Former president of the Ijaw Youth Council, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, spoke with select journalists on some national issues, including the alleged face-off between President Goodluck Jonathan and his estranged political godfather, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. FRIDAY OLOKOR was there.
What is your take on the government of President Goodluck Jonathan so far?
I want to start with an Ijaw proverb which says: the eyes watched its seven children to death, instead of advising them, it was just looking at them until they died; while the mouth talked its only child to life and success. We have continued as Ijaw people and the entire Niger Delta and South-South to support the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, but a time has come when silence cannot be golden. We have to speak out on issues that are very critical about the survival of our people, the survival of the people of the South-South and the South-East, who form the political base of Jonathan.
The President is surrounded by very greedy people, who are only in the Presidency to enrich one another at the expense of Jonathan himself. This brings us to another Kalabari proverb which says: where there are elders, a goat cannot be allowed to deliver while it is tied to a stick. If we donâ€™t talk and we continue to brush it aside, tomorrow, we will be blamed and people will say: â€˜Mujahid Dokubo-Asari was around when Goodlcuk Jonathan was president and he didnâ€™t talk,â€™ then I will be an accomplice and accessory after the fact. I have benefited immensely from Jonathan with my stake, but that benefit alone is not enough to silence me when the period is very challenging for our people.
What is your reaction to the face-off between the President and former President Olusegun Obasanjo?
First, there was no need for Jonathan, whatsoever, to disagree with Obasanjo. I donâ€™t like Obasanjo, I donâ€™t like his face, I hate him, but he was instrumental in bringing Jonathan to power. And the greedy people around Jonathan have not managed him well enough to prevent an open clash between him and Obasanjo. And if you check, all the people who supported Jonathan and fought to bring him to power have openly disagreed with him, what were the causes of these disagreements? These are the questions we want to put to the President. It is alarming because the South-South must have its uninterrupted eight yearsâ€™ tenure which is constitutional, but with how things are going under Jonathan, we are afraid that we may not be able to have our eight years, because there will be no magic about it, if it is going to be one-man-one-vote.
Some people say Obasanjo is manipulating Jonathan, that is why Jonathan is disagreeing with him, and we ask: â€˜what has Jonathanâ€™s government achieved to show that it is a departure from other governments that have existed since 1956?â€™ For us, nothing has changed. It is still business as usual. So, what is the advice that Obasanjo gave to Jonathan that is so difficult for him to fulfil, that made him to decide to fall out with the former President? Obasanjo was instrumental to and manipulated the process that illegally removed Diepreye Alamieyeseigha as the governor of Bayelsa State and install Jonathan as governor, then made him vice-president, fought for him to become acting president and also fought for him to become President of Nigeria. Apart from Obasanjo, there are so many people who supported Jonathan; some have been pushed out by those who were not there to give him any support, while some others are trapped and they cannot talk.
So, what do you think is the problem?
The problem is that the President is surrounded by very greedy people who do not want him to make any progress. I have known the President for more than 20 years, and I know he is very simple and humane, but he has allowed himself to be imprisoned by the people around him, and this is what we are saying that the situation must stop. After the election and before his swearing-in, I granted an interview where I said that if Jonathan failed to perform in six months, he would lose all the goodwill, and today as we can see, the President is losing all the goodwill. The social media was one of the avenues the President used to come to power, but today, anywhere you go on the social media, he is being called all sorts of names: clueless and other derogatory names. We cannot continue to take punches for the President when he has refused to wear his gloves. The President is removed from his own people, his people do not have access to him; so, people like us who have access to him become targets. When Joseph was sold into captivity in Egypt, from slavery to prison and from prison he became a prime minister, the first thing he did was to invite his family from Israel to Egypt to come and partake in his new found glory.
There is something wrong somewhere, the people around the President have fenced him and put him in â€˜Kirikiri Prisonâ€™ so that he cannot even see his direct family. I have complained to Ijaw elders, that I cannot keep quiet over things that I have seen, and they say I should wait. I am asking here, how long will we keep quiet? Our people now feel that we are at the riverside and yet use spittle to wash our face. People are dying on the East-West Road, Jonathan and (Godsday) Orubebe are doing nothing. Both of them will account for the deaths on the road. I continue to be an advocate of an eight-year presidency in the South-South and eight years in the South-East because the old Eastern Region was the most deprived region in this country if you consider the people that have ruled this country.
How much do you know about Orubebe before he became minister?
Orubebe was one of us, he was attending meetings with us, sleeping on the ground with us, entering night buses with us, and we nominated him to be appointed a minister, we have gone to him and complained that we donâ€™t like the way thing are going in his ministry, and told him that if the President leaves in 2015 without the completion of the East-West Road, we are finished. And the man keeps telling us there is no money. When IBB was there, there was money; when Abacha was there, there was money; when other people where there, there was money, how come the money disappeared when Jonathan got there?
Orubebe, I know him, he couldnâ€™t even buy diesel for his generator, but today, it is every day one scandal after the other, one corruption case after the other. As the saying goes: show me your friend and I will tell you who you are. The President is sending a very dangerous and misleading signal about his person when ministers who have their hands soiled in corruption are still in his government. We call on the President to act. If the East-West Road is not completed, the President will find it difficult to come back.
What is your take on the proposed construction of a new banquet hall in the Villa?
Why making a frivolous provision for building of a new banquet hall? How will the building of a new banquet hall affect the lives of people in the villages? This is a misplaced priority, and it should be expunged from the budget.
What is your reaction to the ongoing constitution amendment?
I believe that the National Assembly as presently constituted cannot amend the constitution, because they are not standing on any high moral ground to amend the constitution. There are fundamental issues, the constitution can only originate from the people and this can only be done when a Sovereign National Conference is convened.
The issue of onshore offshore dichotomy is still very much debated in the polity, what is your view on this?
The irritating call for the removal of onshore offshore dichotomy is laughable and that is why some of us donâ€™t want to talk. Somebody from Niger Republic will come to my place in the Niger Delta and claim that they should have access to the sea at the coast. If the 1914 mistake did not take place, this wouldnâ€™t be happening. People should stop irritating us because we are tired of being irritated. They should not heat up the polity. And it is criminal and illegal that since 1999 when this constitution came into effect, the revenue allocation has not been reviewed unlike before when it was being reviewed every five years.