A Niger Delta activist, Asari Dokubo, speaks on the state of the nation in this interview with ThePUNCH.
A lot is happening in the country, but you have been quiet. Why is this so?
When I was talking, they said I was making noise. Now that I am quiet, why are people bothered about my quietness? When we were warning them, they said we were noisemakers looking for relevance. Now, we are no longer talking, people are complaining that we are no longer talking.
The recent Petroleum Industry Act is generating controversies as some Niger Delta elders are not pleased with the three per cent derivation for the region. What is your take on this?
It is one of the greatest insults that have ever befallen the region. I am not surprised with the character of the (President Muhammadu) Buhari regime. Even the three per cent earmarked for the region, I am sure Buhari is not satisfied with that. If he had his way, he would have wanted us to have zero per cent. That is his antecedent. That is the way he behaves. I am not surprised. Anybody can read him perfectly. The so-called political elites are totally captured. They are so afraid and lily-livered that they cannot say anything.
What would you suggest in this regard?
He (Buhari) has sent it back for an amendment, (admitting) that it doesn’t have geographical spread. Do his appointments have geographical spread or respect Federal Character? So, in the midst of these things, one does not want to talk any longer, because the people you are talking to do not even appreciate what you are saying. The analysts will come and call you all sorts of names. I am now part of the ‘siddon look’ group.
The North appears interested to hold onto power beyond 2023. Do you think power should remain in the North or shift to the South?
I am not contesting for the presidency. For the sake of justice, the people who want to benefit are not fighting; their children are not fighting. Why should I be the one to fight for them?
The Niger-Delta region has now known peace following the amnesty programme by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010. Would it be correct to say that what the Niger-Delta militants were agitating for then have been fully addressed?
I am not a militant, and I don’t know what they were agitating for. I am not part of the amnesty programme; so, that is not meant for me to answer. I really don’t know what they were agitating for. If they were agitating for anything, they would not accept to be criminalised. It is only a criminal that can be pardoned.
There have been endless calls for restructuring in the country. Do you think Buhari would be willing to restructure the country before he leaves?
Why would you put all of us under one frail-looking old man called Buhari? Buhari restructure? If this is a country that practises democracy, no journalist would have asked that kind of question. Buhari does not have any power to restructure anything. It is in the hands of the people to agitate for what they want. Nobody wants war; everybody wants peace, but Buhari and his fellows want the peace of the graveyard where everybody will keep quiet with cool tempers and ‘siddon look’. So, that is the sort of peace he wants. There are agitations for restructuring. What is restructuring? Nigeria in 1960 was created as a federation. There is nothing like restructuring or anything else. All these other constitutions are from the military and they are illegal. They do not emanate from the people. Imagine the 1963 Constitution, which emanated from the people. If we go back to this constitution, it would be very clear. But people do not want justice. They want oppression. When you push people to the extent that they cannot pass through the wall, they will turn against you and fight. So, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When we reach that point, nobody will talk. For me to say Buhari should restructure…Buhari does not have the capacity to restructure, because it is not in his hands, and I will not even be where Buhari is restructuring anything. If he restructures, he would restructure us to one dollar to N600. Go to Lagos-Benin Expressway and see the restructuring that Buhari is doing there. Is it in our educational system, where people score as low as 80 points in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations and they are admitted into the university? That is the sort of restructuring that Buhari can do. We had legal documents that were available. Let us go back to the 1963 Constitution. That is the constitution that can lead us, and we can use that as a starting point.
Sheikh Ahmad Gumi has compared the Niger-Delta agitators who were granted amnesty by the Federal Government…
Ahmad Gumi is not a serious fellow. Let me tell you a story. My friend’s wife’s younger sister has been kidnapped for the past three weeks – a young and promising lady you can imagine the trauma she is going through. They have paid ransom, yet she has not been released. Does Gumi have a conscience? He doesn’t have a conscience at all. I am so ashamed that you are calling him a Sheikh. He is not a Sheikh of anything.
Just looking at his comparison of the Niger Delta militant with the bandits…
That is what I am telling you. Why would you even ask me this? Were the Niger-Delta militants kidnapping their own people and doing all these things when they were in the creeks? Were they waiting on the road to kill people?
What are your views about the secessionists’ agitations across the nation?
Self-determination is an inalienable right of any human being. You have the right to self-determination.
But the Federal Government has labelled those seeking self-determination as terrorists…
Which Federal Government? Buhari can say whatever he likes, he is in power. Who are the people killing? Killings are going on – very terrible. You are calling the people killing 10 people terrorists, but you have refused to label the people killing 1,000 people terrorists. How can you evaluate that comment? Where are you going to place that government? A government that says the people who kill 10,000 people are not terrorists but the people who kill 1o people are terrorists. Killing is killing. Villagers are being sacked. A young lady driving home has been kidnapped. Ransom has been collected, but up till now, she has not seen the light of freedom, but according to Muhammadu Buhari, these people who have done this are not terrorists?
As it is now, what is the way forward for Nigeria?
The way forward, like I have always said, is to convoke a sovereign national conference. Let all of us meet to discuss how best – peacefully, without bloodshed – each of us will go our separate ways. But if that is not possible, then, it makes violence inevitable.
Looking back, during the President Goodluck Jonathan government, there was a national conference. Don’t you think we should go back to the agreements reached then?
I was opposed to that conference, and I am still opposed to it, because anything that is not sovereign cannot produce anything that would be satisfactory to everybody. The Nigerian state, during the time of Buhari has shown how naked it is; it has also shown how oppressive and divided the Nigerian state is. Buhari has clearly shown us that the people of Zamfara can take gold and sell and make money, but the people from Rivers State cannot sell their crude as it belongs to an amorphous country called Nigeria. That Rives State will collect N175bn and receive N43b in return, and Kano will raise tax of N43b and receive N120b in return. That is the country in which we are. The injustices that go on in this country are just too much. The political elites would pocket anything that comes to them and forget about the rights of the people. Today, people like (Governor Nyesom) Wike are coming to talk. It is not just Wike. Lagos, too, is agitating. This is an All Progressives Congress State but they have also seen the injustice. Why will they raise over N300bn and go home with N100bn.