From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Elder statesman and Chairman of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) Edwin Clark has said that a situation where the Niger Delta, despite its role in sustaining the country, has to take permission before benefitting from the resources it produces, is an indication that its peoples are oppressed and that the region ‘will soon take our destiny in our own hands.’
Clark made the remark Tuesday night at his residence in Abuja when he received the newly inaugurated senator representing Bayelsa West, former Governor Henry Seriake Dickson.
According to him, a situation where 18 senators representing the South-South do not oppose laws and bills that are against the region is a clear indication that they lacking in the Senate and the National Assembly.
Clark expressed delight that the former Bayelsa Governor was elected as a senator and will be an authentic voice of the Ijaws in the Senate.
He affirmed that there cannot be unity in the country where some see themselves as superior to others.
The elder statesman, who said this was not the proper time to talk politics as he was still mourning his younger brother, Professor John Pepper Clark (JP Clark) stated: ‘We are an oppressed people, I have always said that we will soon take our destiny in our own hands.
‘People do not appreciate what we are doing for Nigeria, what we are providing for Nigeria. They control our resources in our backyard, they manage it, and at the end of it, they benefit from it and now make us second-class citizens in our country. They use our very money to control us.
‘What type of country to do we belong to? We produce all the resources in this country and for me to benefit from it, I have to travel to Daura in Katsina State to ask for approval for me to benefit from what is being produced in my backyard. And if I am lucky they will give it to me with some conditions.
‘So, I am happy that you have been elected. As I said when you were coming, I said I’m still mourning, I don’t want to talk about politics yet. But politics is in my veins, I cannot see my senator being inaugurated and for him to come and see me without saying that this is what you are going to do in that place. [The] time will come after my mourning period [when] I will speak.
‘This country we are is a country for all Nigerians. No one owns it more than the other. We are equal citizens in Nigeria.
‘Unity does not mean you must be superior to the other. Then you won’t have a country. So, you have a duty to perform.’
Clark said he decided to support the former governor for the position because of his qualities.
‘You have all the qualities to become a senator. I have been one before, I was a senator in the second republic and I was a very important one for that matter. I was a member of a select committee which was the most important one in the Senate, we were responsible for appointing members of the various committees.
‘So, I am happy that you have become the elected senator. I know the duties of a senator if you really want to work for your people.
‘It is not enough to be a senator, you must distinguish yourself at all times. That’s why you are called a distinguished senator. I know you will be the voice of an Ijaw man in the senate.
‘When I wrote that letter about you, I know the area…I was the senator of the whole Ijaw nationality, for the Isokos and Ishekiris. Since then, I have been asking myself when shall we have a senator that will really represent us, speak the mind of the Ijaw man. It is not enough to say that I am a senator. So, you can be sure that when I made that recommendation about you, I knew what I was talking about…I knew I was not going to back someone who will not represent us.
‘When the election was postponed, I know God had a way of doing everything and today, you have been elected. I pray the Lord will protect you, give you the courage and wisdom and good health to perform your functions, to speak on behalf of Ijaw people.’
The former Information Minister told Dickson: ‘I know I will be around to watch your performances in the Senate.
‘A situation where you have 18 senators representing us and you pass laws/bills that are against us without any opposition, some of us believe we have not got the right people in the Senate or the National Assembly. So, I am very proud that you have been elected as a senator and I wish you the best of luck.’
Dickson earlier said that his visit was to thank the Ijaw leader for his support in his quest for the Senate office, informing him that he had been elected and finally sworn into office as Senator representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District.
He said he would constantly call on the elder statesman for advice and guidance on how to continue pursuing the issues facing the Ijaw people.
He said his visit would have been earlier but due to a number of circumstances, including flooding, the outbreak of COVID-19 and the recent# EndSARS protests.
Commiserating with Clark over the death of his younger brother, the senator noted that the Ijaw nation had lost a big name whose impact went beyond just his immediate home nation.
He described him as not just an Ijaw or Niger Delta icon, but a rallying point for all the leaders who mean well for Nigeria, noting that he had over the years transformed to represent the demand for a just and equitable Nigerian union.
‘We know that in this COVID-19 lockdown, calamities, flood, the Ijaw nation lost one of our best, another father and leader, a pathfinder in his own right but your younger brother, Prof JP Clark. Today’s visit primarily is to formally condole with you and your family.
‘The other reason for the visit is to thank you for your support. You have come to symbolise the Ijaw struggle, the Niger Delta struggle and you have gone even beyond the Niger Delta, you have become the rallying point for all those leaders who mean well in this country for a just Nigeria, an equitable Nigeria, a Nigeria for all Nigerians.
‘We’ll be coming continually for consultation and advice because the issues that matter to us, which are the same issues you have been managing and dealing with, from pre-independent Nigeria to independent Nigeria and till now. You are a living encyclopedia, it’s only a fool who won’t want to continually tap from this available pool of wisdom and knowledge,’ he said.