Comade Joseph Evah is a former Publicity Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress (INC), one of the founding fathers of Bayelsa State and Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG). In this interview, he talked about the NDDC and Niger Delta Ministry, saying that Akpabio wants to destroy the Niger Delta with lies.
As a major stakeholder in the Niger Delta, what do you make of what is going on at the NDDC?
Well, you know that right from the time of Olusegun Obasano as president, whatever is given to the Niger Delta, even the oil companies, whatever they want to give to us, that is our own right. We will always have a third force; an unseen hand that would want to cause confusion. So we are always on the alert to monitor and follow-up.
We thank former President Obasanjo for coming up with the idea of NDDC. Over the years, we know that a lot of forces are interested in what is going on in the NDDC. We have followed them up and sometimes raised the alarm, especially the amount of money that the federal government owes the commission. Even when our son was the president, our traditional rulers took the federal government to court, and the matter is still in court, that they should pay their lawful contributions to the NDDC. Even the federal government, we harassed them.
Now with the coming of Buhari, the leadership of NDDC under acting capacity, if we have people who are acting and acting, the normal way of them going about what they are supposed to do cannot happen. If people are always in acting capacity, their powers are reduced and they are limited unless they are lawfully inaugurated.
As it is now, a new interim management committee has come on board and this is happening about two months after the last Acting Managing Director came on board…
What was announced about three days ago is totally unacceptable. Everybody in the Niger Delta knows very well that this is another confusion. Everybody was shocked. The handwriting on the wall shows another confusion. I don’t know who is advising the President on this one when the President himself has already sent names of the new board to the Senate. We are all waiting for the outcome of the Senate screening.
The President has sent the names of board members to the Senate but now we are hearing of an interim management committee. All this are just confusion left and right, and it is unacceptable to the people of the Niger Delta. I even thought there was a mistake somewhere until I heard the news on the television. Unfortunately, this confusion is coming from the Niger Delta politicians, not the President. Those people, immediately we discover their character, we will confront them.
Does that mean you intend to confront the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs?
I have said it times without number, I don’t know whether it is the shock of his defeat during the last election that is still disturbing him. But we are praying that the shock of his defeat in his state should not make him… maybe it is the emotional problem of his defeat. We are still sympathising with him. He had said he was not defeated, so he is in court. But why is he transferring his emotional problems to the Niger Delta? You know the President was saying that the Niger Delta Minister told him that in NDDC, people just fetch sand and put somewhere in the name of building a road. Was that what he did in Akwa Ibom? We are telling the APC leaders in the Niger Delta to call Akpabio to order. Maybe he wants to diminish what is left of the honour he still retains. He is causing confusion.
If you go back to history, those who caused confusion in the Niger Delta never ended well. We will not allow him to cause more confusion. It is becoming clear that the minister just wants to blackmail others in order to remain relevant. He is only reducing his popularity in the Niger Delta. We felt that the President brought him in just to compensate him because of his defeat. He should not become arrogant. Those of us who have been in this struggle right from the days of Ken Saro-Wiwa will allow him. After the President gave him an appointment just to compensate him for his sweeping defeat, he is now trying to be arrogant. We will place him where he belongs.
He is the one causing all this confusion. He cannot claim to be wiser than those who pitied him because he was defeated. We didn’t tell Mr. President not to appoint him as minister. It shows that we sympathised with him on his defeat. If he had won his election, would he have been made a minister? We sympathised with him and thanked the President for giving him this appointment, but he now wants to be wiser than us. He should be very careful.
In other words, you are disappointed in Akapbio’s actions…
We are totally disappointed in Akpabio. He does not want to appreciate how we sympathised with his defeat. He should not think that we don’t know what we are doing. The President will listen to us more than him. Those of us who are activists, the President will listen to us. He has to be careful.
Are you people contemplating a meeting with the President?
We are sending a message to the President, and Mr President needs to remind Akpabio that ‘this appointment given to you, the Niger Delta activists did not reject the appointment, therefore consult widely before taking decisions.’ We are also telling other APC leaders in the Niger Delta that they have a role to play, not for them to say that we are confronting the President who appointed one of them as minister by the time we start. I am calling on all the APC leaders from the Niger Delta to call Akpabio to order. When NDDC was created, Akpabio was not governor of Niger Delta State. It was Victor Attah, and he was one of those that made Obasanjo to create the NDDC. He did not know how the NDDC was created. Obong Attah is one of the heroes of the NDDC creation. So, he should not come and start jumping about as if he knows the history of the NDDC. Other APC leaders should call Akpabio to order, because the way he is going, the emotional problem he is having over his defeat, he is taking it too far, and we will not allow him to come and act as if he knows about the creation of the NDDC.
What are your fears concerning the way things are going in the NDDC?
I believe that other APC leaders will call Akpabio to order. He told the Senate a few days ago that the capital releases for the Niger Delta ministry are not in order. He should go and manage the Ministry of Niger Delta. I have said it before, let me say it again, that (if you add NDDC to Akpabio in the Niger Delta ministry), he will collapse. Akpabio’s health is important to us. If he has good advisers, they will tell him that Joseph Evah loves him. He is not a young man. If Akpabio adds NDDC to the troubles of the Niger Delta ministry, he will collapse in office.
Let him concentrate and manage the affairs of the Niger Delta ministry that is already dead. All the signals that the Ministry of Niger Delta is not working are there. The whole world knows. Akpabio cannot be jumping from pillar to post in the name of working for Niger Delta. He should face the Niger Delta ministry and revive the ministry. He is taking his arrogance too far. He wants to use lies to become friendly with the President.