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I’m ready to go to prison for Nigeria – Clark

By Henry Umoru

TWENTY FOUR hours after Edwin Clark told newsmen that President Jonathan meant well but had problems fighting corruption, the Ijaw leader granted us another interview where he clarified things. He was quoted as having dumped the People’s Democratic Party, PDP for the ruling APC.

Chief Edwin Clark
Chief Edwin Clark

“I never said that I was joining APC. I said that at my age I should be an elderly statesman and will no longer play partisan politics. At 89 why should I be playing partisan politics?

What is most important to me is the interest of Nigeria. I’m ready to go to prison for the interest of Nigeria. I should be able to advise the younger ones on the interest of Nigeria.”

Interestingly, these were the last things he said during the interview.

In the   interview he described President Muhammadu Buhari’s first batch of ministerial nominees as   the beginning of failure of   Federal Government’s much   touted “change” initiative. He explains that after four months in office, the President ought to have come up with a list of what he describes as young and more credible Nigerian professionals to serve in his cabinet.

On the prolonged delay before appointment of ministers

To me the waiting does not affect the appointment of ministers or the quality of ministers to be appointed. I believe that every President or Head of State has his own style of government. From Shagari to Jonathan, no one would say that the appointment of ministers has been done at the same time; within one month, two months or three months.   That is why I   say that every President has his own style.

But having said that, one expected that Mr. President’s   taking such a long time was to   give him adequate time to   look for special   Nigerians to bring about the desired change. Having been sponsored by some of his party men, Buhari ought to appoint some of them but not people like Lai   Mohammed.

As Publicity Secretary of a political party, it is an important position   but   he doesn’t have to be appointed a minister.   There are others too on the list who were not supposed to be appointed ministers. I   expected that the number of party men to be appointed would be less if you want to bring that change and professionalism.

The change should go with a new crop of Nigerians, recruited by Mr. President from various groups in Nigeria including civil society organisations.   I expected some of them coming in. I also expected the academics, the professionals, so that we see a government that is removed from the old people because the President talks about change.

If you say you are bringing change,   it should not be with old politicians who you recycle.   I believe that any minister who has served, anybody who has served as a governor, as a party man and he had problems, that person, for the sake of Nigeria and Buhari desiring to clean this society of corruption, such a person should not be considered.

There are many   people that we   want to see   appointed ministers, people who must have something special; they should not be polluted with something in the past, by the corrupt politics of Nigeria. That is why I mentioned the the academics, the civil rights people, the journalists, there are lots of people.

So, as far as I am concerned, having raised the hopes of Nigerians for about four to five months, Nigerians were right in thinking that something special was coming by way of appointing a crop of Nigerians who are special, who   should be appointed because of their professional background, because of their experience.

Role of the Senate

Let me say this, only yesterday for the second time,   publicly, I   said that I don’t want to be engaged in partisan politics because I am so disappointed. One would have expected that a National Assembly of a country is independent of the Executive and the Judiciary.

Therefore, if the Executive makes the mistake in nominating people that Nigerians don’t want the National Assembly should reject such people.   After all, the National Assembly is the mouth piece of Nigeria so, one will expect that whatever they say in that House reflects the views   of Nigerians all over the country and that is how it should be.

So, the search for the change, the search for the truth continues. I believe that the three arms of government are so independent that one   cannot short change the other. But as you said,   they met last night and nobody knows why they met because the three arms make one government.

It could be for matters affecting Nigeria which must be discussed by the three arms or two arms so I won’t say because they met that will affect the appointment of ministers or the screening of ministers.

No! Let’s not be too narrow-minded. I believe that they have to meet from time to time but my worry is that the public show of solidarity by members of Senate for their President and his wife shows clearly that Nigerians need to be more independent, more trusted members of the National Assembly and once we have that, there should be no fear.

On   allegations that Buhari did not consult party leaders and governors to make input into the ministerial nominations.

I have over the years opposed the idea of a president consulting governors before the appointment of ministers. I have been one of those who believe that every section of government has its own limitations.

If you are a governor of a state, you should be able to appoint your   commissioners without consulting the President or the local government chairman because if the president has to consult the state governor before a minister   is appointed, then the state governor should also consult the local government chairman before commissioners   can be appointed from his own area.

As I said earlier, let the best people be appointed ministers, you can appoint party men as members of your government   but in the interest of the country, other areas like women and the youths must come into this government and the idea that one man will remain in office for eight years is uncalled for.

Constant review of your ministerial appointments is a way for us to eliminate corruption but if you keep a man for     eight years in one position, you are encouraging and bringing in corruption, but if he has to go and make the declaration of his assets, no problem. So, as   far as I am concerned, consultation with   governors by the President is unwarranted and that is why the governors have become over powerful.

On the other ministerial nominees

People have condemned Audu Ogbeh that he was there when Shagari was   President. I was there then as a Senator when Audu Ogbeh was a minister. He was a competent fellow with good ideas. He disagreed with Obasanjo over issues in the South East   but he has been very consistent.   He has not been jumping from one party to another after he   was driven away from PDP by Obasanjo. But having been a minister many years ago, are there no new crops?

It may not be possible to go through all of them now but I think out of 21 ministers only three of them are women which is not good enough. I know how the women in Nigeria were shouting change and you have many educated ones both in the civil rights groups, professionals and in the market. So, I believe that he should consider more women.

On Kayode Fayemi

Fayemi is a very good man.   If there are Nigerians one would look for,   Fayemi should be one of them. For instance, I met Fayemi once at the Lagos airport and I took him on a conversation. The young man impressed me.

I reminded him on how he congratulated his opponent after losing election and he said that is my family background and I looked at him, a young, humble man and intelligent so we need such men.   He is not   corrupted by all sorts of things. Otherwise by now Fayose would have brought a lot of accusations against him. So, I think he is a good man to be appointed a minister.

The next batch of ministerial nominees

Well, firstly the women should not be forgotten. Three women out of 21 is not good enough. There should be more women in his government, at least 10 -13 should come to his government. There are   many competent Nigerians.

If you look at Jonathan’s government the women carried the day, the coordinator of the economy   of Nigeria was a   woman and I think in APC there are many women who are qualified that   should be in his government.

The   mistake that has been made can still be corrected with the next list of nominees.




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