By Tonnie Iredia
Chief Edwin Kiagbode Clark is one foremost Ijaw leader who has become a household name in Nigeria on account of his struggle against the oppression of minorities by the larger ethnic groups. He has singlehandedly and severally helped to raise legal teams to assist minority rights activists.
When Nigeria was delineated into six geo-political zones, the minority ethnic nationalities of the South were grouped into the South-South Zone. It was Chief Clark who assembled elders and leaders of the zone to form the South-South Peoples Conference (SSOPEC), as the foremost pressure group in the zone.
Chief Clark has since become a great Nigerian through sheer courage and consistency. We cannot be detained here by an enumeration of the inexhaustible self-determination efforts of this elder statesman.
Suffice it to say that just as his support for a cause is usually total, so is his opposition usually overwhelming.
Interestingly, age does not seem to be a barrier to his doggedness. The older he gets the more rugged he is, making it look as if he is in a permanent state of war.
Accordingly, it would not be out of place for those of us who admire Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan to fervently appeal to Chief Clark to review his opposition to him.
This appeal is premised on the fact that a remarkable point which runs through Chief Clark’s many agitations is that he does not agitate for the sake of doing so; rather he fights battles on behalf of the righteous and the oppressed. You don’t need to know him to get his sympathy if you have a just cause; he only needs to be aware of your cause.
There is also ample evidence that unlike many politicians from his part of the nation, he does not practice extortion. We are thus convinced that he would be favourably disposed to this appeal on the basis of the following points.
The first is the minority consideration. One feature of Nigeria’s democracy is the difficulty of allowing a candidate from a minority tribe no matter how capable to become a state governor.
Since the creation of Delta State in 1991, for example, Uduaghan is the first and only candidate from a minority tribe to become governor of the state. His election in 2007 gave hope to the average Deltan that any citizen of the state can rise to the Chief Executive position of the state. Indeed, other groupings now look forward to it.
It is a record to be emulated by all well-meaning people who deprecate ethnicised politics and the greed of the majority tribes in Nigeria. To fight Uduaghan can negate this.
The second point is the issue of performance-based governance. Unlike most elected public officers who treat their people as object rather than the subject of development, many are agreed that as Governor of Delta State 2007-2010, Uduaghan did well.
The Asaba ultra-modern international airport, urban renewal and urbanisation; the youth empowerment and sports development through which Delta State has won the National Sports festival for the fourth time and the Central Bank of Nigeria Award for Best Support Governor for Micro-Finance are just a few examples.
To fight those who do well in office may send a wrong signal that the old order of poor execution of public policies is acceptable after all.
A third point to note is that Uduaghan is the first governor to accept the reality that Delta is a State. Before him, the state was virtually in disarray as it was not easy to know which of Warri or Asaba was the capital city.
Today, government business is better streamlined in the dejure capital—Asaba, making Ibo-speaking Deltans have a sense of belonging. Uduaghan could not have been unaware of the injustice which the jaundiced carving of Delta State reminds the core Deltans of. What he has achieved now is the expedience of ethnic reconciliation through the building of bridges of unity, co-operation and mutual co-existence.
A city does not have to be a state capital for it to be developed. The funds for building parallel structures in two locations will provide other more beneficial projects for the people.
There is also the strong issue of personal competence and experience. We need to recall that well before becoming governor, Uduaghan showed considerable leadership skills. This explains why he was honoured in his NYSC days, as the most outstanding Corps Doctor in Kwara State at the end of the service year as well as why he won the General Manager’s prize for outstanding service when he worked at the Delta Steel Company.
It also explains why he was honoured as the most outstanding Health Commissioner in the South-South Zone of the country when he was the Delta State Commissioner for Health. It was in the position of Secretary to the State government (SSG), that he internalised the principle that ‘the activities of government must be conducted according to laid down guidelines and procedures, no short cut’.
If people like Uduaghan who have a track record of successful implementation of assignments are in charge of governance, the lot of the people will be transformed.
Uduaghan’s opponents say he was imposed. Indeed, it appears that the man’s problems have to do with the sins of his godfathers. In other words, we are dealing with transferred malice. If so, need we say that it is wrong to visit the sin of a father on his son?
Our final appeal today goes to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
We aware that the party has formally endorsed Uduaghan as its candidate for the forthcoming Governorship election in Delta State. We also know of the report that the President himself is set to lead Uduaghan’s re-election campaign. We accept that the party is the largest in Africa South of the Sahara or even the Equator but quite often it shows that it does not know how to win elections convincingly and also how to manage victory.
What annulled the 2007 election was not Uduaghan’s making but the overzealous character of PDP which like the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), of old seeks to win more votes than is available.
Indeed, PDP can seek to win more than 100 per cent of the votes cast in an election.
If only the party would stand behind rather than ahead of Uduaghan, the re-run Delta election would be free, fair and easy.