By Daniel Kanu
National leader, Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah has warned that unless something serious is done to salvage the present state of insecurity in the country, there may not be any election in 2023.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he also blamed the Southeast leaders for their latest culture of silence and fear as the major reason for the continued violence in the region.
The activist was also critical on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s twitter handlers, as well as his lashes out the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, advocating for his sack.
He spoke on other national issues, including the recent constitution review exercise by the National Assembly with a verdict that nothing good will come out of it. Excerpt:
Let’s know the latest happening on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)?
The Niger Delta Ministry Minister, Godswill Akpabio is simply exhibiting madness, so we are following him up. He is the problem of NDDC, constituting stumbling block. Akpabio said we are frustrating them, he thought that NDDC is their political game centre so we are telling him that we have had enough of his arrogance. He went to Tompolo Gharamatu to go and beg him, he thought that Tompolo is someone that can be bribed because he believes that in Nigeria everybody has a price and bribable. No. Tompolo is not that type of person, he is one with credibility and integrity, that is why we have a lot of respect for him. What is the problem of Akpabio for not inaugurating the NDDC board? What is his problem? So, when he looks at the Niger Delta people he feels and thinks that he can put us in his pocket? When did he join politics? It is just like the way some of his former governor friends are behaving like drunkards. Look at the way some of them are behaving, common sense they don’t have. It is disgracing. The problem is that most of them seem to forget their past, they forget where they are coming from and proscribed the memory of their past. In life anybody that forgets about his past when they get little opportunity you see them behaving like drunkards and you are going to leave the office one day, so why the arrogance? They seem to forget that power is transient, just temporary. When you leave the office is it not that same people you despised that you will meet again? Won’t you come back for something else? We expect President Buhari to sack Akpabio quickly, if Akpabio will not face his Ministry of Niger Delta where there is no money to spend. But because of the type of money that the oil companies are giving to NDDC, Akpabio is focusing only on NDDC to build his own political jamboree in 2023, we will not allow it. The Ministry of Niger Delta is dead under Akpabio’s watch, and he is not doing anything about it in Abuja. Because of the controversy in NDDC no money is going to NDDC from budgetary allocation. Akpabio is a confusionist and he should repent, but I expect the president to remove and replace him so that we can have peace. It is because of his gambling for 2023 that Akpabio is causing all this confusion.
How do you see the constitution review panels of the National Assembly?
I do not see anything good or cheering coming out of it because our politicians are not sincere, if not for their insincerity and deceit something good should come out of it. Are they ready to let us have one chamber instead of this two chambers (House of Representatives and Senate) that we are wasting millions on? Which of them will be patriotic enough to say that this two chambers that we are operating, we are wasting so much money, that we should go back to our parliamentary system so as to save money? How many of the lawmakers are ready to sacrifice for their present positions now? They are ready for this wasteful system that is going on. I See what they are doing as mere jamboree because they are not sincere. Are you saying that they don’t know our problem? Are you saying that they don’t know that the system we are running is wasteful? But because they are benefitting from it themselves you will find out that they will not be genuinely committed to any serious review. Which of them will say: Let us go back to the parliamentary days, that we should have only one National Assembly, one chamber unlike this expensive nonsense we are practicing now. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are simply wasting money. Let us put that money in education. How many of them will suggest that? Let them start by examining themselves first. I don’t see anything credible coming out of it and the reason as I said is simple. The people who are arranging it, managing it, midwifing it never won election in the first place, so they are alienated from their people. What the people want is not what they want. Can the National Assembly that we have today agree to go back to the parliamentary years so that we have one house (unicameral) making the law. Members of the National Assembly should start from themselves to get credibility and others will follow them and respect them. But for now, they are just wasting money, junketing the entire country, enjoying themselves in the hotels where they stay in the name of public hearing. I do not see any sincerity in what they are doing and I know I will be vindicated at last; nothing good will come out of it.
What is your view on President Buhari’s comment against the Southeast on Twitter, the removal of his tweet and the banning of Twitter in the country?
I still think that our President’s Twitter handlers should be more cautious on what they push out. You may find out that Buhari will not tweet such message on his own, sometimes the president is not aware of such tweets. There are many things they are doing in that Villa that the president is not aware of. His Twitter handlers need to exercise caution sometimes, seeing how the country is going volatile. There is need to manage any news, message, information coming from the presidential desk. I can tell you that the president was not aware of that tweet until his attention was drawn to it and they will start damage control. I think the president should caution those media aides that do those tweets with his name, they are taking so many things for granted, we should be sincere to ourselves. The president should caution those individuals who tweet things in his name that are not his ideology, individuals who create imaginary problems for him where there is none. The president I can tell you is not aware, I am not saying may not be aware, but that he was not aware of that tweet because he would not allow it. It is like what Akpabio is doing in the Niger Delta, he will just go and tell one of the personal assistants to the president that this is the thinking of the Niger Delta people and they will be pushing the agenda even without the president knowing. There is so mush deceit over there that a lot is outside the knowledge of Mr. President. They do not have access to the president’s bedroom, but they know people who have such access, those are the people they go and lobby and they come out to say that the president said this and that when in truth the president is in the dark on those issues. Do you think President Buhari will tell the Attorney General to go and start comparing herdsmen with Igbo spare parts dealers? Can you imagine that logic in this 21st Century? If we are in a sane society that minister is supposed to resign. For that minister to open his mouth to compare bandits, herdsmen that are killing people, even in their own area, raping women among other atrocities and you compare them with spare parts dealers, such thinking is worrisome. When you see some of these things you begin to ask yourself, is this still the country that Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe etc, founded? Some of the things we hear and see these days about Nigeria are disturbing and you begin to ask yourself, how did we get here.
I know you are aware of the massive support that former Lagos State governor and national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is getting with the formation of SWAGA (Southwest Agenda for Asiwaju). What is your take on the development?
There is nothing wrong with it. They can go on with their massive support for him. He has the right to contest. I know a lot of people seem to be looking at the Southeast, but their political leaders and elders must rise up to the occasion of what is going on there now, the orgy of killings, the violence, destructions etc and stop it. What is going on in the Southeast is a signal, those who are sponsoring them are saying: Don’t mention Southeast for the presidency in 2023, that is the signal. Those who are sponsoring destruction of police stations, burning of INEC offices, destruction of prisons, killing of policemen and other security agencies have a terrible agenda and the elders and political leaders in the Southeast are simply watching, keeping silent. This their new culture of silence and fear is not doing them any good. What are we saying? Are we saying that there is no leadership in the Southeast to stop this carnage, the self-destruction that is going on? Are you saying there is no political leadership and elders that can stop what is happening in the Southeast? When you are burning INEC offices and materials what will you use to conduct election? People that have committed crime and facing punishment you go and release them, why? I hope that the Southeast leaders should sit down and know that the signal is very clear and very dangerous for their political future. The Southeast leaders should investigate what is happening, the Yoruba are doing it. They should stop relying on conspiracy theory and folding their hands. Why can’t they rise up to investigate what is happening? So, even if it is coming from the outside you fold your hands until the police do their investigation? No, they should open their eyes and track down what is happening, they should do their own thorough investigation too to compare with whatever other investigation that will be done either by the police or whoever. Igbo leaders have to arrest the situation, it is not something that they should wait for anybody to come and do for them. What is happening there is unacceptable. If there are saboteurs expose them, nobody will take any excuse on what is happening there because the Igbo must put their house in order. They must call a spade a spade, saying that outsiders are doing it, it is a fake cry, nobody will listen to such excuse; they have to unravel what is happening there. A political zone with not less than five states and the elders, governors, political leaders, senators cannot sit down and say: we must do something to stop this carnage. Even if what is happening is coming from the outside they can, with unity among them resist and stop it. You cannot be there and your environment, your heritage is being destroyed and you are talking of conspiracy theory, you are keeping silent. Are those people doing the destruction spirits? Igbo leadership must swing into action to unravel what is happening if they are serious. And they have the capacity to do it if they want to.
But you know that orders come from Abuja as far as security issues are concerned?
So, if Abuja did not respond or yet to respond you wait until you die waiting for Abuja? Look, every community in Nigeria has vigilante, every street has vigilante group, and wherever people are living they have a vigilante group. And we are aware even from reports from the social media of the vigilante in Igbo land which they are boasting off. If you go to Asaba area and see the vigilante group there you will fear, go to Delta North and see the powerful vigilante groups that people from Governor Okowa area has set up, beyond the Nigeria Police Force. In those areas people are contributing money from everywhere, from abroad, to sustain it for their security. Look, I am worried that if this security challenge remains this way there will be a big challenge with conducting any election. As I speak, you cannot travel from Bayelsa to Warri, you cannot travel to anywhere without being afraid, bandits are everywhere. I don’t see the 2023 election taking place from the insecurity that is on now. Do you know the curfew that is in Rivers State? Rivers State is worse than Abia. We are praying that Rivers State problem does not extend to Bayelsa and the riverine areas. Poverty is coming, food is not moving round again because of the insecurity. As we speak now students are still in captivity. I am an educationist, why will I be happy to hear that children are still in captivity. In the house when I look at my daughter I imagine that somebody’s daughter is still in captivity for one month. What is happening in the country is frightening. What are the Imams and the pastors telling our leaders who are members of their congregations? They should stop them from entering the mosques and churches. Let there be ushers on the ground that will be driving them away.