Former President Jonathan remains my son (2)
Continued from yesterday
MY support for President Goodluck Jonathan predates his presidency. It dates back to the period when he was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. So, for people who are thinking that I only knew Dr. Jonathan when he became the President or that I was one of his hangers on, I think there will be need to give them a little information. My relevance and leadership of my people as an elder statesman and a critical stakeholder in this Nigeria project far pre-dates Dr. Jonathan’s public life and presidency. I have been relevant in politics and I have served my people honestly and creditably well.
I became very close to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan when he was Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. I was present in London when the late former Governor of Bayelsa State, the Governor General of the Ijaw Nation, Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha (may his soul rest in perfect peace) was arrested in London on the prompting of the Nigerian government under President Olusegun Obasanjo because of his hatred for Chief Alamieyeseigha. I had to cancel my flight to Nigeria at the London Airport when the news of the arrest of Chief Alamieyeseigha was conveyed to me by Ambassador Pereware from Paris. I went with a few well meaning Nigerians to Essex where we had been informed that he was kept, but could not find him. We went to a few other places before we were able to locate where he was. I remained in London for one week with him to put in place machinery for his bail. I recall the large heartedness of Lady Ann Iyoha who brought out the title deed of her property in London to secure his bail and also the magnanimity of another woman from Amasoma, the home town of Chief Alamiyeseigha in Bayelsa State.
When I returned to Nigeria, I went to Bayelsa State to meet with stakeholders to see that a peaceful transition of power took place whereby Dr. Jonathan who was the then Deputy Governor became the Governor. Ambassador Godknows Igali became the Secretary to the State Government.
Of course, I openly supported President Jonathan not only as my son but also as the first person to emerge from the minorities of the Niger Delta as the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I had no choice but to support him and I have no regrets. My support is total and unyielding. If most of President Jonathan’s close associates and political leaders exhibited such support, by espousing all his achievements, rather than the pretence and betrayal they were engaged in, the story today would have been different. It will be recalled that I had on several occasions openly criticised the former President in the Press and in my statements for actions or inactions which were damaging to the President’s image while he was in office. When the President failed to check the excesses of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice which included his undue interference with the activities of the EFCC, I did not fail to speak my mind openly in opposition to the President.
When the President did not deliver on his promise to complete the construction of the East-West Road, I did not fail to speak my mind openly. I even told him publicly that he should not leave the South South people poorer than he met them. When the Governors Forum appeared to arrogate to itself powers that infringed upon those of the President in the Constitution of Nigeria with impunity, I did not fail to criticise. The Press Conferences and Open Letters I wrote which were published by the various media houses are there to confirm this claim. However, with all these, my support for him was and still is total and unshakeable.
Inability of Successive Governments to Fight Corruption in Nigeria
My declaration to the TNFI was to the effect that corruption had been the bane of Nigeria’s sad arrested development. A simple click on the website will show the number of times (not less than 25) that I have mentioned or talked about corruption before and during Jonathan’s administration. It has been the reason for the neglect of the ordinary man in Nigeria by all Governments.
Therefore, I declared, not for the first time, my support for any effort to eradicate the cankerworm from our body polity. I traced the forces that had made the eradication of corruption impossible in time past. My analysis did not begin and end with the Goodluck Jonathan administration. I actually traced them from the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999, with former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo failing to even scratch the surface beyond using some Special Purpose machinery to harass real and unreal enemies. For the eight years of President Obasanjo’s administration, he definitely institutionalised, legitimised and legalised corruption in this country. The cases of Halliburton and Siemens are typical examples. Today, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is one of the richest former rulers. The same forces were also at play in the time of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, GCFR, when anti-corruption activities slowed down because of some of those who assisted him in his Presidential election in 2007. A situation where Chief James Ibori, former governor of Delta State who was facing criminal charge, was playing a significant role in the affairs of Nigeria at Aso Rock and whereby his former State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. David Edebve became late President Yar’Adua’s Principal Secretary, could not help the situation.
My statements on President Jonathan and my quitting involvement in partisan politics were wickedly, sensationally presented by sections of the Media for reasons best known to them. It must be admitted that President Jonathan was very willing to fight corruption, but he believed that due process should and must be followed otherwise he could have initiated investigations into the scandals of Halliburton, Siemens and other serious alleged corruption charges levelled against some former Heads of State and other prominent Nigerians. He believed that there are institutions set up by the government such as the EFCC, the ICPC and other anti graft agencies. But regrettably, some of those who surrounded him led by the Attorney General (AG), Alhaji Hassan Tukur, etc, made it impossible for these institutions to work either by stopping them from arresting offenders or prosecuting some of the cases. Over 50 high profile corruption cases are still pending in the various Courts for over eight years now. Laughable Plea bargains and settlements out of Courts became the order of the day. It was at this juncture, when there was general complaint about the government not aggressively fighting corruption, I addressed an open petition to the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher, dated November 2, 2011, complaining that most of those charged to Court especially those of the former Governors who have become Senators were still pending. He promptly replied my letter on November 3, 2015. Most of the petitions written against some prominent Nigerians, addressed to the anti graft agencies, did not see the light of the day. Ironically, the perpetrators of these corrupt actions were the same persons who attacked former President Jonathan’s inability to eradicate corruption in Nigeria.
My relationship with Jonathan was not based on material gains.
It is indeed most disingenuous to insinuate that my relationship with former President Jonathan was based on what benefits accrued to me. Far from the truth as I never benefited any material thing from President Jonathan in all his six years of President. With all modesty, I am at this age contented. I state publicly therefore, that I never sought nor obtained any contract, oil block, oil lifting allocation or financial gratification from the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) during his years of administration. Similarly, I never solicited for appointments or special placements for any of my children or relations in any government or private concern on account of my relationship with President Jonathan. It is, therefore, ludicrous and totally ill-motived for these wicked and mischievous persons to sell to the public that my decision portends a plan to seek special favours from President Muhammadu Buhari and his government, or to protect those gains which I acquired from President Jonathan’s government which never existed. On the contrary, my public service in this country which spans over 60 years had given me the opportunity to seek the political, social and economic development of my people and Nigeria in general. I remain committed more than ever before to the economic, political and social emancipation of the people of the Niger Delta, South South, the entire minorities and the development and unity of this great nation. This was even contained in the congratulatory letter which I wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari dated April 3, 2015. I reproduce here excerpt of that letter:
“…I am therefore pleased to join our other compatriots in this country and friends from the international community to convey my words of congratulations to you and your Party, the All Progressives Congress. I note that the election was keenly contested but the outcome has been determined by INEC, in the exercise of its statutory duties…I am glad that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who was so gracious to beat the gun in congratulating you, both by a historic telephone call and a national broadcast, underlined the need for the spirit of placing our national interest above individual or group ambition. This was an uncommon display of purposeful leadership and patriotism which I believe sets a propitious cue for the new government….
• To be continued tomorrow.
• Chief (Dr.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, OFR, CON is a veteran politician.