Elder statesman and Ijaw Leader, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark was the guest lecturer at the 7th Distinguished Lecture Series of School of Media and Communication, Pan Atlantic University, Victoria Island, Lagos, last Wednesday. He spoke on burning national issues including the raging Boko Haram insurgency, war against graft and comments that Nigeria may disintegrate before 2015 among others.
CHronicling the history of Nigeria dating back to the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates, Clark said that propositions that the nation will disintegrate should be totally disregarded, as what is playing out in the country today is only a tussle for political power.
He said: â€œWe have been together for the past 100 years. It was in 1914 that Lord Lugard amalgamated the Northern and the Southern protectorates. Donâ€™t ask me why the amalgamation because I do not want to dwell on that. But firstly, it is apt to note that there was a true federation particularly in 1961.
Among Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Sarduana of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, there was a federation and these premiers agreed that there was going to be a federation where everybody will be equal. We are going to have a federation where every component and region will be allowed to develop at its own pace. Then, these three leaders were able to develop their own region.
â€œIt was in 1956 that the late Chief Anthony Enahoro moved a motion in the Parliament that there should be independence, but the Northerners said no, that we were not ready. So, when they came out of the Parliament, they were booed and jeered at. And the northerners vowed never to come to Lagos again. Then, this was followed up by the independence in 1960, Nigeria did not break.
Even in 1966, five majors in the Army decided to plot a coup that saw many people killed, including Tafawa Balewa, the Sarduana of Sokoto, Chief Akintola, Chief Okotie-Eboh and some soldiers. All these played out and Gen. Yakubu Gowon came into power but Nigeria did not breakâ€¦
â€œEven in 1967, there was a civil war which claimed so many lives because the Igbo felt they were marginalized and therefore they fought for a cause. Under Odumegwu Ojukwu, they seceded from Nigeria, but Gowon insisted that Nigeria must remain one. After the war that ensued, Nigeria became more stronger and united, the Igbo were re-integrated into the country because Gowon declared that there was no victor, no vanquished. Since then, so many things have happened, but Nigeria did not break.
â€œWhen in 1914 Lord Lugard amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates, he did not say one would be superior to the other; he did not say one would rule Nigeria forever.
The Northerners have ruled this country for 38 years, military and civilian, whereas others have ruled for just 16 years. The Igbo have just ruled for 6 months, but heaven did not fall. Now that the South-South who has not been there before is now there, heaven wants to fall.â€
He recalled the 1979 election, saying the South-South massively supported Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a northerner and NPN candidate, and has always supported the North and other regions for the Presidency noting that there was no reason the South-South, a minority, will not be supported to complete its tenure of eight years in the presidency.
Jonathan has right to re-contest elections: Speaking further, Clark said that Section 137 of the 1999 constitution allows the President to go for two terms of four years each. â€œSo, it is an aberration for anybody to say that Jonathan does not have the right to re-contest in 2015 presidential elections. Section 137 guarantees the President the right to go for two terms of four years.
President Jonathan was only a running mate to the late President Musa Yaâ€™Adua in the 2007 elections. He only contested as President in 2011, therefore, it is a mix-up to say that Jonathanâ€™s tenure started in 2007.â€
Obnoxious statements: Describing statements credited to General Muhamadu Buhari, Adamu Ciroma and Asari Dokubo that there will be war if Jonathan wins or does not win the 2015 elections, Clark said they are not enough to break the country.
His words: â€œSo, when you are talking about Nigeria in the shadow of 2015, I am very optimistic that nothing will happen to our dear country. I donâ€™t see Nigeria breaking in 2015. People are just saying this because two American scholars who conducted a research some years back, postulated that Nigeria is in a balance or that Nigeria will break. They based their postulation on jostling for political power and the small arms being imported into this country.
Now certain obnoxious statements have been made by the likes of Buhari, Geidam, Alhaji Suleiman, Adamu Ciroma, Asari Dokubo and others that there will be war, bloodshed, that there will be no Nigeria, if Jonathan wins or does not win the 2015 elections. These statements which support the assertion by the American scholars is not enough to break Nigeria.
Let it also be known that I, E.K. Clark openly responded to the National Assembly, especially the Hon. Aminu Tambuwal-led House of Representatives not to play double standards. When the House ordered the Inspector General of Police to arrest and investigate Asari Dokubo, who was only reacting to the statements of some northern elements who are threatening to make the country ungovernable if Jonathan wins the 2015 election, it was my open letter that made the matter die down till date.â€
On Corruption: â€œJonathan has done a lot in fighting corruption in this country. Looking at the issue of fuel subsidy, even the son of the former Chairman of his party was prosecuted. But however, I suggest that with the political will he has to fight corruption, that a Corruption tribunal should be set up, to charge criminals who steal our public funds, no matter how highly placed they are. This is being done in other countries.
It pains me that most corrupt Nigerians still work freely in the streets. Rather than keeping shut, they go about accusing the present administration of corruption. Take for instance, the suspended CBN governor, who has been playing a holy than thou attitude, it has just been made known that he was involved in financial recklessness at the CBN. Sanusi should not be allowed to go scot free. He should be made to go to jail, if found wanting after ongoing investigations.
Boko-Haram challenge: Reacting to Tuesdayâ€™s killing of students of Federal Government Girls College in Yobe State, by the deadly Islamist sect, Boko Haram, Clark affirmed that all hands needed to be on deck in combating the insurgency which has claimed many lives and properties. He however blamed the insurgency to statements credited to some northerners that Nigeria will be ungovernable if Jonathan wins the 2011 Presidential elections.
â€œI think the federal government has been making frantic efforts to contain this insurgency. Government recently created a new army division to support the armed forces that are there already. These insurgents are terrorists, because they have already been brain-washed that when they kill, Allah (God Almighty) will reward them after death in heaven, with seven virgins which is all fallacy. One major challenge is the issue of genocide. Because when the Jonathan administration uses full force like Obasanjo did, so many innocent Nigerians will be killed.â€