Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday tackled the leader of the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Clark over his claim that crude oil belongs to the Niger Delta region and not Nigeria.
Obasanjo insisted that it was wrong and unconstitutional for Clark and the people of Niger Delta to lay claim to crude oil or any mineral resources, saying: “No territory in Nigeria including the minerals found therein belongs to the area of location and this remains so until the federation is dissolved.”
The former President stated this in his response to Clark’s allegation that he displayed hatred against the people of Niger Delta during a peace and security meeting, convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa.
Clark, who is the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Ijaw National Congress (INC) had in a letter titled: “My Disappointment Over Unprovoked Outburst Against The People of Niger Delta Region”, also accused Obasanjo of verbally attacking the National Secretary of INC, Ebipamowei Wodu at the meeting recently held in Abuja.
But, Obasanjo in a sixpage letter in response to Clark insisted he has no resentment against the Niger Delta region. The former President chided the leader of Ijaw nation for using “bad, imprudent, unwise and immature” words to describe him.
Obasanjo expressed disappointment over Clark’s deployment of “offensive and uncouth” languages which according to him are unbecoming of a leader of Clark’s status to describe him.
The former President declared that Nigeria and Niger Delta demand Clark, a statesman and not a tribesman, just as he warned the Ijaw nation leader against deploying “offensive and uncouth languages” to describe his personality.
“Some of the languages you (Clark) have deployed to describe me in your letter are offensive, uncouth and totally and completely rejected them. I am not inconsistent, hypocritical, unstatesman and nor am I anybody’s lackey.
“You use your own yardstick to judge others. I fear God and I respect those who respect themselves and I hope it is about time you change from a tribesman to a statesman of character.
That is what Nigeria and indeed the region you profess to love demand of you at this stage. “I believe one lesson that we all must appreciate that we have all learned in the last sixtyone years of our independence is that we all need to be civil to ourselves and occasionally put ourselves in the position of others.
“Bad language does not show prudence, wisdom and maturity. I hope you will think and adjust. Negotiation achieves better results than dictation. I believe that we should be reformists rather than be- ing pedantic with a leaveit or take-it attitude,” Obasanjo said.
The former President insisted that he had never for once hated the people of the region or any part of the country, saying he is an advocate of Nigeria’s project.
“For me, personally. I have never shown any anger or distraught neither with Nigeria Delta Region nor with any part or region of Nigeria Rather, I have always picked points on leadership performance nor policies and I will continue to do so.
“My records before, during and after the civil war in Nigeria Delta Region was without blemish and it was all goodwill to all the people of Nigeria and especially the people of the Niger Delta Region which was my theatre of operation during the Nigerian civil war.
“I have always stood for equity and justice in our Federation and, for me, tribe has to be suppressed for the state to emerge. And until the state emerges, Nigeria will not make the desired progress as tribesmen will always sacrifice state for tribe. This has always been my position and it will remain my position until I breathe my last,” Obasanjo said.
Reacting to Clark’s allegation of double standard over resource control in the country, Obasanjo said: “You (Clark) cannot have two sovereign entities within a state which is what your position of Niger Delta ownership claim of the crude oil found in that location amounts to.”
Obasanjo said: “The territory of Nigeria is indivisible inclusive of the resources found therein. No territory in Nigeria including the minerals found therein belongs to the area of location and this remains so until the federation is dissolved.
“This is the position of the Nigerian Constitution and international law. If there is a threat of violence to any part of Nigeria today including the Niger Delta it is the Nigerian military backed by any other machinery that can be procured or established at the Federal level that will respond to any such threat In principle and practice, the position have taken on the location of mineral resources in any part of Nigeria is the legal and constitutional position.”