Are you satisfied with the security situation in the country is being handled?
No I am not. I think it could be handled a lot better and I am deeply disappointed by the fact that our government has not been able to get a grip of the situation that we are facing in our country today. Boko Haram is waging a brutal war against the Nigerian state and the response from the government has been to pamper them and almost encourage them in the killing of Nigerians by consistently attempting to reach out to them. We have a government that keeps talking about dialogue even though though the islamist terrorists that they are appealing to keep telling them that they will not engage in any dialogue unless the President becomes a muslim and unless he gives them whatever it is that they are looking for. I think that the attitude of our government has left a lot to be desired. All we see is the display of weakness. And as we all know weakness attracts nothing but aggression from the enemy. So that’s basically it. The more our government exhibits nothing but weakness, the more aggressive and daring Boko Haram will get. I am deeply concerened and I am pleased that President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida have come together and launched a new initiative in order to try to help resolve the issue. The situation is terrible yet the bitter truth is that the buck stops with no-one but the C-in-C [Commander in Chief], President Goodluck Jonathan. He should have taken the kid gloves off long ago and allowed the Nigerian military to play a much more forceful and active role right from the start. He should have nipped it in the bud. Obasanjo did this when he took decisive action and put a stop to terrorism, murder and insurgency in the Niger Deltan town of Odi many years ago. He did what needed to be done to ensure that the violent ethnic militias of that day that sought to create problems for us in our country were suppressed and defeated. We have not seen any serious initiative like that from the Jonathan administration in the last two years since it came to power and I am very worried about that.
What is your response to recent comments by the Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark, that concern your activity as Minister of Aviation and some other national figures who you have worked with?
Amusement and pity. Chief E.K. Clark attracts my pity far more than he does my anger. First of all let’s talk about what he said about me. He accused me of ''embezzling'' 6.5 billion naira of the 19.5 billion Aviation Intervention Fund in 2006. What he didn't know before he spoke was that that money had disappeared before I became Minister of Aviation and that when I got there I was the one that discovered that it was missing and that reported the matter to Mr. President. Needless to say I reject Chief Clark's absurd allegations. Four days after his speech I wrote my formal response to him in a newspaper article in which I listed all the facts. The essay was titled ''Chief E.K. Clark and His Moral Icons'', it was published in virtually every newspaper in the country and it is all over the internet. If anyone wants to know what I had to say about Chief E.K. Clark's absurd allegations they should just google the title. I am not prepared to go any further than that because the matter is sub judice but needless to say he was speaking utter rubbish about a matter that he knows nothing about. I think it is inappropriate for somebody of his age and standing to start pronouncing guilt on people and indulging in libel and slander. And it was not just me that he targetted. He listed about six or seven other people who he pronounced guilty of crimes which no court of law has convicted them for. This is not just unjust and unfair but it is also uncivilised. It is not done. Our country is not Idi Amin’s Uganda or Emperor Jean Bokassa’s Central Africa Republic. This is Nigeria and the rule of law is in place here. Even an accused person has constitutional rights and the law says we are innocent until proven guilty. Given his age I would have expected Chief E.K. Clark to be more circumspect, more decent and more restrained than he was on that occassion. I did not expect him to start playing the role of the judge, the prosecutor and the jury.
He attacked others as well and cast aspersions on their character by linking some of them to Boko Haram. He spoke about President Olusegun Obasanjo my boss. He spoke about General Babangida, General Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, PastorTunde Bakare, Vice President Atiku Abubakar and many others and I find it outrageous and unacceptable for someone of that age and standing to be speaking about such distinguished people in this way. This was an unprovoked attack and it is not what we expect from an elderstatesman. By way of contrast a few months ago I attended the 50th birthday celebration lecture of my friend Sam Nda Isaiah and I marveled at the wonderful ex-tempore speech that a true elder statesman by the name of Alhaji Maitama Sule delivered without any notes, any script, any prompting or any help from anyone. He was a Minister in the First Republic, a man of unimpeachable character and credentials, a man that everyone loves and respects and someone that has been a star and a constant factor in Nigerian politics for many decades. And when he made that passionate and powerful speech he encouraged and inspired everyone in the audience and everyone in the country from both the old and new generation. He spoke about our history, he spoke about our present and he spoke about our future as a nation. His speech moved the whole audience and he rekindled our hope in Nigeria. He made us remember and appreciate our own potentials regardless of the challenges that we are going through as a nation. He was inspiring. That is what we expect from an elder statesman. We do not expect an elder statesman to behave the way that Chief E.K.Clark behaved on that shameful occassion at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. We do not expect an elder statesman to mount a stage in front of a live audience and on live television in front of millions of people and start indicting and slandering others, defaming people that were not there to defend themselves with impugnity, making unsubstantiated allegations, pronouncing guilt and making wild and baseless allegations against former public servants, leaders and former Heads of State.
Let me be a little more specific. He said that Boko Haram started under President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2002 and this is simply not true. Chief E.K. Clark was either being economical with the truth there or he was just downright ignorant of it. The islamist terrorist organisation called Boko Haram did not begin it's deadly operations, bombing campaigns and cold blooded mass murders whilst President Olusegun Obasanjo was in power. There may have been some other local insurgencies and there may have been some other local militias in some states at that time but not Boko Haram. Boko Haram did not start with Obasanjo. And if it had started with Obasanjo, if it were the way it is today, Obasanjo would have known what to do about it. So I completely reject Clark's assertion. As a proud member of the Obasanjo administration, I think it is most unfair for him to in anyway cast any aspersions on Obasanjo’s character or question his ability to handle such issues by suggesting that the Boko Haram problem started under him. His [Obasanjo] record is clear and is a far better record than that of President Goodluck Jonathan when it comes to handling insurgency and terrorism. He should please leave Obasanjo out of the whole thing.
Number two he spoke about General Ibrahim Babangida and General [Muhammadu] Buhari and accused them of being part of Boko Haram. Again, I find it completely unacceptable that a man of his standing would speak in this way. Where is his evidence? General Babangida, as far as I’m concerned, was one of those that moved this country forward in so many ways though there are some issues like the June 12 matter which I feel was a mistake. But by and large his administration was a good one. Both Obasanjo and Babangida are up there amongst the greats of this country whether anyone likes it or not. They succeeded in fighting a civil war, in delivering Chief EK Clark's people from Biafran occupation and they kept Nigeria one. Since that time they have both been the main factor in Nigerian politics and governance. Now for him [Clark] to say such things about General Babangida is absolutely shocking and quite unacceptable unless he can substantiate his claims with hard evidence. I am delighted by the response that he was given by the Babangida camp. They said that this is clear evidence of senility and that the man [Clark] should be careful about what he said otherwise they would sue him. I am happy they said that. And that goes for all of us. In fact they were very charitable to him and they were very restrained. I share their view that there must be something seriously wrong with Chief Clark when he starts speaking like that. Where is the evidence that links Babangida to Boko Haram? Where is the evidence that links General Buhari, a man of absolute integrity, to Boko Haram? This is a man that fought to keep Nigeria one in the civil war and that led our soldiers gallantly to victory in the Chadian conflict of 1982. This is the man that Clark is now saying is the leader of an islamist terror group whose sole objective is to divide Nigeria and wipe out christianity and true islam.
He spoke about Vice President Atiku Abubakar as well. Abubakar could easily have been President of this country had there had not been issues between him and President Obasanjo a few years ago. You know we look back at that era now and it’s unfortunate that a man that has dedicated his life to politics for so many years, like Atiku Abubakar, can now have aspersions cast on his character by somebody like Chief E.K. Clark. Again, he spoke about Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and said he [Tinubu] ''was rude''. Apart from being one of our most respected leaders in NADECO during the struggle against military rule, Tinubu is one of the most reverred figures in the South western part of our country today and yet this man gets up and declares him ''rude'' as if he is a small boy. Tinubu is not a small boy and none of us are small boys. I am 52 this year and Tinubu is considerably older than I am. He is a big player in this country today whether anyone likes it or not. And once again, Chief Clark feels that because he is close to the President, because the President is his asopted son, he can run Tinubu down and talk down to him and everyone else. I could go on and on. He spoke about Pastor Tunde Bakare, a man who has shown himself to be full of courage, integrity and strength and who has spoken his mind without any fear or favour on matters concerning our country for a number of years now. Bakare was very hard on the President that I served. In fact, he was even detained by Obasanjo and I opposed it at that time and even wrote an article about it (titled ''The Words of the Prophet'' in 2001) that you can’t detain a man simply because he said something, on his pulpit, which you don't like. And Bakare has been consistent from day one. He has fought against tyranny, he has fought against corruption and his is a strong voice in our nation. I am very proud of him and I think for Chief E.K. Clark to say words to the effect that he [Bakare] is using his pulpit to bash the Presidency is most unfortunate. My question is what does he want him to use the pulpit for? Does he want him to use it to praise the Presidency when everything is falling apart in our country and when there is evil and injustice stalking the land? How I wish there were more priests in Nigeria with Bakare's courage and social conscience. He [Clark] should go and study church history to know what real priests are supposed to be doing. He should find out why Bishops wear red and purple shirts bellow their collars. They are supposed to stand up against tyranny, evil and injustice. Apart from preaching the gospel that is the calling of any church leader that is worth his salt. To protect the poor and needy and to speak up for the weak and helpless. Clark should find out the meaning of the concept of ''Liberation Theology'' and learn about the role of great men like Rev. Martin Luther King, Rev. Desmond Tutu, Rev. Aristide, Rev. Ian Paisley, Bishop Thomas Beckett, Bishop Cranleigh, Rev. Jesse Jackson and so many other great men of God that played a key role in the liberation of their people over the ages. Many of them paid the supreme price for standing up for the flock and for the ordinary people against wicked and evil rulers. As a matter of fact that is how the church was built- on the blood and bones of the christian martyrs. So Bakare is doing precisely what he is expected to do but of course people like Chief Clark do not know and can never appreciate that. He also declared some people guilty of crimes that they have not been convicted of. People like Governors Peter Odili, Orji Kalu, Alamesigha, Senator Joshua Dariye, Prof. Babalola Borishade and so many others. No matter how you feel about them these are people that are Nigerians and that have constitutional rights which confer on them the presumption of innocence until they are proven guilty. Is it fair, is it reasonable, is it rational for anybody to pronounce them guilty before a court of law does so and behave in this manner? Does Clark not know that there is a big difference between an allegation or indictment and a conviction?
What Chief E.K. Clark has done by his numerous and inflammatory utterances over the last ywo years is to have divided this country more than any other elder statesman has done in the history of Nigeria. We expected him to be a Nigerian elder statesman and not to just be an Ijaw one. And we expected him to encourage all of us to come together and move Nigeria forward and not to encourage division and strife and constantly threaten anyone that is opposed to this administration with fire, brimstone, arrest, persecution and humiliation.
Do you think he [Clark] is speaking for himself?
I do not. My honest belief is that he is echoing the thinking of the Presidency. That is my belief and it is self evident. He is the adopted father of our President. He is what I call the Godfather-in-Chief of the Jonathan administration. Chief E.K. Clark is the father of the President and the godfather of the Nigerian Federal Government, so anything he says must be taken very seriously by everybody in this country. Those that say that we should just ignore him and that he is a nuisance that is just speaking his own mind have missed the point completely. Chief E.K. Clark is presently the Godfather-in-Chief of the Nigerian state. And that is why I would like to take this opportunity to challenge him to ask his son for us, that is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, what happened to the N300billion Aviation Intervention Fund that his government established when they came in. The allegation is that the money has disappeared, has been misapplied and has been misappropriated. Who got the money? Where did it go? How much of it was ploughed back into his campaign, if any? I would like Chief E.K. Clark to find out the answers to these questions from his adopted son and tell the Nigerian public. And I would have been more impressed if he had done that during that show of shame at the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. I would have been happier if he had told the nation where that N300billion Aviation Intervention Fund that his son’s government set up went to? Secondly, where is the 76 million US dollars from the Aviation BASA Fund which has also allegedly disappeared? Where is that money? Can Chief E.K. Clark tell us what this government intends to do with those that took N1.7 trillion fuel subsidy? Is it only the lesser known very young men and women that we here about that will be prosecuted? What about the big ones? What about those that were indicted by the Aig-Imokuede enquiry? What about the 80 billion naira Abacha money that the Swiss authorities say they recently returned to the Nigerian government? What about the trillions that have been supposedly spent on security and our intelligence agencies in the last two years through the NSA's office which does not seem to have yielded any results? What was the money used for? What about our external debt? How come it is now almost 12 billion USD and still borrowing when in 2007, when we left office, our foreign debt was zero? What was the money used for? And why are we still borrowing so much money from international monetry agencies till today? Have we not sold the future of our children and enslaved future generartions of Nigerians to the debt trap forever by doing so? What about our foreign reserves? When we left officer in 2007 we had almost 100 billion USD in our foreign reserves. Today it has been depleted to approximately 30 billion USD. What was all the money spent on? What about our Excess Crude Account? In 2007 when we left office we left 23 billion USD in that account and today only a fraction of that is left. Where did all the money go? These 2007 gains were meant to be built upon and not squandered and spent. Where did all the money go and what was it all spent on? Chief E.K. Clark should please ask his son for us. His son was Vice President from 2007 till 2010 and he has been Acting and substantive President since then. He must tell us where all this money went and what it was used for. If Chief Clark wants to talk about allegations, let us all talk about allegations? But unlike him I have not conferred guilt on anybody here. I am only asking questions, which is my legitimate right as a Nigerian and I will continue to do so until the day that God calls me home. And even Chief E.K. Clark himself, during his own tenure as a Federal Commissioner of Information, he should tell us a bit more about what happened during his tenure. What happened after he left office? What happened between him and the Obasanjo and Murtala Mohammed regime? Is it true that some of his properties were confiscated? I am only asking questions? How clean was he at that time? And how clean is the government that he is fathering today? How clean is the President that he is fathering and how clean is the President’s whole team? How far is he prepared to push Nigeria to the brink just to protect his son and to ensure that his son continues after 2015? How far is he prepared to divide Nigeria? How many people have to die? He went to a conference the other day and said that the unity of Nigeria hinges on the southern minorities and northern minorities. Now I ask him, what about the majorities in the north and in the south? What about the Yoruba, the Hausa/Fulani and the Igbo? Are we not Nigerians too? Must we be constantly humiliated by him and his people? Let me tell Chief E.K. Clark what he has managed to do which he doesn’t even appreciate or understand. He has managed to force a political union between the core North and the mainstream South West. That is today's reality and we will build on it. Something that we never thought would happen again given our history since June 12. That’s what’s unfolding now because from his [Clark] words, he has shown everybody that nothing matters to him except Ijaw supremacy and Ijaw nationalism. But I am here to say that the rest of us, those that they call Sudanese Nigerians as opposed to the Bantu Nigerians, cannot be intimidated or wished away. The Bantu are those from the Niger Delta and the South East and the Sudanese are those from the west, the mid-west and the North based on the migratory patterns over thousands of years. I am here to say that he and his co-travellers cannot exclude the Sudanese Nigerians from the Nigerian equation. And we will not allow him to break up this country because as far as I am concerned Chief E.K. Clark’s agenda and the Ijaw agenda is to break Nigeria up at all costs and for them to create their own little entity with all the oil. This will not be allowed to happen.
Why should we allow it? 2 million people died in theNigerian civil war to keep us one. Did they die in vain? Was their scarifice for nothing? Nigeria has been together for many years. We are together and will remain together. However if, God forbid, we ever decide to breakup it will be on the basis of consensus, everybody will agree and we will go our separate ways in a peaceful way. It will be based on mutual consent, the terms will be clear and it will be peaceful. It will not be by compulsion or by force and no one will walk away with the goose that lays the golden egg and leave the rest of the country to starve. It will be based on the free will of ALL our people and it will be quietly negotiated. That is what we call self-determination. Any attempt to break us up by force and against our will shall result in a terrible war that will turn the whole of the west African sub-region into a horrific cauldron of fire for the next fifty years.
Is that not buying into the idea of sovereign national conference?
No. I am a great believer in the Sovereign National Conference and I am amongst those that have expressed my support and argued in support of it for the last 20 years. It is not new to me and I believe in it passionately. Even when I was in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration I was one of those people that was regarded as a NADECO Minister. Myself, Bashorun Akin Osuntokun, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Professor Julius Ihonvbere and a few others. We were NADECO Ministers and Special Advisors to Obasanjo. I have always believed in that as being the way out of our problems. However let me tell you what is going on today. There are three schools of thought on this matter in Nigeria today within the intellectual and political class. The first group comprises of the conservatives who believe that this is a very dangerous course and that we shouldn’t tread it. They believe that we can resolve our issues by the provision of good governance and that no restructuring, round table discussion or national conference is necessary. They believe that if we have one it will lead to the disintegration of Nigeria or just total confusion. That’s the first group. Then there is a second group who believe that we need to have a Sovereign National Conference but its objective would be to simply restructure the federation, grant more autonomy to the zones, states and regions, confirm the secularity of the state, devolve power from the centre and establish a renegotiated union where every nationality will be well catered for and will be made to feel feel part and parcel of Nigeria. In this way our national cohesion and unity would be strengthened and enhanced and Nigeria will emerge stronger and better without the constant threat of an ugly break up hovering over our heads. I belong to that group.
But there is a third group which also believes in the Sovereign National Conference but, unlike that of the second group, their objective is to ultimately dismember and destroy Nigeria. They [members of the third group] want to use the vessel of the Sovereign National Conference for us to come together and for them to get up and say that they don’t want to be part of this union anymore and that no matter what anyone else feels they are going and they are self-determining. It doesn’t matter what you think, it doesn’t matter what you want to do about it or what you say and if you try to stop them then you must do so by force. They are daring the rest of Nigeria and they are toying and playing with war. And those people, like Chief E.K. Clark and those that are around him, particularly all those Ijaw boys and the leaders of the Niger Delta militias that hover around him, that is exactly what their agenda is. So we need to completely disassociate ourselves from such people. Those of us that genuinly believe in a Sovereign National Conference are simply trying to establish a new deal for a better, greater, stronger and more united Nigeria. Chief E.K. Clark's group and those that think like them believe in having a Sovereign National Conference as an instrument and a tool for division, discord, confusion, strife and war. I say this because, mark my words, Nigeria cannot be divided and carved up without having a war. It is as simple as that. That is what they are toying with. If they were students of history and if they understood the finer intricacies of rulership and empire, they would understand the importance of carrying people along, the importance of ensuring that consensus is the basis for every decision that they take, the importance of forming an all-inclusive government, the importance of reaching out to people and the importance of soothing the nerves of the northerners, the Yoruba, the Igbo and carrying everybody along. They would stop talking only about themselves and what they call ''their'' oil. Even within their own South South zone, they find it difficult to reach out to the other tribes such as the Uhrobo, the Itsekiri, the Isoko, the Efiks, the Ibibios and so on and so forth. Instead of reaching out and building bridges with others all we hear is that if anything happens to ''their'' son President Goodluck Jonathan, they will carry the oil, they will go and before doing so they will deal with the rest of us. That is not politics but gangsterism and Chief E.K. Clark consistently voices that sentiment and tendency more than any other Ijaw elder that we know today. It is unfortunate that I have to speak about a man that is an elder statesman and that has been on this planet for 85 years in such terms but it’s about time somebody told the truth and that’s why I am speaking this way.
Are you speaking for yourself or for a group?
First of all you can be rest assured that a lot of people share my view but I am not holding myself as anybody’s spokesman. I speak for myself but I assure you that, with 22 years of politics behind me, I am not a spring chicken in this business. I have paid my dues and I have suffered persecution, misrepresentation, betrayal, deceit and all manner of wickedness from evil and powerful men over the years. I have lived in exile and I have seen all sorts of things. I have seen Presidents come and go. I have seen those that seek to destroy others and jail others unjustly suddenly drop dead. I am telling you that I speak from a position of experience and knowledge and I am saying that the way people feel in this country today is that they have had enough of these threats, bad governance, killings, bombings, fear, division and insecurity. They have had enough of the kind of leadership that this government is providing. They have had enough of Chief E.K. Clark's obsession for playing to the public gallery, his threats, his divisive statements, his sabre-rattling and his continuos insults. They believe that it is time for this government to get down to some hard work and move this country forward if it is capable of doing so and if it is not it is time for President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to resign. Whether this government likes to hear it or not millions of people feel that way.
Still on security situation in the country, there seems to be a measure of reluctance on the part of Nigeria and the United States government to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization, how do you respond?
I think that action is another failing of our government. Ultimately the Americans are the ones that are responsible for what they do or what they do not do and I think it’s very shortsighted of them not to label Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. I mean they [Boko Haram] are killing people night and day and they are indeed terrorists in every true sense of the word. And why the Obama administration would not label them as terrorists, I really don’t know. What it means, as President the President of CAN [Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritshejafor] said so eloquently before the American Congress the other day, is that they [Americans] obviously value Nigerian lives less than they do Western and American ones. Even the Congressional Commitee in America were alarmed that the White House and the US State Department had not seen it fit to label Boko Haram a terrorist organization. I believe that they have made a mistake, I think that they are short-sighted and I think that they will live to regret it.
Why do you think the Nigerian government is reluctant over this issue?
Fear and weakness. This government, as far as I am concerned, is terrified of Boko Haram. They are terrified of fighting them in a vigorous and lively manner and they are frightened of the consequence of labeling them as a terrorist organization. They feel that once that happens and America labels Boko Haram a terrorist organization, it will impact on its own popularity in the northern part of the country as it would be seen as an anti-northern act and it will result in the loss of votes in 2015. And that is the most ridiculous and most senseless calculation that anyone can make. If you want votes in 2015, do something about Boko Haram today. If you want to stay in power post 2015, crush Boko Haram, provide security, provide strength and provide courageous leadership. Stand up as a true C-in-C. Label them as terrorists and fight them into the ground and don't be begging them and telling the Americans ‘please don’t upset them by calling them terrorists’. If President Goodluck Jonathan does not rise up to this challenge and do something about Boko Haram, God will raise another person in His own time and way to deliver Nigeria from these people and the evil that they represent.