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N-Delta: Where the President got it wrong, says Okogie

By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor & Sam Eyoboka
Catholic Archbishop of Metropolitan See of Lagos, Olubunmi Anthony Cardinal Okogie in this encounter answers questions on the Federal Government amnesty to militants and the emerging events afterwards and said  Yar’Adua got it wrong in many ways.

The president recently announced amnesty for the militants of the Niger Delta and also followed that up by the release of Henry Okah recently. Do you think that is the solution that is required for the Niger Delta?

The president started well when he began to handle the question of the Niger Delta. What he first did was to choose a committee to look into this issue and advise him. He said the  committees view  was an improvement on the first one.


The next thing we heard was that they went to bomb the communities. Can you pay violence with violence? It’s not possible. I’m not calling them culprits, but that’s exactly what they are. Imagine holding the whole nation to ransom.

They are now telling us that even though you have released this man, they are now giving 60 days cease fire. This may not be the solution, they still have to go down to dialogue to the basics. What are they looking for?  Unfortunately they are not ready.

The problem I find in this Nigeria is not that we have bad leaders but we have bad, useless people around the leaders. Look through our leaders, let me start with the one I got to know and I worked with, that was  Gowon. When Gowon was ruling, we saw how everything was going .

Some people around the soldiers refused, up till the time he granted amnesty to everybody, they were not too happy with him, and look at what happened. He had to run for his dear life. Who were his advisers? His so-called friends. And these were the people that have been, and still they want to perpetuate their stay in government.

That’s why we are against recycling of members. For example, if you’re an editor of a paper, give another people chance, let them also try their best or let them take it to other tabloids of the establishment. But they want to keep eating. That’s what is destroying this nation. It is true nobody has the monopoly of wisdom, but look at where we are today.

Amnesty is nothing. They are not worried about whether you give them amnesty or not. Look at what the Pope said when he came to Africa, he warned us against terrorists, because they know the value of the wealth that the Lord has given us.

We don’t know, we don’t see it. So what they love to do is to try to bring up suggestions, they say don’t worry, we’ll give you admonitions. Look at the heavy type of admonitions these people have.

Kidnaping has taken over the Niger-Delta, they even kidnaped a Catholic priest.

No that was not true. It’s not true, I don’t know where they got their story from. I read it in a national daily and  I had to make phone calls.  I was told there’s nothing like that. This Niger Delta thing is one thing that pains everybody, and it’s destroying the nation.

They’re given 60 days of cease fire, 60 days to make peace. If you go there, nobody will shoot you, look for one or two people, talk to a team, they might not open up, but at least, they will give you an idea. You can’t stop them. They need money, the admonitions will not help them. They need money.

You said that  leadership is not the problem of this country, but I’ve heard you say many times before that the…

That’s what I mean, the people around the leadership are the problem.

They are all part of leadership.

I wouldn’t say they are all part of leadership. Even if you don’t appoint them, they find their way there. I’m a leader. People come and I have to use my head. Look at what they did to Obasanjo. If you read Charles Taylor that’s undergoing trial now, if that man is set free, Obasanjo will be in trouble. So much went wrong that even in prison ,

Taylor is still saying  that Obasanjo deceived him.

If these are some of your grievances, would you say that Yar’Adua is the leader that Nigeria needs?

I’m very slow to say yes. Why, because Obasanjo himself knows that this man is not 100% fit. I can even extend that to the university. This is the truth. He’s not the best that PDP can produce. Any PDP member will tell you that.

But because of the wuru-wuru that is right there in PDP , he emerged. You said that he(Obasanjo) should not be there for third term ,okay, he gives you somebody that will be there. I may be wrong, I’m subject to correction. When the man( Adua)  got to know that this is what Obasanjo  wants to lead him to, he declared his independence.

The House of Representatives is already calling for the impeachment of the president. They said that man refused to implement the 2009 budget that he himself signed into law.

They won’t succeed. We  all make mistakes. Probably after signing it into law, he  read it and discovered that he had erred. I do it myself too. He thought it over and maybe this is not the best thing.


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