BREAKING NEWS: INTERVIEW: Buhari govt worse than Nigeria civil war – Ijaw leader, Evah

INTERVIEW: Buhari govt worse than Nigeria civil war – Ijaw leader, Evah

INTERVIEW: Buhari govt worse than Nigeria civil war – Ijaw leader, Evah


Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, Joseph Evah has alleged that former President Muhammadu Buhari's government was a wicked government that was worse than the Nigeria civil war. In this interview with DAILY POST, the Ijaw environmental activist spoke on a wide range of issues, including what President Bola must do if he wants to win the war against corruption and kidnapping, among other issues. Excerpts!

What is your assessment of President Bola Tinubu's government so far?

Well, Tinubu is saying that he has not clocked one year in office, and that before one year, he would perform magic. One year is around the corner; so let us give him one year. He has told us to give him one year, and I would like to wait for that one year before I can assess him and his performance.

But, before one year, I want to remind him that one soul is very important. The way insecurity is pervading the country, if nothing urgent is done to arrest the situation, we can only replicate the Haitian situation; the Caribbean nation that is lawless.

In less than 72 hours, more than 500 school have been kidnapped. What is the National Security Adviser (NSA) telling us? What is the Department of State Service (DSS) doing? The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Intelligence, what is their work, for God's sake? Why are they receiving salaries? That within 72 hours more than 500 of our children have been kidnapped and our senate president is dancing? Mothers, and fathers are crying, yet our senate president is dancing every day. What is our problem? Where did we go wrong? Kidnapping is going on unchallenged and because our children are not kidnapped, we keep quiet. And if you talk, one minister of information or presidential spokesman will come out to talk like a drunk.

How long are we going to behave like this in this country? What made us fight the military? What made us ask the military to go back to the barracks? What is all this? Over 500 school children kidnapped within 72 hours? Between Thursday and Sunday, over 500 children have been kidnapped and they are in the forest? What are we going to tell Awolowo? What are we going to tell people like Nnamdi Azikiwe, who fought for Nigeria's independence? What will people like Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa hear in their graves? What is wrong with us? And they will bribe men of God to come out and talk like drunk, in this great country?

What is the problem? Are we going the way of Haiti in the Caribbean? What are the journalists doing? The journalists are celebrating Akpabio because of money. The journalists are even guiltier than those who are kidnapping; the journalists are celebrating Akpabio, who is dancing naked and insulting the intelligence of Nigerians. As we speak now, our children are in the forest with uniforms; carried away into the forest as if we have no law enforcement agents in the country; I am confused.

The call for restructuring is getting louder and stronger by the day, what is your take on that?

How many times are we going to say that that is the solution to Nigeria's problem? We should go back to the parliamentary system. One thing that gives me joy is that Obasanjo is still alive and I know that he will be crying everyday because God released him from to come and fix Nigeria, but he failed due to his greed. He had the capacity; he was the right person at that time, when he was released to fix this country, but because of greed, he wanted a third term and when he didn't get it, he was not ready to pursue the agenda for the wellbeing of Nigerians.

We are just begging the current president, who has been an apostle of restructuring to do it. I heard him saying that he was going to do it slowly. His Yoruba people will not forgive him if he fails to restructure Nigeria. And let me remind him that the Yoruba people will question his children, if he fails to do that. If he did not restructure Nigeria, in the next 100 years, Yoruba people will question his grandchildren and great grandchildren. The Yoruba people have that capacity. We said we want restructuring now and he is talking about doing it slowly while the enemies are calculating how to derail anything called restructuring.

Many people thought the kidnapping of school children will end with Buhari's government. But, it appears it is still with us, even on a greater scale; what is your thought on it?

That is because nobody was prosecuted during Buhari's time. You know, these criminals will first look at the body language of the leaders before they operate. When they looked at Buhari's body language, they knew that he was not interested in anything. We are hearing now that people used his signature to collect billions of Naira. If we ask this current government to parade the people involved on national television so that we can all know them, they will not. If they are paraded on television, nobody will try such nonsense again, but they will not parade them.

So, when they see that the people were not paraded by this government, they will know that it is as usual; the game continues and that is how every society operates. The moment they were not paraded, kidnapping and banditry started, and assumed a greater dimension. Their agent will tell them that there is no problem; that we have a weak president like Buhari. We don't want to have another weak president like Buhari. You will see that the economy will survive and things will begin to change.

Why is kidnapping of children happening almost on a daily basis? It is because the agents are telling the kidnappers that the current president is weak. And I want the current president to prove them wrong that he is not a weak president. That is just the solution to the incessant kidnapping of children; if he can prove that he is not a weak president, everything will be alright.

The labour unions are calling for an upward review of the minimum wage, do you think that is a solution to the workers' economic challenges?

Not at all; that can't be the solution. I don't know what the labour unions are saying; they should stop all those stupid talks. Is it all Nigerians that are working? We are saying that inflation is causing problems for every , and they are talking about minimum wage; what is minimum wage? Minimum wage is not even our problem again. If we are still importing finished oil products, no amount of minimum wage increase will take care of the workers' problem. In fact, less than two percent of Nigeria's population is working, if you are talking about minimum wage.

If the dollar is still making nonsense of the Naira; if we are still spending dollars as our currency; if the world bank is still directing us on what to do, what can the minimum wage do? Nothing. Our problem is that we are listening to foreigners who control us through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. We are still listening to them; we are still borrowing from them. What is minimum wage?

If the Nigeria Labour Congress () president comes out in a crowd to talk about that nonsense, angry Nigerians will bundle him, slap him left and right, and throw him away; is he drunk? Is it the issue of minimum wage that we are talking about when there is inflation everywhere? The crude oil we produce, we are still importing it to run our vehicles and industries and shamelessly, our people are still going to other countries to look for investors when companies that were in Nigeria before some of us were born, are leaving the country. Industries that were in Nigeria before Buhari and Tinubu were born, are leaving the country, and we are running to other countries looking for foreign investors. Are those investors not seeing the old companies leaving Nigeria because of inflation and poverty?

We have also heard that the fuel subsidy that was earlier removed is back, what do you have to say about that?

If subsidy is back, why are we in a worse situation than we were during the Buhari's time? We don't know who is telling us the truth; we don't even know where we are. How children and will not die of starvation or commit suicide because of poverty in the next two, three hours, is what Nigerians are talking about now. If you ask the minister of information about this subsidy, he will say one thing; if you ask the President's spokesman, he will say another thing; and if you also ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs, he will equally say something else; can you imagine?

What I am begging the current president who is a fellow comrade of June 12 is to put his feet on the ground, make history for himself and give us that pride of place that comrades are in government. Prof Wole Soyinka did it as a comrade, when he headed the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC). Beko Ransome Kuti did it when he was chairman of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). Tinubu, we beg you in the name of God, in the name of those comrades who are during the struggle, to save us; give us that belief that it was when a comrade entered the Aso Rock that Nigeria witnessed glorious years.

Do you think this government is serious about fighting corruption?

It is simple to fight corruption if the government wants. It is just to surround yourself with men of Obafemi Awolowo's integrity; men of Anthony Enahoro's integrity and men of Aminu Kano's integrity. That was why Yakubu Gowon succeeded. Before Tinubu assumed office, I had an interview, where I told him to go and study the archives in Ibadan about Awolowo to know why the western region was the light of Africa during the regional government. I also begged him to visit Gowon, and find out from him, how he managed to prosper Nigeria during the civil war era.

Despite the war, Nigeria never borrowed a kobo from anybody or anywhere. Go and ask Gowon how he did it. He did not visit Gowon; not until recently, when the ECOWAS issue was embarrassing him that he consulted Gowon. I told him that Gowon is still alive for a purpose; God is still keeping him alive for a purpose and that he should go and pay him a visit to learn how he was able to manage a civil war situation without borrowing. Buhari's eight years were worse than the Nigerian civil war era. It was a government of wickedness; you cannot describe the wickedness of Buhari's government. It was worse than the Nigerian civil war. I told Tinubu to consult Gowon and find out how he was able to manage the civil war, because after the civil war, the Nigerian economy boomed more than any other period in our history. So, I advised him to go and ask Gowon the secret but I don't think he ever visited him. He did not visit Gowon; he did not visit the archive in Ibadan to understudy the secrets of Awolowo's economic power and wisdom.

If he wants to fight corruption, he must surround himself with men of wisdom like Gowon did. Not people that brought 500 bags of rice during the election and all that. We have passed that level. He should surround himself with solid people like Gowon. Gowon was the youngest person at that time. During the first press conference after the death of Aguiyi Ironsi, a journalist asked Gowon how a 32-year-old young like him was going to manage a complex country like Nigeria. Gowon told the journalists to look around and see the wise people that surrounded him. He told them that with those men of integrity around him, he wouldn't have any problem managing Nigeria. So, even if Tinubu is old, if he has solid people the way Gowon selected his excos and advisers, he would succeed. He should forget about sentiment and look for the way forward. He should look for guys who will move the nation and who will tell him the blunt truth.

Recently, Nigeria lost one of the heroes of the June 12 struggle, Frank Kokori. As one of those who were in the trenches for the June 12 struggle, what can you say about his demise?

Before his death, I was on television begging the comrades in government now to help Kokori because he was in the hospital bed. I begged President Tinubu, who was part of the struggle during the military era, to mobilise his people in the government to help Kokori at that point in time. I told all the activists in government that now is the time for them in government and that they should assist one of their own, but they all kept deaf ears and abandoned him to his fate.

I thank the Delta State Government for standing by him during his last days on earth. Now you ask, why did they neglect Kokori? The first government that neglected and treated Kokori like a leper was the Buhari government, where they made him Chairman of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Funds (NSITF) when Dr Chris Ngige was the Minister of Labour.

When Ngige was appointed to oversee a ministry under which Kokori was to serve, I protested because I knew it wasn't going to work. I know that Buhari just came to power for revenge. He was angry that Babangida locked him up and Nigerians didn't do anything to Babangida for that. I know that Buhari did not come to the government to help Nigerians. He was bitter with Nigerians. I knew that there was no way Ngige and Kokori could work together because Kokori was too decent to work with Ngige.

And I was proved right when Kokori was frustrated; he was never inaugurated as chairman of the board of NSITF. None of the comrades that were part of the June 12 struggle came to his aid. It was because of Kokori's detention that I mobilised the riverine communities, including the Ijaw people, to be part of civil disobedience in Lagos. I told our people that they would kill Kokori if we didn't come out to join the Yoruba to fight for June 12.

Mind you, June 12 wasn't a Yoruba agenda; it was a Nigerian issue. But, at the twilight of his life, when he most needed his civil society family, he was abandoned. All the human rights groups, including the president, abandoned Kokori. I am not even accusing the president because today, the president is surrounded by those who call themselves civil society people, but they all pretended as if Kokori did not exist.

Shame on the conscience of all the activists; shame on all the activists that are alive, especially those parading the corridors of power as veteran journalists. Who were those making news for them? Was it not Kokori? Those who were in the Tell Magazine, the News Magazine and all that, shame on their conscience. I will never blame the president because those journalists who benefitted from Kokori are all finding cover in the name of the government after their paper died. Who was making news for them to sell their papers in those days; was it not Kokori?

Today, they are licking free ice cream and drinking free tea in Aso Rock and they have all forgotten Kokori? I thank the Delta State Governor who visited him in the hospital and assisted him before his death.

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