Comrade Joseph Evah, National Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) has said that people of the Niger Delta are waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari to show them what he has done in the oil-rich region since he assumed power in 2015. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on various issues.
With the flag off of the campaigns by the political parties, what are your expectations ahead of 2019 general elections?
The 2019 elections would be like others before it. The political parties are jostling to capture power but they are yet to tell Nigerians what they want to do for them. It is even worse with the two major political parties. You can see that the Boko Haram menace is now like a business and those in government cannot answer the questions regarding the activities of the sect. On a daily basis, lives are being lost. Look at the number of soldiers that were recently killed by the Boko Haram insurgents! Remember, we fought the Nigerian/Biafran war in this country which lasted three good years and only former President Yakubu Gowon was able to deal with it. If we were able to deal with that civilian war, why is it that about three presidents have not been able to deal with the Boko Haram war? In the Nigerian/ Biafran war, we were dealing with the declaration of a republic within Nigeria and Gowon was able to bring it to an end but about three presidents have been fighting to end insurgency to no end. The Nigerian/ Biafran war was universally accepted as a civil war but it was concluded within three years and we are here fighting the Boko Haram insurgency for about nine years without any end in sight. Why? This country has witnessed three Heads of State that have fought Boko Haram without any solutions. The point I am making is that it is now a business by any president that emerges in the country. If they are saying that it is not a business, then it is not a war. We have Boko Haram in Niger, Chad and Cameroun but why is it that it is only in Nigeria that Boko Haram is more prevalent, noisy and causing mayhem. We want a president who can tell us that he will end Boko Haram and he will actually bring it to an end. In those days when we were fighting the oil workers in the Niger Delta, I was telling them that the oil workers are criminals. Since the Federal Government cannot arrest them for polluting the environment, our Ijaw boys pushed themselves and put them in detention.
The United Nations should set up a probe panel on whether Boko Haram has become a business in Nigeria. In the United States for instance, the life of one single person means a lot to the country. In Nigeria now, even if one million people die in a day, it does not mean anything to the government. I think something is wrong with us. So, this is an undeclared civil war on Nigeria when the presidential candidates are all ready for elections. My problem with them is that they do not have a definite message to the people of this nation. They are all beating about the bush. That is the problem with this coming general elections and the campaigns of the politicians. Nigerians should put these people on their toes to tell us what they want to do when they get elected. We should hold them accountable to their promises. They are repeating the speeches and promises made even during the First Republic. Some of them went to dust and copy what the winner of June 12, 1993 election, MKO Abiola wrote during his campaigns and that is what they are saying they want to do for Nigerians. We want fresh ideas and not a rehash of what politicians have been telling us over the years. The challenges we are facing now are different from what we were used to in the past and we need fresh ideas on how to tackle them. Nigeria now is no more like when President Shehu Shagari was in power. They are simply joking with us.
But what would you say about Atiku who is promising to restructure the country?
He has been talking about restructuring but we want a definite matter about restructuring. It is just like some of our political leaders in those days talking about resource control but at the end of the day, it was like a 419 deal. If Atiku is talking about restructuring, let him give us the roadmap of how we are going to achieve it and we will analyse it properly.
Ahead of next year’s general elections, you can see that ASUU is on strike and students are at home and the presidential candidates campaigning are not saying anything about that. Workers are threatening to go on strike over the issue of minimum wage and the candidates are not saying what they would do when they are elected.
How would people of the Niger Delta vote in the coming general elections considering their experience?
It is too early to say because the political parties have not come to us to say what plans they have for us. We need to hear them and see their body language for us to be able to evaluate the calamity they could cause us if they win. We are going to wait until we see their manifestoes and campaigns. When they come out and they start moving from one place to the other, we would use what they are promising people in other geo-political zones to compare what they are telling us.
Particularly on the Ogoni cleanup which this administration promised to carry out, how far has the government met that target in view of the fact that 2019 is here when the APC wooing the Niger Delta for votes again?
We do not want any representatives from the government; we want President Buhari to come physically, and he will lead and be showing us round what he has done and how he has cleaned Ogoni land. That is what we have told our elders. When Buhari comes, he will be in front and we will follow behind him to show us what he has done. He will take us round Ogoni land. We will tell him that we do not want long story as we will follow him to show us the centimeters or kilometers he has cleaned in Ogoni land. We will tell the vice president and reverend father, Pastor Yemi Osinbajo to also show us what they have done. Also, we are calling on religious organisations to call their people to order. I say this because all the candidates of the various political parties belong to one religion or the other. They all belong to communities that have traditional rulers. People should be called to order because Nigeria is bigger than their individual ambition. People should stop creating unnecessary tension in this election. The traditional rulers, emirs and other major opinion leaders in the country should call the candidates and their supporters to order. The tension in Nigeria today because of the general elections should stop. This is not the first time we will be holding elections. Elections will come and go but Nigeria will still remain.
Many believe that restructuring should be a major campaign issue in this country but recently when President Buhari traveled to France, he said his major problem with that is that Nigerians are yet to come out with a clear definition of restructuring. Don’t you think that it is high time Nigeria is restructured?
Let Buhari come and tell Nigerians that he does not understand the meaning of restructuring. Let him come and tell us that he does not understand the meaning of resource control which the Niger Delta people are agitating for. When we see him, we would want him to repeat what he said about restructuring the country. Let us not deceive ourselves; everybody understands restructuring which I believe will be to the benefit of all Nigerians.
With President Buhari seeking a re-election in 2019, what is your view to his ambition considering his achievements so far since he took over from former President Goodluck Jonathan?
He has not met the expectations of Nigerians at all. Before his election, the APC came with so many promises and many Nigerians had a lot of expectations. They are now giving excuses that what they saw on ground when they came in were so bad and that affected their performance. They have accepted that they did not perform or meet the expectations of Nigerians who voted for them in the 2015 general elections. I commend the APC government for accepting that they failed to meet the expectations of the people. I am not talking about people like the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who keeps lying to the people. There are some key members of the government who have come out openly to give excuses why the APC government did not perform. What they are saying now is that they need extra four years to see how they can work hard to meet the people’s expectations. That is what they are telling us but we also are telling them that almost 80 percent of the key stakeholders in this government were in the PDP before.
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