Contrary to claims by Chief Edwin Clark, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said he never at any time sabotaged the interests of the Niger Delta region.
Besides, the former Nigerian leader said the natural resources found in every part of Nigeria belonged to the country and not a part of it.
Obasanjo’s position came as a direct response to an open letter by Clark, leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF)and Chairman Board of Trustees Ijaw National Congress(INC).
Clark attacks OBJ
Chief Clark took on Obasanjo in Abuja over the latter’s recent attack on National Secretary INC Ebipamowei Wodu at a peace and security parley convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa.
At the event, Obasanjo made utterances believed not be in the interest of the Niger Delta region on resource control.
Specifically, the former Nigerian leader said oil found in the Niger Delta region does not belong to the people of the Niger Delta.
In the letter entitled, ‘My disappointment over your unprovoked outburst against the people of the Niger Delta region,’ Clark said: “This is in spite of the environmental damages the region is suffering. Your Excellency did not deem it fit to empathise with the people of Nembe, Bayelsa State, in the recent pipeline explosion which has inflicted untold hardship on the people of the area and caused humungous damage to the area; the aquatic life is destroyed.”
“The people can no longer engage in their major source of livelihood, fishing, can no longer be practiced. There is hunger; starvation is staring at the faces of people, including infants. The soot in Rivers State has assumed an alarming dimension with no hope of abating in the near future. The only thing people like Your Excellency, are thinking of, is how much a barrel of oil cost, how much revenue is continuously accruing to the country from the despoiled and ravaged Niger Delta region. A region where there is not even water to drink. To Your Excellency, the oil belongs to the country, while the sufferings belong to the people of the region.
“I am not surprised because your open hostility for the Niger Delta region was equally displayed when derivation went down as low as 0 per cent during your period as Military Head of State. Even the current 13 per cent, which happened reluctantly under your government later, came about after a sustained legal action to force you to implement what was provided for by the 1999 Constitution. The 2005 Political reform Conference recommended 18 per cent. But the South-South delegates to the conference led by me, were against it. As we demanded nothing less than 25 per cent for a start. When we saw the hostility against us, we staged a walk-out.
“The 2014 National Conference recommended 18 per cent. Your Excellency’s disdain and insincerity for the Niger Delta region has not in any way reduced. We still remember the fact that as President of the country, in 1999, you drafted the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) bill as one of your first Bills, but later refused to sign it into Law. You also decided not to pay the full entitlement to the Commission until you left office. You tried to kill the Brass Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), by bringing your proxy, Engr. Funso Kupolokun from retirement to be the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to pursue the failed Olukola Liquefied Natural Gas project; as a result, Chevron withdrew its shares from the Brass LNG company,” Clark, a former federal commissioner for information had written.
Replying the deluge of allegations however, Obasanjo, in yet another letter, said: “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.”
In the letter dated December 28, 2021, the former president said: “I believe one lesson that we all must appreciate that we have all learned in the last 61 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 being pedantic with leave-it or take-it attitude. Together, I also believe Nigeria can be fixed and mended for the benefit of today and tomorrow on the basis of give and take.
“If we all demand what we consider as our rights without yielding and with unbending stature, we will be wrong and record failure at the end of the day. Reform is a continuous exercise but relatively slow in achieving results. Revolution for sea-change may rarely happen and then we may continue to languish in frustration and regret with dire judgement of posterity.”
On the allegations that he was anti-Niger Delta, Obasanjo faulted the claim.
He said: “Rather, I have always picked points on leadership performance or policies and I will continue to do so. Even when a particular part of Nigeria decided not to vote for me and their leaders told me that in clear terms, I showed understanding and not anger or distraught and disabused their minds on what I believed they got wrong.
“And in subsequent elections, they voted for me. 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.”
“All those who purchase crude oil from Nigeria enter into a contractual relationship with Nigeria, not with the Niger Delta. 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 I have taken on the location of mineral resources in any part of Nigeria is the legal and constitutional position,” Obasanjo further stated.
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