeria would beg. In 2009 during the late Umaru Yar’Adua’s time, it was the Egbesu boys that made him (Yar’Adua) to beg the Ijaw people.
That is why we are telling President Buhari to act fast and go back to the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and quickly do what is in that 16-point agenda. We are still confirming to the world that the Ijaws have never been conquered in history. We are proud of that, but we want peace in our region.
We are telling our children not to blow up the pipelines because we need to survive in that environment. That environment must survive us and be there after our generation. We are calling on our youths not to blow up our environment and turn it upside down. Our children and children’s children must survive that environment.
But in your view, what are the fresh grievances of the Niger Delta youths as expressed by the Avengers? Are they saying that the Federal Government is not making enough efforts to redress the situation in the Niger Delta?
Part of the Amnesty Programme is the Ogoni clean up and you are a journalist, go and find out if anything has been done there. Number two is that the Maritime University that is supposed to admit and train our children is not working. We do not have a Vice Chancellor; we do not have lecturers. If you go there now, the Maritime University is dead. We want the Maritime University to resume before the end of this year. The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, went there last time, but there are no lecturers there and there is also no vice chancellor.
The most dangerous thing now are the kind of people in the presidency and I want some people in the presidency to be arrested. There are some people there who are sponsoring people to confront our national leader, Chief Edwin Clark. That was what happened in Afenifere where some disgruntled elements in the government then confronted Chief Adesanya and Chief Enahoro, the chairman of NADECO then. If they try to stop the Niger Delta struggle and turn the place upside down, our economy would crumble.
We are begging our children, the Avengers, to please do not carry out your threats. Give a chance to Buhari because he is an honest man; he is a man we know that has integrity; he should go back to Chief Clark, Diette Spiff, the pioneer governor of Rivers State, Dr Dara among others.
We are parading the best brains in the Niger Delta. If all these people are behind Clark, who are you still looking for that are the alternative to Clark and PANDEF. What I am saying is that if the Egbesu boys join the Avengers, the Federal Government would cry and beg like they did in 2009. The amnesty was given to the Niger Delta to appease the Ijaw people. We do not want the situation to get to that level where the Egbesu boys would join the Avengers. The Egbesu are the Ijaw dogs of war and if they join the Avengers, the Federal Government would beg like I said in 2009.
But don’t you think that the disagreement among the pressure groups in the Niger Delta is not helping the cause of that region?
You are a journalist and you know the history of the Niger Delta region. There is an umbrella body of the region. The Ohanaeze Ndigbo is coordinating the Igbo people. The Arewa is coordinating the North and the Afenifere is also coordinating the Yoruba nation.
So, why can’t we have an umbrella body for coordinating the Niger Delta. It does not matter whether we have the Ijaw Monitoring Group and so on. You can form any group. In Nigeria, you should remember that we have the freedom of association, but what we are saying is that there is usually an umbrella body that is the mouthpiece of every region. PANDEF is the umbrella body and mouthpiece of the Niger Delta and that is why President Buhari relates with them. Before Buhari decided to meet with the PANDEF led by the former Minister of Information and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, the president had done his homework.
People can say anything. Everything concerning the Niger Delta must be in line with what PANDEF is saying. We have over one million constitutions in Nigeria but the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is supreme. So, whatever PANDEF says is what the Niger Delta people are saying to the Federal Government and the people of this world. We are saying that some people in the presidency must stop causing confusion in our region. We would not allow it because the government and the oil companies would use that as an excuse and stop whatever they want to do for us.
That is why we do not want disunity. At least, you were a journalist during the Urhobo and Itsekiri war. During that time, did you see any development in that area? All the oil companies packed away. Chevron and Shell packed out of the Niger Delta. So, who are the people sponsoring division in the Niger Delta? You all know that united we stand and divided we fall.
So, if we are seeing some elders who want to cause division, we would counter it. We would expose them to the world. President Buhari should set up a probe and find out those people in government who are sponsoring those trying to cause disunity in the Niger Delta region.
From his body language, it is obvious that President Buhari is already warming up for a second term in office. Do you think he deserves another term?
That Buhari is preparing for a second term, we are only looking at his body language; he has not come out to say that he wants to contest for a second term in office. As a Muslim, you know that he can decide any time and say this is what I want to do.
You know that Buhari’s wife is one of the most powerful first ladies in the history of Nigerian presidents. She can wake up and tell the president that this is what I want and this is what your family wants and Buhari would follow their advice. So, let us watch Buhari’s body language till 2018 which is the election year.
But in your view, do you think that he deserves a second term?
In my own opinion, except for his health, he can go for a second term because in both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), I do not see the candidate that would beat Buhari. And if Buhari steps down for any of them, I am also seeing another round of confusion. It is just like some people saying that they want the Niger Delta Republic.
I do not see the possibility of the Niger Delta Republic, because the Southern Sudan that broke away, we are seeing the level of crisis that the people there are going through. The structure they are having in Southern Sudan is worse than when they were together.
The type of politicians that we have today, they are terrible and it is better that we stay together. With the caliber of politicians that we have today, if they tell me to come and fight for the Ijaw Republic, they are just deceiving themselves. The politicians that we have if we stay together are better than the politicians we are parading.
But looking at Buhari’s age and his health challenges, do you think that he would be able to cope with the pressure of office for another four years?
I am not after his age, but concerned about his health situation. This is because age wise, the first African Woman president, Mrs Sirleaf Johnson of Liberia is older than Buhari. So, his age is not a problem and I am not bothered about that, but the only issue I am concerned about is his health.
There are some people that are up to 90 years and when you see the way they talk, you know that they are still strong. Those who are talking about the younger generation should know that there is nothing inside their brain. If Buhari is healthy and wants a second term, I would support him to go for another four years.
This is because all the politicians I am seeing parading themselves for the 2019 presidential election, they have no agenda and would just be a problem to the country. But for us the Niger Deltans, the most important thing is that we do not want the Egbesu to join the Avengers. So, we are begging that Buhari should act fast and go back to PANDEF and work. We want practical steps in the Niger Delta to stop this impending disaster. In 2009, it was Egbesu that collaborated with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to cripple the economy.