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Published On: Wed, Jun 19th, 2013

Jonathan has not been Fair to People of Niger Delta –Asu Beks

Elder Asu Beks, President General of Ijaw Peoples Assembly and leader Ijaw Media Forum

As Nigeria celebrates Democracy Day amidst the controversy trailing the Nigeria Governors Forum, Elder Asu Beks, President General of Ijaw Peoples Assembly and leader Ijaw Media Forum speaks with Brisibe Perez on a broad array of issues ranging from the purported President Jonathan’s re-election bid come 2015 to the Obasanjo and Babangida’s absence at the Jonathan’s Mid-Term report
On May 29, the country celebrated her Democracy Day, despite this, a lot of persons feel there is not much to celebrate. How would you react to this?
For me, I am of the view that it is taking root. If anybody says there is nothing to celebrate in the country, let that person compare it to what we used to have in the Abacha era, where the issue of freedom of speech as expressed in our constitution was not even allowed because, we had a Military government in place. Now you can imagine, even a Local Government Councilor in a remote community can come up and challenge the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Don’t forget also that because of democracy; we have a situation where the government has moved straight from the Federal level, to the grass root even though in some States, the government has refused to conduct Local Government elections. All said and done, I do not agree with the school of thought which thinks there is nothing to celebrate. As a democratic nation, we have a lot to celebrate.
Recently, there have been pro and anti utterances by some Nigerians on Jonathan’s re-election bid including Chief E.K Clark who had said, “Jonathan must contest in 2015, else he shouldn’t go back to Bayelsa”. You think such utterances are needed at this time?
The issue of if Jonathan is contesting or not should be left to Jonathan himself but I think the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees him the right as a citizen and a serving President to contest for a second term. Whether persons are saying he should contest or not, these people are expressing their freedom of speech as enshrined in the constitution, but I think that Jonathan has the right to contest. I also do not believe that E.K Clark gave him such ultimatum. Clark is a respected citizen of this country, who is respected within and outside the shores of this country. I think what E.K Clark was trying to say is also what I am saying, that the constitution guarantees him the right to contest if he decides to contest in 2015.
Early this month, you where among the first persons that urged President to declare a State of Emergency in Borno, Bauchi and Yobe States of which the President made the declaration in tow of the State you stated. You think the State of Emergency has been in the right approach?
I think the President didn’t actually go deep enough because we were expecting that the Governors and House of Assembly of the respective State ought to be collapsed. This is because if you look deep on why these insurgencies still exist, it is obvious to the fact that some persons in high places are supporting them. Most of us believe that the issue of Boko Haram is a political thing. When people compare Boko Haram to the case of the Niger Delta, I begin to laugh because, the agitations of the people in the Niger Delta which is known to the world, which have been there for over 70years before the issue of the amnesty came up. And so when you see a people that say, they do not want Western education, that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Jonathan must change his religion from Christianity to Islam, one now begins to wonder on the need for a one Nigeria. Because it is becoming so obvious that the earlier we begin to decide that, if we should leave together, the better we begin to know if everybody is prepared to go their separate ways.
I have always said it that, the time has come for us to seat down and talk if we can continue to leave together as Nigeria because so many persons believe that if they are not in power, then the country must break. They feel that the country is their birth right and once they do not get it, they would do everything humanly possible to break the country and that is what the insurgence in the North East axis of this country represents. I think President Jonathan should listen to those calling for a dialogue sort off, of all Nigeria, whether sovereign conference, independent or whatever you call it. There is need for us to seat down and discuss who we can leave together, that is if there is the need for us to live together. Do not also forget to note that, by next year, Nigeria would be 100years and as they say, the amalgamation of the North and Southern protectorate would expire by then. So, there are a lot of issues on ground that we really need to sit down and discuss if we can continue to co-exist as Nigeria. Personally, I have seen that it is so obvious that we can’t continue in this manner.
During the President Jonathan’s Mid-Term report, former President Obansanjo and Babangida were both conspicuously absent; do you think this is as a result of supposedly bad blood between this duo and Mr. President?
People are free to express themselves. But I must say one thing, I have a lot of respect for former President Obansanjo, a man that has contributed a lot to this country, even during the war, he contributed a lot in trying to unite Nigeria and his role during the Murtala regime, where he was number two citizen and eventually took over, following Murtala’s assassination. Not also forgetting his recent exploits when he became a civilian President. I must say that I am getting very disappointed in what I would call the Obasanjo style. An elder statesman should conduct himself as one, because there is no way that he (Obasanjo) and Jonathan would look at issues from the same angle even though they are of the same party.
If you look at the level of indiscipline in the PDP, I am sure that you can ascribe it to the likes of Obasanjo who has no regard for the incumbent President. Whether he likes it or not, Obasanjo was once a military and civilian President. At every given time, there can be no two Presidents and the same way, Jonathan respected Obasanjo when he was President, the least Jonathan expects from Obasanjo too is that same respect. Obasanjo has an un-yielded access to President Jonathan and any idea he feels like passing on to Jonathan, he is ready to accept. So when you, a former President now wear the garment of opposition on a President of whom both of you are in the same political party there is something wrong. You are the one shopping for the man’s replacement when the man is still on seat. Would he (Obasanjo) take half of what he himself is doing to Jonathan, if the situation is reversed?
That I am very disappointed with Obasanjo, is to say the least. Because, when you see an Obasanjo conducting him in this manner, then I would have no apologies when the likes of Tambuwals who is not old enough to be Obasanjo’s grandson, begin to abuse and insult him. So, what I am saying here is that, whether Obasanjo or Babangida attended the Democracy Day or not, it doesn’t take the fact off that, majority of the former Heads of State and Presidents where either represented or attended.
We all known the antecedents of Babangida and Obasanjo, 2015 is drawing near and from their abode, they want to control what is happening in the villa, this is not possible. We cannot have two Presidents at a time.
The Minister of the Niger Delta has initiated his interest as an Ijaw from Delta South in becoming the next Governor of Delta State. This was followed by comments by Chief E.K CLark that, there is no way he can actualize that dream. This viz-a-viz the moves by Delta North in producing the Governor, as an Ijaw leader, how feasible do you think, this would be?
You see, that is the beauty of democracy, the Ibo speaking people of Delta State has the right to produce the next Governor in Delta State, same as the Ijaws. If you look at the State since its creation, it has been only the Urhobos apart from Uduaghan who is a Itsekiri that have produced the Governor of the State. So, Ibos and Ijaws both have the right on this regard, when the time comes, let them go to the polls and let the people of the State decide who should govern them. Speaking on behalf of the Ijaws, both Orubebe and E.K Clark are just expressing their right to speech as enshrined in the constitution.
We shouldn’t also forget that the Urhobos are not ready to let go of the governorship slot. So, if you think that the fight for the governorship seat in Delta State is between the Ijaws and the Aniomas, you are mistaken.
How would you describe the crisis rocking the Nigerian Governors Forum, with the characters involved?
I have a lot of regards for Rotimi Ameachi, but I think that he is getting it wrong. Ameachi is supposed to be a younger brother to Mr. President; he is one of the most respected Governors in the South-South region. If we look at performance, we are talking about Ameachi and Akpobio. Ameachi is one of the persons, President Jonathan holds dear to his heart. But human beings being what we are, a times, when we begin to nurse certain ambitions, we start forgetting our roots. Let’s not forget that come 2015, Ameachi’s second tenure as Governor of Rivers State would have expired.
What is happening now is an Ameachi looking for relevance in 2015, how would Ameachi feel if he was President, and Jonathan is the Governor of Rivers State, he (Ameachi) has just finished a term, he is qualified to run for a second term and Jonathan is busy running around trying to be a vice President when he knows that his own brother is still entitled to a second term? Ameachi is one of the Governors in the Country that should thank their God. A Governor that got into that seat without contesting an election, he became Governor by providence. How did this happen? Odile felt that, the only way to be President was by distributing money to Emirs and he was then stabbed on the back, as all the information of the monies he was given in the North, was coming to the then EFCC Chairman and Obasanjo, the then President. Obasanjo got very mad and as a result, Odile lost out of the race for Presidency.
But I am shocked that as close as he was to Odile, Ameachi did not learn any lesson from what happened to Odile. Now, what makes Ameachi to think that his best friends in Nigeria are from the North and that he doesn’t have any brother from the South-South? As we speak, it is an open secret that Ameach ;has been involved in so many anti-party activities, that if it was in the days of NPN, he would have been expelled. The fact that he was suspended by the PDP NWC, if it were to be in the NPN days, he would have been expelled.
Looking at this critically since Independence, majority of the time, the North has been in power. They have been in control. All the Oil Blocs in the Niger Delta region are in the hands of the North. What we in the Niger Delta are suffering today is because of the greed of the North. So, I am so disappointed by Ameachi that at his age and as the executive Governor of Rivers State with all the information available to him, does not know that his people are suffering because of the greed of some persons in the North and he thinks that his best friends are in the North. Let’s look at the issue of the NGF. From the moment Ameachi realised that he has fallen out of favour with Mr. President, how can we have a Governors Forum where the PDP members, the President comes from and then you see the Chairman not being on the same frequency with Mr. President and you are insisting that, that man should come and be Governor, that means Ameachi was leading a rebellion against Mr. President. Everybody, even the unborn child knows that Ameachi is leading a rebellion against Mr. President. And when people rebel, whatever you see on your way as a benefit of that rebellion, you take. You do not need to shout. Ameachi does not deserve the sympathy of any right thinking Niger Delta man.
The level of indiscipline as displayed by Ameachi can only be done in the PDP. He can’t take that to APC where the leaders of the party are like gods on earth, as you can’t raise your hand in challenge of what a Buhari or a Tinubu is saying. Besides, what makes him so sure that he would be given the Vice Presidential ticket if APC zones the Presidency to the North? What makes him thinks it won’t go to the South-West with the likes of Fashola there?
But he (Ameachi) has said it over and over that he would not leave the PDP for any other party.
If you are not leaving the PDP, how come you are rebelling against the PDP? And then you are seen everyday hobnobbing with the opposition parties. With the current happenings, you can see the way the opposition parties reacted, as if it is their personal affair. How many times have the PDP interfered in the affairs of the CPC, APC or whatever, like you see the Lia Mohammed of the ACN react almost on a daily basis on everything? If a PDP man is moving and he pushes another PDP man with bag of groundnut and his groundnut falls, ACN would react, that is not the way to be an opposition, It should be about being a responsible opposition and offering credible advice when the leading party goes wrong. What we had in ACN is an ‘Agbero’ opposition. So, Amaechi should be very careful. If he is a smart guy, what he should do is to arrange with some Governors and elder statesmen in the party and apologize to Mr. President saying, am sorry. Then retrace his steps and the renounce his chairmanship of the faction of the NGF and pledge his loyalty to Jona Jang. Anything short of that, “Anything wen e see, make e carry.”
Since Jonathan’s emergence as President, how would you describe his representation in the Niger Delta and the country as a whole?
To us in the Niger Delta, President Jonathan has not been fair to us. I was in Lagos and the National Executive Council of the Ijaw National Congress came to Lagos for an interactive session with some Ijaw leaders in the area and I was part of the meeting. The Vice President of that group who incidentally was a Commissioner for Works under Jonathan’s administration as Governor of Bayelsa, confessed to us that since Jonathan became President, the Ijaw National Congress have not had the opportunity of having a courtesy call on Mr. President. I was shocked at this to say the least. Whereas the Emirs, Ohanezes, Afeniferes, Arewas and co has been having a field day anytime they want to see Mr. President, they see him. So, Mr. President should realise that charity begins at home and I am also not particular with the way the villa is being run because we have a situation where his kinsmen, people from his region are not allowed to see Jonathan and I am so disappointed with the likes of Oronto Douglas, who is a SA Strategy to Mr. President and the same Oronto Douglas we all knew was a frontline environmental activist and he has not made one statement about the rising level of environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region since Jonathan’s presidency. To the likes of Oronto Douglas, it is indeed a shame and I am so disappointed in him because, not only has he shelved his campaign for the environment towards the region, he is also one of the people who has made it practically difficult for the Ijaws to have access to the President.
Let me tell you one thing that I also observed. When Yar’Adua moved from Katsina Government House to the Villa, he did so with almost half of his cabinet, a lot of these persons were placed at key positions. Some as Ministers, head of agencies etc but, I can tell you that all the Commissioners who served under Jonathan as Governor of Bayelsa State, none of them , I do not know if it was by default or by design that if Jonathan was picked as President based on his success story as Governor and today he is at the villa, yet he doesn’t see any of the commissioners who served with him as being qualified to serve either as a Minister or head of government parastatal, then something is definitely wrong somewhere.
The man is now hobnobbing with strange bed fellows in the villa; they have made it almost impossible for the man to have access to his people. I can count hundreds of our Bayelsa brothers so close to Mr. President who have tried access to him but were blocked. And also, his present Chief of Staff is not helping matters, if Jonathan is still coming as President in 2015, I think he needs to clean up his aides especially in the villa with the likes of Ogiedome, Oronto, He should look for something else for them, maybe an ambassadorial appointment to a place like China or Japan. Yes, he is from Bayelsa and not an Ijaw President. We are not taking that away from him. He is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Between you and I, we know that charity begins at home. He has not done enough for his people and his region but, I have not lost hope and faith in him and I believe that he still have enough time to do that, but as a stakeholder in the region, people like us would continue to draw his attention to the fact that he has not done enough. It’s not as if we have passed a vote of no confidence on him, we know that he can still do it as he has the heart but he should remember his people because charity begins at home.

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