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Chinwe Izegbu spoke to Chief Edwin Clark on the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party and issues pertaining to the nation at large.


What is your take on the situation in the country, occasioned by the PDP crisis?

What is going on in PDP is not peculiar to PDP. We are in a democracy and all the political parties are products of democracy and in a democracy, people are bound to agree and disagree. That is the purpose of democracy. I have been in politics in this country for many years since the First Republic. I used to belong to National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), which was a party founded by Hebert Macaulay and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. It was the first political party in this country and I remember this party was there from the 40s to the 50s. I remember at a time there was a crack in the NCNC when Dr Mbadiwe and some other principal members of the NCNC had problems with Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the leader of the party at the time.


This agreement led to some of them resigning their positions in government, so there was crisis in NCNC, but they settled and the party became one. Similarly, there was crisis in the Action Group when Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the leader. He disagreed with his Deputy, Chief Akintola, to the extent that Akintola broke away and it was alleged that he conspired with others. At the time, there were crisis upon crisis in the West and this led to the trial of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the political associates. Akintola was ruling in the West, leading to the time when Majekodumi was appointed as the Administrator of Western Nigeria. The party came back before the coup of 1966.


There was no party known as Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) until after sometime and there was also a break away by Alhaji Aminu Kano to form NEPU. Otherwise there was only one party. Aminu Kano had NEPU, the radical version of the NPC, his own party. There was a time in 82/83, PRP came into being after NEPU and Aminu Kano was the head and I remember the Governor of Kano State, Abubakar Rimi and the Governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, tried to overthrow the leader of the PRP party, Aminu Kano.


Similarly, Waziri Ibrahim while he was the leader of GNPP, Alhaji Goni and two others tried to overthrow him. FEDECO and those who tried to overthrow Aminu Kano were asked to step down and Aminu Kano took over PRP again. So, all I am trying to say is that at one time or the other, these political parties have had their political crisis. In 1979, which I belonged to; we formed NPN in I978 and NPN had its own crisis also.


PDP has been in power for the past 14 years and in democracies there are intrigues, disagreements, conspiracies and so on and ambitions of members in political parties. PDP has its own crisis; you asked me about the recent crisis in PDP. The recent crisis was uncalled for because it is not a real crisis. You have a gang of five governors who believe that they are part of Northern Nigeria and because they are finishing their second term as governors, they would like to contest the presidency; they do not want the present president, Jonathan, to continue.


They went to the extent of saying they signed an agreement with the President. You heard recently that he said for the first time that he did not sign any agreement with them. That means if there was any agreement; and agreement which means there was an obligation to be fulfilled. Did they fulfil the obligation, if there was any at all for the purposes of argument? The leader of the gang of five, which is now gang of seven, the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, said there was an agreement and I challenged him sometime ago to produce the agreement and that if there was any agreement why did he not fulfil his own part of the agreement because in the primaries that took place between President Jonathan and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Jonathan scored about 14 votes, while former Vice President Abubakar scored about 18 or 19 votes.


So that shows there was no agreement. According to them, the agreement was that he should serve for one term, we will vote you into power, but they did not. At the presidential election, the president scored only about three hundred thousand votes whereas Buhari who belonged to another party scored about seven hundred thousand votes. Is that the way of keeping to an agreement? Jonathan did not score twenty five per cent in Kano, the only place he scored more than twenty five per cent was in Jigawa, so when these people are talking about Jonathan should not contest an election as provided for in the constitution they are not being fair.


They are the ones causing the crisis in Nigeria. I was shocked the other day when I heard from one of my friends, my very good friend, former Permanent Secretary and Chairman of NCC, Alhaji Ahmed Joda, who was the chairman of NCC for ten years that he was advising the President not to re-contest in the interest of peace. The governors are speaking on behalf of certain politicians in the North. Though not all politicians, there are many Northerners who are very reasonable and are fair in their statements, who believe Jonathan should continue, but a few minority; the ambitious ones say Jonathan should not continue.


Because General Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria went to Jigawa and made statements, that the Governor of Jigawa, that is Lamido and Amaechi, the Governor of Rivers State, should contest under PDP in the next general election; that is the cause of the problem that is taking place in PDP. So when you see Obasanjo coming back to say he wants to settle the problem, what problem? Is it not the problem you caused yourself?


We the people of South-south said no. I am the leader; we want President not Vice President. This is our disagreement with the Governor of Rivers State, therefore leading to his own suspension from the party. He went to court to challenge his own suspension. The Governor of Sokoto State Wamakko was also suspended but his own suspension was lifted because he did not go to court so we have advised Amaechi to withdraw the case so that his suspension will come to an end, but he has not. What I am saying is that they have been ganging up.


During the convention which took place at the end of August, they walked out unceremoniously. Mr President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was sitting down there at the venue with the National Chairman, the Vice President and other eminent Nigerians but these people walked out on their own, not knowing that they had already hired Yar’Adua Centre where they went to give press conference. Many of us knew that they had a meeting in Kano House the previous night so their walkout was not as result of an event taking place at the convention which they could have raised objections to, but they had made up their minds to walk out of the conference.


What I am trying to say is that there is no real crisis; they said they do not want the president to re-contest; they do not want the National Chairman of the party, who is very loyal to the president; they want him removed as chairman. The issue is that what offence has he committed? They have not said so. Bamanda Tukur was not picked by Mr President He contested for the National Chairmanship at the Convention and all those who were kicking against him were there; they voted for him, that was why when INEC disqualified some members of the national working committee, the National Chairman was not touched; not disqualified, with the secretary position and that of financial secretary also.


The statement made by Obasanjo that Lamido and Amaechi should contest election for no reason is what brought about this. It is like Ogbolafor, the former National Chairman when the late President was receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia, the same Ogbolafor was authorised by the Governors’ Forum to say that Yar’Adua would rule for eight years. That statement was made when the president was facing problem in the country, but the same governors made Ogbolafor to make that statement. If they made that statement that the late President Yar’Adua should rule for eight years and they were all present when that statement was made, why are they opposed to Jonathan ruling for eight years?


Let me mention a point I forgot, they talk about the crisis in PDP, what about the crisis in APC? They have not been able to settle themselves; they are having interim officers. Who is the leader of APC; who is the presidential candidate of APC? These are the issues that need to be settled.


Your critics have been very critical of your outspokenness; are you bothered?

I am 86 years old. I have a saying which has become a part of me; ‘When you are 70 years old and above, you are at the departure lounge waiting for your boarding pass’. So if after 70, you cannot speak the truth, you cannot speak your mind and damn the consequences; you cannot offend people by speaking the truth, you are not forthright, then you are already a dead man. You need not go to the departure lounge. You need to speak the truth. I am speaking the truth.


Recently, I got some lecturers to put together my speeches, my memoranda and so on- about over eight hundred pages and what is the title? Truth and Justice! One has the duty to speak the truth; no matter who. I have criticised the president several times even though he is my son. If people want to do things that will divide the country, I will speak my mind.


Rather than focus on President Jonathan as a South-south indigene, shouldn’t the emphasis and criteria for his re-election be on the fact that he has served only one term and is entitled to serve another term? That is the main reason. We need the cooperation of every Nigerian, not just the South-south. Only Nigerians can put him back there in 2015. That is why he has not declared because the President wants to be able to carry out development, proposals/policies, in the areas of power, roads, railways, water and education, and as a Nigerian, he is entitled to a second term. The Ijaw people have not said that if Jonathan is not elected there will be violence. Ijaw people have not said so, Ijaw people are part of this country. Every Nigerian voted for Jonathan in 2011, and the whole of Nigeria elected him and they expected so much from him. 


He is trying to satisfy them and in doing so, we will not say that Nigeria will break; Nigeria will fight, or will spill blood. No, Jonathan himself has said that nobody should spill blood because of him; nobody should kill because of him. We are democrats, but for Jonathan, elections would not have been free and fair. We saw it in Edo State when Oshiomole contested under his own party, and in Ondo State Mimiko, where Jonathan did not interfere.


So if any young man because of certain provocative statements made by certain people reacted, he was not reacting on behalf of the Ijaw or South-south people. As I have said if Nigerians believe that we made any statements in defence of our rights, on behalf of the Presidency, we apologise, as we do not want to break up Nigeria. Jonathan was elected by one Nigeria and he will be re-elected if Nigerians vote for him.


You recently made a statement where you said the northerners should rely more on internally generated revenue as opposed to oil. Can you expatiate on that with particular reference to the proposed National Conference?


The Constitution of Nigeria, section 162 provides for derivative revenue for oil producing communities; that at least 13 per cent should be provided for oil producing communities - host communities - as they call them. During the political reform conference in Abuja, I was the leader of the South-south, at the end of which we walked out of it. There was an issue of resource control and we said at that time that the 50 per cent which was paid to regions of origins from sources of backyard should be paid to us because General Gowon abolished it during the civil war in order to have money to pursue the civil war so that Nigeria could keep Nigeria together.


The 50 per cent was abrogated and at the end of it all, nothing came back to us. It was Governor Ambrose Ali of Bendel State, UPN, who went to court to challenge the President of this country, President Shagari at the time. The court decided in favour of Ali. I remember Governor Melford Okilo, joined Ali in that case to show that we are entitled to the 50 per cent. So, a settlement was reached whereby one and half per cent was provided for the oil producing states, which later came to three per cent during President Babangida’s time, during the time OMPADEC was established.


We fought for it and then it was eventually increased to 13 per cent, so that percentage could be increased without amendment of the constitution. During the conference in 2005, set up by the former head of state between March and June, the committee recommended that the amount should be increased from 13 per cent to 18 per cent but we said no, it should be increased to 25 per cent. Thereafter it should be further increased within five years to 50 per cent and when this was not agreed to, we walked out. That was our historical walk out when we said ‘we were going home’.


Today, for the governor of Kano State to champion the cause to say that what was being paid to us was too much, it should be reduced, he was not being sincere because during the conference I referred to in 2005 documents were produced to show that we were not receiving too much. Under the federation account, North West contributed nothing to the federation account, but they receive a specified percentage; North Central did not contribute anything to the federation account but this was what they were receiving from the federation account. South-west contributed about four to five per cent but this was what they were receiving.


South-east contributed about three per cent but this was what each of the states was receiving, but south-south contributed about eighty per cent of the total revenue and this was what we were receiving. Kano State had 44 local government areas these local governments were getting their allocations from the federation account. Whereas if you put together the local government areas in Kano and the local government areas in Jigawa, they over shadow the local governments in the six states within the South-south and each of them receive money from the federation accounts.


Lagos State with the largest population in Nigeria has only about eighteen local councils while Kano State which follows it with about over 5 million, has about forty four local government councils. So coming to the question you asked when Lagos State the largest State realised that it was not having enough money from the federation account, they decided to collect internal revenue, taxing the inhabitants of Lagos State getting revenue from houses, accommodation etc and so on.


Today, Lagos State gets about twenty six billion naira monthly from internally generated revenue; followed by Rivers State, then Delta State. The question being asked is how much of internally generated revenue is Kano State providing? If they were collecting the internally generated revenue they will not be saying what they are saying, but because of their total dependence on the federation account, that is why they are talking about derivation fund or amount. So, we are happy that the President has done well to agree there should be a national conference now we are going to have it to discuss various issues, how much we have gained, we have lost, and the end of it all, we will have a better Nigeria that is what National Conference should be. What about the constitution amendment?


There is a provision for the amendment of the constitution. However, there is no provision for re-writing a whole constitution. There is an argument that the constitution provided by the military was not enough but a new constitution should be written. The other argument is that it has been drawn up and if the amendment is to be made, let us make the amendment and the National Assembly has the power to make those amendments, but some others have said no, let us have a national conference where the issues affecting Nigeria will be discussed.


Those decisions at the national conference should be submitted to the National Assembly to give them legal effect, to make them law and that law which will be acceptable to all and decisions which come out of that conference, whether national or sovereign conference will bind every Nigerian. With regards to the amendment of constitution, some people have argued that the National Assembly has the power to amend the constitution, yes, but they have no power to produce a constitution for the people of Nigeria. Let the National Conference produce a document where every Nigerian, we the people, should make the constitution which should be put into law later. So the amendment should form part of the constitution.


Who do you suggest should succeed the Governor of Delta State?

I have participated in making governors of Delta State. First of all, we had the Mid West State (Bendel State) which was split into two; one the old Benin Province became one state, minus the Ibo speaking people who joined the old Delta Province to become the new Delta State. Delta state now came into existence in 1991 or so and there have been governors. I actually participated in making some of these governors. I believe that everybody in Delta State who is qualified, who is competent, transparent; who is ready to do good work is qualified to be Governor of Delta State.


It is too early in the day to speculate this is going to be the governor or that is not going to be governor. We still have a long time to go, so, I believe when the time comes, we will know who will be the governor- a governor who will be democratic; a governor who will be transparent. We have learned a very bad lesson from the first governor from 1999 to 2007, Ibori. Now we want a governor of the people who will develop the area. I am not saying that a governor should not be corrupt; but if you are corrupt, take about 20 per cent but leave about 80 per cent to develop the area. But if you as an individual take 80 or 90 per cent and the people have nothing; then I will fight that governor.


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