Chief Edwin Clark, the acclaimed leader of the South-South, has fired an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing his administration of marginalising people of his region.
In the letter, dated 12 June 2020, Clark told Buhari without mincing words: that his people have not been treated fairly ” despite our contribution to the economy of the country”.
The letter is entitled: Let us call a spade, a spade!
“The message herein, is a message of truth; encapsulating my thoughts, as well as, the feelings, dissensions, and remonstrations, of the people of the South-South Geopolitical Zone, that I have been continuously inundated with.
“I have to state it, unequivocally, the way it is, for the sake of posterity, and in the interest of peace, unity, and progress of our dear country, Nigeria.
“For reasons unknown to me, we have continued to witness discriminative, and unjust actions, against people of South-South extraction, under presidency, in the last five years.
“Why is it that people, particularly from the South-South Zone, are being treated as if they are not Nigerians, as if they are foreigners, or as if they are second class Citizens, in their own country?
“Situations, whereby, people due confirmation for their positions, are being removed, and replaced with people from particular parts of the country, is not right.
“And the situations are getting too many. We are all Nigerians; we are entitled to be appointed to any position. If our people are not qualified, it is a different matter.
“Discrimination is a danger to any society, particularly, a plural society like ours.”
Below is the full text of Chief Clark’s letter:
Let me, begin by, expressing earnest gratitude and appreciation to Mr. President, for congratulating me, both on my 92nd and 93rd Birthday anniversaries. I deeply cherish the thoughtful gesture, and the kind remarks. As Mr. President, rightly stated in the two congratulatory messages, I have rendered over 70 years of my life to the service of this country, starting from the age of 19. And it pleased the Almighty God to keep me up to this age, and in sound health. Accordingly, as long as, I live, I will continue to work for the good of this country, in any way, I find it possible.
It is in that light, and in view of recent worrisome developments, that I am writing this letter to Mr. President on Democracy Day. The message herein, is a message of truth; encapsulating my thoughts, as well as, the feelings, dissensions, and remonstrations, of the people of the South South Geopolitical Zone, that I have been continuously inundated with.
I have to state it, unequivocally, the way it is, for the sake of posterity, and in the interest of peace, unity, and progress of our dear country, Nigeria.
And the truth, Mr. President, is that the South South Geopolitical Zone has not been treated fairly, by your administration, despite our contribution to the economy of the country. Let us call a spade, a spade!
For reasons unknown to me, we have continued to witness discriminative, and unjust actions, against people of South South Extraction, under presidency, in the last five years.
Why is it that people, particularly from the South South Zone, are being treated as if they are not Nigerians, as if they are foreigners, or as if they are second class Citizens, in their own country?
Situations, whereby, people due confirmation for their positions, are being removed, and replaced with people from particular parts of the country, is not right.
And the situations are getting too many. We are all Nigerians; we are entitled to be appointed to any position. If our people are not qualified, it is a different matter.
Discrimination is a danger to any society, particularly, a plural society like ours.
The recent events in the United States of America, over the ill-treatment meted to Afro-Americans; and the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations across America, and around the world, should be a lesson to Nigeria; no nation is an island to itself.
Mr. President, about two weeks ago, Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (Rtd), former Military Governor of Kaduna State, wrote a similar letter to you. The gentleman, pertinently and rightly, drew your attention to the imbalances in your appointments, and warned of the dire consequences, to the nation when he said “I regret that there are no kind or gentle words to tell you that your skewed appointments into the office of the Federal Government, favouring some and frustrating others, shall bring ruin and destruction to the nation”.
Colonel Umar’s perspective is very correct. But, instead of giving conscientious considerations to the issues raised by the retired Colonel, what we saw, were unguarded utterances against him, by some of your aides, and partisan loyalists. That was very sad and unfortunate.
Today, it seems, the only qualifications for appointment in the federal civil service or public service, under your administration, are religion or ethnicity.
Let me highlight, a few of the recent puzzling, and embarrassing, actions of Mr. President, which many have termed, targeted exclusion of the South South from TOP MANAGEMENT POSITIONS in critical sectors of the nation’s Public and Civil Service.
*Replacement of Acting Director General of Security and Exchange Commission, SEC*
Mrs. Mary Uduk, acted as Director-General of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), for over two years, but Mr. President did not deem it fit to confirm her as substantive Director General of SEC. It will be recalled that this lady, from Akwa Ibom State, was appointed as acting Director General of the Security and Exchange Commission, by the former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, following staff reshuffling in the agency, in March 2018.
In view of her track record of service, many in the sector, had expected that she would be confirmed as substantive Director General of the apex stock regulatory body. But, Mr. President, thought otherwise, and instead, replaced her with Lamido Yuguda, a retired staff of Central Bank of Nigeria, somebody from the North, who was a Commissioner working under her in the Commission.
This is a very glaring instance, of the discrimination and unfair treatment against the people of the South South, we have been talking about.
This woman has been part of the system; she has been at SEC for over thirty years. Why should she be treated that way? Was she found wanting in the discharge of her duties and responsibilities as Acting Director General?
*Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)*
Again, is the case of Mrs. Azuka Azinge. Mrs. Azinge who had worked at the CAC for about 10 years was appointed acting Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for about 2 years. Rather than confirming her appointment, charges were brought against her before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), that she maintains a domiciliary account, and that she was paid salaries and allowances which she was not entitled to, in an acting capacity, despite the fact the payments were approved by the Board of the Commission.
In a manner unknown to extant laws, the Code of Conduct Tribunal “ordered the Minister for Trade & Industries to appoint a replacement for Mrs. Azinge”. In compliance to this “order” a letter dated 7th January, 2020, issued by the Minister of Trade & Industries, to Alhaji Garba Abubakar, from Bauchi State, who was a principal Manager and former Special Adviser to the former Registrar-General, appointing him the Registrar-General of the Commission. The whole essence of the case was to ridicule Mrs. Azinge, a South-Southerner from Delta State, and get her out of office, for a Northerner to take over.
*Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA*
Another worrisome appointment by Mr. President is that of the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.
Dr. Dakuku Peterside from Rivers State was appointed DG of the Agency, in 2016, his term expired this year, he was not re-appointed.
Unknown to, and without the input of the Minister of Transportation, under whose charge the Agency operates, Mr. President, appointed a Northerner, Bashir Jamoh, from Kaduna State, who was an executive director at the Agency, to replace Dr. Dakuku Peterside. Mr. Bashir Jamoh, is reportedly, a father-in-law to one of your aides.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, also from Kaduna State, was reappointed for another four years. The two agencies, NPA and NIMASA, are parastatals under the same Federal Ministry of Transportation. Hadiza Bala Usman of NPA, from Kaduna State, was reappointed for another four years, whereas, Dakuku Peterside from Rivers State, was not re-appointed. Worst still, replaced with a Northerner. What could be the logic behind this?
Predictably, just a few days ago, Mr. President, renewed the appointment of the Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Umar Garba Danbatta, which was done expressly, without any hullabaloo. Apparently, because he is from the Northern part of the Country.
It is consequential, Mr. President, to further highlight that, we are yet to see a situation where Northerners have been removed and replaced with Southerners, like it was done in the case of NIMASA, and several other Agenencies.
These situations give credence to suggestions of a Northernizing agenda of the Nation’s public service, by your administration; sacrificing merit, competency, sector experience, and geographical spread, at the altar of nepotism.
*The Situation in the Petroleum Industry*
Let me remind Mr. President, of what played out at the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, of the Ministry of Petroleum, last year. The man who was Director there, Mordecai Baba Ladan, from the North, attained the retirement age of 60 years in June, 2017, but he was retained till December, 2019. When he eventually left, consistent with the tendencies of your administration, Sarki Auwalu, also from the North, was appointed to that position. I was made to understand that, Mr. Auwalu, who was an Assistant Director, was appointed Director of the key regulatory Department, ahead of eight Deputy Directors.
While, in the same petroleum industry, Roland O. Ewubare, who is from the South South, was moved from NAPIMS as Managing Director last year, another person from South South was not appointed to replace him. Rather, a Northerner was used to replace him, perhaps, because NAPIMS, like DPR, is said to be one of the strategic subsidiaries of the NNPC.
Interestingly, on the other hand, when Roland O. Ewubare, was earlier, moved from Integrated Data Services Limited, he was replaced with someone from South South, in the person of Diepriye Tariah. I understand, Mr. Tariah, recently, disengaged from the service, and another South South person has been appointed to replace him.
So it seems to me, there are positions in NNPC, reserved for people from the South South, and there are some other positions reserved for people from the Northern zone. Why the discrimination, and seeming snobbery?
Space, and time, will not allow me, to exhaust the appalling injustices against the South South people, in the Oil and Gas industry alone.
Mr. President will recall that I have written several Letters, both open and otherwise, to you on these issues.
While our resources are being managed, and subjugated, mainly by people from other parts of the country, the people of the oil producing communities of the Niger Delta, who bear the brunt of degradation, arising from the oil and gas exploratory activities, receive mere soupçons, and are rendered spectators of the oil business.
Recently, the House of Representatives passed a Motion that the unusual deaths of humans and fishes in Bayelsa and Rivers States, possibly caused by oil pollution, should be investigated. These situations cannot be allowed to continue.
*Former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation*
Mr. President may wish to recall, the instance of the former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, who happens to also come the South South, from Cross River State. A woman, who after several years in the Civil Service of the government of the federation, rose to become Permanent Secretary, and served meritoriously, in two or three ministries before, Mr. President, appointed her Head of the Civil Service of the Federation in October, 2015.
Mr. President, while we do not condone corruption, the way that woman was treated, leaves a lot to be desired.
This lady worked for four years, as Head of the Federal Civil Service, and she was loyal and committed to the presidency. Throughout that period of time, nobody said anything about her. Until, I understand, she had cause to disagree with the late Chief of Staff in the presidency, Mr. Abba Kyari. It was then, that they realised she was corrupt.
When she decided to resign on her own, Mr. President, said no; that she should remain in office. Only to be later humiliated, and disgraced, and now being prosecuted on all sorts of charges. Why? Because she comes from the South South, which is, regarded as a disadvantaged Minority area, where its people can be exploited, ridiculed and maltreated, by anybody. She had nobody to protect her; so, as usual, they treated her in such a shabby manner. I repeat that, I am not supporting corruption, if there is any malfeasance on her part, she should be tried.
*The Case of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria*
That brings to mind, the way the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, he too from Cross River State, was treated as well. I recall, how we appealed, when Mr. President hesitated to confirm his appointment after his recommendation by the NJC. Until the Acting President at the time, forwarded the letter for his confirmation to the Senate.
One had expected his confirmation would have ended the hatred against the jurist but for obvious political and other reasons, and perhaps, having regard to Mr. President’s reelection stratagem in 2019, this man was allowed to be harassed, humiliated, dehumanized, and disgraced, by less qualified, and far junior benchers, like the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, to the extent that, the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, was undignified.
And Mr. President, unprecedentedly, without deference to the Constitutional provisions on the appointment of Chief Justice of Nigeria, appointed an Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria; a person who was later queried by the Nigerian Judiciary Council (NJC).
And for no known reasons, the NJC, made up of senior jurists, surprisingly, without making any attempt to rectifying the situation, confirmed the unconstitutional appointment made by Mr. President.
As a Lawyer of over 50 years standing, I was ashamed that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) could not live up to expectation. I do not know what they are afraid of.
Mr. President, why is this being done to people who have faithfully served this nation, in their various positions. What is going on?
*The 16-Point Demand of the Niger Delta region*
The 16-Point Demand of the Niger Delta region drawn up after our intervention as leaders of the region with the Niger Delta Avengers, for which, I led a 100 – Member Delegation including First Class Traditional Rulers of the region, and which had in attendance Governors of the region, to Mr. President on the 1st of November, 2016, is yet to be attended to.
The Presidential Amnesty Program has now become everybody’s affair in Nigeria. These situations are unacceptable.
The construction of the East-West Road has been abandoned. Recent news reports show the deplorable nature of the road. Motorists and travellers are stock and stranded in the Bayelsa axis, an unmanageable gridlock of trucks and other vehicles has formed stretching to several kilometers. A journey of between 15 and 20 minutes, now last for hours un-end. Same is happening at the Akwa-Ibom/Cross River axis. The East-West Road is undoubtedly the haulage route of the nation’s economy; yet it is a project not qualified as a priority project for the monies recovered from Gen. Sani Abacha to be spent on.
My adjuration, therefore, to the people of the South South, is that they should esteem themselves as Bona fide Nigerians, and be courageous, in fighting for their undeniable rights. Nobody owns this country more than they do; rather Nigeria stands to lose, if there is crunch in our Region because of this injustices, unfairness, neglect, and continued marginalization.
Today is June 12, which Mr. President declared, Democracy Day, last year, in place of May 29, and the essence of this day, that is freedom and equality, epitomizes the crux of this letter.
Therefore, as we remember, the heroic courage and sacrifices of MKO Abiola, and all those who have stood in defense of TRUTH, FREEDOM, and DEMOCRACY, may I implore, Mr. President, to discard the togs of nepotism and injustice. And don the noble vestments of inclusiveness, equity, fairness, and justice, for the betterment of Nigeria, our dear country as in the days when the politically motivated Kano State voted against their son Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) and voted massively for Alhaji Moshood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), from Souh-West.
That was the height of Nigerian democracy.
I pray that as we celebrate Democracy Day today, we go back to that era where Nigeria was Nigeria; not now when religion and ethnicity decides who is popular and who is better qualified to be voted for.
I am an old man now, I have just celebrated my 93rd birthday, but it would be unthinkable for me, to keep quiet in the face of such injustice, oppression, and marginalization, unfair and unjust treatment, being practiced against my people. I can say, without doubt, we have never had it this so bad.
I do not know when it will please the Almighty God to call me home. But, let me sound this note of warning, THINGS CANNOT CONTINUE THIS WAY!
Thank you, Mr. President.