‘North Cannot Justify Its Cry Of Marginalisation’
Former Secretary General of Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), Mr. Udengs Eradiri, in this interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO, speaks on the allegations by a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and interim National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) that President Goodluck Jonathan is playing ethnic and religious politics as well as other national issues.
HOW would you react to the recent allegation by former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai that President Goodluck Jonathan is playing ethnic and religious politics?
The claim by el-Rufai that President Goodluck Jonathan is playing ethnic politics is unfounded because I don’t understand his reasons for making such allegation. How can he say such when almost the key agencies and parastatals of the Federal Government are headed by northerners. Is it the Customs, Immigration, Central Bank or the Police? So, northerners man all the main agencies of the government. Also, northerners own 95 per cent of oil blocs in this country. That is the worst form of marginalisation that anyone can mention. If we say that there is federal character, how come that a few individuals from one ethnic group own more than 95 per cent of oil blocs in a sector that feeds the nation? Is that not stealing? How can he even say that President Jonathan knows the oil thieves when he (el Rufai) knows them better?
So, for me, Nigerians should read in between the lines when these people make the claims to determine whether they are really sane. I think that they are taking advantage of the unlimited tolerance of the president. Nigerians should be grateful because this President is the only democratic leader that we have ever had. It is because of his democratic disposition that anyone can wake and abuse him. If northerners are complaining of marginalisation, I can’t imagine what the Yorubas would be doing. They are the ones that should be complaining considering their level of education and political clout because you hardly see them in key positions.
Don’t you think that the argument by the likes of el-Rufai may have stemmed from the award of contracts for the protection of oil pipelines and installations to some ex-militants?
I will tell you that if the contracts had been awarded to northerners, nobody will hear anything about them. We own the oil, so we are in a better opposition to watch over the installations in the sector. And if you look at the mining rights in the north, are they not owned 100 per cent by northerners? Have Nigerians ever sat down to discuss that? Are those natural resources not owned by Nigeria? Will someone from the Niger Delta go up north to safeguard those mining fields?
Do you suspect any political undertone to the former minister’s claim?
They have always tried to frustrate the efforts of the Jonathan administration from day one, so I am not surprised that he is making such claims. But unfortunately for them, it won’t happen. Anyone who wants to attack Jonathan’s 2015 ambition should come to the table with issues. In fact, I am challenging Nigerians to insist that Jonathan should be the oldest president that we will have henceforth. We cannot from a young president like Jonathan go back to someone who is over 70 years.
How can you plan a future that you won’t be part of? How can they be talking about an alternative president and not looking at young people? What do we have to do with those who misled us in the past? We see Jonathan as a young president and if there are lapses on his side, the youths who are majority of the electorate in this country should rise and tailor him to the right track because there is no perfect being.
There is this perception that the Jonathan administration has not done enough in the fight against corruption. What is your take on that?
You should realise that it takes time to achieve result and there are steps that a true democratic government cannot take. You don’t expect a government that respects the rule of law to be tying people on the stakes like the military junta. Besides that, I ask the question: Are we ready for change? How can we swallow Western practices hook, line and sinker? Can’t we adopt the Chinese model, which is anchored on their culture? Like I have always said, a true federal system is the only way forward for this country. The foundation of Nigeria is faulty and until we correct that anomaly, we will continue to see indices from international organisations reminding us of the level of poverty and corruption in Nigeria.
How do we correct the faulty foundation when the National Assembly has refused calls for a national conference, insisting that it is constitutionally empowered to amend the constitution?
For me, the ethnic nationalities should refocus their agitation towards a unified agitation for the convocation of a sovereign national conference. If Nigerians rise and insist on a national conference, the members of the National Assembly cannot stop it. What credibility do they have to say no that; a group of people who will sit down and pass a bill for my three-year old daughter to be married by a 70 years old man? They have really lost credibility and I don’t see them being in a position to decide whether we should have a sovereign national conference or not.
We should realize that power is not given on a platter of gold. We should stop window-dressing the issue as we are doing now. We have seen what happened in other parts of the world where the people came out to demand for their right, but in Nigeria it is a different thing. For now we are not ready, may be when the suffering gets worse, we may rise to demand for our rights.