+’You don’t blackmail, or threaten people to succeed’
Comrade Joseph Angoleme Evah is the coordinator of Ijaw Monitory Group and Publicity Secretary, Ijaw National Congress. In this exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, he opened up on the millions splashed on the physically challenged of Niger Delta extraction, the only acceptable condition for Jonathan’s re-election and much more.
We are not in our homeland here in South West. Thus, we have to do things that will bring us together. We have to be united. You can remember the unfortunate incident at Liberia. Those living in the hinterland cared not about one another. They were living for themselves. Thus when the war came, it was possible to affect several thousands within a second.
Instead of them to rally round and go back to their homestead, they were all trying to do it on their own. We have to learn from that. Although we know there will not be war in Nigeria, we have to be our brother’s keeper. Yoruba living in America celebrate together. We have such structures in South West. Thus, we decided to emulate and mobilise all indigenes of Niger Delta in Lagos to come together. We stage it every new year so that our people might have a sense of belonging, and see how we can assist one another across tribal line.
We started about seven years ago. And it has been a huge success. The last time some youth corpers were killed in Bauchi, we had to moblise when the government was not forthcoming as expected. We mobilized the Niger Delta people to form a rally against the government for delaying compensation for them. I did it and it worked and has helped us to do things as one.
You have a strong support from the president, has he ever supported your cause?
Are you referring to moral or financial encouragement? When I mobilized the rally against him for delaying compensation, I was not arrested which shows that he supported me.
What inspires you?
My inspiration is based on my affinity with those in the South-West. I have found out that they urged their people to be self-reliant. They have a lot of structures on ground. If you don’t perform as a politician in South-West, you can’t climb to the next level. If you don’t perform you can’t be re-elected.
Hardly can you see their physically challenged people begging on the road. I detest such for my people too. I mobilized the blind from my end about seven years ago to Chevron to disrupt their activities in Lekki, Lagos, to give them scholarship or will take legal action against them. When the inspector general of police threatened to arrest me, I said it was Chevron that blinded my people. And I want them to repair their eyes. Today, Chevron is giving them scholarship. After the rally, our blind undergraduates are recipients of scholarship. I recollect that when Chevron invited the police to tear gas them during the rally, the police were confused because how will they tear gas blind people? It is now an annual thing.
That’s why we gave awards to those doing excellently in their chosen careers. If we produced the first Ph.D president in Nigeria, they should know we are interested in doing things that will give us productive end. Before the destruction of our land, we were good fishermen. We exported timber. If you go to Queen Elizabeth’s palace, most of the artworks were timber from our region. We are very proud people. We produced the first female vice chancellor in Nigeria.
We produced the first inspector general of police and commandant of Defence Academy. We produced the first black Miss World, Agbani Darego. We produced the first cardinal bishop in Nigeria. I have over 300 dignitaries from Niger/Delta who are achievers in the world. I have the picture in my hall of fame. We are in the Guinness Book of World Records. We are talented because we eat fish which is quite nutritious. Those arguing that we are just militants are blackmailers.
They know we produced the first female professor of Mathematics. We also have oil that we use in feeding Nigeria.
Can you explain who and why they are blackmailing you?
What they have been using to harass us is the armed forces. Sadly, they failed to remember that the first Nigerian to be commissioned as an army officer whose number is 001, Willington Bassey came from Niger Delta. We are proud people. All the blackmail is falsehood. They now resort to blackmail so that they can exploit us. The blackmail is being carried out by major ethnic groups.
They engaged in such so as to divert attention with the belief that the looting of our environment is to help other tribes.
What’s the way out?
The way out is to continue mobilizing our people. We want new generation of leaders that will help promote our region. The old politicians caused the rift as a means of scattering us.
What has been the pain of this struggle?
Just like in South Africa, some people do not believe in the sincerity of the movement. They attack and have the opinion it was politically motivated. That was why I reported in the papers why I rejected the political appointment from my government. It’s not right for all activists to go into politics. We stay outside. If you do well, we commend you. And if you misbehave, we criticize you.
Some of your colleagues said Nigeria will collapse if Jonathan is not re-elected?
That’s not true. There is nothing like that. We are only appealing to other tribes to reason with us. It was other regions that even made Jonathan president. They mobilized and installed him. We can’t bite the finger that fed us. And we have been telling our son to perform. That is the only magic that will give him the ticket for re-election. He should remove all political prostitutes that will deceive him. If he fails, they will abandon him and lobby for the next office. There are many political prostitutes running around the Villa. We have been telling him to be wise and work for the masses. They are the ones that can re-elect him. It was not the political bigwigs or pretenders clamouring for his re-election that made him president. It was the masses. If he depends on them, he will be thrown out by the masses.
He should be focused. Any threat to anybody is uncalled for. Your performance is the ticket to re-election.
What’s you take on the sack of Stella Oduah and others?
We are still studying the situation. He should give us explanation for sacking or removing them. Is it because they have political ambition or they are threats to his government? I say it again, Jonathan’s re-election is strictly based on his performance not on ethnic threats.
How do you juggle family life with activism?
When something is in your blood, you can continue to pursue it. We learnt that from Femi Falana and others, who are at the fore front of the struggle. They still find a way of making their families happy. I don’t allow the family front to suffer because of the struggle. If the family is not comfortable, you can’t go out and defend others.
– FEMI OYEWALE