Chief Edwin Clark, leader of the Pan Niger Delta Development Forum (PANDEF), has been at the forefront of agitation for a southern President in 2023. In this interview at his Abuja residence, he maintains the position that power must rotate to the south while urging southern aspirants not to accept Vice Presidential position from any northern aspirant.
The elder statesman however declined comment on the rumoured interest of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the race among other sundry national issues. Politics Editor, TUNDE JOSHUA, brings excerpts. What is going on within the political space, especially the South-West. to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari? As of now over 20 people have picked form from the South in the PDP and the APC. What is your take on this? It is madness.
If I’m to be realistic they are not serious; particularly the southerners from the South-West and the South-South. There are some people that have gone to be bottle bags to play double game. So when it comes to where we say no, some people would come out to say yes we are contesting.
So they know why some of them are there. For instance, there are reasons to be told that my very good friend Adams Oshiomhole, the former national chairman of the APC was with Tinubu, I was surprised yesterday when I saw him entering the race. I’m also surprised that Amosun, after seeing the VP from his place in the race, also entered the race. So you come back to the South-South, Jonathan was a Rivers State man before Bayelsa State was created in 1996. Today Nyesom Wike wants to be president of Nigeria, Rotimi Ameachi wants to be president of Nigeria both of them are in small Ikwere. You can imagine what is going on.
I understand Timipre Sylva would soon declare. Meanwhile, people are asking me questions about Goodluck Jonathan and they are in the same senatorial zone in Bayelsa State. So they know what they are doing.
And for the Igbo, some of them I encourage them to come out. If it is zone to the South-East the whole of Nigeria will vote for them. I know that you belong to one particular platform, the eminent leaders of the Southern part of the country, what exactly are you going to say to these presidential aspirants in the Southern part of the country across the party divides?
A: I think the time will come, we must tackle them because of what is going on today. In the South-West from 1975 to 1979, a Yoruba man was the Head of State of this country after the death of Murtala Muhammad, Obasanjo was there for 3 years. when Abiola contested and won, they faulted him and then took over but they didn’t last. But in 1999, Obasanjo came in with full force to rule Nigeria.
At that time, Obasanjo had taken over the party; it was very easy for him to bring a northern candidate of his choice. So there was no contest of the primary major. But we don’t have a doubt that Yar’Adua will win.
So Jonathan became his running mate when Yar’Adua asked me to recommend the running mate to him. Are you not surprised that both major parties PDP and APC were running away from being specific about zoning? Even when it was in the constitution of PDP but APC is also singing another tune about zoning.
What is your position on this sir? Thank you very much, that is a very good question. I used the word madness, now you have everybody in Nigeria where there is hunger, where there is lack of employment, where there is kidnapping going on every day, where children cannot go to school, where the economy is going down, these people were able to mobilize N100 million to pick forms.
So if these governors and ministers use their salaries, I don’t think they have it because they must eat in their houses. But they then went back with pretence telling Nigerians we are fools; that their friends contributed money for them. El-Rufai sometime ago said that 19 governors met with Mr president, vice president and agreed that all the positions held by the northerners should be moved to the South and vice versa. So with that, the zoning has been done.
So the South will produce the next president. Now that no southerner contested any position in the party which was zone in the north and because the chairmanship was zone to North Central, Abdullahi Adamu took over.
We strongly warn our politicians, former governors, ministers, senators and so forth not to accept running mate positions from any northern candidate because they cannot do without us and we cannot do without them.
That will show how serious we are and anybody who offers himself as a running mate will be regarded as the most unpatriotic and a man who has sold his own side of the country and is not worthy of being respected and honoured. What If the two dominant parties end up with northern presidential candidates te?
We are going nowhere. No southerner will like to see himself being treated as a slave or as a second class citizen. When he has the right of franchise than someone who believes in population alone.
This matter was discussed at the national conference of 2014. Rotation is the only vehicle of unity in Nigeria and it was decided at that conference that there should be a power shift, there should be rotation among the various ethnic groups or the various parts of this country if we are to have unity in this country.
We were reaching there. And during the debate, I remember in particular I mentioned that in a situation whereby for instance in Kaduna State, southern Kaduna is bigger than the other part of Kaduna, the Zaria part yet they used religion and political authority from the center in suppression of southern Kaduna.
So when, unfortunately, Architect Namadi Sambo was taken as vice president by Jonathan, the northerners instead of being happy, accused me in particular that we did it to make the deputy governor become governor of Kaduna State. Patrick Yakowa, mysteriously died in a plane crash and we were back to square one.
Go to Benue State, where the Tivs have been governing all the time at the expense of the Idomas. You go to Borno State the same thing. So, we took a decision, 18 more states should be created and they said the 36 states cannot maintain themselves because they are lazy.
They have oil money and so nobody wants to work, their governors now stay in Abuja. So, created 18 states, four for the Igbos. It is on this matter those of us who were delegates again in 2005, Political Reforms Conference, set up by former president Olusegun Obasanjo and the issues of the eastern region.
The South East received five states instead of six. It was unacceptable. We recommended new states should be created immediately for the southeast zones. Then in 2014 National Conference, set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan, we recommended for the East to make it nine, northwest to make it nine, and three, each to the remaining four geopolitical zones to make them nine states each.
That was our recommendation. I would like to ask two questions about Jonathan. Do you think it is illegal for him to contest as a president? And secondly, do you think he should run for president under the APC? No comment from me I’m 95 years old. Is it because former President Goodluck Jonathan is from Niger Delta? Your son? I don’t want to respond Did he discuss with you that he wants to join APC? He has not.
So how will you advise President Muhammadu Buhari, INEC, and Nigerians about upcoming primaries and general elections, because there seems to be tension everywhere? In the first place, I say categorically that we have no leader. Look at this country, do we have a president? For 34 days a train moving with unspecified number of passengers, luggages from Abuja to Kaduna, was bombed.
A young lady a Doctor lost her life, about 30 people were admitted to the hospital, two of them died later in the hospital and about 70 of them were taken away.
As El- rufai has always said, which forest in Nigeria is so difficult for the president to move into? And for 34 days the President of this country made no statement. We have people dying everywhere. About 70 people were killed in Benue, when the governor cried to Mr President, he said go and live with them.
The question I am now asking is whether the president is aware of all the problems in this country? The number of killings every day, where a lady had to deliver a child in captivity.
We asked Mr. President the other day who is your candidate and his response was the man who won, but whether Nigerians are going to fight, whether things are going wrong he is not bothered.
This is the man that said he will fight corruption yet presided over the levy of N100 million on forms for aspirants in the country that we say we are poor, where N30,000 minimum wage cannot be paid by some states, where pension cannot be paid, where some state can’t pay gratuity.
A professor receives 450,000 naira in a month and the vice-chancellor receives double. Then when the vice-chancellor goes back to the university as a professor, he will go back to earn a salary of N450,000. What ASUU is fighting for is not only for themselves alone. Develop our universities, provide facilities for universities, and modernize our universities. I was Pro-Chancellor of University of Benin for 5 years.
3 years ago they named the Faculty of Management Sciences after me. Also a Pro-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna, they named the part of Engineering Faculty after me. Today the University of Benin is one of the largest. I have written a book on it. I have seen what the people are asking for. They are not asking for allowances for themselves alone, they are asking for things that will make learning better.