Chief Edwin Clark, the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ijaw National Congress, criticized former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday for what he called a “disappointing display of hostility” against the people of Nigeria’s oil-producing states.
The elder statesman was reacting to the former President’s recent outburst in Abuja, in which he assaulted the INC’s National Secretary, Ebipamowei Wodu, at a peace and security meeting sponsored by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa.
A viral video emerged from the forum, titled “Inclusive security dialogue: Unbundling barriers, a strategic meeting for key influencers,” in which Obasanjo confronted Wodu for claiming that the Ijaw were treated as second-class citizens in Nigeria despite producing the oil and gas resources that had sustained the country.
Clark accused Obasanjo of double standards on resource control in the country in an open letter to him on Wednesday headed, ‘My dismay at your unwarranted outburst against the people of the Niger Delta area.’
While Obasanjo talks tough and claims that all resources discovered in any state belong to the entire country, he has remained silent on the gold reserves in Zamfara State, according to him.
Clark also noted that the old Western Region under Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to make the money that allowed it to “develop far ahead of the then Eastern Region” thanks to the 1960 Constitution’s application of the principle of derivation, which allowed states ample opportunity to benefit from their local natural resources.
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.”
Reacting to Obasanjo’s stand that resources were allocated in the soil by God, so should be free for all, Clark said such an idea “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.”
On the other hand he went on to point out that 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?”
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