Former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark is National Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF). The nonagenarian in this interview with Sunday Sun bared his mind on some sundry issues, including the $50 billion suit slammed on President Mohammadu Buhari by the South, 21 years of uninterrupted democracy and security challenge, among others.
Let’s get your thoughts on the nation’s 21 years of uninterrupted democracy, which the country just celebrated on June 12, the new Democracy Day?
What is democracy? There is no democracy yet…. That is why we went to court to challenge anomalies. Of a truth, there is no democracy in Nigeria now. Elections are not properly held, even ordinary primaries we cannot conduct. See what is going on with the major political parties. See what is going on in the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC). See what is going on in Edo State. Elections are not free and fair, the president has refused to sign the Electoral Law and you people (the press) are not doing anything about it. You people are not criticizing it to an extent it’s also responsible for the problem of this country. Tell me, when your people are being arrested, when the youths were demonstrating in Kaduna why should they be arrested? So, can you say we are practicing democracy? No, we are not practicing democracy. We are even worse than a military regime. We are not being tolerant; we are not adhering to the tenets of democracy in any way, so how can you claim that you are practicing democracy? Look at the serious security challenge in the land that is threatening the peace of the land.
But the Federal Government says they are on top of security?
How? They are not. The government is not on top of security. Everybody says that security has degenerated each passing day. There are more people being killed than when we were in the civil war. A lot of people are being killed in the Northwest, everywhere in the country, in the Northeast and everywhere, nowhere is safe. When you talk about the number of people that are being kidnapped in the country, it is simply shocking. So, there is no security in the country and that is why the people are asking for the Service Chiefs to be changed, to be retired. People who have stayed for five years and they have not produced any good result, even though Mr President has the discretion to retain them and so on, but Mr President is not president for himself, he is president of Nigeria, and his sacred duty is to protect the life and property of the citizens. He took an oath to protect the security and welfare of the people, that is not being done. Look at the herdsmen killing people everywhere, have they arrested any one of them any day? Has any AK47 been taken from any herdsman? Tell me. Why should they allow herdsmen from other countries to go to everywhere and you are registering them as citizens of Nigeria? What type of country do we belong to?
So, you are in support of the creations of security networks in some parts of the country, like the Amotekun security network in the Southwest?
It is the right thing to do; after all the Northern governors that were criticising the Amotekun are trying to resort to it. Self-defence is something that takes place everywhere in the world. In the United States of America (USA) only one person (George Floyd) killed recently jolted the whole world. It was just an individual killed, but you saw the condemnation and the reactions it generated, but in Nigeria, hundreds are being killed daily and the government does not worry. There is no understanding among the present security Service Chiefs.
Recently, the South slammed N50 billion suit on President Muhammadu Buhari. Do you think anything can come out of the suit?
Ask our lawyers because I don’t have to make comments again on the issue before the court. It is a suit that we are asking for damages for the wrong done so there is nothing unusual about it. The main issue is the content of the suit and it is before the court. This is not the right time to talk about it again. This is not a military rule, so we have the right to contest issues that we feel strongly against. The president does not own the country, so let’s wait for the courts.
Col Umar (Rtd) wrote an open letter to the president, alleging of lopsidedness in appointments…?
(Cuts in) Did you not read my own open letter to Mr President recently, so what a question are you asking? What it means is that you did not read my letter if you are asking me this because I also wrote one and the comments are everywhere, in the United States, in the UK and so on and people have been commenting about it…
(Cuts in) I read your letter Chief…
(Cuts in) So, why are you asking such a question again when you know that Umar is not alone in his view, that the issues he raised are glaring. So, what again do you want to know?
Can we say your letter was a confirmation of what Col Umar also addressed?
Is what he said not the truth? Were the issues that I also raised not the truth? So, your question does not arise or do you have contrary facts?
I asked because sometimes people change their position when the facts change?
Have the facts changed? No, tell me? What has changed? The issues raised are still there, so which fact changed? Things are even getting worse by the day or are you not seeing it? But you are a journalist and should know better. Okay, you tell me has anything changed? The issue raised in the letters has it changed? Has it been addressed? Which facts have changed? Which new facts do you have? You, the press, should also rise to this challenge. It is not only to report the news; I think you (press) should be setting the right agenda and ensure you follow it up.