Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark

Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark

Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark is a man of many parts. An Ijaw leader, who has served as the nation’s Information Minister. The Octogenarian is a prominent player in Nigeria’s regional politics and an unrepentant ally of President Goodluck Jonathan. The Chairman of the Delta State Elders’ Forum in this interview with journalists bared his mind on the crisis rocking the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In his usual confident posture, he rubbished the fear that the crisis might rob President Jonathan the opportunity of a second term in office. SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, Rotimi Akinwumi, was at the session. Excerpts: 

At the PDP national convention, six governors along with former vice-president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, stormed out of Eagles Square and assembled at Yar’Adua Centre to announce the formation of a parallel national working committee. What is your take on this? Don’t you think the crisis that the matter is generating will affect the fortune of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015?

Thank you. President Jonathan is president of the entire federal republic of Nigeria. He isn’t President of PDP. It is true that PDP is the party that presented him. So, what happened at the convention will not affect his fortune in 2015, because it is only Nigerians, the voters, the Nigerian citizens—whether you are in PDP or not – that have responsibility of making President Jonathan, president in 2015 or not. No one else. So, no amount of people ganging up because of their personal ambition will affect President Jonathan in 2015, that will make Jonathan to lose sleep. In the first place, all those of them – I don’t know the reasons, but I know as a  matter of fact, all the people – who walked out had a meeting on the eve of the convention; Atiku was there, all the governors were there, including Amaechi and the gang of five. Bukola Saraki was there. They had a meeting, they knew what they were going to do, before they went for the convention. So, what took place at the convention venue that made them to walk out?  They have their secret agenda and the gang of five, if their problem was the administration of PDP, they couldn’t have gone round the whole country, causing problem. They have made up their minds that they would prevent Mr. President from contesting in 2015. That’s the only trouble they have! Amaechi’s problem isn’t different from what is going on in Adamawa; Amaechi’s problem is a party problem within Rivers State. What happened? Two executives were elected in Rivers State, one nominated by Amaechi, that is Chief Ake; then the other one nominated by the Minister of State for Education, Wike, and his group. The congresses were conducted and the faction supported by Wike was adopted by the party after they had gone to court. They went to court and the court decided against the faction of Governor Amaechi. Amaechi, then surrounded by some professors from Lagos, said that the judgment was manipulated in Abuja and I said, how can the judgment be manipulated, when the man who is talking as a governor was a product of a court judgment? Without the court, Amaechi wouldn’t become the governor of Rivers state. It is the supremacy of the party. When Obasanjo in 2007 when to Port Harcourt to flag off the south-south governors, he said there was a ‘K-leg’ in the case of Rivers State and he refused to give the flag to Amaechi. He asked the then governor Odili to send for Omehia.  At the end of the rally they came to Abuja and that’s how Omehia was anointed by Obasanjo. When the heat was on, Amaechi ran to Ghana and it was Wike who later became the chief of staff who stood for him. So, for Amaehi now to talk about people manipulating judgment, it is an insult to the judiciary and it is a reckless statement and I am surprised that those professors who sat with him watched him make that statement. We must have respect for our judiciary. It isn’t only when it suits you, favours you that the judiciary is alive, when it doesn’t favour you the judgment is manipulated. So, he is now creating the trouble. Instead of him to face his trouble, he brought in Mr. President. The same trouble Amaechi has in Rivers state is going on in Adamawa state where there are two factions: one by the governor, the other one by the national chairman. How was the division in Rivers state different from the one in Adamawa State that the gang of five should go to Rivers state to pay solidarity to Amaechi. I think there is something wrong somewhere. How do you expect the governor of a state who isn’t a member of the house of assembly, never mind whether you were a speaker of that house for 8 years – you are no longer a member, you are now in the executive. So, you want Mr. president to walk from Aso Rock to the National Assembly to control it?  That’s recklessness! So, these are the things happening but nobody wants to talk about them. It is a breach of the Nigerian constitution for a governor to leave the government house with his retinue of officers, go to the house of assembly, in his presence they used the mace to hit one of the members. Because he enjoys immunity? Otherwise, Amaechi should have been the first person to be arrested. Instead of him to inform the commissioner of police—if he had a quarrel with the CP, why did he not call the army commander? Ameachi had made up his mind five years ago that he wants to be the vice-president of this country and Chief Obasanjo who was president of this country encouraged them—that Lamido and Amaechi should run in 2015. That’s where the trouble started and Amaechi thought that because Bukola Saraki used the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to pursue his ambition to become president of Nigeria and when he became chairman of the NGF, he thought he could use the chair to become the vice-president of Nigeria and we said, no!  The people of south-south wanted a president and we have got a president, we don’t want a vice-president. That’s our quarrel with Amaechi. So, the gang of five, which Amaechi now joined, believe that only a northerner should become the president of Nigeria in 2015 and some of them said, if a northerner doesn’t become the president of Nigeria in 2015, there would be no Nigeria. That’s what they said! So, what happened therefore is not new. Atiku said he is a PDP man—that he has no hand in forming PDM, whereas he is a leader of PDM, all his men and women are in PDM, but he turned round to say I cannot stop my followers from going to another party, or other parties. Is that a loyal member of a party? A leader of a party, all your followers have gone. We also heard from Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State that all his people have left the party—that he will remain in the PDP and bury it. And perhaps that was what they thought they could do yesterday. So, from the beginning they have planned to embarrass everybody. They didn’t go with the intention of participating in the convention. They thought more people would follow them in their mission to break up the party. They will fail; it is mission unaccomplished.

You have said what is happening in PDP wouldn’t give President Jonathan sleepless night over his 2015 ambition. Yes, but Nigerians know that the strongest political platform now is the PDP; will it not affect his chances of using the party platform?

The governors will soon be alone and I am very sure that PDM was created for them by Atiku and they are all waiting to move to PDM. But I can assure you that PDP will grow stronger and the members will be more loyal and faithful without these governors. They will soon discover that they don’t command any followers. Maybe in the next few days reason will prevail and they will decide to accept the PDP NWC as constituted.

Would you advise them to forgo this war and return to the party without them getting sanctioned?

That’s not my business! The PDP has an executive, has a national chairman, has president as the leader. I am just a member. So, that’s not a matter I should comment on.

What happened at Eagle Square and subsequent events have a lot to do with 2015 permutation. Is that what you are saying?

I agree with you, absolutely.

Against the backdrop of the advice given President Jonathan by Professor Ben Nwabueze when he met with him, that President Jonathan shouldn’t contest 2015, what is your take on that?

Well, you will agree with me that what happened at Eagle Square, particularly by the gang of six governors and Atiku Abubakar who has sworn that he must be president of Nigeria, in fact, he wanted to overthrow his own boss, Chief Obasanjo in 2003, and Obasanjo had to plead with him, beg him, as  Nasir el-Rufai said in his book, The Accidental Public Servant. He said, Obasanjo knelt down for Atiku and when Obasanjo finally got re-elected, that was how Atiku lost all the powers he enjoyed as vice-president. Now, the question you ask is that I told you that those 5 governors thought they could use Rivers problem to cause greater problem in this country. No, it cannot work. Rivers is just one state, out of 36 states. Now, coming to the question you asked about Professor Ben Nwabueze – I have always said Ben Nwabueze taught me Constitutional Law in London in 1961-62. So, I have very high regard for him as an old teacher of mine. But I am senior to him; he is just entering 80 and I am 86. He isn’t a consistent man. He isn’t a politician, he cannot win his ward in Anambra State. When Mr. president gave his mid-term report at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Nwabueze  then wrote in the Guardian newspaper, analyzing  the mid-term report of Jonathan’s Transformation agenda and  came to the conclusion that he was advising Jonathan not to contest the 2015 election, because he has done nothing for Nigeria. He is unfit to govern Nigeria and he referred to Ataturk, a military man who transformed Turkey. So, the question I asked him at that time, you want Nigeria to go back to military regime so that you can become Secretary of education again, because you cannot win election or nobody will appoint you. So, going to see Mr. president at Aso Rock with his Patriots, there was nothing wrong. Patriots was formed by Chief Rotimi Williams of blessed memory, he never put Patriots into controversy. It is now that Professor Nwabueze has assumed office as president of the forum that he is causing all these confusion. So, if Mr. president has respect for you, you went there, talked about many things about Nigeria, including national conference, Mr. president agreed that there is need for a dialogue in this country—how to approach it is something that we must work out. That was the aim. He didn’t tell Mr. president, don’t contest election in 2015, but he came out and instead of raising what he discussed with Mr. president, during their meeting, he now told them that Jonathan shouldn’t contest the election in 2015, because transformation of Nigeria is a very big job, therefore, it requires a full time and if Jonathan does that he will be a hero in Nigeria. The issue is, in what capacity will Jonathan continue with that job, if he isn’t elected by Nigerians in 2015, particularly when the transformation exercise will not be completed in another 2 years? Now, I learnt he has said what he was reported to have said was personal to him. I think members of Patriots have told him that what he told State House journalists wasn’t discussed with Mr. president at the meeting. So, Nwabueze is one of those who believe, for no just cause, that a minority cannot govern this country, cannot be president of Nigeria. But he is just one, out of the millions of his own people—that’s why I said the man isn’t popular in Nigeria, not even in Anambra State where he comes from. He cannot win election, because he is a confused man.

Via Daily Independent