BY SIMON EBEGBULEM,
Rev.David Ugolor is a Niger Delta activist and the Executive Director of the African Net work For Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ). In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, Ugolor who was arrested and detained over the murder of the Principal Private Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole, Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, condemned what he described as the attempt to use “Abuja magic” to destroy Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, saying that the move was an attempt to ridicule the Niger Delta struggle.
He declared that the amnesty program of the Federal Government was a charade, just as he urged the Federal Government to also grant pardon to former Governor of Delta state, Chief James Ibori in order not to give ethnic coloration to the pardon policy of the Federal Government. Ugolor vows that he will continue to fight for justice with a view to finding the true killers of his bosom friend, Comrade Oyerinde.He spoke about other national issues and the recent Local Government Council election in Edo state.
As a Niger Delta activist, how would you reconcile the current war between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and President Jonathan?
This is another Abuja magic in display, we are in trouble. Just last week, Femi Falana released a statement where he said there is a gradual move towards dictatorship in Nigeria and an attempt to muzzle opposition groups and free speech. You know Falana cannot just make a statement out of the blues.
I raised alarm that this government is not willing to listen to alternative voices.Every attempt to demand justice has been frustrated and the level of impunity today in Nigeria is alarming.It cuts across government sectors and institutions. If you look at the just released human rights report of 2012, it is the same message and the response of this government has been very bad.Yesterday it was me, today it is Amaechi, tomorrow it could be Adams.
The Niger state governor also complained recently, so you can see that there is a gradual trend towards muzzling people with alternative views and even a threat to justice and once there is threat to justice, you cannot talk of the rule of law, you cannot talk of democracy. The Nigerian Governors Forum is a platform for the governors to articulate their positions. They are not arm carriers, the NGF is made up of both governors from the opposition and ruling party and they elected Rotimi Amaechi as their chairman, and all the issues he has been raising are not his personal views.
They are consensus issues. Should he now pay a price for that? But you can see that this Abuja magic have brought politics into the NGF and this we condemn out rightly and as if that is not enough, this Abuja Magic which is interpreted as those old politicians who have expired in their states, as soon as they form partnership with the presidency, they try to undermine everything that happens in the states, they portend danger. The on-going politicization of the NGF activities is condemnable, it is unacceptable and as civil society, we cannot keep quiet.
They brought the judiciary into who becomes the chairman of PDP in Rivers state, they went to Abuja to get a court ruling, something that could be done in Port Harcourt. It is an attempt to muzzle Governor Amaechi and I think Nigerians should rise up against it. If the President wants to contest in 2015, the first thing he should do is to engage all stakeholders from the region, particularly the NGF. I don’t think anybody who wants to be the president of Nigeria should be fighting Amaechi who is the Chairman of the NGF because his position is that of the NGF. They are playing dirty politics. Look at the delay or seizure of the Rivers State aircraft. The differences between the President and Amaechi is dirty politics in an attempt to undermine some persons as we move towards 2015. It is 2015 politics that is at play.
Even at that, does Amaechi not deserve and have the right to aspire to be president of this country? Does any other person from the South-South not have the right to become the president? Now, if you do proper assessment of South-South presidency, what practical benefit has the region benefited from this government?Amaechi raised concern about the East West Road. Who will say that the road is not an issue in the Niger Delta? He said if the federal government cannot handle it, let the South-South governors handle it, is there anything wrong about that?
The politics surrounding NGF has to do with 2015 election and we are saying that everybody, every tribe in the region, the Urobhos, Itsekiris, all have the same right to aspire to become president of this country. But as a matter of fact, I am not too concerned about who becomes president because from the example in Edo state, the issue of tribe does not really matter.
To a large extent, if Oshiomhole was to contest on the basis of ethnicity, he may not even become a councillor in the state. But the people of Edo believed that ethnic background is not the issue but who is able to deliver.Let me tell you, if an opinion poll is carried out in the region today, people are not happy with the current presidency of Goodluck Jonathan. The so called South-South presidency is a ruse, no benefit has come to the region and I think we have a responsibility to begin to articulate views that will help to advance the course of our people.
The fact that less than one per cent of those who believe in arms are currently in comfort zone with the present government does not take away our own right to ventilate our concerns and as an Urhobo person, I have a right to articulate issues that will advance my tribe in the region. The fact that we don’t carry arms in the region, does not mean we are stupid because we have our own vision.
Pardon is now being given to some tribes and some tribes are not given, what is the difference between James Ibori and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha? As a matter of fact, Alamieyeseigha also have an international dimension to his corruption. That is why I want appeal to the international community that they should not play into the hands of this government because this government’s so called anti-corruption crusade is wrapped up in tribal sentiments.
So, when this government said they were cooperating with the British government to bring Ibori to justice, it was a ruse. The British government is wiser. Few months ago, Tinubu was being paraded before the Code of Conduct Tribunal because of his strong views. Look, we all have responsibilities to defend this democracy. Left alone, I don’t think Jonathan would have become the president of this country if not for Nigerians who fought doggedly.
We also have the right to disagree with him. Anybody from the Niger Delta
who has been driving along the East-West road would not be happy with the pace of work there and I don’t think that can fetch him votes from there.Let him not be deceived, Abuja Magic cannot say who will be president in 2015. It is what you are able to do, and what he is able to deliver to the region that will be the basis for who becomes what.
Violence is not exclusive to any particular tribe, now that the federal government is dealing with only those who carry arms, the fact that Urhobos do not carry arms, the fact that the Ogonis do not carry arms does not mean they are stupid. Look at the billions of naira that has been sunk into amnesty which would have been used to build infrastructure, this is fraud. Less than one per cent of the people in the Niger Delta are the ones benefiting from the amnesty.
This government has not been able to justify the billions it has spent on the people of the area to justify the sacrifices the people have made, the sacrifices made by Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni eight and the sacrifices by other tribes in the region. You cannot appropriate such for just one tribe. I think the presidency is heading for disaster in the region and every tribe has the right to defend its own. Governor Amaechi comes from a tribe and every tribe has the right to aspire to be president of the country.
OBJ’s criticism of Jonathan’s administration
As far as I am concerned, Obasanjo has lost his moral right to criticise this government, he is an hypocrite, his daughter who was a senator was accused of corruption. Jonathan is the president of this country, what Obasanjo is doing is unacceptable. When Obasanjo was president, nobody would do to him what he is doing to Jonathan today, what moral basis does he have?
If you want to even compare him to Jonathan in terms of listening to alternative views, Jonathan is better. If he had allowed Nigerians to pick their president, we won’t be where we are. It was because he single-handedly brought in Yar’Adua who later died that brought about Jonathan. If he had allowed Nigerians to pick their leader, it would have been different. We are criticising Jonathan to deliver because we want true democracy. Our criticism is that he should not use state machinery to manipulate his coming back in 2015.
Edo council election
It is still the case of Abuja magic, I will comment on the post election; I congratulate the Edo State government for conducting the election because it was done because of the agitation of Edo people that they needed a democratically elected local government administration and the government responded and election have held. At least, there is a general consensus that election was held and issues arose.
Although I didn’t monitor the election, my colleagues did and from my own appraisal, the key lessons we must learn is that there are areas we must improve on, but the idea that the election should be cancelled is unacceptable, we must move forward. People have invested resources, elections have been organised and people have won and some have lost and the constitution is clear that when you lose an election, you can approach the court. The court is there and we will monitor the court process as civil society groups to ensure that the judiciary does its part.
I also condemn the violence that erupted, people should not see election as do or die affair, election should be for service. When you don’t win election, go and do other things. We must commend the Edo state government for seeing reasons; for listening to the agitation of the people that election should be conducted and then there is the logistic challenge.
I think the idea of printing our materials abroad is not acceptable. We must internalise because apart from the capital outflow, we must learn to trust ourselves. I understand the challenge of the material not being hijacked but I think they should improve on it in future so that those things can be printed here.
On one year anniversary of Olaitan Oyerinde
One year after, the president of this country has failed again. It is becoming increasingly clear who killed Olaitan. There is no doubt about it. But what they wanted to do was to rope me in and close the case but it is now clear. It was the President that ordered the investigation into the killing and after almost a year, nothing has happened to the extent that a sitting governor, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state had an altercation with the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice who lied to Nigerians.
It is the same Abuja magic, when they didn’t feel comfortable here in the state, they had to approach the federal DPP (Director of Public Prosecution) for advice on the matter that happened here in Edo, expired politicians who run to the federal government once they see they cannot use their power in the state. All these portend the culture of impunity in Nigeria.
Till today, the investigation of Olaitan’s killing is still shrouded in controversy, it is still shrouded on who killed him, who did not kill him and I think that in a country where we are talking of democracy, the president by now would have invited the DSS and the police. I hope that as we mark his one year anniversary, it provides us with the energy to continue to demand for justice for him, for us and for his family.