2023: INEC ‘ll Shock This Government, Says Edwin Clark

2023: INEC ‘ll Shock This Government, Says Edwin Clark

Chief Edwin Clark was Information minister in the First Republic and he remains one of the vibrant voices that speak on national issues. In this interview with journalists held weekend in Abuja, the nonagenarian bared his mind on raging national issues including the nation’s preparedness for the forthcoming general elections.

MUYIWA OYINLOLA AND CALEB ISHAYA were there.

Question:

What is going on within the political space especially the South-West to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. As at now, over 20 people have picked forms from the South in the PDP and the APC. What is your take on this?

Response:
It is madness. If I’m to be realistic, they are not serious; particularly the southerners from the South-West and the South-South. There are some people that have gone to be bottle bags to play double game. So, when it comes to where we say no, some people would come out to say yes we are contesting. So, they know why some of them are there.
For instance, there are reasons to be told that my very good friend Adams Oshiomhole, the former national chairman of the APC was with Tinubu, I was surprised yesterday when I saw him entering the race. I’m surprised also that Amosun after seeing the VP from his place, entering the race.
So, you come back to the South-south, Jonathan was a Rivers State man before Bayelsa State was created in 1996, today Nyesom Wike wants to be president of Nigeria, Rotimi Amaechi wants to be president of Nigeria. Both of them are in small Ewkwere. You can imagine what is going on. I Understand Timipre Sylver would soon declare. Meanwhile, people are asking me questions about Goodluck Jonathan and they are in the same Senatorial zone in Bayelsa State. So, they know what they are doing. And for the Igbo, some of them I encourage them to come out even its, not, zoned to the South-East the whole of Nigeria will vote for them, they would take part in the primary.

Question:

I know that you belong to one particular platform, the eminent leaders of the Southern part of the country. What exactly are you going to say across the party divides of these presidential aspirants from the the Southern part of the country?

Response:
I think that time will come. We must tackle them because if you look at what is going on today, the South-West from 1975 to 1979, a Yoruba man was the Head of State of this country after the death of Murtala Mohammed, Obasanjo was there for three years. When Abiola contested and won, they faulted him then, took over but they didn’t last but in 1999, Obasanjo came in with full force to rule Nigeria. At that time, Obasanjo had taken over the party which made it very easy for him to bring a northern candidate of his choice. So, there was no major context in the primary. But we didn’t have doubt that Yar’Adua would win. So, Jonathan became his running mate when Yar’Adua asked me to recommend the running mate to him.

Question:
Are you not surprised that both major parties, PDP and APC are running away of being specific on zoning, even when it is in the constitution of PDP but APC is also singing another tune about zoning? What is your position on this sir?

Response:
Thank you very much, that is a very good question.
I used the word madness, now you have everybody in Nigeria where there is hunger, where there is unemployment, where there is kidnapping going on every day, where children cannot go to school, where the economy is going down; these people were able to mobilise N100 million to pick form. So, if these governors and ministers use their salaries, I don’t think they have it because they must eat in their houses so also the governors. But they went back with pretence telling Nigerians we are fools; that their friends contributed money for them. El-rufai sometimes ago said that 19 governors met with Mr president, Vice President that all the positions held by the northerners should be moved to South and vice versa.
So, with that, the zoning has been done. So, the South will produce the next president. Now that no southerner contested any position in the party which was zoned to the north and because the chairmanship was zone to North Central, Abdullahi Adamu took over.
We strongly warn our politicians, former governors, ministers, senators and so forth not to accept running mate position from any northern candidate because they cannot do without us and we cannot do without them. That will show how serious we are and anybody who offers himself as a running mate will be regarded as the most unpatriotic and a man who has sold his own side of the country and not worthy of being respected and honoured.
When the governors were declaring for PDP from the East, we told them that you can’t stop them, that’s the only one we wanted. Primary will be held where there was Atiku, they single him out in port Harcourt but the way they are now moving in, it will be difficult to withstand. In another word, we are moving nowhere.

Question:
Let me ask this question which may sound hypothetical but again the North always says they have the number what of the event that the two dominants party end up with northern presidential candidates?

We are going nowhere. No southerner will like to see himself being treated as a slave or as a second class citizen when he has the right of franchise than someone who only believes in population.
This matter was discussed In the National Conference of 2014. Rotation is the only vehicle of unity in Nigeria and it was decided at that conference there should be power shift, there should be rotation among the various ethnic groups or the various parts of this country if we are to have unity in this country. We were reaching there. And during the debate, I remember, I in particular mentioned that in a situation whereby for instance, in Kaduna State, Southern Kaduna is bigger than the other parts of Kaduna, the Zaria part, yet they used religion and political authority from the centre to suppress Southern Kaduna. So, when unfortunately Architec Namadi Sambo became the vice president under Jonathan, the northerners instead of being happy, accused us, and me, in particular, that we did it in order to make deputy governor to become governor of Kaduna State. Patrick Yakowa, mysteriously died in a plain crash and we were back to square one. Where the majority of various entire groups cannot win senatorial election, we shifted to one senatorial candidate, even though they were more than that. Go to Benue State, where by the Tiv have been governing all the time at the expense of the Idoma. You go to Borno State, same thing. So, we took a decision, 18 more states should be created and they said the 36 states cannot maintain themselves because they are lazy. They have oil money and so nobody wants to work, governors now stay in Abuja. Create 18 states, four for the Igbo. It is on this matter those of us who were delegates again in 2005, Political Reforms Conference, set up by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the issues of east region came up. South East is having five states instead of six. It was unacceptable. We recommended new states should be created immediately for the south east zone.
Then in 2014 National Conference, set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan, we recommended additional states for the East to make it nine; three for Northwest to make it nine; three each to the remaining four to make them nine. That was our recommendation.

Question:

I would like to ask two questions about Jonathan. Do you think it is illegal for him to contest as a president? And secondly, do you think he should run for president on the All Progressives Congress, APC, platform?

Response:
No comment from me.

Question: Is it because former President Goodluck Jonathan is from Niger Delta and he’s your son?

I don’t want to respond.

Question:
Did he discuss with you that he wants to join APC.

Response : He has not.

Question:
So, how will you advise President Muhammadu Buhari, INEC, and Nigerians about upcoming primaries and general elections because there seem to be tension everywhere?

Response:
In the first place, I say categorically that we have no leader. Look at this country, do we have a president? For 34 days a train moving with unspecified number of passengers, luggages from Abuja to Kaduna was attacked; a young lady, a Doctor, lost her life, and about 30 people were admitted in the hospital, two of them died later in the hospital and about 70 of them were taken away.

As El-rufai has always said, which forest in Nigeria is so difficult for the president to move into? And for 34 days, the President of this country has made no statement. We have people dying everywhere. About 70 people were killed in Benue, when the governor cried to Mr. President, he said go and live with them.

The question I am now asking is whether the president is aware all the problems in this country? Number of killings everyday where a lady we had to deliver a child in captivity. We ask the Mr President the other day ‘who is your candidate’? And his response was the man who wins but whether Nigerians are going to fight, whether things are going wrong he is the President. This is the man that said he’s working against corruption, and he presided over the levy of N100 million form for aspirants in the country that we say we are poor, where N30,000 minimum wage cannot be paid by some states, where pension cannot be paid, where some state are not wealthy enough to pay gratuity.

A professor receives N450,000 naira in a month and the Vice Chancellor receives double, then the Vice Chancellor goes back to the university as a professor and he will reverse to the salary of N450,000. What ASUU is fighting for is not for themselves alone. Develop our universities, provide facilities for universities, modernise our universities. I was Pro- chancellor of University of Benin for five years. Three years ago, they named the Faculty of Management Sciences after me. Pro- chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna, they named Department of Engineering Faculty after me. Today, University of Benin is one of the largest. I have written a book on it. I have seen what the people are asking for. They are not asking for allowances for themselves alone, they are asking for things that will make learning better.

Minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige is saying there is nothing wrong if Doctors are going, if they return they will have better knowledge for their country. What happens at the times when you don’t have doctors? If you have no N100m, you can’t go to UK for treatment. So, this whole thing is happening but there’s nothing anybody can do to advice Mr President. You cannot reach him
He has Garba Shehu, Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina, they are liars. They are the problem of this government because they lie in propaganda.

For Oshiomhole to say that Nigerians should be grateful for President Buhari, otherwise Nigeria could have been Islamised because it was Buhari, who drove away Boko Haram from Nigeria in 2015 but Jonathan said No, I did. And it is in his book. So,who is lying? The book was published in 2018 why have they not refuted it it?
Number two, I do not know what INEC is doing but I believe INEC will surprise this government. Now that Mr. President has signed the electoral law, INEC will surprise them during the Osun and Ekiti gubernatorial election.

As for the Nigerian public, over the years they have been receiving election money, blood money and elections has now come close, wrong people have been elected, their lives have not improved. For the first time they should shun money, they should believe in their own dignity that they are Nigerians and not second class Nigerians. The man contesting election and you that is voting that person, we are all equal.

Somebody said yesterday if they are about 1.4 million students in the university or who have left university, no job, if half of them vote; say today, we are going to vote. All these politicians will fail but they choose to become thugs. That’s my advice. Let Nigerians vote out of their conscience.

Question:
My question is about the 2014 Confab. It seemed to have been what would have united Nigerians. But that hasn’t come to fruition. In your own knowledge, what do you think was responsible for the lack of adoption of your recommendations?

Response:
Buhari, right from the beginning said he has locked it up, that that was President Goodluck Jonathan’s government something, something.
But some people argue why did former President Goodluck Jonathan not sign it? there was no time for him The conference report was made of up of three facets. There was a portion administratively Jonathan should have carried out, portion for national Assembly and there is portion for government to go with memorandum.


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2023 Presidency