Comrade Joseph Evah is the national coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) and former Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress (INC).In this encounter, he speaks on topical issues of presidential pardon granted Bayelsa Governor, Alamieyeseigha and issues of recovered loot from public servants. Excerpt.
How are you coping with the pressure of activism?
Despite the fact that the highest concentration of Niger Delta people outside our region is Lagos and South-West because of commercial activities and as former federal capital, the pressure is terrible. Some people still travel down from Niger Delta to Lagos to seek for my help. You can see the crowd in my office. I told them I’m also a beggar like them but they didn’t understand me.
They said I can easily see the President or Governors but I just look at them and laugh. We had the case of a breast cancer woman and I struggled to send her to India but because I could not sponsor her second trip to India, she died. I have this case of a Niger Delta University student now suffering from kidney problem. The parents came to my office to cry. I asked various groups to contribute money for his treatment but it was not enough even after I gave the parents money.
So I gave the parents a letter to take him to see the chairman of Sagbama Local Government for assistance since that is the parents’ Local Government but on getting there, they drove the parents away. The boy is out of School for over a year now. As I speak to you now, another Bayelsa woman is in LUTH on admission with breast cancer. The husband comes here to beg everyday. I try my best for them but my best is useless because of the kind of health crisis she is facing.
This office is just like my house. It isalso like a police station where everybody comes to lay complaints. When I have cases that involve infringement on human rights, I send them to lawyers like Festus Keyamo who handles them without collecting any money from me. Despite the frustrations, I can’t abandon the suffering of my people.
I feel their pains. I enjoy giving hope to people and because I’m in the media, television and radio talking for the silent majority, any problem they have, their neighbours will just tell them, go and see the Niger Delta activist Comrade Joseph Evah and your problem will be solved.
That is my cross but thank God the masses appreciate my efforts. That is why I’m the only Niger Delta activist today that can mobilize over 5,000 people within 24 hours because I have the structures on ground and the hell I face today is how to maintain these structures. These structures are also in the Niger Delta region and the greatest gift I got from my mentors, Gani Fawehinmi and Femi Falana was the capacity to put smile on the faces of the masses.
How did you feel as one those who witnessed the exhuming of your hero Isaac Boro’s remains from Lagos Ikoyi cemetery back to Ijaw land two weeks ago?
This initiative by Governor Dickson of Bayelsa State is our pride. In fact, this uncommon achievement of Dickson will be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records in this century. He should use the same visionary steps to change the face of Bayelsa State and the Ijaw nation for progress. He should use the occasion of the exhuming of Boro’s body to withdraw his case against those who protested graduate unemployment from the law court and present those who participated in the protest the Ijaw national medal.
The protest was not against him but a wake-up call on all our politicians in Ijaw-speaking states and Abuja to present the time-bomb of unemployment in the Niger Delta region. I was the first to compile five volumes of the “Niger Delta Bible of unemployment” with over 8,000 CVs of graduates since 2008.
So, I have the facts about the agony in our home land. Since Bayelsa symbolizes the Jerusalem of all the Ijaws on earth,he should be prepared to carry the cross of the whole Ijaw nation.
During the Alamieyeseigha saga, you played a prominent role. What was your interest?
Nigeria is a funny country. Instead of people asking for the where-about of the alleged recovered loots of Alamieyesiegha, they are talking about the disadvantages of state pardon. Did you know that EFCC told us that over 50 billion naira was recovered from Alamieyesgha but where is the money? Nobody is asking EFCC to display the money or return such money to Bayelsa State.
Obasanjo told us that over N800 billion was recovered from Abacha loot. Where is the money? We need such money to repair our universities and colleges but as we speak, Nigerians are not asking about Abacha’s alleged stolen money or Alamieyeseigha’s alleged loot.
In fact, I saved Alamieyeseigha from untimely death. I read some claims that Yar’ Adua loved Alamieyeseigha so much that when he was deported from Dubai hospital, the late President called the former Bayelsa State Governor and after sending his Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to visit Alamieyeseigha, he concluded the arrangement to set him free after agreement on plea- bargain.
That is a naked lie and a lie against the late President Yar Adua .I started the process that made Yar Adua to ask Jonathan to visit Alamieyeseigha in EFCC detention and the government started the process for his release. It is only in a country like Nigeria that people can even lie against the dead for cheap politics.
What happened at that time?
When Alamieyeseigha’s trouble started in London, he was facing health crisis and he escaped from London to Nigeria where Obasanjo captured him like a prisoner of war.
The problem of Alamieyeseigha continued throughout Obasanjo’s period and Yar Adua inherited the problem and along the line, Alamieyeseigha was granted permission to go for medical treatment abroad by the court and while undergoing treatment in Dubai hospital, the EFCC deported him without due process.
The former Governor- General of Ijaw nation was deported without allowing him to complete his medical treatment. It was shocking and sad. My revelation about Alamieyeseigha’s condition embarrassed the Federal Government and the international community and it created tension in the Niger Delta region.
What was your actual role in all these?
I was driving along the third main land bridge when I received a call from Ambassador Godknows Igali, former Nigerian Ambassador to Sweden and the current permanent secretary Ministry of power.You know Dr.Godknows Igali was the secretary of Bayelsa State government under Dr.Goodluck Jonathan when he was Bayelsa State Governor. So, when I received the phone call, I parked my car on the bridge and he told me that Alamieyeseigha was in danger and the only person that can save him was myself.
So, I reminded him that Alamieyeseigha was in hospital in Dubai and I’m not a medical doctor. He replied that Alamieyeseigha was deported back to the country secretly and was being detained at EFCC Awolowo Road,Lagos detention centre and the only person who could bring his condition to public notice is somebody who is without fear as myself.
So I asked Dr. Igali, what about Alamieyeseigha’s business friends and his former arrogant commissioners and special advisers and his arrogant security aides who banned me from entering Yenagoa Government House for over three years because they said I abused Obasanjo over fuel increase but Dr. Igali started begging me. He begged me in the name of God and the Ijaw nation.
He said, he had consulted widely and everybody agreed that it was only Joseph Evah that could handle that because I was able to face Abacha and military rule; that everybody is hiding from EFCC trouble. I abandoned where I was going and returned to the office to fine tune my strategy and arrange a world press conference. Nigerians were shocked that Alamieyeseigha who was supposed to be receiving treatment abroad was deported without completing his treatment.
So prior to the alarm you raised, Yar Adua did not make any effort to arrange plea bargain for Alamieyeseigha?
No way, you see, I received several threat phone calls on my life because of the alarm I raised over him to the extent that I could not sleep in my house. So, having received all these threats, to imagine somebody just sitting down somewhere to cook falsehood is painful. There was nothing like personal relationship between Yar Adua and Alamieyeseigha that set him free. Even the title the Emir of Kastina gave him when he was in power did not do the magic.
It was the alarm I raised that made Yar Adua soft- pedal and bring up the idea of plea bargin because I stated how Alamieyeseigha would be eliminated. You can check Daily Sun Newspaper, Thursday July 19th 2007 cover story and Vanguard Newspaper July 19th 2007 cover page story, among other newspapers. I stated that I had evidence that Alamieyeseigha would be poisoned to death and that he was chained him to the wall like an animal in detention.
The EFCC addressed a press in Abuja to counter me and abused me and I engaged them in a media war that lasted for weeks. The late Yar Adua sent Jonathan to visit Alamieyeseigha on Saturday 22nd of July and the press reported the meeting. Alamieyeseigha’s lawyer Mr.Mike Ozekhome spoke on the alarm I raised on the 24th of July papers.In fact, the press also reported that the EFCC demanded that the Vice-President should come and see that they did not chain Alamieyeseigha to the wall as alleged by me. So, if Yar Adua so loved Alamieyeseigha, why was he deported secretly and the Presidency kept quiet until I risked my life to raised alarm prompting the then Vice-President to visit his former boss.
Alamieyeseigha’s plea bargain kicked-off on the 26th of July 2007 and was reported in the media on Saturday 28th of July because the conclusion of plea bargain ended very late on Thursday July 26th for the press to carry the full story the next day. From the day, I raised the alarm to the time he was released from prison sentence, to the time he returned again to Dubai for further medical treatment as a free man, I was updating the press and the Ijaw nation. All these are facts in the libraries of media houses as well as my archives.
How will you react to Senator Waku blasting Chief E.K Clark in a national newspaper of April 12th 2013? People are surprised that Clark did not reply him?
Who is Senator Waku to deserve Chief Clark reply? It is an insult to expect our national leader to join issues with Waku. Chief Clark can only argue with Senator Waku’s father on one condition, that is, if Waku’s father is equally the leader of his region with intimidating credentials like Chief E.K. Clark has been in the development of Nigeria since post independent era. How can the living oracle of Niger Delta argue with just anybody? It is a taboo in African tradition and Custom.
Did you read where Senator Waku said some of Chief Clark’s arguments are based on primitive tendencies?
It is very clear that Waku didn’t know what he was saying. When General Gowon appointed Chief Clark to manage Information in this country, where was the father of Senator Waku in Nigeria history? Is it the grandson of such people today calling those who first come in contact with civilization primitive? He doesn’t know anything.