Ndigbo have forgiven Niger Delta for civil war betrayal — Evah

COORDINATOR of Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade
Joseph Evah in this interview calls for unity of
purpose among political leaders of the Niger Delta
extraction. He opines that with a common voice,
the long expected development of the region may
become realistic.
By Charles Kumolu
What is your perception of the state of the nation?
The way the Federal Government is handling the
Biafra agitation in the East is very dangerous. They
are taking the wrong steps by ignoring the
agitations that are going on. For the first time since
the end of the civil war, we are seeing an organised
agitation. The Igbo man cannot ordinarily abandon
his business for something else, but now we are
seeing Igbo men leaving their businesses in order
to agitate.
That tells you that they are serious. Seeing them
sacrificing their time, energy and money, should be
enough to make the Federal Government interested
in the matter. Threats by the army, are not
acceptable. We expect the government to tell us
why they are detaining Kanu. Intimidation did not
work when we had our Kaima Declaration during
the military era. When they threatened us, we
became resilient.
Do you think the Igbo man has a cause to protest?
Yes, the Igbo have something to protest against
just as the Ijaw man has something to protest
against. Why are they denying the Igbo the right of
seeing their son, who was arrested? They can’t be
denied that right. I went to court to stop the
dredging of the River Niger during the military era
because there was no environmental assessment.
The government under Abacha awarded the
contract through the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF. I
went to my lawyer, Femi Falana and we stopped
the dredging through legal process.

If the government had not obeyed the judiciary on
the matter, we would have resorted to other
alternatives which would not have been in the
interest of the government. I questioned the
justification for wanting to have a sea port in Baro
in Niger State, while our ports in Warri, Koko and
Akasa were moribund.
Justification for seaport in Baro
They wanted to dredge the River Niger from Warri
to Onitsha and to Lokoja before finally connecting it
to Baro, which is close to Abuja. So the government
should listen to the Igbo the way we were listened
to during the military.
Do you think the Niger-Delta region is fairly
represented in Buhari’s government?
Niger Deltans are not well represented in the
government and we don’t know why they are doing
that. Maybe it is being done because the region
produced the immediate past president.
But those, who may be thinking in that direction, do
not have conscience. If you look at the way
Jonathan worked, it will not be difficult to know that
the north benefited more from him. He did that
because he believed in the unity of this country.
And the new administration has also started
treating the Niger Delta people wrongly. For
instance the Urhobo nation which is a sophisticated
ethnic group has not been given any appointment.
We have not seen any solid appointment that befits
the Urhobo nation and we are asking them to
correct this type of insult.
But Jonathan was also believed to have insulted the
Urhobo nation in that regard?
Well, you must have seen my publications. I
Joseph Evah, I told Jonathan, ‘You are
embarrassing the Urhobo people.’ I don’t do Ijaw
struggle, what I do is Niger Delta struggle. That has
been our major setback. To see yourself as Ogoni
man, Itsekiri man or Ijaw man and so when we are
divided the external oppressors will now deal with
us.
A number of persons from the Niger Delta region
felt that the Ijaw took over everything and looked
down on the rest of the Niger Delta people when
Jonathan was in power?
A lot of our people were actually misbehaving and
we cautioned them. They were behaving as if this
was the time for Ijaw people as if it was Christmas
Day and the Christmas Day is forever and we
cautioned them.
We tried to caution them that Jonathan was
representing all Niger Deltans.
In fact, not only the Niger Delta, when people tried
to make Jonathan an Ijaw President or tried to do
as if Jonathan ends with Ijaw we tried to warn them
that it is very dangerous. For example, 100% of the
Igbo committed themselves to Jonathan’s
presidency. That was why when Ojukwu died, I
organised farewell to Emeka Ojukwu. I mobilised
over 5000 people to the National Theatre. I paid
N1.5 million to mobilise over 5000 people to take
over the National Theater for us to celebrate
Ojukwu. The Eze Ndi Igbo were there. I took micro
finance loan to organize it and I announced it.
Jonathan presidency
The reason was that during the war, we did not
follow the Igbos. We supported the northerners
against our Igbo brothers. Now, Jonathan is the
President of Nigeria, Igbo had to forget about the
way we maltreated them during the war,
collectively decided to support Jonathan.
Now, the symbol of Igbo greatness, I call him the
Ndi Igbo Black Moses, that is Ojukwu, I said there
is need for us to celebrate Ojukwu. We will not
allow Ojukwu’s burial without the Niger Delta
people celebrating Ojukwu. That was why I
organised that and thanked the Igbo for forgiving us
because during the civil war, we joined outsiders to
kill them. Today our son is the President, you Igbo
decided to forgive us.
There are calls for the extension of the amnesty
programme, which will end by December. Can you
tell us the justification for such calls?
The training of the ex-agitators is still ongoing.
Many of them still require to be trained. Even the
trained ones are jobless. If the APC government is
talking about N5,000 Social Security for the
jobless, they should consider extending the
amnesty programme because the idle mind is the
devil’s workshop. It is not that we are encouraging
people to be lazy. We are only concerned about
how to make our youths productive and self
sufficient.

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