October 08, 2007

NIGERIA : Clark, Niger Delta overlord?

Clark, Niger Delta overlord?

Source: Vanguard
Monday, October 08, 2007 Ochereome Nnanna
People and Politics

HIS name rings a bell all over Nigeria and beyond, for reasons that will be clear shortly. He is called Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, a former Minister for Information and cinema chain proprietor. He is self-acclaimed (and also acclaimed by others) as a foremost Ijaw leader. He would tell you, without batting an eyelid, that he is not a nationalist but an Ijaw man. He said so at a public forum in December 2001 when an international seminar was organised to flag off the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

He is an excellent propagandist who masterfully reads the auguries with a view to striking where it tells the most. He is big, bold and brash, with all the usual character trappings that go well with warlords anywhere. In recent times, he has established a reputation (rightly or wrongly earned) which portrays the notion that unless he puts his stamp of approval on any matter concerning the Niger Delta, it cannot go forward. If it insists on going forward without him, there will be trouble. Invariably, the Ijaw agenda, defined by him and those who believe in it, must take the front burner in South-South, Niger Delta and Nigerian affairs, with him driving it. Otherwise, there will be trouble.

Let me first of all state what I understand to be Chief Clark’s vision of the Ijaw agenda in modern Nigeria. He is of the belief that an Ijaw warrior, Adaka Boro, being the first to initiate an armed struggle for self-determination of what is today known as the South-South or generically Niger Delta, the creation of the geopolitical zone is a trophy for the Ijaw. He, like earlier Ijaw leaders such as the late Harold Dappa Biriye and former Governor Melford Okilo, were also convinced that old Rivers State and its capital Port Harcourt, with the mainstream Igbo expelled from its political control, was a political concession to the Ijaw. Nothing for the Ogoni, Ikwerre, and others.

AND after personally leading the Ijaw in the Warri crisis of 1996, which ended a few years ago, and in which his side did not exactly lose, he believes that the Niger Delta buck stops on his table. Anything to the contrary will not happen in peace. And being the most visible Ijaw elder/leader, he has positioned himself as the clearing house between the Federal Government and the militants of the Niger Delta who, to all intents and purposes, are mainly Ijaw youth. In fact, the nomination of former Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the nation’s Vice President instead of other more prominent South-South politicians is something Clark would like to be seen as a concession to him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Let us briefly mention a few instances where Clark fought to scatter anything that did not go his way. When in 2002 Chief Matthew Mbu and retired Commodore Okoh Ebitu Ukiwe, formed the Council of Southeast and South-South (COSESS) the strategy was to forge an alliance between the two neighbouring zones for greater political and economic clout within the federation. With prominent Ijaw leaders such as King Alfred Diete-Spiff and Ijaw National Congress (INC) President, Professor Kimse Okoko, among others as enthusiastic participants, it was agreed that the two zones should make a joint bid for the presidency.

Clark rallied the likes of the late Marshall Harry to scuttle it in preference for a “traditional alliance” with the North.
Later on, towards the Obasanjo Conference of 2005, another alliance was forged between the South-South People’s Alliance (SSPA, the umbrella of all ethnic groups in the South-South) and the Igbo of Southeast after meetings in Port Harcourt and Owerri towards 2007. Clark, fearing that his Ijaw agenda and personal position would be subsumed, scuttled it with counter-meetings of his own. Eventually, the SSPA went moribund due to this and the confusion that came in the wake of Obasanjo’s decision to single-handedly produce his own successor.

Clark was particularly vocal when former Governor Peter Odili’s prospects as a presidential aspirant shone brightly. In order to discredit Odili (who, like a typical Rivers State indigene proclaims himself a “Rivers man”), Clark launched a vicious campaign labelling him “an Igbo man”. To him, the Igbo were using Odili to claim the South-South presidency through the back door! In his native Delta State, he was on record to have initially given his blessing to the gubernatorial ambition of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. Suddenly, he made a U-turn and started a campaign against Uduaghan’s candidature because he was Itshekiri and former Governor Ibori’s cousin. Up till date, he keeps heaping unstubstantiated allegations against the young state chief executive and his government, his obvious motive being that Uduaghan is not his tribesman.

Only a few weeks ago, Clark led a delegation of Ijaw chiefs to President Umaru Yar’ Adua, calling for a state of emergency in Rivers State because, according to him, the violent criminal crisis in the state called for it. He, again, without substantiation, claimed that some Rivers State government officials were “cultists”. The President told him to put his allegations in writing. Till date we have not heard about anything done to that effect. His opponents in Rivers accuse him of mounting this campaign to get through a state of emergency what he failed to secure through the ballot box. They also allege that his is the moral force behind the militants holding the nation to ransom in the Niger Delta creeks.

CLARK'S activities are premised on the propaganda that the Ijaw are the majority tribe in the Niger Delta, a claim that does not seem to be supported by true fact. What is true is that the Ijaw territories place them in great advantage in our oil affairs in that you cannot sell the oil without passing through them. Some Ijaw intellectuals such as my friend Owei Lakemfa, far back in 1996 claimed for the group a healthy 10 million population. But the census of 2005 had only 1.3 million for the only all-Ijaw state, Bayelsa. The Ijaw groups, according to figures, make up about 20 per cent of the population of Rivers and Delta States. A paper released by the Orashi People’s Convention (of Rivers) on August 29th 2007 notes that of the 185 local government areas in the Niger Delta created by law, “the Ijaws are traceable to only 18 of these LGAs”.

The question is: How can such a minority among dozens of other minority groups claim to be the new “majority”? Anybody can make empty claims. Asserting it is something else, which is what Clark is clearly doing and being taken seriously in some quarters. This is creating pockets of disquiet and growing disenchantment among other groups in the zone. In any case, the very extremely splintered ethnic diversity of the Niger Delta does not recommend for it politics of extreme ethnic domination by any of the groups. Ethnic politics should wisely be restricted to aggregation of the interests of each group in the context of the wider Niger Delta community.

Any domineering posturing by any of the groups is asking for trouble from the others. You cannot very well fight off Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba majority dominance only to assert yourself as “the new majority” out to dominate your peers unless you are being clever by half! Where is the justice? Where is the principle?

HAPPILY, the younger generation of Ijaw leaders – including the youth who initiated and are sweating out the struggle, do not peddle the same ethnic conquest mentality. The INC and Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) have conducted themselves more urbanely by placing themselves on the same equitable pedestal with their peers such as the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) and similar groups for the Itshekiri, Urhobo, Ikwerre, Orashi, Efik, Ibibioa, Edo, Anioma, Isoko, and many others to whom the South-South is home. That is the only way collaboration towards common goals is possible.

Even Asari Dokubo’s Niger Delta Volunteers Force (NDVF) and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have prudently de-emphasised overt tribalism, opting for the zonal umbrella approach. Dokubo has owned up to the fact that the agitation for his freedom was mounted by all Nigerians, not just Ijaw. Which was why he recently declared: “we don’t have to be unjust to others when we are fighting against injustice”.

The youths of the Niger Delta, including the Ijaw Youths, have shown far greater wisdom, vision and courage than their elders. You cannot grab for yourself what belongs to you and others. The confederal or umbrella approach to the struggle will surely prevail over the archaic illusion of “new majority” out to dominate others. The youth are the real overlords of the Niger Delta!

Memo to E.K. Clark

Friday, October 05, 2007 Personal View
Mobolaji Sanusi

“Reason and calm judgement, the qualities specially belonging to a Leader” — Tacitus (55-117) History
THERE are elders across the zones in the country whose accomplishments in areas they touched cannot be controverted. In the North, South-South, South-East and South-West, we have them in abundance. They are the rallying point of their people not only because of their wealth, professional and life experiences but also because they are seen as father-figure to all irrespective of their political leanings or ethnic cleavages.

All these are some of the qualities expected of a leader who should rightly be seen as a repository of unbiased ideas that could move a state, nay country, forward. People from diverse political camps-cum-ethnic affiliations should come around such elders and sip from their fountain of knowledge and experience.

Looking around the South-South today, specifically Kiagbodo town, in present day Delta State, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark qualifies to be one of such elders. In over 75 years of his existence, E.K. Clark as Papa is usually referred to really served Delta State and the nation in various capacities. He served as headmaster of schools in Ofonu and Bomadi areas in his state of origin. He was a Director of Asaba Textile Mill and Bendel Brewery. At another time, he was Finance Commissioner in the defunct Bendel State and Education Commissioner in the Mid-Western State. During the General Yakubu Gowon administration, he was appointed Federal Commissioner for Information.

At the dawn of the ill-fated Second Republic, he was elected Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the platform of National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and was also a member of its NEC. He berthed at the National Republican Party (NRC) during the truncated Third Republic. Outside the shores of the country, E.K. Clark was a recipient of Togo's National Award, among others.Having achieved all these and at an advanced age of 75, it is expected that Papa Clark will sit back in his house in Kiagbodo town, where he would be father to all emerging forces not only in politics but also in the private sector. He has the experience to play this role to the upcoming young folks who ought to see him as a model of sort.

As a barrister-at-law, one would have expected that Clark would engage himself at old age in private legal practice, using his vast networks to get juicy briefs for his firm and leaving the murky waters of the state’s politics to the young ones and availing all, his vast political experience. He is not doing this at the moment. He has engrossed himself too much in controversies that do not augur well for an elder’s respectability.

Maybe the earlier Clark realises that “Ten Kings, ten epoch”, the better he cannot stride like a collosus in his prime and also want to be the icon of today. His present actions and utterances make him susceptible to insults and most times ridicule which to me are avoidable. A proverb in Yoruba land where I hail from says that a man who ties corn stick around his waist invites birds to run after him.

The way Clark is fighting tribal and political wars in Delta State and the Niger Delta as a whole undermines his status as an elder statesman. Someone who does not know about his antecedents would think he is a political jobber. He fights his sons and daughters dirty on the political field as if his accomplishment in life and existence depend on the battle. This is why I have gone the whole hub to list some of his achievements in the earlier part of this piece. He should employ elderly tact and sincerity of purpose in making contributions to his environment. Whatever he could not achieve for his people in his public service years should be left to the new generation.

His actions and utterances portray him as a trouble-maker and give me goose pimples because there is nothing enticing in politics presently for a man of his age to warrant bringing himself so low and perhaps diminish all the achievements and goodwill he has garnered all these years. The other time, he showed vehement opposition against the candidacy of the present Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State and I doubt if he has changed his stance after the man won the election. He must have forgotten that no one gets to power without God’s knowledge.

At another time, Papa was calling for a state of emergency in Rivers State and this call and the manner it was made in public led to heaps of insults and ridicule on him by people probably not older than his first five children. Some of the advertorials give me concern about the damage to the integrity of Clark. He seems not to be giving this a thought at all. Some unguided and unsubstantiated public statements against past and present governments and notable sons of Delta State by Clark and platforms in which he is a prominent member are becoming boring. This should not continue.

Many are insinuating that his membership of NPN during the Second Republic and his serving as Senator of that era did not benefit his constituency and state in any significant manner. That what he complained of are not just starting but have been there since and that he did little to change the situation then. I get bothered when I hear such things which is why I think Clark should slow down and behave more like an elder that he has unquestionably become.

At old age, the Yorubas would say, elders cease from fomenting and waging war. Chief Clark is taking his war in Delta too far. He should sit back and reflect on the origin of whatever he may perceive as the wrongs today and he will discover he also cannot be isolated from the seeming rot. I advise that he uses his hard-earned wisdom to influence diplomatically, rulers of the state and do away with his hard stance of today as if without him, Delta would cease to exist. The time to sheath the sword is now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pa Edwin Clark speaks for the Grand child where the father has told us to shut up or else, he will flogg us. I will assure you a lot of us will soon be speaking too.

Afterall even when he told the truth about Rivers State being run by cult-sponsoring politicians, he was called a liar which is not fair, Rivers State is technically in a state-of-emergency though politically so with Omehia being retained as governor even as it is an open-secret that he is illegitimate and was staged and stooged by the heartless and bloody Peter Odili...