By Daniel Kanu
Comrade Joseph Evah is that effervescent leader and national coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) who always speaks truth to power.
In this encounter with Sunday Sun, he revealled the game plan against the 2023 Igbo presidential bid, the politics of Jonathan’s latest embrace for 2023, as well as the problem with the Niger Delta.
His damning verdict was that the Niger Delta politicians are the ones oppressing their own people, and not the Federal Government. Excerpts:
You must be aware of the plot to draft former President Goodluck Jonathan to the 2023 politics…?
(Cuts in) Former President Jonathan will never force himself on Nigerians in 2023, so people should be assured of that, but let me use this opportunity to pass a message to the Igbo people, yes they are good, very good, but they must properly organise themselves before they will blame any other force against them. Their political togetherness is key now, they must be united with a very strong voice that will send a great signal that they need it (Presidency) like yesterday. Many people are looking at the direction of Jonathan now, but of course, you know that Jonathan is not an over-ambitious man. They are the ones that are confusing Jonathan, Jonathan is not a confusionist, he is just there waiting in the wings, but the signal is that the Igbo should go and do their homework well, let nobody say that it is Jonathan who wants to force himself to become the president. Jonathan by nature will never force himself on Nigerians. I repeat, the Igbo should go and do their homework well, if you look at the history of Jonathan and his political life, he never forces himself on people in any way. Even as deputy governor, then governor of Bayelsa, now late, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha chose Jonathan because he felt that Jonathan doesn’t have that type of ambition to disturb him, he is somebody that you can trust. You know the governor was an Airforce officer and with such military background he did not want any disturbance when discharging his governance duty so he went for Jonathan, knowing too well that he is one that will not betray you. He refused to go with other people that were nominated for him because he felt they will disturb, distract and even impeach him while doing the job. It is people who have over-ambitious spirit while they are serving people they want to push the person down and take over. Look at Babangida and Buhari they will do as if they are romancing themselves whereas each person is planning to take over. Look at Abacha and Abdulsalami, Diya and co, there are betrayal spirits in them, so Alamieyeseigha coming from the force knew all these and went for somebody who is loyal, who he can trust in the person of Jonathan and he has not changed his reliable trademark. When Alamieyeseigha was plotted out and overthrown by President Obasanjo when the confusion was still on, Jonathan went to Otueke his village to go and stay, he did not want to be involved, even when other political actors were urging him to take over, he never did. But it was when we felt that due to the insecurity in Bayelsa, Obasanjo was planning to appoint a military administrator and declare a state of emergency in the state and that will take back Bayelsa back 30 years again and you know Obasanjo is a dangerous man. Of course, the constitution says you cannot allow a vacuum, that was why when Alamieyeseigha was impeached, he had no reason again than to take over, but he never contributed anything to Alamieyeseigha impeachment.
But looking at the Obasanjo era and now, could you say that it is better today in terms of leadership?
What you may not know is that Obasanjo is the root cause of some of the problems that we are facing today, because he was supposed to do what is right during his time and put certain structures in place that cannot be reversed. He believed that he will become another Mobutu Sese Seko, just like what Abacha was also planning. You know that these men, their ambition was uncontrollable. Obasanjo left a lot of loopholes in governance. I said in one of my television appearances that Buhari can take the excuse that when he wanted to be president when he was still very strong, Nigerians did not give him chance. Now that his age has gone far, it is when they brought him in to govern. In that television programme, I was telling Tinubu also that he was the one that brought Buhari to this presidential position, even when the man told Nigerians that he was no longer interested. So, I told Tinubu not to just sit down in Bourdillon, saying that Buhari is an adult and should know what to do. No, he should go and meet him and stay with him in that Aso Rock and ensure they manage this country because he was the one that brought him and ensured he won. Even on TVC live television programme, I repeated that he must share in the blame for the failure of the Buhari-led government. Tinubu should leave Lagos and move to Aso Rock to advise Buhari because he was the one that convinced Buhari to come and run as well as providing a veritable political platform that gave him victory. Buhari had already given up the ambition, but Tinubu was instrumental to his coming on the march again. They promised to back Buhari, but today they have abandoned him or whether the man has abandoned them.
But you are aware that even Bola Tinubu has presidential ambition to run after Buhari’s tenure in 2023?
There is no crime in one having presidential ambition, everybody from the South who feels he has the potential can indicate interest, so it is not a crime. So, this is the time for people who are interested in the presidential race to go and do their homework well. Look, if you have a fiancée and you are not ready, there are lots of men there that will bulldoze their way to go and marry her. They will not wait for you that you must marry the girl. You may be planning to marry the girl by December, unknown to you they have fixed the wedding for November and they will take you by storm.
What exactly do you mean by this proverb?
Ndigbo should not think they will get the presidency on a platter of gold, other groups in the South are also eyeing it, so they must brace up with the reality and organise themselves. Politics is a game, like a football match, according to politicians, so Ndigbo should play their game well, and know that others will not just fold their arms and wait or watch them in this their dilly-dally unprepared attitude. They must be tactical and strategic. I am in full support of the Igbo presidency, but they need to organise themselves well and ward off charlatans.
But when President Jonathan was in office, some derided him, saying that he was clueless and now they are begging him…?
(Cuts in) Well, if you compare then and now, you make your judgment to know who is visionless. But, I think it’s all rumour, but maybe, we are looking at the body language of some people and we are all making our comments. You know that Jonathan is still relevant in Nigerian politics, that is why. Also because of Jonathan’s credentials, even those people who were saying that Jonathan was a failure are ashamed now. If Buhari was in Jonathan’s position, he won’t hand over power. He will tell INEC to count the result again or even tell the wife of the INEC chairman, to tell her husband to do the recounting or else….
You are aware that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is working towards the election of its President-General…?
(Cuts in) This question you asked is very vital. Look Ohanaeze Ndigbo should watch with their eyes wide open on what is going on. They may be seeing the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob. Because of 2023, I urge Ndigbo to know that the enemies of Igboland will want to destabilise the Igbo nation. People should make sacrifices for the unity of Ndigbo, they should not allow their ambition to be uncontrollable. Now, is the acid test for Ndigbo and they should watch before they leap. A lot of people are hired to destabilise Igbo land so they should be careful and watch before their apex organisation is hijacked and used against the zone. There are some hirelings angling to lead the organisation, there are hirelings at the background playing some music, so they must know which music to dance. They will pump money into the election to destabilise Igbo land, so Ndigbo must continue to talk to themselves. Let the religious leaders, men of God, their natural and traditional leaders, like the Obi of Onitsha and co, top Christian clergy from the Catholic church, Anglican church, etc and their strong voices, let them have a consensus so that they will be able to defeat the enemies of Igbo land. If they allow the enemies of Igbo land to have their way, it will take them 100 years to repair the damage that will be done. Let the Igbo not disgrace themselves. Nigerians, and in fact, the world are watching them. Let them know their sons and daughters with ambition and the right credentials, form their first 11. We need a global face in Igbo land and they are there, so let them organise themselves and reject charlatans from parading themselves. They must decide who must represent them and now is another golden opportunity for them. They should not blow this opportunity. The politicians should not decide for them, let their natural leaders decide those to represent them. They should build the right bridges across politically and otherwise.
How do you feel about the recent killing in Borno State of rice farmers?
It is not only senseless, but barbaric. I have said that the Boko Haram war is a scam.
It’s a scam because it has been turned into a business, big-time business for some people. The elite forum is saying it. We have told Buhari to remove the Service Chiefs, all elders, in the North, South, East and West, the Senate, House of Representatives members, in fact entire Nigerians, are asking President Buhari to kick them out, but it’s only the president that sees nothing wrong. It’s astonishing. Even when you look at the Service Chiefs, you will see that they are tired of the work, but if any of them says he wants to go, there will be a problem and the person may not be alive to tell the story. The next thing you will hear is a case of sabotage, and EFCC will be set in motion against the person. And you can’t escape from the trap. If Nigeria is like the United States of America, they would have resigned. Do you know what happened to a Minister from my state, one of my leaders that resigned in Obasanjo’s tenure? Obasanjo ensured his bank was destroyed. Look at what some of these funny spokespersons to the president, who shamelessly say the farmers did not get military clearance before going to their farm. That person and Nigerians know him to pride himself a journalist. He is a disgrace to the journalism profession. I am disappointed with Garba Shehu. Just recently too, Abike Dabiri, who calls herself a journalist telling Nigerians that the harassment of our traders in Ghana is not because of the closure of the Nigerian border. Ghanaian Minister of trade has said that if Nigeria closes the border for their economic reasons, that they (Ghana) are also coming up with their own economic reason. Let Abike Dabiri tell us the reason that it is not because of the closure of the border? So how can people like Abike Dabiri and Garba Shehu advise the president well? They end up confusing and deceiving the president. Garba Shehu should apologise to the dead farmers’ families for that stupid statement. He is insulting the dead. In Africa, you don’t insult the dead. Can’t the elders in the North call him to order?
But has the border closure really helped Nigeria economically?
I should be asking you that is a journalist. Where is the help? Are we not in recession again? They are still exporting through the border, go there at night and see what is going on there. Smuggling has taken another dimension that will shock you. What is happening is so annoying. We are the giant of Africa, one of the founding fathers of ECOWAS and people like General Yakubu Gowon are still alive and you are closing borders. Did you consult them and you think he will sleep well in his house witnessing things like this?
Recently, the Presidential team visited your zone, Niger Delta. Are you optimistic something good will come out of it?
Not at all. This is because our governors behave like cowards, I am sorry, to say this, but the truth must be told and you know the truth is bitter. Our governors lack the courage for certain undertakings for the general good of our people and that is why the Federal Government, most times, does not take us seriously. Our governors should be able to make any Federal Government sit up with our region, but our governors only fight for their survival. Imagine the insult we get from the Federal Government? They will plan a meeting with you and will not show up, imagine such nonsense. Our problem in the region is our politicians, nobody, no Federal Government is oppressing the Niger Delta, it is the Niger Delta politicians that are oppressing their people.