By Onochie Anibeze
Chief E. K. Clark may not be the most popular politician in the country. There are people who dread him for his harsh criticisms. They do everything to avoid him.
Clark could hound anybody no matter how well or highly placed. He is the old man of Nigerian politics and sometimes the politicians don’t know what to do with him or how to face him. He is blunt and could be rash.
There are also those who revere him. He fights a course that he believes in and in doing so he doesn’t give a hoot about diplomacy. There are those who hold him in high esteem for that.
Yet, there are those who feel he exceeds bounds in seeming unwarranted attacks on those who oppose his views. Recently, his attacks on those opposed to another term for President Goodluck Jonathan were so blunt that many likened his position to a declaration of war.
At the early stage of Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan’s tenure, Chief E. K Clark caused the man sleepless nights. The respect Uduaghan continued to accord him did not change the fighter in him. But that’s Clark for you. Doggedness has become his virtue and many admire his guts especially when he attacks people in public office.
Last Friday in Warri, Clark had prepared to unleash some salvo on Sule Lamido, the governor of Jigawa State whom he said had criticised him two days earlier. The platform was to be the closing ceremony of the E.K Clark National Wrestling Championship at the beautiful Brown Hill Event Centre. 24 States were in attendance.
It was a good platform to make a political statement and Lamido was to get some bashing. But immediately he stepped into the hall the bout announced was between a wrestler from Jigawa and another from Delta. Clark froze.
Lamido had sponsored the Jigawa contingent to participate in an event in his honour. He froze. Sports has played its role as unifier and right there before him he felt the great impact of sports.
He became emotional. He had to sheath his sword and immediately turned to an apostle of peace. He was overwhelmed by the power of sports and urged all Nigerians to embrace peace and be united.
He said that nothing could unify Nigeria more than sports and encouraged the development of sports in the country. The atmosphere at the Brown Hill Centre so touched him that he apologised to Nigerians over any statement he made in the past that hurt anybody or appeared to heat up the polity.
Delta sponsored the event in his honour and the ever sports loving governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan was beside him. He looked at him and pleaded with the governor to forgive him for any wrong he might have done him in the past. For Clark, Nigeria must be one indivisible nation where politicians should play by the rules and allow peace to reign.
I want to quote Clark copiously from his speech for us to appreciate the importance of sports and perhaps a new Chief Edwin Clark:
“There is one thing I always tell Nigerians, that Delta state is the home of sports. In those days in Warri province, we produced the best athletes, best footballers, the best in all categories of sports, but we went down for some time and some states took over from us until we changed and started winning and winning and we will continue to win.
To you the Governor of Delta State, I express my profound gratitude for the honour done to me by this championship and on my right (turning to Hon Victor Ochei) the speaker of Delta State House of Assembly I wish to express my gratitude. He is my son, his father was my very good friend and uncle and I used to call him ‘Osualili’. His father used to be a top man in those good days.
“I am a politician and I love sports and I say that the only thing that can bring this country closer and closer together as a united entity is Sports. Your excellency, the day we (Super Eagles) played against Burkina Faso in the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa I fell sick by force.
As I watched the match, I was moving from one end of my room to another until the goal was scored and Nigeria won. I became well again immediately. So, if we encourage sporting activities, half of the job of keeping Nigeria together would have been done. It will be easier.
“Two days ago, the governor of Jigawa state, Alhaji Lamido spoke about me and criticized me in his state. I said I will also come to my Delta state and criticize him and I said today, I will criticize him here. But when I came here this morning, the bout that was taking place was between Jigawa and Delta.
So, immediately I had to sheath my sword. I felt that if the governor of Jigawa state could sponsor his wrestling contingent to this championship, then, there was no reason to launch the attack on him. Politicians believe in the image of Nigeria but for their personal interest and for their political esteem things happen.
“I will like to use this opportunity to apologise to all Nigerians that if by any of my statements, I made reference to anything that will threaten the unity of this our great country, I apologise. Forgive me.
I am now 86. I will do anything that will unite this country and so, I am also appealing to my other politicians to emphasize those things that will keep this country together. We have nothing to gain by threatening the unity of this country. By January 1, 2014, Nigeria will be celebrating its 100 years of existence as a country. Nigeria is a large country.
It’s like when Elephants meet and are together, there is more and enough for everyone. You will take your own and go and another person will come and take his own and go. Today, somebody is in and tomorrow, somebody is out, so what are we fighting for?
So, I am appealing to all Nigerians, to all politicians that we should emphasize on those things that will bind us together. ( Again, turning to governor Uduaghan) And your excellency, I come back to you, forgive me.
If I have said anything that caused you some embarrassment, you are my son, forgive me. I say to all Deltans, we have only one government, one governor, His excellency Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan. Let’s support him.
Finally, I will like to express my profound gratitude to all the athletes from the 24 states taking part in this competition. May God be with you all.
“As a politician, I must not forget, we need a National Conference. You can’t stop us from talking. I am appealing to Mr President that we need a National Conference where we will all come together and talk about ourselves and not making statements outside. Nigeria needs it because we must touch the places it pinches this country.”
There’s nothing more to add to the call for peace and development of sports in Nigeria. The elder statesman has spoken. I hope the authorities heard him.