At a time Nigerians were thinking that the Federal Government has finally found a solution to the Niger Delta crisis, a group of militants in the region recently threatened to resume hostilities over alleged unfulfilled promises. What’s really happening?
We are begging them not to resume hostilities. However, we are praying to God to give courage to our governors because the problem is not even the Federal Government. The problem is the South-south governors. If our governors are well organised and fearless like South-west governors, our youths will not have any problem. If today the Federal Government is playing on our intelligence, making jest of us or looking down on our region, it is because of the kind of governors we produce. If not, nobody will joke with any state in the Niger Delta. For example, nobody can look down on Ekiti State.
So, the problem is not the Federal Government. The Federal Government has also found out that we have a problem and the problem is that we don’t have governors that are ready to defend their people. So, we should look inward and ask ourselves, ‘what kind of governors did we produce?’ In fact, in the history of Niger Delta as a geo-political zone, we have not produced these kinds of governors who cannot defend the region. Even before independence, regional leaders were defending their people; the current governors have refused to defend us; that is why the Federal Government is messing us up.
If you say the governors are not defending the region, what exactly are they not doing right at the moment?
We are supposed to see them meeting and coming up with resolutions on how to move the region forward. The governors of the other geo-political zones are meeting except the South-south. When we ask them why they are not meeting like the others, they will say that President Buhari will remove them from office. Can you imagine that in the 21st Century? When President Buhari is meeting with the 36 state governors, just watch how the South-south governors hide. They are afraid right inside the Presidential Villa. Now, where did this fear come from? We don’t know. Who is intimidating them? Why are they afraid?
In a live television programme recently, I asked Buhari whether he really wanted to remove any of our governors from office. I asked that question because we don’t know why our governors are hiding. Even the South-east governors that were not meeting before met recently and I was surprised. And we are asking the South-south governors to also meet and take decisions that will positively impact on the lives of the people.
For example, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is doing nothing as we speak. If our governors collectively ask the Presidency why funds are not being released to the ministry to function effectively, definitely the President will sit up. The Amnesty office is crying for funding. They have to beg and beg before the Minister of Finance will release just anything for them. The President sent the Vice President to the Niger Delta; after gathering our people in a manner that even Lord Lugard did not during the colonial era and addressing our traditional rulers like children, they vanished out of sight. You cannot do that in the South-west. Only Governor Fayose will confront the Federal Government. Our governors are the ones that are supposed to make a follow up. They are supposed to visit the Vice President and ask for the process of achieving all that the government promised us during his visit. But nobody is seeking to know why he came and made promises to our people and now nothing is being implemented.
Are these the issues behind the fresh threat by the militants?
Well, even Chief E.K. Clark complained that we are still waiting. After the Niger Delta leaders led by Chief Clark met with the President himself last year, not even the Vice President, the government has been coming with different stories that we don’t understand. Sometimes, the Minister of Information will say something different about the Niger Delta from what the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) is saying; the President’s media advisers will also say a different thing. In fact, the President himself will say something different from what his Minister of Information is telling you about the Niger Delta. And so we wonder what the problem is. They are playing with us like children simply because our governors are not united; our governors are not coming together. It’s not that they are quarreling but they are afraid to meet so that Buhari will not remove them from office according to them. But we are assuring them that Buhari will not arrest anybody. Buhari believes in freedom of speech. We want them to be coming together and taking decisions they will pass down to the government in Abuja.
The 2019 election is coming and all the geo-political zones are already strategising to be formidable blocs in order to negotiate for relevance in the coming dispensation. But our governors are behaving like zombies. So, we want religious leaders from the zone like Pastors Oritsejafor, Oyakhilome and Cardinal Okogie, among others, to gather these governors and cast out the coward and zombie spirits in them. If not, the South-south will lose out completely; in fact, other zones will disgrace us.
You are one of those that had called for the release of the leader of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, from detention. The Federal High Court, Abuja admitted him to bail last Tuesday under conditions considered as stringent by many observers. How would you react to the issue?
Well, we demanded for the unconditional bail of Kanu. But even if the government is coming up with bail conditions, it means we are winning. In the first place, President Buhari had in one of his televised interviews said people should not talk about bail for somebody like Nnamdi Kanu. But I came out to call for his unconditional bail (and I want to thank The Sun newspapers because one of my interviews demanding for the release of Kanu was carried on the cover page). Kanu is a peaceful man; he is demanding for the rights of his people. He is fighting for things he feels that are not right to Ndigbo in Nigeria. Anywhere in the world, such a person as far as we are concerned, is a hero. So, we demanded for his unconditional release but even if they come with these conditions, I think it is just a shakara type of thing. At the end of the day, they will still granted him bail.
We are also asking our Niger Delta governors to demand for the review of the cases of some of our sons who are in detention. Some of them have been sentenced to life imprisonment and all that. They should look for political solutions to these cases. We are talking about people like the Okahs; these are political matters that should be reviewed. The Federal Government had at a time set free some captured Boko Haram terrorists as part of terms of its negotiation with them. So, these cases should be treated politically.
I want to congratulate the new leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, especially the President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo on the bail granted to Kanu. If not for his effort, I don’t think the South-east governors would have met and agreed to pursue the release of Kanu. The South-east governors are also cowards like the South-south governors; they are birds of feather. But the new leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo was able to go to their bedrooms and encourage them to wake up from their slumber. Maybe he even took some pastors to go and pray that the demon giving them the spirit of cowardice should leave their government houses.
Like Nwodo, Chief Clark, who is about 90 years old, has been preaching to our governors to remove the spirit of cowardice in them so that they can behave like their counterparts. I believe they will listen to Clark and some religious leaders that have been talking to them. There is no way our region will move forward with the kind of governors that are afraid to speak the minds of their people.
Critics have argued that officials of the government shouldn’t have been appointed as members of the investigative panel set up by the President to look into allegations of corruption against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke over the Ikoyigate. Do you subscribe to the view?
When the panel submits its report, we can take it up from there. Nigerians know the secret of some of these things. If they come up with a report that is unacceptable, Nigerians will still cry foul. But the most important thing is that the President has suspended the SGF, who was talking as if he was untouchable. The other time he went to the National Assembly (NASS) over this same allegation against him and he was talking anyhow to the senators. So, I don’t understand; but the step that the President has taken in suspending them is in the right direction.
Do you see the anti-corruption fight gaining credibility now that the President has touched one of his key appointees and loyalists?
It has actually started giving credibility to the anti-corruption crusade because some of these people were actually operating as if they were untouchables. They were behaving as if the President cannot suspend them since they could visit him in his bedroom. There was this arrogance that the SGF always displayed. So, I think we should be patient with the President and see how far he will go with the issue. He has suspended them and set up a panel headed by Vice President Osinbajo, a pastor. So, let us see how the report will look.
How do you think the suspension of the SGF will rub off on the relationship between the NASS, particularly the Senate and the Presidency, given that it’s one of the issues that soured it?
From what the President has done, I don’t think 100 per cent of the NASS members will say, ‘oh the President will never listen to us’. That story is gone unless when other things crop up and the President does not cooperate with them. But I read many NASS members commending the President for suspending the SGF.
Former president Goodluck Jonathan was quoted in an advance copy of ‘Against the Run of Play’, a book written by Segun Adeniyi, to have said he lost the 2015 presidential election because those he trusted betrayed him. What is your understanding of what played out in the elections as an ally of the former president? Was he really betrayed?
If you read some of my interviews months before the election, you will see that I was saying that very loud. Because of that, his security aides banned some of us from Aso Rock. So, I don’t know why the former president is complaining. Some of us were banned from seeing him and he was aware. If you went to the Presidency to tell Jonathan the truth, his security men that were richly benefiting from this very people that Jonathan is calling betrayers now would not allow you in. When Jonathan was Vice President and was being tormented, we defended him at all cost. But the moment he entered the office of the President, these people became his best friends and if you just warned him over anything or gave him any information, you became an enemy.
So, when I read some of these things, I just laugh. That some of us were not even consumed by the antics of these people for going to the Villa to tell Jonathan to be careful is by the grace of God. We were all regarded as outcasts in the Presidency especially two years before the 2015 elections. Jonathan’s aides were in the payroll of some of these people the former president is saying that they betrayed him. Jonathan believed in them totally and the moment you gave him any warning, your life was at risk. His security aides that were in the payroll of some of these people threatened you. That was how the powerful cabal in that villa operated. So it’s the Almighty God that saved some of us.
What you are saying is that Jonathan has no reason to complain of betrayal?
He doesn’t need to complain; he should even thank his God with his entire family that none of them died in that Villa. He should be doing thanksgiving everyday because he was at the mercy of these people but God Almighty saved him. He has not even mentioned some deadly people among those that betrayed him. So, he should not complain, rather he should be thanking God every day.
Do you think former U.S. president Barack Obama and other world leaders actually connived to ensure that Jonathan did not get re-elected as alleged in the book?
Which connivance? It is the way you lay your bed that you lie on it. People will study you carefully before they deal with you. It is after studying you and knowing your kind of person that people will now start thinking of what to do with you. He did not want to listen to anything truth. If you wanted to tell him the truth, you were in trouble with those cabals in Aso Rock and they will be after you.
When Jonathan was Vice President, there was these series I was writing. The title was “Niger Delta warns against setting Nigeria on fire”. It had part one to five and I was publishing it as full page adverts in national newspapers. I started publishing it in 2009.Each of the series exposed all the calculations, manipulations and all that against Jonathan. All those things are in the archives; go and look at them. The calculations and manipulations were meant to ensure that he did not become Acting President even though Yar’Adua was obviously incapacitated. I was exposing the calculations, where the cabals were meeting, the decisions taken against Jonathan, etc. As I was publishing those things, I was not sleeping in my house. Jonathan is aware. And I published it until he was sworn in Acting President. When he became Acting President, I was one of the few of people he hosted in the First Lady’s Conference Room; he had not even moved down to the main office then. It was there that he hosted me and thanked me for my publications.
As a former journalist, as somebody who was brought up in the South-west, and as somebody who was involved in the June 12 struggle, I knew the calculation of these cabals and I was exposing them. But immediately Jonathan became the President, to give him information and ideas became a problem. In fact, two years to Jonathan’s leaving office, I did not go to Abuja. I only saw him whenever he visited Lagos because it was not safe for me to go Abuja any longer. And the man you were endangering your life for did not understand.
Calls for the full disclosure of President Buhari’s ailment have heightened of late. What is your view on that?
It is his constitutional duty to disclose his health status. He is the President of the country and as such he is the property of every Nigerian citizen. He is no more a private person but Nigeria’s public property. So, we are all concerned; we are all praying that God should give him good health and good strength to administer this country. He should know that majority of Nigerians want God to restore his health. So, he should not listen to the sycophants and cabals that do nonsense in every government. They will be deceiving him that, may be, Nigerians will make mockery of him when he discloses his ailment. But people cannot make mockery of any human being that is facing health challenges. Health challenge is between God Almighty and every human being; and every man born of a woman in this world will one way or the other face health challenges whether you like it or not.
In 2008, I collapsed in my house and was on life support for more than one week in this country. It was people like Jonathan, Emmanuel Uduaghan, Timipreye Sylva, Timi Alaibe, the late Oronto Douglas and Governor Dickson that mobilised funds and I was flown out of the country. I will always thank them for what they did for me. With the type of thing they did for me, I have chosen to be blunt in anything concerning them. I will never allow anybody to rubbish them.
Therefore, nobody will make mockery of the President’s health challenges. It is because Nigerians are concerned that they are asking for the disclosure of the health condition of the President so that if it is headache that is worrying him, they can pray about it specifically. We are asking for it with compassion.
But some people would argue that those championing this crusade are doing so for political gains?
Well, Nigerians are also very funny. But I’m happy that Buhari has one of the best women in the world that anybody can be proud to say she is a wife. I’m proud of that woman for two reasons. One, after the election, she visited Tinubu to thank him for encouraging her to come out and campaign for her husband. In Africa, it is very rare for a first lady to humble herself and say that somebody encouraged her to come and campaign for her husband. She has conscience.
Secondly, when she saw the cabal in Aso Rock who doesn’t even understand the philosophy of her husband and that of the ruling party trying to rubbish his administration, she tried to make Buhari to understand that Nigerians will hold him responsible at the end of his tenure. When Buhari was slow in responding, she decided to go to the media so that the whole world would hear that she was doing her work, not that she was just licking ice cream and eating chicken in Aso Rock.
So, by the grace of God, I believe that she will be able to manage the cabal that wants to rubbish the issue of the health of the President. We know that when the President discloses his health status, some people will say he should not contest in 2019. But they are not God. The way I know Buhari, if his health will not allow him to re-contest in 2019, he will tell Nigerians.