Niger Delta Suffering Today Because Of Jonathan’s Magnanimity – Harry | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Niger Delta Suffering Today Because Of Jonathan’s Magnanimity – Harry

Niger Delta
Posted: Sep 7, 2016 at 3:16 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Alatubo Charles Harry is the new President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC). In this interview with DANIEL ABIA, the bombing of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta by militants, amongst other issues. Excerpts:

As the new President of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), how do you see the consistent alarm being raised by former President Goodluck Jonathan that some groups of persons are bent on bringing him down?

It is a misnomer for anybody to think about threat to the former President Jonathan. It is unthinkable, especially when the threat is said to be coming from the Ijaw nation itself. That is unpardonable, a sin that cannot be condoned. First and foremost, Jonathan, our son, our father, our leader is a great Nigerian. I believe, in the comity of the former Presidents of Nigeria, Jonathan has comported himself more than any other in the last 30 years. Jonathan is a man we have much respect for. I believe that what we are seeing is a case of Fifth Columnists trying to foment trouble, to denigrate his personality. No true Ijaw son will ever denigrate not to talk of threatening the life of the former President. He is a beacon of hope and a man we have explicit confidence in and trust. I can tell you without any iota of doubt that Nigeria will still come to applaud him.

It was also widely reported that former President Jonathan and his wife, Patience, were under probe by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and that the former President was the sponsor of the militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA). What is your take on all of these?

First, let me start with the probe issue. It is within the purview and right of the present government to probe its predecessor if it so thinks it necessary. I personally think that is in bad taste. But, I also believe that the probe should go ahead. Jonathan had said that he would wait for the outcome and then he would speak. I, as President of the INC will also speak at the appropriate time. Probe Mr. Jonathan, if you choose to, but in the process of probing him, don’t denigrate his personality. Don’t demean his name and don’t use him to achieve other political aims. We have great respect for Jonathan in the Niger Delta and we believe that Nigeria as a whole should not look at him as a tribalist. Even during his presidency, he did not act as a Niger Delta president. He acted as a full Nigerian President. Even here in the Niger Delta, he did not do so much for his people. It was because he was a pan-Nigerian patriot. He felt he should pay attention to others. He did so many things for others. The Niger Delta is suffering today because Jonathan was not parochial. He was not an ethnic jingoist, neither was he nepotistic. He was a man of the people. He was a pan-Nigerian leader.

On the other issue of sponsorship of the NDA, that is ridiculous. It is incredible, in fact, something that should not even be thought of by any well thinking person. In the innuendo that is being put forward, I believe, like Jonathan rightly said, it is the work of detractors and not that of the NDA at all. It is the work of political jobbers who want to seek for pecuniary gains to denigrate a great man, a great mind, a great soul and a great patriot of this great country. Jonathan did his best for Nigeria. He came at a time that was expeditious. He is the first person with the kind of his qualification to have run for the office after he went through Vice Presidency, Acting President and ran for that position and was voted as the President by Nigerians. He was the first PhD holder to run as President of this country and he gave us democracy in its true form. His was a kind of democracy where we had freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of the courts to have their way. He applauded opponents when they won. Jonathan was a special being. Jonathan cannot sponsor anything that will denigrate or take anything away from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, or something that will impugn on the economy of this country. No matter what happens, we must learn to applaud our leaders for those things they did right because they are all humans.

How do you feel about the ceaseless bombing of oil installations by the NDA, which has caused so much economic hardship to Nigeria?

The degradation and dehumanization of the Niger Delta over the years is highly regrettable. This did not start just now. We had these problems even before independence. We had the Wilkins Commission that said a lot of things about the Niger Delta. Our hopes and aspirations have been bridged. I cannot and I will not fault the ideology of the NDA. The ideology is right. The people who have been pushed to the wall will react. I fault the methodology. As President of the INC, I want to appeal to my people that you do not fight fire with fire when there is abundant water. The issues of the Niger Delta are salient. The problems are well known. They have been internationalised, intellectualised and we are bringing them to the forefront burner. The agitation of the Niger Delta people is based on equity, truth and justice. The region is suffering, the people are dehumanised. But, bombing of oil pipelines is not the best method to solve the problems. If astute reasons and common sense are put into place, we will come up with the possible ways of achieving the same goal without further degradation of our ecosystem.
They said it will take 30 years to clean up the mess in Ogoniland. You also know that in Ogoniland, for over 10 to 15 years, no oil has been produced. In other words, we are talking about oil that had been spilled over 15 years ago. If you continue to spill oil and gas in the Niger Delta today, our people will suffer a serious degradation over the years. I want to stress that INC under my presidency is completely against any further loss of lives. I don’t want to see any life of any Ijaw or Niger Delta person lost again in this war of attrition. Therefore, I plead with the federal government to grant a 30-day moratorium in the Niger Delta. The INC will go into the creeks, our native land, to find a solution, to discuss with our brothers and people so that this bombing will come to an end.
At this time, negotiation can start. You cannot talk of negotiation without putting an armistice in place. That will amount to putting the cart before the horse. Give the INC 30 days and we will bring the bombing to an end if the federal government is sincere and gives us the necessary tools to mediate. First of all, there must be internal mediation in the Niger Delta by ourselves. INC is not saying they must be the negotiators, but the purveyors of this peace.

The Niger Delta people have seen neglect, poverty and other unfortunate situations due to lack of development in the region. One year after Buhari administration, nothing seems to be happening in the region. Nothing seems to be happening to the East-West road. Does this worry INC?

I will start from the rear and come to the fore. Jonathan was a president of circumstance. He had to make the nation believe that he was a president for the nation and not a president for the Ijaw people or the South South. Maybe that was his Achilles’ heels or his albatross. Having said that, President Buhari is also a president of circumstance. I believe he did not completely prepare for the multifarious things he met as president of this multi-dimensional country. Now, he is doing a catch-up. I am a full supporter of his regime in the sense that if he fails, Nigeria fails. I will not support Nigeria to fail. If there is need to correct, we will do that by engaging the government and not by denigrating the government as a person. I believe that will be the position of INC. When you talk about the East-West road, they said there is paucity of funds even though I believe that with better economic management, we can deal with the situation much better. Let us give the government of the day the benefit of the doubt.

Between the INC and the Niger Delta governors, Is there any plan to bring peace to the region in the nearest future?

I must tell you that the Ijaw nation is in six states of the region. We have six governors we can interact with. Ijaw nation is the fourth largest nation in this country. It is the largest ethnic nation in the Niger Delta. Everything I say will also mirror the problem of our brothers in other tribes. We will synergise our actions with the political leadership, we are not partisan. We don’t belong to any political party. We will meet them at a point and cooperate with every government regardless of any political party. We will help them to achieve their aims for the betterment of our people. We will criticise constructively. But we will not do that on the pages of newspapers. During my presidency, no governor will have me as an opposition. Regardless of their party, I will work with them. I hope they will extend their hands of goodwill to us also for mutual cooperation.

The Niger Delta Avengers have vowed to declare a Niger Delta Republic on October 1, 2016

…(Cuts in) I will cut you short there. If the federal government issues us a 30-day moratorium in military action, we will do something. I want to assure the federal government that there will be no such thing. But the federal government must listen to the call for the restructuring of this country. It is long overdue. Nigeria, as it is, is a product of coercion. First, we were coerced into a nation in 1914 by British colonialists. Through military fiat, we were divided into 12 states, from there to 19, then 21 until we got to 36 states. The Tiv people are Balkanised into six states. They are homogenous. They are contiguous. Why can’t they be a federating unit? Yoruba, Igbo are and the rest are. Why can’t the Tiv? There must be a spelt out population to become a federating unit. If they are not up to that population, they can now choose another contiguous ethnic group to join, which should be based on negotiation. A good example is that of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Today, we have Tanzania which is the amalgamation of those two states. Unless and until the ethnic nationalities of Nigeria come together, without any condition, to discuss and negotiate the basis of union, there will be no peace in Nigeria. Let us in peace, not through war, realign, negotiate and rebuild our country on mutual respect, trust and accommodation. We must rebuild our nation not by force of arms.