By Henry Umoru
THE Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, led by the South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark has asked the Governor of Delta State and the Vice Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for this month’s election to answer the queries the Elderstatesman has raised and not sink deeper into the pit.
Recall that former Federal Commissioner for Information and South South Leader, Chief Edwin Clark had on Thusday asked Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to give account of what he got as 13 percent Derivation to the people of Delta State before May this year.
According to the elder statesman at a Press briefing has threatened that Governor Okowa would be dragged to court to explain what accrued to the state as the Chief Executive, just as he asked the Delta State governor, the running mate to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar for the February 25 poll to step down.
In a statement on Sunday by the National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, PANDEF said, “Governor Ifeanyi Okowa needs to be acquainted with an African proverb that says “when your father scolds you in the public, a well-brought up child, does not exchange words with him, but goes home to reflect on the words of the old man”.
“At nearly 96, Chief Senator (Chief) Dr. E.K. Clark, OFR, CON is not only our national leader and elder statesman, but, more significantly, is old enough to be a father and even grandfather to most of us. PANDEF, thus, finds it stunning that less than 24 hours after Chief Clark wrote an open letter to the governor, raising various troubling issues, he, Ifeanyi Okowa and his media attack dogs, have been quick to reply him; avoiding answers to the veracity of the issues raised, but dwelling on the towering image, integrity and personality of this great national icon.
“As a regional body, that represents the interests of the people of the entire Niger Delta, PANDEF is compelled to note that the responses, on the matter, by Okowa’s Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, and other sycophantic liegemen, are thoughtless and disingenuous. It would even become more worrying if the invectives from the “attack dogs” signify Governor Okowa’s true inner reflections.
“Amongst other things, the Commissioner for Information, in particular, stated that Chief Clark, at his age, should be a unifier and not bent on dividing the country. That is not only fatuous but nonsensical.
“For the purpose of correcting Okowa’s messengers, and to set the records right, for future generations, it is necessary to remind Governor Okowa and his misguided aides of some facts.
“Without doubt, there is no other Nigerian, living or dead, who has played roles to unify this country like Chief E. K. Clark has done. For over 70 years, the respected national leader has continued to play overriding nationalistic roles, which was acknowledged, perhaps unintended, in the Commissioner’s response to Chief’s letter.
“Firstly, it is common knowledge that at the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970, as Commissioner for Education and later Finance, in the then Midwest State, Chief Clark initiated programmes, and with the approval of his governor, General Samuel Ogbemudia of blessed memory, went to then war-ravaged East Central State (now the entire South East zone) to rebuild schools, including the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He even withdrew his first daughter from the comfort of a secondary school in present Delta State and enrolled her at Queen’s School, Enugu, in solidarity with victims of the war.
“Chief Clark further initiated programmes that sent Science Teachers to the then North Western State and North Central State as well as Benue/Plateau State and the North Eastern State. It is on record that 250 primary and secondary school teachers were sent from Mid-West State to Kano State, during the administration of Governor Audu Bako, who was a Police Officer and the first Governor of Kano State after its creation. Another 200 teachers were sent to the North West State, which is now Sokoto State and others. Majority of those science teachers did not return to Midwest State, but remained in those States in the north and helped to build up their capacity.
“Beyond that, Chief Clark also arranged a student exchange programme between Midwest State and North Eastern State. If Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is in doubt, he should ask Mallam Adamu Adamu, the current Minister of Education, who was one of the several young persons that came from the North to the Midwest for their Higher School Certificate (HSC), at the time.
“Again, when Mid-West State established the New Nigeria Bank in 1972, with Chief Clark as Commissioner for Finance, the first branch of the bank outside the State was established in Jos, headquarters of the then Benue/Plateau State.
“Likewise, when Chief Clark became Federal Commissioner (Minister) of Information during the regime of General Yakubu Gowon, it is well known to many Nigerians that he played a leading role in bringing national consciousness to General Gowon’s dictum of “no victor, no vanquished” and the three Rs; reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
“Our National Leader, as Minister of Information, also introduced a programme, “Know Your Country”, and took journalists from different parts of Nigeria on a tour of the country, in order to get the journalists more aware of the compass and variety of Nigeria.
“Perhaps, we should also remind Governor Okowa that when he (Okowa) was seriously disadvantaged to become Governor of Delta State vis-à-vis other more qualified candidates, in Chief Clark’s belief for equity and fairness; he stood by him and helped him (Okowa) to become Governor of Delta State in 2015.
“Today, Governor Okowa could apprise Chief Clark, through his lackeys, that he should be a unifier. How men easily forget history. What a shame!
“Additionally, was it not Chief Clark, together with other patriotic leaders, that mobilized delegates from the South-South and other zones of the country, to support his principal, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, at the PDP Convention in Port Harcourt in 2018, which aided him to win the PDP Presidential ticket for the 2019 election?
“This was despite the fact that it was the same Atiku that led the marathon gang-up against our son, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, by championing the formation of the new PDP. Yet Chief Clark stood for him few years later. Is that a man that does not unify?
“It is significant to recall that leading to the 2019 general elections, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum led by Chief Clark and the Northern Elders Forum led by Professor Ango Abdullahi held several meetings, to promote unity, peace and a more egalitarian Nigeria. Chief Clark and Professor Ango Abdullahi Co-chaired those meetings, and the decision to support former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, arose from those meetings; after interacting with several other Northern presidential aspirants. It is, therefore, most unfortunate that Governor Okowa would accused Chief Edwin Clark of dividing the nation.
“It is equally important to underscore the fact that our father, based on his well-known stance on accountability, transparency and good governance, also raised the issue of monies accruing to Delta State from the 13% derivation in his letter to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
“Our least expectation was that His Excellency would provide answers to the questions posed. Because the funds that come to Delta State are for the people of Delta State, thus, the demand for accountability and transparency must not be trivialized or ignored, but should be answered correctly, especially for a man who dreams to become the vice president of Nigeria.
“Governor Okowa should also note the other critical issues cited in our father’s letter to him, including the question of how he emerged as Vice Presidential candidate to the PDP presidential flag bearer, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“Doesn’t Governor Okowa’s conscience prick him? He hosted the momentous meeting of the 17 Southern Governors in Asaba on Tuesday, 11th May 2021 and provided the Secretariat, which produced the Communiqué putting forward the far-reaching declaration on power rotation; which was applauded by many, including people from the north, who consider that in the “spirit of give and take”, the presidency ought to revert to the South in 2023. Thereafter, Governor Okowa joined his colleagues to meet again in Lagos on 5th July, 2021 and in Enugu on 16th September 2021, where they restated their position on power shift.
“In between those meetings, the Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum, which is being led by our father, followed up and met severally in Abuja, and re-echoed the position of Governor Okowa and his colleagues.
“It is expedient to accentuate that PANDEF holds no grudge against Governor Ifeanyi Okowa; the Constitution of Nigeria allows him, and indeed any other Nigeria, to aspire and to hold any political views that he feels convinced about. However, it is required that those who aspire to high leadership positions must be above board in conduct. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa will, undoubtedly, go down in history has a man who led his people to take a stance on a fundamental issue, touching on the very fabric of Nigeria’s corporate existence, but later, surreptitiously, turned round to do otherwise.
“He was given an opportunity to redeem his soiled image, but rather than devoting time to conscientiously reflect on the issues raised in Chief’s letter and re-consider his ways; Governor Okowa has embarked on a futile campaign, through commissioned proxies, to disparage our leader, which could likened to one throwing pebbles into an ocean hoping to create ripples.
“Nonetheless, PANDEF gives Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, 48 hours to retract and withdraw his attacks on Chief Clark in his own interest.
“In the same way that we started this statement, let us remind Governor Ifeanyi Okowa that “a child that is well brought up does not exchange words with his father when scolded in the public”.
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