Comrade Joseph Evah is coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group and former National Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress. In this interview he says President Goodluck Jonathan retains everything that oils terrorism and insurgency in the North-east . Excerpts:
By Tony Nwankwo
Many Nigerians were in doubt that President Goodluck Jonathan could find the courage to convoke a National Conference. Now it is on. What do you say?
We are happy that the President was able to actualise his dream as far as the conference is concerned. Patriotic Nigerians will support any move by government that will make the country stay together. So, the President is conscious of the crisis all over the country, cries of marginalization, the Boko Haram insurgency, but it can’t be acceptable that when you are agitating against this marriage called Nigeria, you then decide to kill innocent people, you gang up to destroy the country. SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>>>>
The state of emergency in three states of the North-east, is not tackling the problem. Infact, Boko Haram seem to be emboldened. What went wrong?
The state of emergency is not working. It is not working because of the way it was handled from the beginning.
We advised the President to come up with the state of emergency, when we realised that those with the Boko Haram agenda are heartless. And we found out that the political class were also behind Boko Haram. After the bombing of the Catholic Church in Abuja, our group decided that the President should declare a full state of emergency.
In a full scale state of emergency you are expected to remove the governor and appoint a sole administrator. Nigerians would understand and support you. You remove political structures. Nigerians would understand. A situation where you need to secure lives and property, Nigerians would understand and support you.
It should not concern governors, commissioners, speakers, etc., these are political ceremonial people, they are part of the problem. They can’t be functioning in a state of emergency. Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in Ekiti and Oyo States and he removed the governors. These are ceremonial people.
But President Jonathan declared state of emergency in wards and local governments. If Mr. President had declared, a state of emergency, removed the governors, appointed sole administrators and dismantled political structures because of the security situation, the surviving governors will organise neighbourhood watch on their own.
They will then sincerely pursue the agenda of the Federal Government. State of emergency as presently constituted in the three states is no longer effective. The governors, the political class of these states used Boko Haram to pursue their political agenda, it is now a monster bigger than them to manage. The only solution would have been to remove them from office, appoint sole administrators to manage the problem.
Can this still be done?
Yes, it can be done, but now there will be a problem. We are now in an election year, so the President can be blackmailed. They will say he declared the state of emergency in order to capture these areas and install his own governors. The timing now will be wrong.
Lamido of Adamawa says his dukedom extends to Cameroun. Does this say anything about the manner of leaders in the north?
No one should be surprised on the man’s remarks. Some of them are so arrogant even when they are depending on the resources from other parts of the country. If you consider the level of insecurity in his Adamawa State, if a real state of emergency was declared there, he would not be talking.
If he had grappled with the level of checkpoints he would encounter in Adamawa, he would not have the chance to come to Abuja to drink tea. He would have the proper mindset to respond to issues. If it happens, Cameroun will not allow him to cross the border into their country.
Camerounians are only interested in bringing mercenaries to come and destroy Nigeria, they wouldn’t allow anyone a free hand to operate in their country. Aside the insurgents, Cameroun will not allow true Nigerians to cross to their country.
Since this problem started, have you heard of people who are not part of the problem crossing to Cameroun. They will not allow them.
Former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, never believed the President could relieve him of his position?
The matter is in court, but I really had problems with Sanusi. I placed full page adverts against Sanusi when he was taking over commercial banks, especially Oceanic Bank. Even then, our Niger Delta leaders including the President, were alerted on his activities and the method he was using, nobody answered us.
We knew someone had to understudy the agenda of Sanusi as CBN governor. He is a radical, he is a fanatic. When he was taking over banks, I appealed to the South-south governors to help secure Oceanic Bank.
I appealed to people like Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor to go round the South-south to make sure that Oceanic Bank which represented our interest was protected. If they understood the agenda of Sanusi, Oceanic Bank would not have been crushed.
How do you rate the Buhari, Atiku, Tinubu APC, vs PDP presidency in 2015?
I am not a politician. Everybody knows that. I am not a card carrying member of any political party. I am a South-south man. A South-south man is managing the affairs of the country.
Every South-south ethnic group must assist him, because in 20, 30 years time, this presidency will affect our region. We are trying to strengthen the ability of Jonathan to deliver so that the masses will return him to power. That is the agenda.
So, whatever he is doing right, we praise and mobilise support for him, and if he is doing wrong, we challenge himm because we are on ground, we are in the field. See the railways that Jonathan has rehabilitated, it has never happened in the history of this country.
We are praising him for that. Go to the airports, they have been rehabilitated. The shame of Nigerians coming into dilapidated airports from abroad has been removed.
But a situation like the East-west Road that has not been completed, we have been confronting the President and the Minister of the Niger Delta. We have asked the President to hand the road over to the Minister of Works instead of the Minister of the Niger Delta to guarantee accelerated completion.
We confront our son to say that. If we can’t confront our son like that, then we are wicked people. Even with security distractions in the country, President Jonathan, has done creditably well. We are telling Nigerians to give the South-south a second term. We have been voting for other people, let other people encourage us.
That is our prayer. We are also telling our son that performance is the key that can guarantee our campaign for the position. We cannot possibly say to our future generations in 100 to 200 years, that we abandoned our constitutional rights for two terms in office.
We would want to see electricity, power supply change in this country, because power supply is very important to the people.
Ijaw leader’s son, Ebikeme Clark was recently kidnapped and released without ransom. What happened?
We thank God for saving the situation. Some hooligans wanted to embarrass the Ijaw nation. You want to kidnap J.E. Clark’s son because you are looking for money. No matter your level of poverty, people must look before they leap. These are the fall outs of unemployment and poverty.
In the Niger Delta, we can make plastic products, plastic chairs, we can produce tyres for cars. We have petrochemical and we have rubber. Eleganza in Lagos, for instance, is producing a lot of things with petrochemical. Why can’t Niger Delta governors provide industries for petrochemical. All the jetties at Apapa and environs go to fish in our side of the Atlantic.
The over 500 jetties you see at Apapa, travel to our axis of the Atlantic for commercial fishing. They cannot do that level of business at the Lagos axis of the ocean. It is only at the Bakassi, Bayelsa, axis of the ocean. Today, no Niger Delta government own fishing trawlers for commercial fishing to create jobs.
Is it a spiritual problem? We should take notice of the plight of Northerners today. With all the leaders, military presidents/ heads of state, ministers, legislators they produced over the years, they never invested in their people.
Today, they are saddled with bomb blasts and violence. For all the years they ruled this country, it was bread and butter for them, their families and their cronies. Now these leaders have abandoned their areas to Abuja. The children they neglected are now pursuing them.
With the recent Nyanya bombing, they should now be running to Togo or Benin Republic. That is what you get when you don’t get your priorities right. Niger Delta leaders must learn from this. Now they have the opportunity, they are not engaging the idle brains in our area. The same fate will befall them if they don’t invest in the people. We should avoid it. That is my advice.