Leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Ijaw National Congress, Chief Edwin Clark, on Wednesday slammed former President Olusegun Obasanjo over what he called a disappointing display of hatred against the people of the oil-producing states in Nigeria.
The elder statesman was reacting to a recent outburst by the former President in Abuja, where he attacked the National Secretary of the INC, Ebipamowei Wodu, at a peace and security parley convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa.
From the forum themed ‘Inclusive security dialogue: Unbundling barriers, a strategic meeting for key influencers’, emerged a viral video in which Obasanjo was tackling Wodu for saying the Ijaw were being treated like second class citizens in Nigeria despite producing the oil and gas resources that had sustained the country.
In an open letter to Obasanjo on Wednesday titled, ‘My disappointment over your unprovoked outburst against the people of the Niger Delta region’, Clark accused the former President of double standards over resource control in the country.
He said while Obasanjo talks tough and insists that resources found in any state belong to the entire country, he had kept mum over the gold reserve in Zamfara State.
Clark also noted that it was the practice of the principle of derivation in the 1960 Constitution, which allowed states ample opportunity to benefit from their local natural resources, that enabled the old Western Region under Chief Obafemi Awolowo to make the money that enabled it to “develop far ahead of the then Eastern Region.”
He said, “With all due respect, Your Excellency, your outburst towards your fellow participant in a summit to which everyone present was invited, is, to say the least, disappointing, when you displayed a hate attitude against the people of the oil-producing states in Nigeria. You openly interjected both Wodu and Mr O’Mac Emakpore each time they tried to speak.
“Natural resources found in regions were controlled by the people of the regions in the country as enunciated in Section 140 of the 1960 Constitution.
“As a former military Head of State of Nigeria (1976-1979), and later a democratically elected President of the country (1999-2007), I am certain Your Excellency knows that the principle of derivation has always been top on the agenda of our national discourse before and after the country’s independence.
“Need Your Excellency be reminded that it was the practice of the principle of derivation that enabled your region, the Western Region, then under Chief Obafemi Awolowo; and the Northern Region, then under Sir Ahmadu Bello, to reap all the money that enabled them to develop far ahead of the then Eastern Region.
“From the benefits of the practice of derivation principle, the Western Region introduced free education, built universities, the first television station in Africa, among other economic and social infrastructure, including hiring at the time, an Israeli company, Soleh Bonel, to develop roads and other infrastructure.”
Referencing Obasanjo’s argument that resources were placed in the soil by God, therefore, free for all, Clark said such a notion “will definitely mean chaos and anarchy, as anybody in any part of the world can enter into any land, including Your Excellency’s Ota Farm, to undertake any activity that they desire to do.”
He further challenged the former President’s selective outburst on the Zamfara gold reserves, saying, “By the way Your Excellency, may I ask you, why have you not made a similar outburst against the open declaration of the governor and the people of Zamfara State that the gold under their soil belongs to them?
“Where was Your Excellency when people went to the Villa, accompanied by the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, to present a gold bar to President Muhammadu Buhari mined by the government and people of Zamfara State, as their property?”