Adebanjo, Clark, Amechi, Yakasai at their sunset
The other day, Alhaji Salihu Abubakar Tanko-Yakasai (95) lamented that no nation spending 80 per cent of its revenue on governance would ever develop. He said “at the moment in Nigeria, 80 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue is expended on bureaucracy, spent on running the administration. The bottom line is you cannot develop with 20 per cent of the total revenue, where you commit 80 per cent for recurrent expenditure. This is what is happening at the federal and state levels. With this situation, no country can develop.” Imagine what we are spending on the National Assembly in the midst of poverty, imagine how much INEC will spend on elections this year and next year too. Imagine what the governors are taking home every month all in the name of security votes. In fact, the issue now is beyond the percentage in the cost of governance as lamented by Alhaji Yakasai. It looks as if the soul of this country is on trial.
We are at a crossroad, as a people. We have the problem on huge debt, insecurity, over spending especially on the National Assembly, unemployment, high rate of inflation, banditry, bad roads, ill-equipped hospitals and many other problems that we are now faced with. It is good that Yakasai and his three other colleagues at the sunset of their lives are crying out now that things are not well with us as a country. We need to hear more from them. They represent perhaps, our last hope now. Their silence will be worse. Honestly, this is not the time to keep quite at all. Our situation is getting worse daily.
The big four I have in mind represent the four regions before 1967 era. They are Chief Ayo Adebanjo (93) from the old Western Region, Chief Mbazulike Amechi (91) from the old Eastern Region, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark (94) from the old Mid-Western Region and Alhaji Tanko Yakasai from the old Northern Region. It is commendable that these octogenarians still speak out on issues concerning this country. I must commend them for voicing their opinions on issues, though such opinions may not be listened to. They should be appreciated for speaking out often. For hardly a week passes without any of them expressing their opinions. One may disagree with their opinions but they should not be ignored. At the sundown of their lives they should be more encouraged to speak out. Let’s take a look at their profile.
In the last few weeks, I have come to know Clark better through Ambassador Godknows Igali and Barrister Kayode Ajulo. On May 25, Clark will be 95 years old. Clark is the Ebi-Ebekekere, Owei of Western Ijaw in Delta State. He is the senior brother of Professor Johnson Pepper Clark (April 6, 1935- October 13, 2020) and Ambassador Akporide Blessing Clark (91), the former Nigeria Representative at the United Nations. He had his education at the African Church School, Effurun, 1939, Native Authority School, Okrika, 1940, Native Authority School, Akugbene, 1940-1945, Government Teacher Training College, Abraka, 1949-1953, Holborn College of Law, London, 1961-1964; headmaster, Local Authority, School, Ofoni, Western Ijaw, headmaster, Local Authority School, Bomadi, 1954, headmaster Secondary Modern School, Bomadi, 1955-1957 and assistant community development officer, 1957-1961. In 1966, the then military governor of Mid Western Region, Colonel David Akpode Ejoor (1932-2019) appointed him special adviser.
Along with Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro (1923-2010), Chief J.I.G. Onyia and my friend, Dr. Mudiaga Odje (1923-2005), he represented Mid-Western Region in the adhoc committee set up by General Yakubu Gowon (87), GCFR that sat between September 12, 1966 and November 1, 1966. The Midwest delegation was assisted by Chief T.E.A. Salubi, Dr. Christopher Okojie and Dr. D.P. Lawani.
The proposal for the Mid-Western Region at that time was a federation of the existing regions, Lagos continuing as Federal Territory or becoming a Region. The Mid West memorandum considered a redrawing of the constituent units desirable and set out the following criteria: ethnic, linguistic and cultural affinity or homogeneity, historical association (e.g. Hausa/Fulani, Efik/Ibibio), viability of states both absolutely and relatively, geographical contiguity, comparability in size and reciprocal self determination (i.e. not only should each minority group be given the opportunity to determine its future but also a majority group must be given the opportunity to determine whether it is willing to associate with a minority seeking such association). On the basis of these criteria, 12 states might be created (four in the North, two in the West, four in the East, the Mid-West, and Lagos). Although, desirable, such a rearrangement was considered impracticable in the prevailing circumstances.
The Mid West further proposed a unicameral Parliament, directly elected for four or five years by universal adult suffrage, each Region having an equal number of seats. ‘The place of the opposition shall be entrenched in the Constitution’ (e.g. official salary for its leader; right to choose the business for discussion on certain). To sit for not less than three-quarters of the year. In a separate memorandum detailed proposal were made for ensuring free and fair elections.
Governor Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia (September 17,1932 – March 9, 2017) of the old Bendel State appointed Chief Clark as the Commissioner for Education and later Commissioner for Finance and Establishment.
Clark used his vantage position to open Ijaw waterlands; built new secondary schools and gave girls scholarships to attend secondary and tertiary institutions. Clark helped in building the Midwest College of Technology that later metamorphosed into the University of Benin (after failure of several efforts to affiliate the fledgling school to the University of Ibadan and Ife). He was later appointed Pro-Chancellor, chairman, governing council of the university (1970-1975). During his tenure as Pro- Chancellor, Clark gave scholarships to students of what we now regard as Northwest and Southeast.
He was Minister for Information under General Yakubu Gowon till he was overthrown by General Murtala Ramat Muhammad (November 1938 – 13 February 1976), GCFR in 1975. Clark was elected a senator in Bendel Delta zone on August 20, 1983 along with 60 other NPN senators. He was sworn-in on October 7, 1983 by the then Senate President, Dr. Joseph Wayas. I covered the swearing in ceremony on that day. He served for three months before President Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari was overthrown by Major General Muhammadu Buhari (79), GCFR. Chief Clark was very prominent during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan (64), GCFR. Beginning in 1996, Clark has been a self described leader of the Ijaw nation. He supported the Ijaw ethnic group in Delta State during an ethnic crisis in Warri and has led Ijaw leadership delegations to meet political leaders.
Chief Amechi is the Dara Akunwafor of Ukpor, Ichie (the headquarters of Nnewi South Local Government Area in Anambra State). He lost his wife, Priscilla Chinelo Okoye, whom he married in 1960, recently. Chief Amechi was educated at the Catholic School, Umunuko, Ukpor, 1937-1943, Etukokwu College, Onitsha, 1944-1948, Principal organising Secretary, National Council of Nigeria and the Camerouns (NCNC), 1955-1959, Secretary-General , Zikist Movement, 1960-1963, National Publicity Secretary, NCNC, 1964-1966, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Information, 1960-1962, Minister of State for Ports, 1964-1966, member, National Party of Nigeria (NPN), 1979-1983, executive member, Strategy Committee, NPN, 1979-1983; Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation. Recently, Amechi led the South East leaders to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa, to plead for the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
• To be continued tomorrow.