There’ll be unrest should another Northerner succeed Buhari –Joseph Evah

Joseph Evah is the Coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (ING). In this interview with OLAOLU OLADIPO, he spoke about sundry issues of national importance. Excerpt…

What is your assessment of the state of the nation?

I must tell you that President Muhammadu Buhari has disappointed many of us with the way the country has been struggling under the yoke of insecurity ravaging all parts of the country. As we speak, the country is not safe for us as Nigerians and I am very sad. I showed support for him when he contested in 2015 thinking that his Presidency will take care of two basic problems affecting the country. I thought that Buhari would deal with the issue of insecurity in the country as a retired military General but that has not happened, rather, the country is sinking deeper. I also thought that President Buhari would address numerous problems in the oil and gas industry where some cabals have been feeding fat from the rot in the sector. I thought he was going to fight them but that is not happening under him. He appears to be so powerless and helpless may be due to old age. The economy is not even in good shape.

From the way you are talking, it seems nothing positive has happened during Buhari’s tenure?

I won’t say anything positive has not happened so far. For instance, he has been doing Ogoni cleanup, which is a good way to start clean up in other areas of the South South.

What’s reading of the political terrain ahead of the forthcoming general election?

The state of the country is not too palatable considering the fact that some elements are saying that a Northerner must succeed President Muhammadu Buhari who is expected to complete his second term next year. We are aware of their plans and moves and we are saying that that will never be acceptable to us in the Southerner part of Nigeria. When you look at the 1999 Constitution, the issue of Federal Character is well stated there. The constitution wishes that every Nigerian must and should have equal access to leadership. This Constitutional provision is what some elements in and outside government is trying to abridge for selfish reasons and it will never be acceptable to us.

In other words, you are calling for a power shift to the South?

Yes of course! I support that call and agitation because it is the right thing to do but I must also fault the argument of those saying that the North should retain power post 2023. Those making such a demand should have their heads examined because it is being done with mischief. I say mischief because how on earth can you in the right senses begin to count from 1999 when in actual fact the country secured its Independence in 1960 and not 1999. If those making the claim that power should remain in the North should examine themselves very well, they’d realise that prior to 1999, the North had more leaders for the country than the South. For political convenience, they won’t say that but would be counting from 1999.

Some people think that the whole argument over zoning will not ensure that the best candidate that would fix the country will eventually emerge…

The argument is lazy and lame because I can tell you for a fact that there is no part of the country where you won’t find qualified and competent personalities. So, what I am saying is that when it is the turn of any particular region, they should ensure that stakeholders in the area present the best they can offer to fill the office. To me, it would be bad for a particular region to think that they have exclusive right to the office of the President to the exclusion of others. Moreover, those making this assertion are using the resources in their region for their personal use while sharing resources from other regions as derivable from the common pool.

In your considered opinion, where do you think the presidency should be zoned to should it be agreed that power must shift?

Do you think the people of the South East should get it? I don’t wish to tell you where the office should be zoned to at this time because it is too premature to do that. What I know is that it must come to the South, since it is in the North now, in the name of equity and fairness. Sincerely, I don’t want to say any particular zone in the South should get it. If I do, those politicians would profit from it and render the whole agitation useless for their gains. I won’t do that but it must come to the South.

Is there any interface between the Southern leaders and their Northern counterparts regarding the issue of zoning?

We are currently meeting with them and it is continuous. We are trying to make those we have met to see reason with our demand.

What happens if the North decides to field a candidate and that candidate wins?

There will be a lot of agitations that will lead to a lot of disruption caused by a lot of agitation from the people that will threaten national security. I don’t think it will be the wise thing to do.

Some people are calling on former President Goodluck Jonathan to re-contest in 2023?

Why not, the Constitution grants him the right to contest to finish his term. He would have won in 2015 but was prevented by a conspiracy or gang up that was thrown at him.




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