How I saved Alamieyeseigha's Life - Evah

2013-04-28
Sunday Sun Newspaper (April 28, 2013; Page 61).

Comrade Joseph Evah is the coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) and also former Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress (INC). For those who are conversant with events in Nigeria, there is no gain saying that the human rights activist is a household name in the country. He is one man that says his mind on any national issue. In this interview, he speaks on a wide range of issues. Excerpts.....

The recent state pardon granted your friend and former governor of Bayelsa State, Dipreye Alamieyeseigha generated a lot of controversy. How did you feel about the noise over his pargon?

Nigeria is a funny country. Instead of people asking for the whereabouts of the alleged recovered money of Alamieyeseigha, they are talking about the disadvantage of state pardon. Did you know that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told us over N50 billion was recovered from Alamieyeseigha? But where is the money? Nobody is asking EFCC to display the money and return such money to Bayelsa State? Obasanjo told us that over N800 billion loot was recovered from Abacha; so where is the money? We need such money to repair our universities and colleges but as we speak,

Nigerians are not asking for the whereabouts of the Abacha's alleged stolen money or Alamieyeseigha's alleged loot, Nigeria is a sick nation.

I recall that during the Alamieyeseigha saga, you played a prominent role. What was your interest?

In fact, I saved Alamieyeseigha from untimely death. I read some senseless claims that from untimely death. I read some senseless claims that Yar'Adua loved Alamieyeseigha so much that when he was deported from Dubai Hospital, the late President called the former Bayelsa governor. They said that after sending his then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan to visit Alamieyeseigha, they concluded the arrangement to set him free after agreement on pleas bargaining. That is a naked lie and a lie against the dead man (Yar'Adua). I started the process that threatened Yar'Adua to ask Jonathan to visit Alamieyeseigha in EFCC detention and the government started the process for his release. It is only in a country like Nigeria that people can even lie against the dead for cheap politics.

So, what particularly happened at that time?

When Alamieyeseigha's trouble started in London, he was facing health crisis and escaped from London to Nigeria where Obasanjo captured him like a prisoner of war. The problem of Alamieyeseigha continued throughout Obasanjo's period and Yar'Adua inherited the problem and along the line,

Alamieyeseigha was granted the permission to go for medical treatment aboard by the court. While undergoing treatment Dubai Hospital, the EFCC deported Alamieyeseigha without due process. The former Governor-General of Ijaw Nation was deported without allowing him to complete his medical treatment. It was shocking and sad. My revelation about Alamieyeseigha's condition embarrassed the Federal Government and the international community and it created tension in the Niger Delta region.

What was your actual role in the release of Alamieyeseigha?

I was driving along the Third Mainland Bridge when I received a call from Ambassador Godknows Igali, former Nigerian Ambassador to Sweden and the current permanent secretary, Ministry of Power. You know Dr. Igali was the Secretary of Bayelsa State government under Dr. Goodluck Jonathan when he was Bayelsa State Governor. So, when I received the phone call, I packed my car on the Bridge and he told me that Alamieyeseigha was in danger and the only person that could save Alamieyeseigha was myself. So, I reminded him that Alamieyeseigha was in Hospital in Dubai and that I am not a medical Doctor. He replied that Alamieyeseigha was at EFCC Awolowo Road, Lagos detention centre. He said the only person who could bring his condition to public notice was somebody who could dare EFCC without fear and that person who could do it was myself. So, I asked Dr. Igali, what about Alamieyeseigha's business friends and his former arrogant commissioners, special advisers and security aides who banned me from entering Yenagoa Government House over fuel increase but Dr. Igali started begging me to come to Alamieyeseigha's aid. He begged me in the name of God and the Ijaw Nation. He said he had consulted widely and everybody agreed that it was only Joseph Evah that could face EFCC and nothing would happen to him because I was able to face Abacha and the military that everybody as hiding from. I abandoned where I was going and returned to the office to fine tune my strategy and arrange a world press conference. Nigerians and the outside world were shocked that Alamieyeseigha that was supposed to be receiving treatment abroad was deported without completing his treatment.

Are you saying that prior to alarm you raised, Yar'Adua did not make any effort to arrange plea bargain for Alamieyeseigha?

I received several threat phone calls on my life that I could not sleep in my house. So, having received all these threats, it is painful to see somebody just sitting down somewhere to cook falsehood. There was nothing like personal relationship between Yar'Adua and Alamieyeseigha that set him free and even the title Emir of Katsina gave him when he was in power did not do the magic. It was the alarm I raised that made that set him free and even the title Emir of Katsina gave him when he was in power did not do the magic. It was the alarm I raised that made Yar'Adua to soft-pedal to bring up the idea of plea bargain because I stated how Alamieyeseigha would be eliminated. Check Sun Newspaper Thursday, July 19 2007 cover page story, among other Newspapers.
I stated that I had evidence that Alamieyeseigha would be poisoned to death and that EFCC chained him to the wall like an animal in their detention. The EFCC addressed the press in Abuja to counter me and abused me and engaged the EFCC in a media war that lasted for weeks. Late Yar'Adua sent Jonathan to visit Alamieyeseigha on Saturday, July 22 and his press reported the meeting. Alamieyeseigha lawyer, Mr. Mike Ozekhome spoke on the alarm I raised on July 24 papers. In fact, the press also reported that the EFCC demanded that the Vice-President should come and see that they did not chain Alamieyeseigha to the wall as alleged by me. So, if Yar'Adua so love Alamieyeseigha why was he deported secretly and the Presidency kept quiet and I risked my life to raise alarm prompting the then Vice-President to visit his former boss.

Alamieyeseigha's plea bargain kicked-off on July 26, 2007 and was reported in the media on Saturday, July 28 because the conclusion of plea bargain ended very late on Thursday, July 26th for the press to carry the full story the next day. From the day I raised the alarm to the time he was released from prison to the time he returned again to Dubai for further medical treatment as a free man, I was updating the press and the Ijaw Nation. All these are facts in the libraries of media Houses as well as my archives.

People thought you defended Alamieyeseigha because of your personal interest in his government.

That is laughable; where will I even see him to discuses about appointing even a clerk in his government. Those of us regarded as nobody when Alamieyeseigha was in power risked our lives to defend him while those enjoying with him in the Government House regarded as paradise on earth were too timid to enter the battle field. The typical Niger Delta politician in power sees everybody outside government as a useless person. Recently, a minister from my region was facing corruption allegation by a civil society campaigner and the campaigner was seriously embarrassing. One day, the minister called me to help him from the attack of the human right activist. He wanted me to come his rescue. So I asked him how he got my phone number and the next thing I did was to call his Pastor in Warri and reported him to his Pastor was shocked that it was only when these politicians are facing trouble that they remember that I am existing.

Why did your report him to his pastor?

Because it is funny that they only remember Joseph Evah when they have a problem. This was a minister that his nomination during Yar'Adua's time was also a big problem and he called some of us to step in and insist that he should be given the job. He got job and the moment he got the job, he deleted my number from his phone; it is like a disease. There is nothing like conscience anymore; there are some people now enjoying Abuja today that I received a lot of threat for defending them while they were being harassed. Now, they have sophisticated new friends. And we are just watching the drama.

How will you react to the way Senator Waku criticized Chief E.K. Clark in the Sun Newspaper of April 12th, 2013 saying his arguments are based on primitive tendencies?

People are surprised that Clark has not replied?
Who is Senator Waku to deserve Chief Clark's reply? That is an insult to our national leader to reply Waku. How can the living oracle of Niger Delta argue with just anybody. It is a taboo in African tradition and Custom.
It is very clear that Waku's family members need to take him to see psychiatrist doctors for proper examination whether he is normal. General Gowon appointed Chief Clark to manage information in this country, where was the father of Senator Waku in Nigeria's history? When the grandfather of Chief Clark signing treaties with Europeans in the 18th century as equal business partners before amalgamation of Nigeria, Waku's grandfather were still roaming the rocks naked in the desert, eating uncooked yams and Camel meat like some stone-age elements in the 18th century. So, is it the grandson of such people today that should call those who first came in contact with civilization primitive?

How did you feel as one of those who witness the exhuming of the remains of your hero, Isaac Boro from Lagos Ikoyi cemetery back to Ijaw land two weeks ago?

This initiative by Governor Dickson of Bayelsa State is our pride. In fact, this uncommon achievement of Dickson will bein the Guiness Book of Records in this Century. He should use the same visionary steps to change the face of Bayelsa State and the Ijaw Nation for progress. He should use the occasion of the exhuming of Boro's body to withdraw his case against those who protested graduate unemployment from the law
court and present those who participated in the protest of the Ijaw National Medal. The protest was not against him but a wake-up call on all our politicians in Ijaw State and Abuja to present the time-bomb of unemployment in the Niger Delta region. I was the first to compile five volumes of the "Niger Delta Bible of unemployment" with over 8,000 CVs of graduates since 2008. So, I have the fact about the agony in our home land. Since Bayelsa symbolizes the Jerusalem of all the Ijaws on earth, he should be prepared to carry the cross of the whole Ijaw Nation.

How are you coping with the pressure of activism?

Despite the fact that the highest concentration of Niger Delta people outside our region is in Lagos and South-West because of commercial activities and as the former federal capital, the pressure is terrible. Some people still travels down from Niger
Delta to Lagos seek my help. You can see the Crowd in my office. I told them that I am also a beggar like them but they don't understand me. They say I can easily see the president or governor. I just look at them and laugh. We had the case of a breast cancer woman and I struggled to send her to India, she died. I have this case of a Niger Delta University student now suffering from kidney problem and the parents came to my office to cry. I ask various groups to contribute money for the parents. It is not enough even after I gave the parents money, so I gave the parents a letter to take him to see the Chairman of Sagbama Local Government and they drove the parents away. The boy is out of school for over a year now and as I speak to you, another Bayelsa Woman is on admission in LUTH with breast cancer and the husband came here to beg every day. I try my best for them but my best is useless because of the kind of health crisis she is facing. This office is like a house. It is like a police station where everybody comes to complain their problems. Most of the cases against human rights, I send them to lawyers like Festus Keyamo who handle them without collecting any money from me. Despite the frustration, I can't abandon the suffering of my people. I feel their pains. I enjoy giving hope to people. Because I am in the media, television and radio talking for the silent majority, any problem they have, their neighbors will just tell them, go and see the Niger Delta activist, Comrade Joseph Evah. That is my cross but thank God the masses appreciate and that is why I am the only Niger Delta activist today that can mobilize over 5,000 people within 24hours because I have the structures on ground and the hell I face today is how to maintain these structures. These structures are also in the Niger Delta region and the greatest gift I got from my mentors, Gani Fawehinmi and Femi Falana was the capacity to put smile on the faces of the masses.

 

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