Activist and social commentator, Hon. Kennedy Orubebe, a founding member of Federated Niger Delta Izon Communities (FNDIC), is bitter over the state of the nation. The activist and social commentator, who is also a member of Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum(PANDEF) in this interview with EMMANUEL OGOIGBE in Warri, urged President MuhammaduBuhari to commission the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, warning, however, that any attempt to arrest ex President Goodluck Jonathan will be fiercely resisted.
How would you react to the war of words between Aso Rock and former President Jonathan’s family?
When you say war of words, it depends on what you mean. I know that Dr. Jonathan made a statement recently saying that Buhari’s government is fond of telling lies. Apart from that, Jonathan had not in any way been criticizing Buhari’s government. I vehemently say that if they make the mistake of arresting Jonathan, it will not augur well for the present government.
We know that past presidents and Heads of State in the country had committed a lot of atrocities against this country and nobody raised an eyebrow. I repeat, if Buhari’s government makes any attempt to arrest President Jonathan, it will not be taken kindly, particularly by the Ijaws.
On the other hand, Dr. Jonathan should also keep to the golden rule of silence. He should quietly call on President Buhari and discuss issues with him because I have never seen former President castigating the incumbent president. Even Chief Olusegun Obansajo who is very out-spoken keeps to that rule. He does visit President Buhari and irons out issues with him, so, Jonathan too should emulate that kind of idea because he was there and should maintain that golden rule of silence as a former president.
But, what if they go ahead and arrest Jonathan?
I know for sure that Buhari’s government will not arrest Jonathan. So, let’s leave it at that. But, in case it happens, the entire Niger Delta will boil and Buhari will not be comfortable wherever he is. In fact, government should not think of that at all, although Jonathan ignored his people when he was in power and developed the North.
Be that as it may, let government remember that he (Jonathan) came from somewhere because he remains our son no matter what. If government wants to make any arrest, they should start from the past president and Head of State that did something unconstitutionally against this country.
I remember that Chief Obansajo’s name was mentioned in the Halliburton scandal; so, they should not think of arresting Dr. Jonathan because it will back fire seriously against them.
The Igbo want Biafra but the government is saying no and even went on to proscribe IPOB. What is your reaction to this?
The struggle by the Igbo is as a result of long neglect. Let me use the word alienation. Besides, they have been told to their face that they are not Nigerians, going by the quit notice Arewa Youths gave Ndigbo in the North. When you tell an entire tribe that you will have nothing to do with them because they did not vote for you, that is alienation; when you refuse to give them representative appointementsbecaue you say they did not vote for you, that is alienation.
When Buhari came in and shared positions to other ethnic groups but gave the slot meant for the Igbo to the North, it means alienation. Look at the recent appointment in NNPC; the Igbo were not given any slot. In fact, he is indirectly telling them that they are not Nigerians. And when the Igbo youths came to say that they want their own Republic he labelled them terrorists.
He (Buhari) has been unfair to the Igbo, especially in the sharing of the national cake. I see no reason why they should not be allowed to go their way because they have been oppressed for too long.
The federal government has promised that the Maritime University inOkerenkoko will take off in October this year. But, it seems it may not befeasible. What is your reaction?
Well, the Ijaw as a nation is still very hopeful that the University will commence this session, but now we don’t know what is delaying it. The sincerity of the federal government is not in doubt if what they promised is anything to go by.
I remember vividly that the commissioning of the University is among the 16-point agenda given to the Federal Government by the Pan Niger Delta Elders’ Forum (PANDEF), which has been accepted by government. But, there is a bit of doubt why that promise has not been fulfilled because this is October and nothing seems to be happening; in fact, it gives a lot of concern. You know that Ijaw people are peace-loving people, so, we are waiting patiently.
I remember when the Niger Delta Avengers took up arms, the inauguration of the university was one of the basic things they requested. Initially, the Minister of Transport, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi was against the Maritime University but elders and leaders in Ijaw land kicked against it and came up with the 16-point agenda. However, we are just patiently waiting to see how the issue can materialize. We are very hopeful.
What do you have to say about issues concerning Jonathan’s wife Patience’s case with the EFCC that is still lingering?
Well, those issues are still in court. She won some of the cases and even the National Assembly has ruled that her accounts should be de-frozen. The simple truth is that, if an offence has been committed by her, let the accusers come out to prove their case and not to be going after her. For instance, all the media attacks on her by the EFCC is not good.
All the cases they have preferred against some Nigerians were thrown out and they will go and smear the person on the pages of newspapers with a lot of falsehood. Infact, this unwarranted display of media or newspaper trial, should be condemned and I advise EFCC to face their job squarely. Imagine, they have been losing virtually all the cases they have so far taken to court. Their actions are based on media propaganda; they should face issues constitutionally and legally.
In retrospect, government through the military arrested some high court judges alleged to be corrupt, was that action justified?
In fact, that action was totally condemnable. We are in a civilized society, so, the issue of arrest at that level should be done in a civilized manner. That aspect of arresting serving judges at that unholy hour was too crude. By the end of the day, most of the cases were won by the judges. That action was very bad even though the constitution says a suspect can be arrested at any time but that unholy hour was like a resort to jungle justice. It made the international community ridicule us.
Sir, how do you react to the deployment of Operation Crocodile Smile 2 to Niger Delta?Don’t you think it is another ploy to attack innocent riverine dwellers, especially the Ijaws?
When Operation Crocodile 1 was launched, we all saw what happened. The soldiers taken to the creeks were practicing amphibious operation and some of them got drowned in the process but our youths were able to save some of them from drowning.
However, the intention was to mop up arms, stop kidnapping and piracy. But,most of the issues should be handled by the Nigeria Police, not the military. When military or soldiers are taken to the riverine area, it aggravates tension.
A typical example was what happened at the home of Nnamdi Kanu as tension enveloped the community that was peaceful. At the moment everywhere is peaceful, but why should government deploy the military to cause tension?
Another worrisome issue is that the deployment of soldiers to primary and secondary schools to immunize them when people are skeptical about the genuineness of the present government is insensitive, to say the least. I don’t know why Buhari’s government is always doing things in a wrong way, having known that Nigerians no longer trust him.
Honestly, there is no need for Operation Crocodile Smile in the Niger Delta.
Nigeria at 57: are we progressing or retrogressing?
To me, Nigeria is moving round a vicious circle. At 57, Nigeria is still not progressing. I remember vividly what Mr. President said in his broadcast October 1st when he blamed the various sectional leaders for the woes besetting the country, especially the agitations from different quarters.
He advised that issues concerning restructuring and resource control that government had already laid down all the necessary structures to take care of them and went further to say other things. What he said during his swearing was that he is for everybody but not for nobody.
But the things happening now corroborate that statement he made during his inauguration. Let’s take for example the agitation by IPOB goes to show that the south –east people have been neglected for too long in terms of provision of infrastructure, federal appointment and to worsen it all, he exerted his bitterness against the Igbos who he said did not vote for him.
By that comment, he said that the Igbos should not expect anything from him because they did not vote for him but having won the election, he then becomes the father of the nation; there should be no sectionalism, but Buhari is known to be sectional in terms of appointment because prominent Nigerians have now known that his appointments go to his cousins, nephews and relations. With all these inequalities being carried out by Mr. President, I beg to state that he is for some persons, especially the Hausas and Fulanis.
Take another aspect of it when he said that during his period in the Nigerian army, there were no violent youths like what he is seeing today. I can say without fear or favour that Igbo in the south-east are feeling bad that they have been regarded as non-Nigerians.
To worsen it all, the quit notice given by Arewa to the Igbo in the North was not addressed by President Buhari in his Independence broadcast; he never saw anything wrong in that quit notice order; he never condemned them because they are his kinsmen.
The next thing was to proscribe IPOB for no just cause. A lot of Nigerians and international community have cried out that IPOB or the agitators are not terrorists. Again, saying that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable is totally wrong; I want to say that the unity of Nigeria is negotiable.
For example, the present 1999 Constitution, which we are operating was given to us by the military and the military introduced what is known as Unitarianism and Unitarianism means taking power from everybody.
I wish to also recall that parts of the demands from Arewa youth are the proscription of IPOB and that the quest for Biafra Republic be taken to the National Assembly and I dare say that these demands by Arewa youths were contained in Buhari’s nationwide independence speech and the President is saying that the unity of
Nigeria is not negotiable.
These and many others make me believe that Nigeria is swimming in a vicious circle. If revenue is being shared among the 36 states of the Federation, the money being allocated to the North is far higher than the one going to the South, yet Mr. President is saying the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable.
That is what brought about the mounting calls for restructuring. I am afraid, the entire country is caged; there is no freedom in Nigeria.
What is the way forward?
The way forward is that everybody should go at his own pace. We need freedom because the youths should be given freedom to operate and without that, there will be violence.