Part of the expectations from elder statesmen is that unusual ability to maintain measured silence on national issues such that when they finally speak offer insight their words carry something similar to the weight of fiats. Chief Edwin Kiaogbodo Clark seems not to have received the memo on that. He has consistently been in the news trumpeting his desperation for government negotiation with his “children” under an arrangement that inevitably put money in his own pocket.
He has obstinately refused to see the larger picture and can only be bothered with his own self importance; nothing in his clamouring is anchored on the interest of the Ijaw nation as his only concern is how to continue enjoying the attention and resources that come with having a government assignment, which he desperately needs now that he has been out of government since he helped ruin the Goodluck Jonathan presidency.
At his age he should speak with foresight. Age dims the physical eyes but the inner eyes become sharpened to offer better insight and foresight but Chief Edwin Clark is apparently missing out on this. If he has that gift that comes with old age he would not be about urging other people’s children on suicide mission while his own offspring are enjoying the proceeds of his previous conspiracies abroad.
In furtherance of his deception, Clark is now claiming that monarchs, leaders and stakeholders in the Niger Delta region are the ones that got the Niger Delta Avengers and other criminal militants groups to sheath their sword and halt attacks on installations in the region. Let us just pretend that he is deluding himself and not lying. He should however acknowledge the fact that his “children” have realised the folly of taking on the state – “Operation Crocodile Smile” taught them that and they should be worried what an “Operation Shark Bite” would feel like. They have also realised that crippling the nation’s economy is nothing short of the Niger Delta committing suicide as the hardship is felt worst in the creeks where slush militant funds have distorted the local economy to start with.
If Pa Clark’s reasoning failed him as to why his children went quiet he understands even less that the aberration and impunity that reigned under his godson are now history. Chief Clark actually thinks a state institution will stop curtailing criminality simply because he flew the same plane with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). That era is gone when military chiefs were humiliated into deferring to his jingoist distortions. This COAS answers to the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and not some tribal chief.
Chief Edwin Clark must also accept that it is naturally the burden of traditional rulers and leaders of the Niger Delta to clean up the mess they created when they allowed their “children” to take up arms against the state. Some even encouraged them in the hope of sharing from the booty that will come from negotiations. He should therefore not make it look like the rest of the country owes these leaders for calling the militants to order, assuming they actually did.
The comment, “Niger Delta people are part of the country and they should not be treated like second-class citizens” credited to Clark is the indication yet that there is not genuine change of heart among the militants and their leaders. Are they sincerely thinking that blowing up economic infrastructure is their right and that they are second class citizens because the Nigerian state against their pyromania? This clearly suggests that the Ijaw have decided that other ethnic nationals in the country are subhuman or at least that is what Clark would want us believe.
It is instructive that Clark’s latest outburst is featured in the same story that contained a statement issued by his children, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) that was attempting to blackmail the Presidency about “Operation Crocodile Smile”. The same criminals that want to break up Nigeria are suddenly interested in the safety of troops of the Nigerian Army. The reporter did a goo job in merging both actors – Clark and NDA spokesperson, Mudoch Agbinibo, since the content of their contributions to that story showed a degree of coordination of thoughts to the extent that it became apparent they both read from the same script. That script is one calling for the withdrawal of the military from the Niger Delta and is therefore unacceptable in view of the criminality going on there.
If anyone will urge President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate the conduct of military operations then it definitely is not the NDA or Clark. The NDA any other militant group in the region must know that cessation of hostilities on their part is not something for which they should be commended as the issue of the crimes they have committed against the country is still there to be dealt with. If their elders are misleading them then they need to seek matured consent elsewhere.
This brings to the fore the need for the Ijaw nation to retire Chief Edwin Kiaogbodo Clark as one of their leaders. He is heavily compromised and vested in securing meal tickets for himself and his biological children to objectively offer suggestions that genuinely serve the region’s interest. Age is also not on his side as he is beginning to exhibit the kind of lapses in judgment that are not unconnected with the degenerative impact of age on mental health. The Ijaw must therefore seek out new leaders that have more than their immediate family at heart.
In addition to retiring Clark, they must also give up the militants in their midst since they have repeatedly shown that they are only interested in getting paid from negotiated amnesty.
***Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.