WHAT JONATHAN MUST DO NOW -EVAH
Understandably, tempers have been running high since the Christmas Day unprovoked attack of a Catholic Church at Madalla in Niger State by the dreaded Boko Haram. While the families and relations of the victims are already counting their losses, the nation is yet to find a bearing in its elusive search for an enduring solution to the lingering crisis.
Fiery activist and national coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Evah, in this interview, warns of the dire consequences of the activities of the group, saying it could lead to the break-up of the country if the situation is allowed to degenerate further. He heaped the blame for the wanton destruction of lives on the northern political leaders, who, according to him, are just merely paying lip service to the matter. Excerpts…
Boko Haram wants war
We have realized that there are people who want this country to break up. For the Boko Haram group to have attacked a church on Christmas day, it means they want a religious war. This was what Ojukwu resisted that led to the civil war. And if there is retaliation in other parts of the country, definitely it will lead to civil war. Yet, some people will say that people should not retaliate. The question is: Do those people perpetrating this evil have conscience? Are going to be the one to beg that Nigeria should not break up? If some people want Nigeria to break, must we continue to beg them for us to remain one? Who are the people benefiting most from the unity of the country? If these people are no longer interested in the Nigeria marriage, are we supposed to beg them?
Northern leaders fuelling the crisis
Northern leaders have not done anything. They are the ones fueling this crisis. In fact, the whole world should hold the political leadership in the North, including the vice president, governors, senators and David Mark responsible for the crisis. If Jonathan as Vice President and the governors of the Niger Delta could identify the militants in the region, why can't the northern governors identify the people behind Boko Haram and resolve the crisis? They are just deceiving us and we are not going to beg them.
When militant activities were on in the Niger Delta, the political leadership knew the people causing the problem. And because Yar'Adua begged Jonathan to talk to those bombing oil pipelines, they were able to meet with MEND, opened channels of discussion and brought the violence under control. So, if the governors of the North, the vice President and David Mark are claiming they don't know the people they are representing, they should be ashamed of their position. The senate president and Namadi Sambo should be asked to go to Borno to discuss with the people causing this crisis. Governor Aliyu Babangida of Niger State cannot claim he does not know the people perpetrating the violence in the country. He cannot say that he does not know the sponsors. If they claim they don't know the children who voted them into their various offices and then open channels of discussion with them, they are not worth to be councillors. They cannot charge the President to go and discuss with their own children. It is not possible. When Niger Delta militant activities were on, it was the political leaders in the region that met with the militants and resolved the violence. In the same way, the vice president, David Mark and northern governors should go and dialogue with their children and give us peace in the country.
Yar'Adua was the Chief Security Officer of Nigeria when he asked Jonathan to relocate to Niger Delta. So, you must know the people you are representing. It is laughable for the Chief Security Officers in the North to charge the President to go and discuss with the people they are representing. As far as we are concerned, northern leaders are the ones causing all this trouble, and it is obvious they are doing so to rubbish the Jonathan government. If the country breaks up, the northern leaders should be held responsible. They cannot tell us they don't know the people whom they claimed voted for them during the election.
We are not contemplating reprisal attack. We just believe that the northern political leaders represented by the Vice President, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and all the governors will talk to their conscience and work together to restore peace in the country. If they cannot do that, they should all resign their positions.
We the Niger Delta people are not going to break-up the country. The way they are going, they are going to break-up the country and we are not going to beg. If they break-up the country, we don't want our man to be captured as prisoner of war. So, the president should immediately relocate to Port Harcourt or Yenagoa pending when Namadi Sambo, the governors and the ministers will solve their problem and then we go back to Abuja. It is because of the fear of break-up that we are telling the President to relocate now.
They want to overthrow Jonathan
The Federal Government is not the same thing as the President. The Vice President, lawmakers, judiciary and ministers are also part of the Federal Government. When we have a problem like this, it is only those who are representing the people that can address the issue. The Senate President and the Vice President are from the North. The head of the judiciary and the governors are also from the northern region. Why are they telling us that they don't know the people causing this problem? They are just deceiving us. They should go and discuss with their children and let us know what they want. It is the northern leaders that are causing the problem because they want to overthrow Jonathan's government, and we cannot accept that.
Sacking security chiefs will be suicidal
The present situation is like the pre-civil war era before General Aguiyi Ironsi was killed. Those sponsoring Boko Haram in the final analysis plot to kill Mr. President. So, he must not listen to the blackmail to change the security chiefs. He should learn from Aguiyi Ironsi's death and not change his security chiefs or the NSA (National Security Adviser). If Jonathan changes the security chiefs and the NSA, he will be on a suicide mission; he will be a quick target to kill.
The problem is not about security but it is a political agenda. Those who vowed to make Nigeria ungovernable if Jonathan wins the 2011 election are behind the bombings and they are ready to destroy the country or force Jonathan to expose himself to danger and get killed. This is exactly like the period of Ironsi when the North felt cheated and political leaders sponsored massacre of innocent citizens from the South and later succeeded in killing Ironsi because he was blackmailed to accept wrong decisions.
No new security chief will come and do magic if the northern political leaders are behind the bombings. The vice president, senate president, governors and ministers are all aware of this agenda to take over the presidency forcefully from Jonathan. That is why they are pretending to tell us and the rest of the world that the sponsors are faceless. Since the beginning of the bombings, no businessman from the North, no academician, intellectual, retired military officer or former head of state from the North and traditional ruler has taken the pain to condemn and mobilize themselves to talk to their children (Boko Haram). So it is funny for all these institutions that I have mentioned to tell the world they don't know the whereabouts of the Boko Haram members or sponsors.
Declare state of emergency in northern states
I want the president to take three steps to save the situation. First, the President should declare state of emergency in at least two states in the North like Obasanjo did. If Jonathan declares state of emergency for instance in Niger and Plateau states and sack the Houses of Assembly, politicians in the other states will be forced to treat the Boko Haram issue seriously. Now the political class is pretending that they don't know who Boko Haram members are to engage them in dialogue. But a state of emergency in two states will change the language of the political class.
Secondly, President Jonathan should relocate the seat of power to Rivers or Bayelsa State for his safety. This idea is not new. When Babangida's life was threatened during the Major Orkar coup, he relocated to Minna to manage Nigeria from Niger State and he travelled to Abuja whenever he liked. Babangida relocated from Lagos to Minna to manage Nigeria until the security situation improved. The situation is now ripe for the President to also adjust his safety measures. Babangida knew that 85 per cent of the Orkar coup plotters were from the South. So he relocated. Now that the current bombers are from the North, the President should also relocate to Bayelsa or Rivers, and whenever another President is elected he can relocate the presidency to his village or state.
This matter is becoming uncontrollable. Is it when the President is killed that there will be need for relocation. Are we expecting what is happening in Rwanda to happen in Nigeria? Is it the relocation that is more difficult or the break up of the country? These people are ready to bomb the plane of the President; they are ready to bomb the villa. Do we need to get to the level of Rwandan crisis before the President relocates to a safe place?
The third step is for Jonathan to challenge the Vice President to relocate to the desert the manner the great Yar'Adua challenged Jonathan to relocate to the creeks of Niger Delta. Yar'Adua is one of the greatest Presidents Nigeria ever had. I want Jonathan to follow his footsteps and let Vice President Sambo relocate to Borno or Bauchi State to meet with Boko Haram. He should be accompanied by the Senate President, state governors and ministers from the North the manner Jonathan was accompanied by the political class to Oproza to meet with Niger Delta militants that were blowing up pipelines and kidnapping oil workers. It was that meeting that changed the Niger Delta violence story. What is the Vice President doing in the villa at this point in time? Why is he hiding in the villa? It is shameful to hear the Vice President, Senate President, governors and ministers, who claim they are representing the North, tell us that they don't know Boko Haram members. They are liars. How come they only know how to share political appointments and also share oil money but they don't know their children's activities? They should cover their faces in shame and resign from their political offices and stop pretending. We want them to open dialogue with Boko Haram. I'm in support of dialogue in any dispute or expression of anger by any part of Nigeria but for the political leaders from that zone to tell us they don't know the brains behind the violence shows that it is the northern political class that is sponsoring it to get rid of Jonathan.
We are asking Jonathan to take these three measures to save the situation. If he fails, then citizens from the South should be prepared to defend themselves and to carry out counter attacks. We hereby ask citizens from the South to relocate to the South and citizens from the North to relocate to the North. If the North doesn't want Nigeria to remain as one nation, we are more prepared for that separation. Let everybody go their own way. We don't need war to divide the country but if they want war, we are also prepared. The agenda of the northern political class is to kill President Jonathan so that they can take over like they did to General Ironsi before the civil war. But, I tell you, Nigeria will burn to ashes.