Elder statesman and convener of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Chief Edwin Clark, on Friday, admonished President Muhammadu Buhari to drop the toga of nepotism and injustice against the South-South, saying “things cannot continue this way.”
In a considerably lengthy June 12 open letter to President Buhari, titled “Let us call a spade a spade,” which Chief Clark personally signed and confirmed by our Correspondent on phone, the Ijaw leader cited copious instances to back his allegations of nepotism, marginalisation and unfair treatment of people of the oil-rich region.
The former federal Minister of Information quipped that at 93, “it would be unthinkable for me, to keep quiet in the face of such injustice, oppression, and marginalization, unfair and unjust treatment, being practised against my people. I can say, without doubt, we have never had it this so bad.”
Clark, who congratulated President Buhari on the 21-year uninterrupted civil rule in the country, wondered why individuals from the South-South, who deserved top positions in his administration, were unceremoniously degraded and ridiculed out of the office on the altar of religion and ethnicity unlike their counterparts from the north.
“The message herein is a message of truth; encapsulating my thoughts, as well as, the feelings, dissensions, and remonstrations, of the people of the South-South Geopolitical Zone, that I have been continuously inundated with.
“I have to state it, unequivocally, the way it is, for the sake of posterity, and in the interest of peace, unity, and progress of our dear country, Nigeria.
“And the truth, Mr President, is that the South-South Geopolitical Zone have not been treated fairly, by your administration, despite our contribution to the economy of the country. Let us call a spade, a spade!
For reasons unknown to me, we have continued to witness discriminative, and unjust actions, against people of South-South Extraction, under the presidency, in the last five years.
“Why is it that people, particularly from the South-South Zone, are being treated as if they are not Nigerians, as if they are foreigners, or as if they are second class citizens in their own country.
“Situations, whereby, people due for confirmation for their positions are being removed and replaced with people from particular parts of the country, is not right.
And the situations are getting too many. We are all Nigerians; we are entitled to be appointed to any position. If our people are not qualified, it is a different matter.
“Discrimination is a danger to any society, particularly, a plural society like ours,” he warned.
The nonagenarian listed instances of the ill-treatment of the region to include, the unjust replacement of the acting director-general of the Security and Exchange Commission (‘SEC), Mrs Mary Uduk with Lamido Yuguda, a retired staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from the north and the non-confirmation and replacement of the registrar-general of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Mrs Azuka Azinge with Alhaji Garba Abubakar from Bauchi.
The cases of Dr Dakuku Peterside of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) who was replaced with Bashir Jamoh and humiliated Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Walter Onnoghen, among others were worthy mention by Chief Clark.
He also accused Buhari of making people from the South-South to play second fiddle or better-still as spectators in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries such as the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
“Let me remind Mr President, of what played out at the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, of the Ministry of Petroleum, last year.
“The man who was Director there, Mordecai Baba Ladan, from the North, attained the retirement age of 60 years in June 2017, but he was retained till December 2019.
“When he eventually left, consistent with the tendencies of your administration, Sarki Auwalu, also from the North, was appointed to that position.
“I was made to understand that, Mr Auwalu, who was an Assistant Director, was appointed Director of the key regulatory Department, ahead of eight Deputy Directors.
“While, in the same petroleum industry, Roland O. Ewubare, who is from the South-South, was moved from NAPIMS as Managing Director last year, another person from South-South was not appointed to replace him.
“Rather, a Northerner was used to replace him, perhaps, because NAPIMS, like DPR, is said to be one of the strategic subsidiaries of the NNPC.
“Interestingly, on the other hand, when Roland O. Ewubare, was earlier, moved from Integrated Data Services Ltd, he was replaced with someone from South-South, in the person of Diepriye Tariah. I understand, Mr Tariah, recently, disengaged from the service, and another South-South person has been appointed to replace him.
“So, it seems to me, there are positions in NNPC, reserved for people from the South-South, and there are some other positions reserved for people from the Northern zone. Why the discrimination, and seeming snobbery?
“While our resources are being managed, and subjugated, mainly by people from other parts of the country, the people of the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta, who bear the brunt of degradation, arising from the oil and gas exploratory activities, receive mere soupçons, and are rendered spectators of the oil business.,” the Ijaw leader lamented.
Chief Clark, therefore, called on the people of the South-South to “esteem themselves as bonafide Nigerians, and be courageous in fighting for their undeniable rights,” assuring “nobody owns this country more than they do; rather Nigeria stands to lose, if there is a crunch in our region because of these injustices, unfairness, neglect, and continued marginalization.”
He also urged President Buhari, in the spirit of freedom and equality, which June 12 epitomizes, to “discard the toga of nepotism and injustice and dorn the noble vestments of inclusiveness, equity, fairness, and justice, for the betterment of Nigeria.”