Prays God to help govt pass 2017 budget
By Azu Akannwa
Comrade Joseph Evah,
Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, and former Publicity Secretary of Ijaw National Congress, INC, is best known for his fire-spitting human and environmental rights for the Niger Delta and the masses in general. Here, Evah spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the Quit order handed to Ndigbo by Northern youth groups and other issues.
How will you describe the recent quit notice given to the Igbo by the Northern youths?
The Northern youth’s declaration was an action against all other Nigerians, not just the Igbo. We are still waiting for their elders to apologise to the rest of the country. Their action is condemnable. The action of the Igbo when they declared sit-at-home protest as special day for their fallen heroes during the civil war was not provocative. Since God created the Igbo nation, this last sit at home day was the second significant day in the life of the Igbo nation after the burial of Ojukwu. The first significant day was the day Ojukwu was returned to mother earth. As far as I am concerned, Ojukwu was Ndigbo black Moses. As I speak to you, I am still in shock and disbelief that Igbo men and women will leave the counting of Naira and Dollars and make sacrifice to sit at home to prove to the world that they are ready to sacrifice their time, money and energy in honour of Igbo integrity.
The day Igbo completely shut down the South-East in honour of Biafra war heroes shows that Ojukwu is still a living Hero. Why should the Igbo sit-at-home protest anger anybody? I congratulate the Igbo. Self determination is a struggle all over the world; the blacks in America, despite producing Obama as President, are still not satisfied with equal rights struggle. The June 12 struggle of the Yoruba, some of us suffered for it, the coup against Muritala Muhammed was largely Middle Belt Coup over the overthrow of Gowon; the Orkar coup was largely minority anger in the military at that time against the system. As long as the world exists, self determination struggle will continue. And I was so happy that Igbo are so peaceful and well organized in their Sit-at-home approach. What they did was more than an Atomic bomb targeted against oppression. I am so disappointed that some of my friends from the North are involved in this dangerous act.
So you are advising South-Easterners to ignore the quit Notice?
They should ignore the quit Notice and we are advising the elders to be firm so that nobody’s life will be in danger. The Federal government must not pay lip service to this threat. As we speak, Boko Haram is using the cover of herdsmen to kill and maim innocent Nigerians, so the notice must be check-mated. Again, when it comes to self-determination struggle, the Igbo, Yoruba, Arewa are all junior brothers of the Ijaw. We are ahead of them, we are their masters. It was the Ijaw that showed them the way; we are master strategists, we are the pathfinders, it was the Ijaw that started the Niger Delta Republic even before Biafra Republic. We did not give quit Notice to other Nigerians. Our leaders, Isaac Boro and his followers only asked oil companies committing economic crime against us to pack out. So, we the Ijaw are the gateway of self-determination agitations through Isaac Boro. We produced the finest war-lords in Africa history.
How will you describe the recent alarm raised over military people interacting deeply with some politicians in the country?
Those of us who were part of June 12 struggle and who took part in pushing the military back to the barracks, value democracy. So I cannot support military takeover, but go and read Obasanjo’s speech during the last event at his presidential library where he warned of rising army of youth unemployment in the country. Obasanjo expressed fear of uncontrollable lawlessness if the rising youth unemployment is not checked. So what are politicians doing about Obasanjo’s warning? Look, in every coup situation, politicians incite or invite the army through their actions. Today in Nigeria, all our Armed Forces are loyal to the constitution. The politicians who don’t want to learn from history should not invite them. We want to enjoy democracy but the politicians should not kill this democracy for us. We are begging our Politicians to work for the good of Nigeria so Politicians should not threaten Nigeria’s unity. They should see the endless suffering in the land. They should obey the constitution they swore to uphold. I know what some of us suffered to have this democracy. Recently, I read the interview of my friend, Otunba Gani Adams, where he said the June 12 struggle hotspots were Yaba and Ojuelegba. I will argue that Mile 12, Ketu and Ojota were the hottest of all. Let me tell you, Mile 12 and Ketu where I live up till today is highest population of Northerners and at that time I was the coordinator of non-indigenes for the actualization of June 12. I was in charge of the riverine areas and farmers and traders mobilizing to support the struggle. I was armed with thousands of photographs of Chief Ovie Kokori and Waribebi Agame, who instigated the strike action that collapsed the economy at that time.
Some people believe your anger against the June 12 annulment made you drag the military government to court to stop dredging of River Niger
The annulment of June 12 opened our eyes to the level of injustice in Nigeria but my case against the River Niger Dredging was purely on Environmental Justice after the hanging of Ken Saro-wiwa. The military government decided to dredge River Niger from Abuja Area to Warri, without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). That is crime against humanity. The colonial masters built seaport while building new seaport In-lands. I thank God for the likes of Femi Falana who stood by me and reasoned with me.
Two years of Buhari Administration, what is your opinion about the government?
We are all waiting for the change that will bring smile on the faces of the masses. The masses are complaining. As we speak, the 2017 Budget is not signed into law and the year has gone half way, yet the National Assembly and the presidency are trading blames. I don’t know who is advising these people in power. The masses are begging us to speak out that they are suffering, if you go to the church, market, streets, bus-stops, people are begging us to speak out that they are suffering, yet people in government just give you over 100 excuses and move on with their luxury life. We are begging President Buhari and his government to sign the budget so the economy can move ahead. What is left now is just to beg them because even the leaders of the ruling party are all confused. We are begging God to help all of them to save the masses.
How will you rate your South-South governors?
Our governors are not united like other governors since Buhari emerged, all other governors are meeting to take position on national matters but our governors have refused to meet. The disunity among our political class is one of the major reasons our region is backward in this country. If we ask them to meet, they will give excuse that they are not in one political party. So I ask them, even the eastern governors are not in one party, yet they are meeting. Some of our governors are not in speaking terms, can you imagine? So Nigeria doesn’t take us serious, that is why federal projects, NDDC, Niger Delta ministry and amnesty office are suffering because there is no political will by our governors. Nobody takes us serious, it is so bad. If not that Chief E.K Clark is alive today, Niger Delta would have been regarded as Nigeria’s weeping region today. E.K Clark is over 90 years, if our governors refuse to wake-up, we are doomed.
Do you think the role of your leaders like Agamene and Kokori were appreciated?
They were not appreciated by the current political class. Agamene died a poor man; he suffered for democracy. Look, hundreds of people were killed. During the Oputa Panel, some of those killed were supposed to be compensated through their families but nothing happened. I did my own petitions on Niger Delta issues but Oputa Panel rejected all my petitions for public hearing. When the captain coordinating Army operations at Ketu arrested me with Kokori and Agamene’s photos, he asked me why I was risking my life for Yoruba people. I told him, if we didn’t revoke the annulment, Nigeria would not make progress. Today activists who suffered to bring about this democracy are suffering, very sad.