Niger Delta stands behind Jonathan even in defeat — Evah

Comrade Joseph Evah is National Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group and former National Secretary, Ijaw Monitoring Group.  In this interview, he says the people of Niger Delta are proud of President Goodluck Jonathan inspite of his defeat at the March 28 presidential election.
President Goodluck Jonathan is on his way out of office. How do you rate his performance?
Glory be to God that my generation witnessed the emergence of a Niger Delta President in Nigeria. It gives a historic and great feelings.  I will score him above average. We would say, he performed in a war situation. Jonathan, like General Yakubu Gowon before him, are war Presidents that Nigeria had produced. During the Biafra war, General Gowon never performed development-wise. He embarked on developmental projects at the end of the war in 1970.  Gowon spent three years,  fighting to stop the war and unite Nigeria. But the Boko Haram insurgency was more of a scientific and terrorist warfare with global connections.
Boko Haram was deadly, basically making Jonathan’s government to concentrate on fighting insurgents to save Nigeria from degenerating into the worst civil war in Africa. But for Jonathan’s handling of the situation, this could have degenerated into one great religious war in the continent.  So we give him kudos. A religious war in Nigeria as happens in the Middle East is easily imagined than experienced.  Jonathan saved this country, but we may not realise it today, historians will accord him a rightful place.  He deserves special award.
There are those who say, he was not only defeated at the polls, that he was a total failure?
Those who say this are not sincere to themselves. The North never had it so good in their history. Despite all the obstacles they created for him, Jonathan performed creditably well in several sectors and across geo-political zones. There is no Nigerian President, dead or alive, who can beat the developmental records of the Jonathan administration.  He worked for the love of country. He surrounded himself with all kinds of people, irrespective of tribes, gender or religion.  Tell me any Nigerian leader with a better developmental record. He assembled the best brains in the country to achieve results.  He had  in his cabinet, great minds like Hon. Kingsley Kuku; the great orator, the late Oronto Douglas; Ambassador Igali;  Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, among others, men and women dedicated, who placed Nigerian in the world map as the biggest economy in Africa.
President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan
I wept the day the former Minster of Sports, Abdulahi from Kwara State left the cabinet because his boss was part of the governors that broke away from the PDP. A young man who was focused should not have been kicked out of government because of politics. On television, radio and newspaper, I made my positions clear. I begged Jonathan to keep an eye on his cabinet and his team. I suggested the inclusion of the likes of A.K. Horsfall, Timi Alaibe; Col. Abubakar Umar, detribalised Nigerians, who were capable of giving direction to government. All our suggestions fell on deaf ears. Several factors, some self-imposed, led to this defeat.
The greatest being sycophancy and blackmail.  Those of us who told the bitter truth to the President were ignored. We expected that by the time he left office, there will an airport in Yenagoa; a coastal road from Calabar to Edo extending to Lagos; we expected factories and industries and sea food production centres across the region and the creation of mega cities with modern facilities for the people.  Afterall the crude oil that sustains Nigeria is sourced from our land.  We however understood it was not possible for a war time President to achieve such feats but he was able to use the amnesty programme to empower and educate some youths in the region and the East-West road also came alive during this period.  The truth is that Jonathan performed creditably well in other parts of the country. Our children will learn from this experience and do better than our generation, when next God gives their generation another opportunity.
How do you see the new political alliance of the South-west and the North?
We wish them goodluck. The Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe did everything to stop what has happened now. Zik rightly felt that if the West and North came together, it will affect the survival of the Nigerian state. He ensured that this kind of alliance never happened. If Zik was alive he would never have allowed Jonathan to create this political order. We look forward to Vice President-elect Osinbajo surrounding himself with technocrats of Yoruba origin as advisers and aides.  They will replicate what Chief Obafemi Awolowo did as Finance Minister under Gowon’s rule. to pursue the development of Yoruba land. Meanwhile, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu regales as ceremonial president, calling the shots in Nigeria, just like Queen Elizabeth II does in Great Britain. That suits the overall desires of Tinubu as he moves to develop Yoruba land.
Did you think it would have been better to serve your region first before serving other Nigerians?
In Nigeria, you serve your region first, because the rest of the country would not voluntarily give us power. Since Nigeria’s independence, we remain the most deprived in terms of development, despite the resources which is used to manage the affairs of the country.  Again, they gave us the name ‘minority’. So, it was important that he used the opportunity to focus on our people first, while expanding development to other parts of Nigeria.  Like they say, ‘opportunity comes but once’.  But we are not bitter because Jonathan has broken the spiritual jinx that our region was incapable of producing an elected president in the country. Jonathan has opened the gate of the Presidency for our children and their children’s children, so our children are now free to occupy that seat.
There was a time you organised a deliverance service for Aso Rock. Why did you do that?
It was historic. I called men of God across the Niger Delta and sponsored the service.  One beloved brother, Mr. Ken Etete, provided over 5,000 Bibles which was distributed to all the participants free. This enabled them carry out that spiritual exercise in Lagos. I did that to mark Goodluck Jonathan’s 100 Days in office.  You remember I was the spokesman for Ijaw National Congress when Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged. I went ahead to stop the dredging of the River Niger using the courts, during the military. I was brought up in Yoruba land. I sent four petitions to Oputa Panel and the Panel was shocked by the level of mistreatment the Niger Delta had endured from the Nigerian state.

I joined activism when MKO Abiola election was annulled.  I was the coordinator of non-indigenes for the actualization of June 12 and we fought the military for insulting Nigerians. But today our people in government don’t value us. They don’t allow us to advise them because we are not gamblers.

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