Says U.S, EU, others putting pressure on him for peace
Ijaw national leader and a former Federal Commissioner of Information, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, is no doubt a bastion of knowledge on political and national issues having being actively involved in matters affecting the nation for over six decades. In this interview with BEN DUNNO, in Warri, he bares his mind on some burning national issues such as: the ongoing anti-graft war, the protracted PDP leadership crisis, the Niger Delta issues among others.
Sir, do you believe that corruption can fight back in a system?
I don’t see anything about corruption fighting back. In every situation there are accusations and counter – accusations. And like I’ve always stated, President Muhammadu Buhari is genuinely committed in tackling corruption and it’s the duty of every Nigerian to support him. In that last statement I issued, I talked about cases that have been hanging for over nine years and most of the people, the actors that were charged to court; former governors, former ministers in 2007, political aides their cases are so many in courts and some of them are now distinguished Senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria making laws for us like Danjuma Goje from Gombe, and others. If you now charge Orji Uzor Kalu who was charged to court with others in 2007 and Rasheed Ladoja, who was charged to court in 2008 and you are now recharging him to court, what of the others, the Dariyes, the Turakis, there are many of them. Why have they not been charged to court? The Abdullahi from Nasarawa State was charged to court over alleged N15billion capital projects fraud, he contested election to the Senate and he won and has been a Senator since them, they don’t enjoy immunity.
Look at the case of Lucky Igbinedion, a man who was charged and taken to Federal High Court in Enugu and later pleaded guilty under plea bargain and he agreed to forfeit houses in Benin, Abuja and Lagos and he also agreed to forfeit some money. So what are we saying? It is not proper to have this type of selective treatment. If you want to fight corruption, it must be total, it must not be selective, there should be no sacred cows. So, it is not enough to charge people to court and not follow up their cases till the end, that is why there is so much corruption in the country. Everywhere in the world there are cases of corruption but the ability to deal with such cases is what matters most. In other parts of the world, Presidents and former Presidents are tried for corruption, you can see that in Brazil and recently, in South Korea but here, you see former Presidents who had no money and when they became President, they stole government money and today parading themselves as the cleanest, calling for people to be probed, this is not the way to probe. But now that a President has come to say I want to clean up Nigeria and his body language has shown he’s actually prepared to fight corruption, let every patriotic Nigerian support him, so that his good intention is actualised. The question of corruption fighting back corruption should not arise now, if there is anybody who is in the government and found corrupt, that person should be dealt with whether it is Ibrahim Magu of EFCC or Secretary to the Government of the Federation or Ministers, they should be dealt with, that is the only way to fight corruption. It is too early to comment on those people because the President had set up a body to probe those officials. So it is not proper therefore to single out Uzor Kalu, former governor of Abia State and Ladoja, former governor of Oyo State to be tried whereas all the other people are moving about, parading themselves as innocent people, parading themselves as celebrities, criticizing other people about corruption when they do not enjoy immunity. They should be brought from the Senate to face the charges against them.
The PDP has repeatedly claimed that the anti-graft war was designed by the APC government to witch hunt and ridicule its members in order to silence opposition, as a founding member of PDP, what’s your take on this view?
Well I don’t quite agree with this. A man found corrupt is corrupt and he should be made to face his charges. Besides, it’s too early at this time to say the anti-graft war was targeted at the opposition, after all, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who is currently facing trial is an APC man. There are many other cases, so if you are corrupt and you are being accused of corruption and there is evidence about it and you are charged to court, go to court whether PDP or APC to defend yourself because the judges won’t come to court to ask people charged the party they belong. None of the people being charged to court or accused by the EFCC had come to deny their charges, so it is too early in the day to say corruption is one way, one sided or so. If it is true that those who received money from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, got the money and never used it for the purpose it was meant, it is wrong, such persons should face trial but if they were able to justify that the money they received was spent on elections, that is a different matter all together. If N500 million was given to you and there is no evidence that you spent that money on election you should be able to answer the charges in court.
Recently, former President Goodluck Jonathan at a forum tried to justify the fact that Dasuki got approval for the money he was being accused of misappropriating, how do you see this?
It is only the former President Goodluck Jonathan that can answer that question, if Jonathan gave directives to Dasuki to spend the money on so, so, so thing and the money was spent on such things, I don’t think it is wise to continue to prosecute him because we have what we call security vote in governance. No government, President or Head of State accounts for security votes, Jonathan making such a statement is the only right person to say it and I do not think it was wrong saying it.
PDP, the party you were a founding member has been in a protracted leadership crisis, what would you suggest is the way out?
In the first place, there should not have been what is going on now. I have retired from active politics but I have been following what has been happening in my former party. I have the opportunity of meeting the Chairman of the caretaker committee, I have also had the opportunity of meeting Senator Modu Sheriff who is also claiming that he is the Chairman of the party, I have met Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh, who is his deputy, so I can say I’ve been involved. I have summoned two of them to a meeting. Markafi and his people attended. The first meeting was fixed at 9.00 in the night at my Abuja residence, Markafi followed by the Governor of Bayelsa State attended but Sheriff did not turn up. The following day he phoned me saying he was in Kaduna that I should fix another meeting. I fixed another meeting according to the time he suggested, 11.00 in the morning, Markafi came with his own Secretary, Senator Banabi, we waited for Sheriff, he did not come. I had asked this question, what does Sheriff want? If the party had zoned the Presidency in 2019 to the North, automatically the Chairman of the party comes to the South. I have asked the question, what is Sheriff looking for? Sheriff now says that he was deceived by some of the PDP governors to take the position of Chairman, to fill in the vacancy created by Adamu Muazu, former governor of Bauchi State who was Chairman but according to the constitution, it is clear that somebody from that particular region becomes Chairman when the Chairman resigns or is sacked but will only serve for some time, after which election should be held to fill the vacancy but human beings are very ambitious. They said Sheriff wants to become President of Nigeria and was now using the Chairmanship to attain that position. The governors said, yes he promised them Vice Presidency and among the governors there was disagreement. Majority of the PDP people now say it is the APC that is using Sheriff in trying to disorganize them. Between them, they have over 10 cases in court and I think it has come to a stage where the Appellate Court has to make a pronouncement on the various high court judgments. A situation where there are two conflicting judgments from a court in Port Harcourt and another in Abuja is making the matter more confusing.
I have also seen some people are opportunists and the decision of the party should be firm and should learn from what happened during the last election. If what is going on now in PDP was going on last year prior to the general election, Jonathan wouldn’t have lost the election. The activities by various people now, if they have done that last year perhaps PDP would have won but no, some people rather collected monies for campaign and did not use it for that purpose due to greed and selfish interest. So I hope the party has learnt from this.
I also hope the Court of Appeal gives judgment very soon. I will like to condemn the various judgments of the various High Courts on the matter as they are intended to further ridicule and mess up the judiciary. Judges in Federal High Court in Lagos, Judges of the High Court in Abuja and Port Harcourt gave different judgments making a mess of the Federal High Court. Once the judiciary is not corrupt, politics will be better than it is now.
Let’s come back home, can you appraise the performance of Governor Okowa led PDP government in Delta state?
I’ve not really bothered appraising him in term of infrastructural development because I think it’s too early and considering the dwindling revenue due to the crash in the price of oil at the international market which is the major source of income generation to both federal and state government. But as far as I am concerned, there is peace in the state. So long as he has been able to sustain the peace and mutual co-existence among the various ethnic groups, I think he has tried and with time, I should be able to appraise his performance in other sectors.
Let’s look at the issue of militancy in the region. For some time now the Niger Delta area has enjoyed some relative peace as the militants appear to have suspended attacks on critical national assets, what do you think was responsible for this?
It is very wrong of anybody to think that over militarization of the Niger Delta is responsible for the peace existing now. It is false, the elders, the youths merged together and formed what we now call Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which met with Mr. President on the 1st of November 2016. We did not negotiate with him, we went there to pay a courtesy call and we asked him there is need for dialogue. No military action can stop what was going on, vandalization of pipelines, stealing of oil. First of all, we met on the 30th of July, in my residence in Warri. The meeting was attended by all the Ijaws in the Niger Delta extending it to Ondo State and Akwa-Ibom State, the governor of Bayelsa State attended that meeting, the deputy governor of Delta State attended that meeting with a lot of resolutions but later I discovered that not only Ijaws were involved so I summoned a meeting to PTI on Friday, 19th of August where about 500 delegates attended, the invitation was published in the newspapers and was well attended, then we took a decision to appeal to the youths, the militants as being called to cease fire, to give peace a chance and they agreed particularly the Niger Delta Avengers and MEND, including the Adaka Boro Avengers. Only a few of them on the land refused to toe the line. So, as far as I am concerned, the activities of the Pan Niger Delta Forum and the youths that have agreed to listen to us brought the peace. Today, the production of under 1 million barrels is 2.2 million barrels of oil per day. It is not because of ‘Crocodile Smile’, it is not because of JTF or something they called ‘Operation Delta Safe’ or whatever they call it but we have also called on the Federal Government to withdraw the ‘Operation Crocodile Smile’ and reduce the number of military activities in the Niger Delta, a situation whereby you have military parading everywhere, that people cannot live their normal life. The Air Force bombing places suspected to be hamlets of militants only to find out that they are not, should be stopped and we assured Mr. President that there will be no more bombing of oil pipelines as from the time we met him and we are happy that the same Federal Government had agreed to re-open the Maritime University in Okerenkoko, these are some of the things that will bring peace and not the military activities.
Is the FG meeting up with its own part of the bargain?
The first thing, we are asked to dialogue, we gave a 16-point demand. Once the Federal Government set a body, we will also set up our own, there should be interface, a meeting from time to time to discuss those points we submitted to Mr. President, that’s all. The question is when would the Federal Government kick start the process of realising these demands? Let me say this, dialogue is not new, we have held successive meetings with governments; both military and civilian on how to develop the region. For instance, we met with Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar during the military when the youths made a Kiama Declaration in 1998 that all oil producers should leave the region and we intervened. We had series of meetings with Abdulsalam leading to a setting up of the Gen. Popoola’s committee that went round the Niger Delta and discovered that the area is neglected, nothing was happening in the area. So, it was promised at that time that Yenogoa, which had no light that there should be a step down from the national grid in Owerri to Yenogoa at the cost of N300 million, there should be a University and other higher institutions in the area which were some of the decisions taken by committee.
There’s also the Gen. Ogomudia’s committee. We had so many other committees, so this is not the first time. We have met with President Obasanjo on several occasions sitting there face to face. Sometime our delegations were about 50. We met with Yar’Adua several times until 2009 when Gbaramatu was attacked, invaded by the military when production of oil was reduced to about 700,000 and we asked for amnesty, that is how it came about. What we are asking President Buhari to do is not new, we need peace; the European Countries, United States of America, the European Union, the British government and the German government have been meeting with me preaching dialogue and I think they are preaching dialogue because it is dangerous to allow this lawlessness to continue, we need peace in the area, we need improvement of economy, our people’s standard of living needs to be improved upon and we need our environment to be safe.