Are you not surprised that former President Gooodluck Jonathan, who is an Ijaw man, is linked to the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers?
I am not surprised at all for the simple reason that since the current administration assumed power, there has been a persistent, coordinated and consistent attempt to drag the name of former President Goodluck Jonathan through the mud. There are attempts to rubbish his legacies, create the impression that somehow, he is guilty of something. For me, those accusing him wrongly are probably upset that a minority man of his status dared to rule Nigeria and that, to them, is unfortunate.
But the former president has not sought any redress in court over his being linked to the militant group?
He (Jonathan) does not need to go to court. He is in the court of public opinion; he is in the people’s court. He is in the court of morality; he is in the court of truth and he is already vindicated. His silence is golden and I can assure you that there is no justification for the allegations against him other than this disingenuous attempt to drag his name through the mud.
A faction of the militant group said the word ‘Niger Delta Avengers’ first came from Jonathan’s mouth. How do you reconcile that with a man who willingly gave up power?
The allegation itself is very preposterous. Goodluck Jonathan said to the hearing of the whole world that his ambition did not worth the blood of any Nigerian. In any sensible country, it is a statement upon which to build a progressive society. There are many presidents in different countries who made such profound statements of which those countries were built. When sensible people are in authority, the country itself will be sensible. Goodluck Jonathan kept to his words, even before the election results were announced; when people were praying for blood on both sides, he called the current President (Muhammadu Buhari), who was his opponent in the presidential election and congratulated him. The man, Jonathan, is a man that does not want this country to burn. Since then, all they have done is to humiliate him, belittle him, demonise him and none of that can work. Jonathan is too clean, too civilised and too principled to be maligned. When he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, a formidable organisation to head, he did not use the armed forces against anybody; he did not use the police against anybody. How then would he surrender the armed forces of Nigeria and form a militant group? Is it that the so-called group will return him to power? Jonathan is not like them as he never threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable for anybody. He did not form a militant group. Why would he form a group? That is the question these people (his accusers) have not answered.
There has been militancy in the South-West and in the Niger Delta. But the former president has not been heard to speak against the attacks in these areas?
How many former presidents have spoken against those attacks? Nobody. Whatever former President Jonathan says, they will misconstrue it. They have a well-oiled propaganda machinery to turn everybody’s word into evil; a propaganda machinery headed by one Lai Mohammed, a man who has operated like one German propagandist under Hitler, known as Goebbels; he lies. They were abusing Jonathan when he was president, but the man simply decided to keep his cool. They accused him of many things, he did not answer. Jonathan has not said a word, neither has (Shehu) Shagari nor Olusegun Obasanjo said a word; General (Yakubu) Gowon, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida and Ernest Shonekan haven’t said a word against those attacks too. Why would anybody insist that if Jonathan doesn’t say anything, it means he is guilty?
Are you saying Jonathan’s silence on the matter is deliberate?
It is deliberate and it is appropriate in the circumstances in which we are.
What is your view about Jonathan’s relationship with Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo?
I do not know if they have a relationship or how close it might be, but one thing I know is that until recently, Tompolo, having accepted amnesty, was a free citizen of this country. He was not the only person that had any dealing with the government under Jonathan. So, it could have been any relationship of citizen to president. Again, I will not read any particular meaning into such relationship because a lot of us from the Niger Delta also know Jonathan as a nice man. He grew up in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Do you think Jonathan can be a factor in resolving the Niger Delta crisis?
He can be a factor. But my opinion is that he should stay out of it. Government knows what it needs to do. You cannot beat a child and expect him not to cry. The people of the Niger Delta are still marginalised. The onus is on President Buhari.
What do you think President Buhari can do in this situation?
The buck stops at his (Buhari) table. Buhari came into office with the attitude and mannerism of a conqueror; a man who seems to have disdain for the citizens from a particular section of the country. Before he came to power, his party promised that within two weeks of coming into power, they were going to free the Chibok girls and that he was going to lead from the front and now the Bring-back-our-Girls group are asking him to go to Sambissa Forest and rescue those girls. The same thing should happen in the Niger Delta. When Jonathan was vice president, he went into the creeks. This territory (Niger Delta) is also the territory of the President. He should not be aloof; he should not be seen to be unapproachable, he should not be ramrod or unfeeling. Our people here feel highly marginalised and on assumption of office, he (Buhari) did not do or say anything to take away that fear. It was a politically suicidal statement to say those who voted for him will have more of his attention than those who didn’t. Buhari should, in his appointments, statements and other actions, realise that he is the President of Nigeria. Nigerians are easygoing people. Where you see Adamu, you will see Madu; you will see Bode. One sells sweets, the other sells suya; they co-exist. If he says he is fighting corruption for an instance, the fight should be all-embracing. The All progressives Congress is now serving as a city of refuge for corrupt Peoples Democratic Party members who defected to the APC. Jonathan had a hands-on approach and he did not seem to be unapproachable; he listens. A man like that, even when they ganged up against him, he came out clean without risking the life of a single Nigerian. In the international community, he is highly regarded and nobody can take that away from him. This petty and childish accusation against him of being the sponsor of one militant group is preposterous.
But how can he wriggle out of that allegation if he does not go to court?
He is not in the allegation in the first place. Nobody believes Lai Mohammed because Lai Mohammed is quoted to have said that an allegation that he (Jonathan) is sponsoring a militant group has refused to go away. Is that a proof of guilt? In raising this allegation, the government is even losing more credibility because everything is not propaganda and propaganda is not everything. They are in government now, but rather than run the government, if anything happens, they refer to him (Jonathan). Now, we have Lassa fever and polio is back; we are waiting for Lai Mohammed to tell us how Jonathan did not do one thing or the other for these diseases to be come back. If Nigeria had not won a bronze medal at the just concluded Olympics, they would have blamed it on Jonathan. If they continue like this, the best evidence of Jonathan’s competence will be the incompetence of the APC government.
What is your advice to the current administration as it concerns the allegations against Jonathan?
My advice is that they should leave him alone. As far as I can see, they have nothing against him. There are a lot of other people they have crucified in the media; how many of them have been taken to court and successfully prosecuted? A situation where a government goes to the media and accuse people and thereafter shuts up is strange. It is baffling.
How come your group, Ijaw National Congress, has not replied the group that accused your kinsman (Jonathan) of sponsoring Niger Delta Avengers?
We have replied them and we have told them to leave Jonathan alone. How come the only evidence the government has against Jonathan is from the same people it calls unprintable names? It is a strange way to run a government.