Posted by News Express | 7 May 2022 | 724 times
Former Federal Commissioner for Information under the Yakubu Gowon military regime and Ijaw national leader, Edwin Clark, has said that no southerner would support a northern presidential candidate if the two dominant parties picked their flagbearers from the north.
Chief Clark, who incidentally is a member of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), dropped the hint while speaking with select newsmen at his Asokoro residence in Abuja.
Saturday Tribune checks revealed that over 20 politicians from the South in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have so far picked the expression of interest and nomination forms ahead of their parties’ conventions.
The eminent statesman, who expressed indignation over the development, was of the view that some of the aspirants are in the race as agents of the northern establishment playing the spoiler role by undermining the chances of their colleagues from the South.
Clark restated his position on power shift to the South, maintaining that the future of the country and its democracy are endangered if the North insisted on fielding candidates for the next presidential election.
TAIWO AMODU presents excerpts from the interaction.
Let us look at what is going on within the political space, especially in the South. As of now, over 20 southern politicians from the APC and the PDP are scrambling to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari… What is your take on this?
It is madness. If I am to be realistic, they are not serious, particularly the southerners from the South-West and the South-South. There are some people that are going to be used to play double game. So, when it comes to where we say no, some people would come out to say yes, we are contesting. So, they know why some of them are there.
For instance, I don’t need to be told that my very good friend, Adams Oshiomhole, the former national chairman of the APC, was with Tinubu. I was surprised yesterday (Wednesday) when I saw him entering the race. I am surprised also that [Ibikunle] Amosun, after seeing the vice president, from his place, has also entered the race. So, you come back to the South-South. [Goodluck] Jonathan was a Rivers State man before Bayelsa State was created in 1996. Today, Nyesom Wike wants to be president of Nigeria; Rotimi Amaechi wants to be president of Nigeria. Both of them are from small Ikwere sub-tribe. You can imagine what is going on.
I understand Timpire Sylva would soon declare. Meanwhile, people are asking me questions about Goodluck Jonathan and they are from the same senatorial zone in Bayelsa State. So, they know what they are doing. And for the Igbos, I encouraged some of them to come out if it (presidency) is zoned to the South-East; that the whole of Nigeria would vote for them; that they should take part in the primary as we did in 2019 when 12 Northerners contested the primary which Atiku won.
You belong to the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), where we also have another eminent statesman, Pa Ayo Adebanjo. What exactly are you doing to rein in southern aspirants across the party divides?
We must talk to them because of what is going on today. Take the South-West for example. From 1975 to 1979, a Yoruba man was the Head of State of this country. After the death of Murtala Muhammed, [Olusegun] Obasanjo was there for three years. When [Moshood] Abiola contested and won, they annulled the result and then gave it to [Ernest] Shonekan but it didn’t last. But in 1999, Obasanjo came in with full force to rule Nigeria. At that time, Obasanjo had taken over the party. It was then very easy for him to bring a northern candidate of his choice. So, there was no contest of the primary. But we didn’t have doubt that [Umaru] Yar’Adua would win. Jonathan became his running mate when Yar’Adua asked me to recommend his running mate.
Are you not surprised that the major parties, the APC and the PDP, are avoiding speaking categorically on zoning? The APC is also singing another tune about zoning. What do you make of this?
Thank you very much. That is a very good question. I used the word ‘madness’. Here is Nigeria where there is hunger, where there is lack of employment, where there is kidnapping going on every day, where children cannot go to school, where the economy is going down but each of these people was able to mobilise N100 million to pick forms. I didn’t know that Nigeria is so rich. These governors and ministers, if their salaries were to be used, I don’t think they have it because they must eat in their houses. But they went under pretense, telling Nigerians we are fools; that their friends contributed money for them. El-Rufai said some time ago that 19 governors met with Mr President and the vice president that all the positions held by northerners should be moved to south and vice versa. We thought that zoning has been done. So, the South will produce the next president. Now that no southerner contested any position in the party which was zoned to the North and because the chairmanship was zoned to North-Central, Abdullahi Adamu took over. Look at the way they are now moving in.
What if the two dominant political parties pick their presidential candidates from the North?
Then we are moving nowhere! No southerner will support a candidate from the North. We can’t live as second-class citizens, whereby your franchise is taken over by someone who feels that it is his birthright to rule.
This matter was discussed at the national conference in 2014. Rotation is the only vehicle of unity in Nigeria and it was decided at that conference there should be power shift, there should be rotation among the various ethnic groups or the various parts of this country if we were to have unity in this country. We were reaching there. And during the debate, I remember I mentioned that a situation whereby, for instance, in Kaduna State, southern Kaduna is bigger than the other part of Kaduna, the Zaria part, yet they used religion and political authority from the center in suppressing southern Kaduna. So, when, unfortunately, Architect Namadi Sambo was made the vice president by Jonathan, the northerners, instead of being happy, accused us, myself in particular, that we did it in order to make the deputy governor from Southern Kaduna become governor of Kaduna State. Patrick Yakowa mysteriously died in a plane crash and we were back to square one.
So, we took a decision: 18 more states should be created but they said the 36 states could not maintain themselves but I said they were lazy. They have oil money and so nobody wants to work. Governors now stay in Abuja. So, we created 18 states, four for the Igbos. It is on this matter that those of us who were delegates again at the 2005 Political Reforms Conference set up by former President Obasanjo the issues of the eastern region, South-East receiving five states instead of six. It was abnormal, unacceptable. We recommended at that conference that a new state should be created immediately for the South-East.
Then at the 2014 national conference set up by former President Jonathan, we recommended that four states be created for the east to make it nine, three for the North-West to make it nine there, three to the remaining four to make them nine. That was our recommendation. That was our position.
Do you think it is illegal for former President Jonathan to contest for president? And do you think he should run under the APC?
No comment from me. I am 95 years old.
Is it because he is your son from Niger Delta?
I don’t want to respond, full stop. No, I don’t want to comment.
Has he discussed with you that he wanted to join the APC?
No, he has not.
How would you advise President Muhammadu Buhari, INEC and Nigerians on the upcoming primaries and general election because there seems to be tension everywhere?
In the first place, I say categorically that we have no leader. Look at this country, do we have a president? Thirty-four days ago, an unspecified number of passengers of a train moving from Abuja to Kaduna were abducted. A young lady, a doctor, planning to go abroad, lost her life. Thirty people were admitted in a hospital. Two of them died later in the hospital and about 70 of them were taken away.
As El-Rufai has always said, which forest in Nigeria is so difficult for the president to move into? And for 34 days, the president of this country made no statement. We have people dying everywhere. About 70 people were killed in Benue. When the governor cried to Mr President, he said please, go and live with them (the killers). The question I am now asking is whether the president is aware all the problems in this country. Is he aware of the number of killings going on every day? A lady had to be delivered of her baby in captivity. Then the other day, he was asked who his candidate was and his response was ‘the man who wins’ but he is not bothered whether Nigerians are going to fight or whether things are going wrong. This is a man that claimed to be working against corruption presiding over a levy of N100 million for aspirants in a country where we say we are poor, where N30,000 minimum wage cannot be paid by some states, where pension cannot be paid, where some states wealthy enough can’t pay gratuity, a nation where ASUU is on strike.
A professor receives N450,000 in a month and the vice chancellor receives double that amount. Then the vice chancellor goes back to the university as a professor then he reverts to N450,000 salary. What ASUU is fighting for is not for them alone: ‘develop our universities, provide facilities for our universities, modernise our universities’. I was the pro-chancellor of the University of Benin for five years. Three years ago, they named the Faculty of Management Sciences after me. I was the Pro-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna. They named a part of the Faculty of Engineering after me. Today, the University of Benin is one of the largest, most famous universities in Nigeria. I have written a book on it. I have seen what the people are asking for. They are not asking for allowances for themselves alone; they are asking for things that will make learning better. The Minister of Labour, Senator [Chris] Ngige, is saying there is nothing wrong if doctors are going; that when they return, they will have better knowledge for their country and at the time when you don’t have doctors, if you have no N100 million, you can’t go to the UK for treatment. So, there is nothing anybody can do to advise this president. One, you cannot reach him. Two, he has Garba Shehu, Lai Mohammed and Femi Adesinna. They are liars. I call them Goebbels because they thrive on propaganda. That was what Goebbels was doing for [Adolf] Hitler during the Second World War. They are the problem of this government because they tell lies. Oshiomhole said Nigerians should be grateful for President Buhari because Nigeria could have been Islamised but it was Buhari who drove away Boko Haram from Nigeria in 2015. But Jonathan said he was the one who did that. It is in his book. So, who is lying? That book was published in 2018. Why have they not refuted it?
Number two, I do not know what INEC is doing but I believe that the commission will surprise this government. Now that Mr President has signed the Electoral Act, INEC is going to surprise them during the Osun and Ekiti gubernatorial elections. As for the Nigerian public, over the years, they have been receiving election money, blood money and elections have now come close. Wrong people have been elected and their lives have not improved. For the first time, they should shun money, they should believe in their own dignity; that they are Nigerians and not second-class Nigerians. The man contesting election and those of us voting that person are all equal.
The 2014 national conference seemed to be what would have united Nigerians. But that hasn’t come to fruition. What do you think was responsible for the lack of adoption of your recommendations?
Buhari, right from the beginning, said he had locked it up. But some people wondered why former President Jonathan started it when there was no time for him. The conference report was in three facets. There was a portion, administrative, which Jonathan should have carried out. Another portion was for the National Assembly and there was the portion for government to go for memorandum. (Saturday Tribune)
No comments yet. Be the first to post comment.