Bakare, Tinubu Are Friends Of N'Delta, Says Evah

Guardian Newspaper Nigeria

The coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) and publicity secretary of Ijaw National Congress,(INC), Comrade Joseph Evah, spoke to the press on the ways out of the Boko Haram Insurgence, the performance of the National Security Adviser, Andrew Owoye Azazi and the Service Chiefs, why Ojukwu was honoured by Niger - Deltans in Lagos with the mobilization of about 5,000 people at the National Theatre, why he sent people to Chief Hannah Awolowo, his stand on pastor Tunde Bakare and sundry issues. OBIRE ONAKEMU was there.

WHY can't the Federal Government stop Boko Haram activities?

The solution lies with the Northern political leaders. When the Niger Delta was boiling, it was the political leaders in our region that moved to save the situation, despite the presence of JTF. The political leaders from the North are there and the situation is getting worse and I have suggested this way out since last year, but nobody seems to listen.

What were your suggestions?

Last year I suggested that president Jonathan should declare a state of emergency in at least two states in the North, that Nigerians will support the action. It will be like the ones the Obasanjo declared in which the states House of Assembly and the entire executive, including the governors and the deputies were removed from office. This method will force the other states in the North to take the pain to meet with Boko Haram and genuine dialogue will take place. You know that for politicians to be out of power for three months or five months without free enjoyment in the name of politics is like forcing them to commit suicide. All politicians will run from pillar to post to meet with Boko Haram for dialogue because I believe in dialogue.

Was that all?

I also suggested that Mr. President should direct his Vice President to relocate to any of the trouble states accompanied by the governors to look for the Boko Haram members. When Yar'adua was in power he directed Jonathan, (his Vice-President) to go to Oporoza and meet with the Niger Delta militants and Jonathan entered canoe and paddled to Oporoza to appease the boys. So, I want Vice President Namadi Sambo to climb the back of a donkey or camel and go to Borno or Kano to look for these children who are causing the killing.

The Northern elites cannot tell us that they don't know their children who are involved in this problem. As I speak to you now, Namadi Sambo is yet to live the Villa for this assignment. Again, I also advised Goodluck Jonathan to relocate to Port Harcourt or Yenagoa like Babangida who relocated from Lagos to Minna when the Major Gideon Orkar coup plotters almost killed him. The manner in which the Boko Haram group is operating, Jonathan is the target.
Nigerians are demanding that the heads of security agencies and the National Security Adviser (NSA) should be sacked

The NSA and service Chiefs are not the problem. Their excellent jobs should be appreciated. The government should look in the direction of our border communities where some of the foreigners are penetrating the country. It is a shame that we have Border Communities Development Agency and the border communities are not being encouraged by the agency to defend the interest of the country. So over 60 percent of the threats are invasion from neighboring countries. And all the countless committees set up because of insecurity have no recommendation and they are not asking the presidency to provide good living condition for the border communities so that the people along the borders can assist the government protect the borders along with other security agencies. If we don't carry the communities along, how can we save guard our borders? Why has this agency not been mentioned or given attention to enable us win the hearts of the people along the border from Bakassi to Zamfara down to Idiroko in Ogun State. I think Nigeria needs spiritual deliverance!

Why are there no activists in the Niger Delta Again? Are all of them in government now?

It is a sad development! It was caused by the politicians. After the Kiama Declaration, we were proud of the number of activists coming out of the region. I was the spokesman of the Ijaw National Congress (INC) then and the INC mobilized the younger generation to form the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) whose aims was to groom activists like the Yoruba Nation. But the politicians came in 1999. They made nonsense of our struggle; ignored those who made it possible for the Nigerian nation to recognize the region. They turned everything to politics. If you are not in their party or join them to abuse their political enemies, you won't be carried, you can't benefit from the system.

Even if you are a private lawyer, they will frustrate your chamber if the political class regard you as enemies. So, those who can't endure poverty join government to ride big cars. We do all the work to get derivation money, yet politicians are enjoying the benefit. So, it is the means of survival, but it is wrong.

We can't see this in Yoruba Land because of the level of exposure. So, they know the value of activists but in our region we just produce emergency political class who just suddenly emerged from poverty in their various families. And they are so cruel and heartless! They see any office they occupy as their personal family promised land. And they see people outside government as people living in hell fire while they live in paradise on earth because of government money they are enjoying. So, our activists felt that they can't be used and dumped to suffer. So, they join government!

Nigerians know the role you play during the period of Yar'adua's sickness and the cabal tried to deny Goodluck the presidency. But it's like the president may soon offer you an appointment?

That is wrong! We all cannot be political appointees. Some people should stay outside the government to offer advice. I told the president one day in the villa that I wanted to stay outside government. I told him that we have to operate like the Yorubas. We know that Yorubas are well organized and know the roles of activists in society, but it is wrong for all of us to be in government. It will hurt our society.

When Yar'adua was in government you were accused of organizing solidarity March to Otta farm to thank Obasanjo for making Jonathan Vice-president and we heard that Obasanjo gave you money to launder his image because of his failed third term ambition?

It is all false! I was shocked when I saw some activists accusing me at that time on Live Television that Obasanjo sponsored me to organize the event in Otta Farm because the crowd left from my office.

Tell us your role in the Matter?

Till this moment, Obasanjo doesn't know who sponsored that visit to his farm. What happened is this, after the election in 2007, the mother of the Late President Umaru Musa Yar'adua visited Otta Farm with prominent Kastina people to salute Obasanjo for helping their son to emerge as presidential candidate of PDP and he won the election and the media carried the story very well. So, I assembled some leaders in Lagos and told them that we have to behave like Kastina leaders and pay thanked-you visit to Obasanjo. This is because if we don't do that on behalf of Goodluck, the press would abuse Jonathan and Ijaw people that we are ungrateful people. I told them how the press abused Jonathan day and night simply because he refused to declare his assets publicity like his boss, Yar'adua. And Jonathan's argument was that the constitution did not say you must declare your assets publicly and he has done what the constitution says by filling and submitting to the relevant authority. But the Nigerian press refuses to listen to him. In fact, everyday they either abused him or his wife with false allegation in their days in Bayelsa Government House. Jonathan was forced to declare his assets publicly eventually. So, we organized ourselves and carried a carnival to OBJ. But I didn't go because Obasanjo is not my friend; but I will sponsor everything to prove the point we want.

Are you saying that carnival-like display by Niger Delta people with gifts for Obasanjo was not even sponsored by Goodluck as Vice-president?

He was not even aware that our people are there on his behalf. He watched it on television like any other Nigerians.

Why did you not ask him to sponsor it since it was done on his behalf?

He would not cooperate with me. He would just smile and bad advisers around him will tell him that Evah should be ignored. And that is all! In every government since 1960, we have had bad advisers very close to every president misleading them and they are the ones that have access to the bedrooms of the presidents. So, every president needs prayers! Look at the last Ojukwu's outing that Niger Delta people organized in Lagos. I called some of our people in power and I begged them that it is important for the people of Niger Delta living in the South West to use the death of Ojukwu to thank the Igbo nation living in the South West for their massive support for Jonathan during the last election in the South West. If Senator Bola Tinubu who did not get votes from the Igbos in the South West for his presidential candidate can mobilize the Yorubas to honour Ojukwu, it is not fair for Niger Delta leaders in the South West to fold their arms.

I told them in the last elections that we went to Igbo trading centres across the South West. We visited their town unions across the South West and now their leader is dead and Tinubu has done something to appreciate the Igbos even though they did not vote for his presidential candidate. Did you know what they told me? They said this was not election period. That if we were approaching election, we could do such things to pretend but now 2015 is still far so such event for Ojukwu is a waste of time.

So, I had to go and borrow money to pay for the Federal Government National Art Threatre venue. We paid over One Million Naira to hire the venue alone and we mobilized over 5,000 people to mark Ojukwu's departure and the Igbo nation in the South West are happy with Niger Delta people.

Did you believe in your people's visit to Ota or you sponsored it just to save Jonathan from media attack?

I don't do things if I don’t strongly believe in the project. After the Odi killings caused by Obasanjo, the former president became ijaw people's enemy number one. We don't like him. He sent soldiers to rape our mothers and kill us. I even petitioned the Oputa Panel that Obasanjo should be recommended for trial at the United Nation War Crime Tribunal for genocide in Ijaw Land. But Oputa Panel rejected all my four petitions including that of Obasanjo's trial request. According to the panel, all my petitions are dangerous (general laughter).

So, we see the move Obasanjo made to push an Ijaw son from Bayelsa State to become Vice president as a sign of repentance for his crime against the Ijaw people.

You sent people to Mama Hannah Awolowo too?

It was during the last elections campaign periods and President Goodluck Jonathan went to Ibadan to make statements that some South West leaders considered offensive. So, Tinubu was hard on the president whom he called "Goodluck Drunkard Fisherman". We were worried because all local Yoruba media were promoting Tinubu's statement across the South West. So, I called my women leaders and told them we have to pay Awolowo's wife courtesy call and beg her to endorse Goodluck so that we use her endorsement. We know that Tinubu respects mama a lot. So, if he sees that mama endorsed Goodluck with photograph of Niger Delta women kneeling down before Mama, Tinubu will give up the fight. Tinubu is a great leader because he doesn't play politics with Yoruba tradition and culture.

People are complaining that since Jonathan emerged as president, you have not critised him and that you are against anti-fuel increase rallies?

Those are mischief makers or ignorant people. I was the first person to carry out demonstration with

placards against this government barely one month in office because of the killings of Youths Corpers in

Bauchi State. I mobilized our people to put on black; I was in black. The world press covered it and we gave Jonathan seven days notice to pay compensation to the families of those Youths or the government would face legal action. We did that on Wednesday and the press carried the photographs on the cover of some national papers. And by Monday, the president met with the parents of the corpers and compensation was announced by Mr. President.

Today, if I criticize Mr. President, it is for his own good and he knows. What I will say about the anti-fuel increase rally is that the appointment of Ribadu as task force chairman to deal with the cabals clearly shows that the president is in support of the rally against his government. It means that the timing was wrong - seven days after Chrismas Day bombing and New Year gift while mourning the death of Christmas Day bombing.

The rallies led to probe panels that are exposing all the dirty deals. So, the president comment when addressing foreign envoys in Nigeria that such ugly crisis against his government will not happen again shows that he will consult widely next time before taking decision.

How will you describe Pastor Bakare's mobilization effort against fuel subsidy removal?

The only problem I had with pastor Bakare was his call for Regime Change. All human beings are bound to make mistakes. So, he should know that President Goodluck Jonathan cannot deliberately want to punish Nigerians and it is the work of our men of God to point out the mistakes of politicians and that was what Tunde Bakare should have done and not to call for Regime Change.

Your people referred to Bakare as enemy of Mr. President?

Who is saying that? Let me tell you! Bakare is Jonathan's Best Friend. Bakare was instrumental to making Jonathan acting president. He might make mistakes as human being by calling for regime change, but he loves the president more than the sycophants. It is because Nigeria is a mad country, that is why we are calling Pastor Bakare names. Did you know how Bakare, Prof. Wole Soyinka and other Yorubas forced PDP to make Jonathan Acting President?

When Bakare was risking his life to fight Yar'Adua's cabals and PDP, where were the present-day boot- lickers? How Many men of God want to risk their life for others today? Bakare contested the election against us, but we told him it is the time for Niger Delta so allow us. So, that is the position!

The truth is that all the rallies organized by the Yorubas during the last fuel increase are actually meant to save the Ijaw people. We are the beneficiaries. Yorubas are already enjoying life. The amount of money you spent in South West states as inter-states transport is what will be spent within a local government area in Niger Delta by water transport.

Today, many of our people can't travel out of their villages because of increased transports fares. So, the Yorubas are actually fighting for us who have no means of livelihood and no money for transport. It is this fake concept called Nigeria that is frustrating Yoruba progress. If not, they will be competing with South-Africa, Malaysia and Korea. We thank God that the president reduced the price because of Bakare and Co's activities.

During the military era, you went to court to stop the dredging of River Niger. But today, the dredging is going on, what happened to your case?

We have a political class that doesn't care about our environment. They play politics with everything, including our survival. When I dragged the Federal military government to court, both Generals abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar respected my opinion. One, we would not allow the dredging without acceptable Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Two, we would not allow the dredging to provide inland port for Abuja, Baro and Lokoja when our natural seaports like Koko, Akassa, Burutu, Sapele and Calabar ports are all dead because of government's deliberate agenda to wipe them off. But our politicians appeared in 1999 and betrayed my struggle against the dredging suit and told me the issue is political and they have endorsed the dredging without any condition to be met. It's a shame!

What can you described as your saddest moment in Life?

My Saddest moment in life was when I lost my first wife during child delivery. My late wife died and the twins she had died with her during operation and my own mother also died because of the Wahala. I was faced with four dead bodies at a time! I was sad because all the children we had before the twins also died! So, there were no children in that marriage. So, I have to start afresh. I don't like talking about it because it involved a lot of emotional trauma.

Every year I spent Million of naira to deworm children in the creeks of the Niger-Delta. I mobilize thousands of undergraduates to carry out the exercise. It is part of my appreciation to God that my children in my present marriage are doing well and are wealthy.

As at today, most of my humanitarian works centre on women and children.

Can you equally describe your joyful moment?

Oh! The day an Ijaw man from the Niger Delta was declared elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria - happening in our own generation, live!


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