By Tony Nwankwo
Some Niger Delta youths recently vandalised the Amnesty inspired Kaiama Vocation Centre in Bayelsa State.
In this interview, the National Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Evah, says those who engaged in this exercise were misguided people and deserved to be punished for their crimes. Excerpts:
Why would someone decide to loot the Kaiama Vocational Centre?
It is madness, pure madness, and only those involved will give a better answer. Those apprehended will be punished for their crime against the Niger Delta.
With this experience, do you think the youths in the region really want development?
Majority of our youths want development. And of course in every society you have bad eggs and misguided elements. So, you cannot use this incident to judge the larger society. What happened at Kaiama was crime against the Ijaw nation and an embarrassment to Isaac Boro’s memory.
It is a shame that the same Ijaw people crying everyday for development and prosperity are creating this havoc. Then, where is our moral right to say outsiders are oppressing us. Just imagine the wickedness. When I watched the looting and the destruction on television, I was calling people to tune their television to the Channels TV to watch the shameful act.
There are allegations that the Amnesty Office was behind the looting in other to benefit in terms of giving out more contract jobs to their staff?
Are you saying Amnesty Office used remote control formula to manipulate indigenes of Kaiama town and neighbouring communities to carry out this madness? People saying such things need psychiatric test to determine their own level of madness. What happened portrayed us to the world as an unserious people. So anybody trying to give senseless excuses is not normal. I am really angry because we shout of development everyday and then we see this? O God!
The new Amnesty boss is not from Bayelsa. He is from Rivers State and the people of Bayelsa took the action to show the leadership in bad light to demand for his removal. They want a Bayelsan to be President. Remember that General Boroh, a son of Bayelsa was sacked and a River’s man was appointed?
The Amnesty office was created for the people of the region. It was not meant for one ethnic group or state. What type of argument is this? You destroy your glory to protest an appointment? When Yar’Ádua set up Amnesty, was there any law that only one state will head the office?
That alone is senseless. That office can be managed by anybody from any of the Niger Delta states including Akwa Ibom. No reasonable Bayelsan will say that they are against a Rivers’ man managing a financial office. I am from Bayelsa, also I am from the same community with late General Owei Arzazi, former Chief of Defence Staff and former National Security Adviser (NSA). We are from Peretoru town in Ekeremor Local Government Area. If you go to Peretoru town today, you will see what I have used my own influence to establish, through the Amnesty Office.
So, as a Bayelsan, I cannot claim that only a Bayelsan can head the Amnesty office. What we need in that office is a focused leadership and a commitment to hard work to achieve results. And the current leadership of Prof. Charles Dokubo is doing what is expected of him. We see good results and with his experience, as an international global citizen, we are lucky to have him heading that office.
Do you have faith in the committee set up to investigate the looting incident?
Members of the panel are qualified. And I believe they will do justice to the findings. I also believe that all the recommendations will be addressed.
Do you think other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta accept Prof. Dokubo’s appointment?
Thank you for the question. When Prof. Dokubo was appointed, nobody protested. We have over 30 ethnic groups within the Niger Delta, there was no opposition. I believe those who appointed him were careful and wise in their decision because they did not politicise the process of appointment.
They saw somebody without a godfather and they looked at the integrity and international connection, the background and open-minded patriot with feelings for his people. Immediately the announcement was made and other ethnic groups found out that the appointee was an Ijaw man again, they looked at the background and found it a perfect example of what everybody wanted and he was accepted.
In the Niger Delta, everybody appreciate the contributions of Ijaw. It is some misguided Ijaw that are giving us this negative publicity of senseless protest. Look at my River Niger dredging court case against the Military government in those days, when I went to court through my lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), all the ethnic groups in the region supported the case because there was no Environmental Impact Assessment when the contract was awarded.
Any time I was at the Federal High Court, Benin, the Itsekiri, Urhobo, Fiefs, Isoko, Ogoni etc. would come to court to show solidarity until I won the case. So, in the Niger Delta, we are united, and I want that unity to remain with us forever.
This looting incident took place during the elections and the tension was likely to affect security in the region?
I am fully aware that they wanted to politicize the whole thing. However, what we are saying is: Do you destroy your glory for whatever reason? The glory is in your state or village, so when you destroy it, how does that affect President Buhari or Prof. Charles Dokubo that you want to embarrass? If you destroy your glory under the influence of abnormal politicians, how do you restore the glory when you expose Bayelsa people as unserious human beings. Ijaw must reject that negative publicity. Bayelsans must reject that negative publicity.
Those of us involved in this Niger Delta struggle from the days of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s trial and execution, we remember oil and gas companies used propaganda to blackmail us that the international community should ignore us that we are not serious people.
That Niger Delta people are not united, that Niger Delta lack development because they frustrate every effort to develop us and today we are using our own hands to destroy our glory right inside our home land with senseless argument. We are further confirming the blackmail of Shell, Chevron, Agip and Mobil, oil giants that we are not fit for development. I reject blackmail and insult anyday, any time.
How will you describe the protest against Professor Dokubo in Bayelsa State?
It is the worst assembly of misguided elements. Even if somebody hired you to exhibit madness, can’t you think as an adult? Look, today Ijaw man is not minister of Niger Delta ministry; did you see Ijaw people writing petitions or demonstrating like during the days of Chief Orubebe? When Akwa Ibom was heading NDDC, we were voiceless in Port Harcourt. We have an Ijaw man in Amnesty, Professor Dokubo, the same Ijaw people are exhibiting madness on the streets of Bayelsa. If they appoint non-Ijaw in Amnesty, you will see that Ijaw people will have no voice there. So those of us who started this struggle right from the Military era and the founding father of Bayelsa State and also as former spokesman of Ijaw Nation in Ijaw National Congress, I will not fold my arms and allow this madness in the name of protest against Ijaw in office to continue.