By Ochereome Nnanna
CHIEF Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, the self-styled Ijaw leader is one of those I describe as “Nigeria’s surviving problematic elders”. Others in his group include Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Professor Ango Abdullahi and the rest. These elders won’t allow this nation and its people be in peace. They are always raking the muck instead of staying home to watch TV and play with their great-grand children.
EK has said a lot in the past fifteen years. When he clocked 86 in 2013, he loudly declared that at his age he was free to say whatever he liked. In an article here, I advised that it was now that he was 86 that he should stop saying anything he liked. I never knew the day would come when he would turn his buccal ammunition on his own self-adopted “son”, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Even I was shocked when the 88 year-old, who prides himself as a “speaker of the truth”, granted an interview recently and joined in the chorus of calling Jonathan’s government “corrupt”. He said even drivers became very wealthy and lived in palatial mansions.
Jonathan’s government was well branded as being a bit loose in its attitude to corruption. But for EK, a man who was in the centre of gravity of the Jonathan years in power to come from the backyard after GEJ lost power to join the lynch mob in casting a stone on him … I call it the “Judas cut”. It is the height of perfidious treachery by a man who should be hiding his head in shame as one of those who, through their uncontrollable mouth diarrhoea, contributed in bringing down GEJ. Julius Caesar would exclaim: “Even thou, O Brutus!”
EK, a former Senator and Federal Commissioner for Information, bounced back from obscurity through his role in the tribal wars between the Ijaw and Itsekiri, which raged between 1998 and 2005 or so.
He was a warlord for the Ijaw side. I first encountered him in December 2001, when a summit was organised to create an agenda for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in Port Harcourt. Clark, ebullient and imposing as ever, loudly declared: “I am not a nationalist. I am Ijaw leader”.
Since that day, even other Ijaw leaders wilted under his stare and conceded that post to him. EK’s main weapon is that he is a powerful megaphone. He uses it effectively to shoot down his perceived enemies. He has used it against the Igbos, Yorubas, Northerners, other groups in the South-South, and now, against Jonathan. Maybe one day, he will turn his own gun on himself.
Clark was chiefly instrumental for denying former Rivers State Governor, Dr. Peter Odili the chance to emerge as successor to President Olusegun Obasanjo, or at least, vice president to his successor. It was Clark who told Obasanjo that Odili was an “Igbo man” masquerading as a South-South candidate. Obasanjo eventually dragged a surprised Jonathan who was running for a second term as governor of Bayelsa State into the race as Umaru Yar’ Adua’s deputy.
When, as Vice President, Jonathan’s father died in 2008, it was Clark that in Otuoke told the world as Ijaw leader and Jonathan’s “father”, that the “war” the Ijaw militants were waging against Nigeria in creeks was “over”. Since that day, even Jonathan started seeing him as his father whom he always consulted before taking crucial decisions.
In 2011 when Jonathan was preparing to run for president, the Igbos received another dose of Clark’s vitriol. He advised Jonathan to go into an alliance with the North, saying that Igbos had “no electoral value”. He even formed an alliance with the late Dr. Olusola Saraki’s Northern Union. But it was the Igbos that came to GEJ’s assistance because the North decided to gang up against him and produce their candidate in the person of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Igbos disqualified themselves from running for president or vice president in any political party and proceeded to give GEJ the largest block electoral mandate they ever gave anyone dead or alive. The Igbo votes proved decisive for GEJ in 2011 in that if they had given them to Atiku, GEJ would have lost.
Jonathan recognised their contributions and brought out the Nigerian army to give Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegu Ojukwu a 5-star presidential burial to the chagrin of those other Nigerians who feel the army belongs to them alone.
Next, EK turned his guns against his former allies, the North. Clark and his younger Ijaw sidekick, Mujahid Asari Dokubo, contributed in the total rejection of GEJ in the North in 2015 through their unrelenting barrage of insults and teasing of Northern leaders. It helped in boosting Buhari’s mass appeal in the North, and the subsequent loss of the election by GEJ.
Yorubas were periodically insulted by Clark especially over the anti-resource control stance of some of their politicians and alliance with Buhari. Clark was chiefly blamed for perceived appropriation of GEJ’s presidency by the Ijaw ethnic group to the exclusion of the rest of the Niger Delta or South-South that agitated for it over the years.
Instructively, it was Jonathan’s Ijaw Bayelsans that were the first (and the only group in the South East and South-South) to massively defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC) a couple of months after GEJ lost power. It is being speculated that EK’s trumpeting of corruption in the GEJ government could be a prelude to a possible move to the new “greener pasture” watered by those he only recently took great pleasure in calling dirty names.
As Jonathan’s “father” while the Otuoke lecturer was in power, Clark’s house crawled with favour seekers. He became enormously powerful, influential and well-heeled. He had Jonathan’s ears twenty four hours a day. Perhaps, he was too busy wheeling and dealing politically and otherwise to call GEJ’s attention to the fact that drivers were building palatial mansions.
I wonder what EK expects us to do with this particular piece of “truth” which he has chosen to tell only when the party was over.