Sunday, 28th May 2023

‘Tinubu should adopt Gowon and Awolowo’s governance models to rebuild Nigeria’

By Onyedika Agbedo
21 May 2023   |   4:25 am
Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) and former Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress (ING), Comrade Joseph Evah, in this interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO speaks on what the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, should do to transform Nigeria when he mounts the saddle on May 29, this year. Evah, who served as the Coordinator of Non-indigenes for…

Joseph Evah

Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) and former Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress (ING), Comrade Joseph Evah, in this interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO speaks on what the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, should do to transform Nigeria when he mounts the saddle on May 29, this year. Evah, who served as the Coordinator of Non-indigenes for the Actualisation of June 12 during the struggle to restore the mandate of the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election, the late Chief MKO Abiola, and end military rule in the country, says Nigeria has been fighting “an undeclared war” since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015 hence the need for the incoming president to take steps that will re-unite Nigerians and make the country boom again.

The President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be sworn in on May 29, which is just 16 days away. What are your expectations?
THE expectation is that we will be experiencing a new government, although from the same party. And we want this government to be totally different from the ugly experience we have had under the current administration.

To us from Niger Delta, we are not happy with President Muhammadu Buhari because he has rubbished the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). We will never forget that in eight years, Buhari wasted the vision of NDDC. There was no single life-changing project executed by the commission under his watch. They changed the headship of the NDDC to sole administrator and all sorts of things. In fact, there was a time I advised the president to designate the NDDC as a yahoo-yahoo commission and call the head of the commission general overseer because the frustration was just too much. If the money that was supposed to go to NDDC were properly used for eight years, you would have seen the changes but there is nothing. The people he sent there were awarding contracts for supply of plastics, balloons and the like. Since the creation of the NDDC, this current government has rubbished the commission for eight years. There was no board; the president just inaugurated a board recently. In fact, we will not forget.

What evidence do you have to back up your claim that the NDDC achieved nothing in almost eight years of this administration?
Without a board? That’s lawlessness if we are in a sane society. NDDC was under lawlessness for eight years. What are we talking about? Whatever they did there without a board has no record in law. NDDC was set up by law. This law was not followed in the sole administratorship arrangement and all those things they did.

Now, Buhari will leave office on May 29. Where is the report of the forensic audit that he claimed would make him a super leader? Where is the report? Where are the people indicted in the forensic audit? They were using forensic audit as a slogan for more than two years. All those things were politics just to confuse the region and punish us. But the question is: For what? From day one, we cried out that it was deception because we have experienced manipulations in this country over the years.

If you allege deliberate manipulation of affairs at the NDDC by officials of the current government, what purpose do you think it served them?
It was not only the NDDC; many other parastatals suffered a similar fate. Were you not in this country when a Central Bank governor bought vehicles and branded them and said he was contesting for president? (Laughs). And he is still the sitting governor of the Central Bank. Weep for your nation. Are you asking me further questions?

Under this Buhari government, the Supreme Court made a declaration and the entire nation was waiting for the CBN governor to come out from his luxurious dreams and say the naira was this or that. In fact, the citizens refused to abide by the Supreme Court pronouncement because the CBN governor had not issued a directive. You were in this country; these things did not happen 700 years ago. Look, Buhari rubbished the country before the international community and we will not forget.

But what benefit do you think the government has got from manipulating the NDDC as you alleged?
What benefit did the president get by keeping quiet after the Supreme Court made a declaration and the citizens were waiting for the CBN governor to direct them to obey the apex court in the land and the CBN governor was hiding? Compare it to the NDDC problem and you will now know that we are in a hopeless situation only waiting for May 29 for Buhari to handover.

So what do you expect the president-elect to do differently when sworn in on May 29?
On Niger Delta, the NDDC that was bastardised should be restored to operate in accordance with the law establishing it. Efforts to stop environmental pollution in the Niger Delta starting with the Ogoni clean up should not be politicised. The President-elect should not allow the oil companies to intimidate him into doing whatever they like in the Niger Delta. We want to protect our environment. Also, the president-elect should go back to the 16-point agenda presented to Buhari by Chief E. K. Clark and other Niger Delta leaders and implement them.

Now, I want to advise the president-elect to go and visit people like Gen. Gowon. I am begging him in the name of God. He should go and visit Gowon, who during the civil war was able to sustain this country. The president-elect should visit sincere people with conscience like Gowon. Currently, whether you like it or not, we are in a war situation of some sort. The situation in Nigeria now is worse than the civil war era. During the civil war, God Almighty brought Gowon to unite this nation. Gowon also looked for patriots like Awolowo, Aminu Kano, Enahoro and even young men like Mobolaji Johnson, whom he appointed to govern Lagos. So, he should look for unique people. All these steps assisted Gowon in the peace process.

We want a leader that can unite Nigerians. There was an undeclared civil war in the country throughout the eight years of Buhari’s government. Ethnic hatred was unprecedented. So, Tinubu needs sincere people who are still alive to unite this country. Gowon is one of them.

Another advise I want to give him is to go back to the programmes of Awolowo and adopt some of the policies that are still relevant to this country if he wants to succeed. He needs the economic wisdom of Awolowo. The economic wisdom of Awolowo in the Western Region has been preserved in the National Archives in Ibadan. He should go back to Awolowo’s policy of welfarism. If he does these, Nigerians will be dancing in glory.

In fact, Gowon brought in Awolowo to manage the civil war economy and immediately after the civil war, the future of Nigeria was very bright. It was after the Second Republic that Nigeria’s progress started experiencing problems.

Through Awolowo’s wisdom, Gowon developed what was known as National Development Plan. They are in the archives. So, Nigerians had an idea of the population of the country and how the government was strategising to take care of the population. Asiwaju should re-visit the discarded development plans of the Gowon era. That was Gowon’s vision for the Nigerian nation. What we miss in this nation is that people don’t want to go back to history. They just look at their surroundings and start displaying their ignorance in governance and everything. Americans always go back to history; the President-elect should go back to history and dig up documents and policies of leaders who did well especially during crises period.

Immediately Buhari hands over on May 29, the country will have come out from an undeclared civil war. Security situation under his watch was zero; then the economy collapsed. Buhari pushed us to the wall such that Nigerians were almost attacking themselves on the streets because of anger, hatred and frustration but God saved us from bombing ourselves. So, let Tinubu be the Gowon of our era that will re-unite the country and make it boom. Nigeria can boom again if he places the right people in the right positions.

Awolowo was vice chairman of the Federal Executive Council in the Gowon era, a civilian amidst military Generals. You can imagine how Gowon appreciates people who are patriotic and selfless. If the President-elect believes in people who are sincere and selfless, we will have a way. Nobody should tell me that there is no way for Nigeria again; it is a lie. We just need the right people in the right places at the right and we will have a way for our children in the next 100 years when we are no more.

Gowon took over after Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed. When he was addressing his first press conference, journalists asked him, ‘you are a young man, how can you manage this massive nation?’ Gowon looked left and right and said, ‘look at my lieutenants; look at the people around me. I will seek opinion from them because they are patriots. It’s not a problem to manage Nigeria because I have the right people around me.’ This thing is on YouTube; if you go there you will see it.

So, let people stop saying Tinubu is an old man just like they said Gowon was too young to govern. The people around Tinubu now can be like the people that were around Gowon that made him say that age doesn’t matter but the people you work with. If he surrounds himself with solid people, Nigeria’s progress is assured. But if he starts considering petty things like this person is a member of my party, this person was carrying my bag, this person was barbing my hair and start giving them appointments, we cannot move forward as a country. That’s the rubbish we have seen since 1999 and here we are.

So, Tinubu has a golden opportunity in his hands. He should read Awolowo’s books and consult people like Gowon who assembled great minds to manage the country during the civil war and unite Nigerians. I can tell you that Nigeria will be restored to its past glorious days if he toes this path.

I was happy when I heard the President-elect talk about reconciliation after he was declared winner. He should pursue it seriously. He should forget sycophants who would want him to ignore those who didn’t vote for him. Those people will run away if he runs into problems. So, if he wants a prosperous nation, he should deal with reconciliation. He cannot do it alone; there are people who are gifted, patriotic and selfless in the opposing side. He should bring them in.

Looking at the posturing of the opposition, do you think they will be willing to serve in the Tinubu administration?
Some of us are also talking to some of the players. Look, this country is bigger than individual matters. So, people should just think about that. For instance, there were some incidents that happened during the Babangida era, which we were not comfortable with. But he brought in people like Wole Soyinka, Tai Solarin and others who were his ardent critics; it was only our great leader, the late Gani Fawehinmi, who refused to take any appointment from him.

But look at the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) today. The days of Beko Ransom-Kuti as the chairman of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) was very glorious. Babangida sent him there and he sanitised the place. Because Soyinka accepted to serve, we are now enjoying the life-saving efforts of the FRSC. It was Babangida’s idea and he sent Soyinka whom he knew would not tolerate nonsense to go and establish it and put down the structures, which are still surviving till date. Were they not criticising Babangida? Were they not abusing him day and night?

So, you are serving your country and humanity in whatever area you are called to serve. And nobody knows who will stay alive tomorrow. Anytime you are given the opportunity to serve your country, come and do the work and leave the place. Only make it a point of duty to give your best and leave behind a golden era.

If Soyinka had not agreed to pioneer the establishment of FRSC and said the military should run the country by themselves, they would have destroyed the country for us. Look at what is happening in Sudan now. Hatred, hate speech, crisis, destruction everywhere.

So, everything must be done to guard against the spread of hatred among the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. As a country, we have the largest ethnic groups gathering in Africa and hatred was too much during the last general election. Hatred turned the election into a near civil war situation.

There must be a healing process. The President-elect should not listen to anybody saying the opposition should go to hell. There should be that healing process so that people will see the result of the work you are doing. If there is hatred and it is flourishing, whatever good thing you are doing for your nation will not be well appreciated. So, the President-elect must pursue the healing process and I believe that he is gifted in that area. I don’t think he is someone that looks down on people.

Let me tell you one small incident that happened that made me know that he doesn’t look down on people. When his mother died and people from across the country were going to commiserate with him, I led the Niger Delta group to his house but we went late. When we got there, the delegation stayed outside while I went in to see him. I told him that our people were in his place to also condole with him over the death of his mother and that they were outside. He was to travel the following day. He said, ‘ah, I’m running around to go to the embassy because I will be travelling tomorrow to rest because of the stress over the mourning period and all of that.’ So, he promised to invite us when he returns. I said there was no problem. I escorted him to his jeep and the convoy started moving. Immediately his jeep moved out of the gate and he saw the crowd of Niger Delta people that came to see him, he alighted from the jeep. And when he saw old people, he started apologising to them. He ordered the return of the convoy that was already ahead. In fact, all our people were surprised. We were not politicians but ordinary people. But he spent another 30 minutes during which he made sure that every member of the delegation was fed. It was very rare to see a politician at that level display such humility.

So, I don’t believe he will look down on people. He can speak the language of politicians but when it’s time to reason for the survival and unity of this nation, he will not joke with it; he will not play politics with it. He should start the reconciliation process; if not we are doomed because the country will be having crisis upon crisis and he will not focus on development. That’s why I said he should meet Gowon; he will give him words of wisdom.

During the recent Workers’ Day celebration, the President-elect hinted that his administration would take some tough decisions to reset the country. What kind of tough decisions do you expect from him to really put Nigeria back on track? 
He should look into the naira and dollar exchange rate that has turned our children to beggars all over the world. It has made our children hate their nation. If that tough decision is to go to that area so that ordinary people will have a feeling of love for their nation, it’s okay.

In short, I don’t even know why the CBN governor has not resigned. Somebody should tell him to just resign now. The country was turned to yahoo-yahoo country under his tenure.

Then he should investigate the intractable insecurity in the country, especially kidnapping. Security and economy are the two things that have made life almost unbearable for most Nigerians in the last eight years. No life is secure in Nigeria; life in the country now is to your tents oh Israel. That is where we need tough decisions because we are talking about the welfare of the people. ASUU strike, workers’ salary, everything is about the welfare of Nigerians.

So, if there are certain people he knows who are like green snake in green grass in that Villa and he wants to deal with them to set us free, I think that is the toughest decision Nigerians are waiting to see.