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“How I reconciled with my son, Uduaghan – EK Clark” – Vanguard

Picture of Chief Edwin Clark
…Says Sylva got what he deserved, Boko Haram not a Northern agenda
Elder-statesman Chief Edwin Clark’s reputation for straight talking has often pitched him in battle with many. It was that inclination that brought him into conflict with the mainstream of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in his native Delta State leading to his well publicised face-off with Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan. Remarkably, the feuding duo never took it personal with both men maintaining their “father-son” relationship. The spat it seemed was over last weekend as the “father” confirmed that old things are now past away.

Chief Clark who spoke in an interview was, however, not far from another spat with another “son”, former Governor Timipire Sylva of Bayelsa State who he scored low on performance. Clark also used the opportunity to address contemporary national issues including the insecurity issues in the land and the public disaffection with the presidency arising from contentions on the alleged subsidy in the price of petrol.

A former headmaster, Community Development Officer, former Commissioner of Education and subsequently Commissioner for Finance and Establishment in the then Midwestern State, erstwhile Pro-Chancellor University of Benin, erstwhile Federal Commissioner for Information, Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ijaw National Leader, PDP Chieftain, lawyer and confidant of the President, Clark spoke in an interview with Vanguard last weekend. Excerpts:

Do you agree that Boko Haram and other challenges against President Jonathan are deliberately stoked to rubbish him because he is from the South-South?

Boko Haram did not start with this president. Boko Haram has been there since 2002 as I was told and they had their religious activities under the late Yusuf and a past governor of Borno State used them and he too formed what was called ECOMOG and they all worked together for his political ends but later they disagreed and he dumped them and the people believe that the death of their leader was caused by this political difference between them and the government of Borno State.

You remember that in 2009 when they struck that was the time of the late President Yar‘Adua and Jonathan was not there at that time. So, one would say from what has happened that politicians are now using them. It is no more religious.
The politicians who felt that they will make Nigeria ungovernable for Jonathan are behind them.

Now it has become what I may call political boko haram. It is not a northern agenda. It is not a northern agenda, majority of northerners support Mr. President, they voted for him during the primary and after the primary they also voted for him except those few politicians who believe that except them nobody else should be there.

Who believe that Nigeria is their birthright and that they should be the only ones to govern Nigeria and they decided that they would make Nigeria ungovernable. They are the people who should be associated with Boko Haram. So, Boko Haram’s main agenda was not to make things difficult for Jonathan, it is the politicians behind them who are now sponsoring and financing them. They are the ones responsible.

One thing I have already said is that the president has told them that they should come out, identify themselves, they are Nigerians. If they are Nigerians they should come out and state their grievances and government would be able to negotiate with them. But it appears that foreign terrorist have already infiltrated into their ranks.

So, when you have people from neighbouring countries getting themselves involved, so it has assumed a wider dimension. So, I appeal to them as a senior citizen of Nigeria, let them come out, state their grievances and the government should be able to negotiate with them. But you don’t negotiate with terrorists, you negotiate with people who identify themselves with some grievances. That is my position.

One would also appeal to the political leaders to speak out. If we want the peace and stability of this country of which they are members, they should speak out in condemnation of the killings taking place. What happened in Kano, Bauchi and a few other places is not directed against the South-South or Southerners alone. More northerners were killed in Kano and more Muslims were killed in Kano and that should be a sufficient message to the northern leaders that they have to join forces with other Nigerians in stopping Boko Haram.

Do you share the view that the way and manner the president effected the removal of the alleged subsidy in petrol price has made him to lose the goodwill of the people?

I do not think the president has lost the goodwill of Nigerians. It is true that Nigerians voted for him en masse more than any other president of Nigeria whether in the second republic or Chief Obasanjo. Nigerians had more confidence in Jonathan and hence they voted for him. In voting for him therefore, they expected so much from him also. You do not blame Nigerians if they complain but they should have regard to the fact that so much went wrong in the administration of Nigeria over the years.

Chief as somebody who has fought against corruption don’t you feel worried with the revelations from the probe especially the fact that the amount paid on subsidy in 2011 doubled the figures of the preceding year?

Again, you come to what I was saying. If we are to clear corruption, the removal of subsidy is the best answer. So, we find that there were many artificial marketers, there were many people who were parading themselves as marketers but they were not and from the probe which is being carried out by the House of Representatives it has shown that so much inflation was taking place, and that therefore, is the major reason for the government taking the courage and political will to remove the subsidy. So, removing it means that those people who were getting it before will not get it.

Are you happy with the way former Governor Sylva was barred from seeking the PDP gubernatorial ticket for a second term?

Let me say this, the attention given to Sylva’s case in Bayelsa was unusual, it was overblown. Sylva is an individual, if the people voted him into power in 2007 that does not mean that the same people cannot say enough is enough. All that they are saying is that Sylva did not perform. I was one of those who made it possible for Sylva to be elected as governor of Bayelsa State. He is my son but he has not performed.

Yenogoa is not the only town in Bayelsa State, there are three senatorial zones, Sylva should be able to tell the people of Nigeria and the people of Bayelsa State in particular what he did in these three senatorial zones. People tend to feel that the only place you need to develop is Yenogoa, the capital city and Yenogoa has not been properly developed. You have heard of hotels not being completed, you have heard of hospitals not being completed, you have heard that there is no water in the place, you have heard of uncompleted projects and so on.

Bayelsa State is one of the richest states in Nigeria, one of the smallest states in Nigeria. So the question is what happened to the money being collected every month for the development of the area?

One thing people should realize is that it is very unfair of the press to criticize Mr. President that he is responsible for Sylva not being allowed to contest the primary. It is not true that all incumbent governors must be re_elected. The people have a right to reject them, the party has a right to field whoever candidate it wants to field but the unfavourable press comments on Sylva is because he has influenced the media and they are talking as if they are living in Bayelsa State.

Sylva was not a good ambassador of the Ijaw people. During Alamaisiegha and Jonathan period the Ijaws used to meet regularly in Bayelsa State. Bayelsa State is like the Jerusalem of all Ijaws scattered all over the States in the South-South and the Southwest and the only gathering place for them was Bayelsa State.

However, since Sylva came out the Ijaws never met in Yenogoa and Sylva made it very difficult particularly at the time we had the attack of the military on the people of Gbaramatu. We couldn’t meet in Yenogoa as we wanted to. The impression was given that the president of the country, the late President Yar‘Adua was not willing for us to meet. But what I found out from the VP at that time who is now President Jonathan, he said that there was nothing like that, that it was Sylva’s own imagination that frustrated us.

One would have expected Sylva to champion the cause and mobilise people for President Jonathan at the time we were facing the constitutional crisis in 2010. He did not do it. Rather, there was evidence that he was against us. So, he was never a good ambassador of the Ijaw people.

To what extent have you bent towards reconciliation with Governor Uduaghan?
My dear son, I am happy to tell you that we are at the verge of reconciling and harmonizing our differences. Recently, before he (Uduaghan) went abroad we spoke and agreed on what to do and the chairman of the party in the state, Peter Nwaoboshi, the minister of Niger Delta Orubebe and the former Minister of State, Kenneth Gbagi and some party leaders including Cairo Ojugboh we met and we took time to make final reconciliation and united we stand now and we will not be divided in the new congress which is coming up.

Uduaghan has been communicating with me, he is my son, I have always said so and there is no personal difference between me and him. We have now agreed that the party is one and the two factions should merge together and harmonise.

What is your stance on the agitation for the chairmanship of the party by the different zones?
I believe in getting to the bridge before you cross it. We also agreed that the zoning of the present party offices should remain so that the chairmanship of the party is again zoned to the north and when the time for governorship comes we will look into it. We cannot sit down now and be talking for position for governorship when we still have more than three years to go because the chairmanship is coming next month that is why we are talking about it.

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