By Festus Ahon
Chief Michael Johnny, a human rights activist, says recent actions of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), amount to criminality which should not be condoned. Johnny speaks against the backdrop of the bombings for which the group claimed responsibility.
He also comments on Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential bid and the amnesty programme for repentant militants.
It is exactly one year now that the Federal Government granted amnesty to Niger Delta militants. How will you assess the programme?
Although I am not part of it, it is a welcome development in Niger Delta. I see it as a way of pacifying Niger Deltans. I must tell you that I am not satisfied with the way the programme is being managed by those saddled with the responsibility of the programme.
During the 50th anniversary celebration of the country at Eagle Square, Abuja, there were bomb explosions. What is your reaction to it?
It was a great disappointment to all Nigerians because nobody expected it. I see that as a terrorist act and I am using this medium to advice our father and brother, President Goodluck Jonathan, to be prayerful and watch out because this is the second attempt on his life.
If you remember, there was an attempt on his life when he was the governor of Bayelsa State. And, now that God has made him the president, there was also an attack on his life. I believe these are criminal acts and pure terrorism. The perpetrators should be dealt with because you cannot play with criminals.
People are saying that some politicians, especially those from the North, are trying to use MEND to scuttle the presidential ambition of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.Do you believe this?
If anybody is trying to use MEND to sabotage the country, he should be held responsible. I heard some people discussing on television that they are members of MEND. So, if anything happens, they should be invited by the appropriate authority for interrogation.
What is your advice to Dr Goodluck Jonathan on his presidential bid?
It is good that President Jonathan has declared his intention to contest the 2011 presidential election. I believe it is the turn of South-South and, I do not believe in the PDP zoning system. It is time for a Niger Deltan to rule as president of this country.
These former military men and politicians in the North are trying to tell those of us from the Niger Delta region that we do not have the right to rule the country while in the real sense of it we are the mother of Nigeria. We feed the whole nation.
If the northerners have the fear of God, they should know this is the time for a Niger Deltan to rule this country. And anybody that is against it should remember the story of Moses and Pharaoh in the Bible. This is our time and now that somebody is trying to take the people out of slavery, anybody that tries to stop it should be treated as a Pharaoh.
President Jonathan has every right to contest the 2011 election. I believe that every right-thinking Niger Deltan should support him. I am not part of his cabinet but all I know is that he is a good man and every Nigerian should rally round him and vote for him in the 2011 election.
You have been accused of collecting money from a Delta House of Assembly aspirant to scuttle the ambition of an Ijaw man from going to the House. What is your reaction to this?
The truth of the matter is that I did not do what they are accusing me of. I wonder where they got that information from.
So, what I am saying is that if an Ogbe-Ijoh man is okay with the position of commissioner, which Frank Omare is occupying, the Gbaramatu man will be okay with the chairmanship, but we want other candidates from other wards to come and contest for that position.
We do not want one man from one single ward to come and represent us for eight years. It is not done anywhere. Let everybody in the community have a sense of belonging. The era of gun power has come and gone.
We the people of Okerenkoko and Gbaramatu want a sense of belonging everywhere. We should not be led by one family. I want another person to come and contest for the chairmanship position of Warri South-West.
How will you assess the performance of Mr. George Ekpemupolo as Chairman of Warri South-West?
He only constructed two walkways. I do not call them bridges. They are just walkways and those are the only projects we have there. Go and see what he is doing in Kuriti, his father’s village. He has been inter-locking the whole community.
What have we achieved in Okerenkoko? Nothing. The Federal Government just came into the village one day and put us down because of their activities. The people of Okerenkoko have not enjoyed anything from these George Ekpemupolo’s government.
Fine, he is building secretariats and all that and whatever he has done I thank him but other persons have to continue from where he stopped. I am not interested in the chairmanship position. It has to be someone else. I want to implore the Ijaws and Itsekiris to do away with any divisive tendency in the forthcoming general elections.
What I am saying is that the two ethnic groups must continue to live in harmony. We should not allow the lust for power divide the people.
How can we allow four years of power to destroy life time of togetherness? We must allow the peaceful co-existence of the Ijaws and Itsekiris to continue. We should not do anything that will affect the peace and security agenda of the Delta State Government.
There are different wards in Warri South-West Local Government Area and if the Itsekiris want to return to the state House of Assembly, then the Ijaws should be allowed as chairman again, but that person must come from a different ward. He should not come from the same ward with the present chairman of Warri South-West so as to give everyone a sense of belonging.
I did not collect money from any House of Assembly aspirant and I never threatened anybody over the forthcoming general polls.