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HomeNationalBuhari’s Govt Plunged Nigeria Five Decades Backwards – Edwin Clark

Buhari’s Govt Plunged Nigeria Five Decades Backwards – Edwin Clark

Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, Chief Edwin Clark, has knocked former President Muhammadu Buhari, claiming his administration set the country back five decades in his eight years in office.

In a statement on Thursday, the elder statesman claimed that the Buhari administration failed abysmally, lacked direction, was full of insecurity, and recorded economic collapse.

His statement was in reaction to the launching of a book “Working with Buhari: Reflections of A Special Adviser, Media and Publicity (2015-2023)” written by Buhari’s former Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina. The book was presented alongside five volumes of another book titled, Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian Legacy, 2015-2023.

The South-South leader said Buhari’s eulogising of his achievements during the book launch was contrary to citizens’ assessment of his tenure in office.

What struck me most was the attitude and statement of former President Buhari, who eulogised his achievements as President of the country during the occasion. This, I must say, is contrary to the assessment of the majority of Nigerians of his administration.

To most of us as Nigerians, Muhammadu Buhari failed abysmally as President. His administration was full of insecurity, economic collapse, injustice, religious bigotry, and lack of direction. The eight years of his administration plunged Nigeria and Nigerians five decades backward. Even his successor, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, noted as much in his speech at the time when Buhari was eulogising himself, he said.

See the full statement below:

FORMER PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU’S EIGHT YEARS RULE AS PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE COUNTRY, WAS BIAS, UNJUST, NEPOTIC, UNCIVIL AND FILLED WITH RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY

By Chief (Dr.) E. K. Clark, OFR, CON.

(18th January, 2024)

I watched the public presentation of a book titled “Working with Buhari: Reflections of A Special Adviser, Media and Publicity (2015-2023)” written in five volumes by Femi Adesina and others, chronicling activities/achievements of Muhammadu Buhari during the eight years of his administration as President and Commander-In-Chief of the country, as contained in about 80 pages of the 488-page book. What struck me most is the attitude and statement of former President Buhari who eulogised his achievements as President of the country during the occasion. This I must say, is contrary to the assessment of majority of Nigerians of his administration. To most of us as Nigerians, Muhammadu Buhari failed abysmally as President. His administration was full of insecurity, economic collapse, injustice, religious bigotry and lack of direction. The eight years of his administration plunged Nigeria and Nigerians, five decades backwards. Even his successor, the current President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, noted as much in his speech at the time occasion where Buhari was eulogising himself.

For me, this will not be the first time I will be making this observation. In an almost 12-page farewell message I wrote to Muhammadu Buhari, on the eve of his exiting as President of the country, 28th May 2023, I said as much. And I wish to reproduce some parts of the said open letter:

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May 28, 2023.

A FAREWELL ADDRESS BY CHIEF (DR.) E.K. CLARK OFR, CON, TO OUTGOING PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI GCFR, COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, REGRETABLY ON HIS MANY UNFULFILLED PROMISES, NEGLECT AND MARGINALIZATION OF MAJORITY OF NIGERIANS

Mr. President, as your administration winds up on 29th May 2023, a retrospective rumination of the government’s activities in the last 8 years, vis-à-vis our interactions with the President, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and other bureaucrats of the administration; the promises made, the dispositions and actions of the administration to the people of Nigeria, lays out sad and irritating realities of worrisome inconsistencies, discrimination, marginalization and neglect.

The truth is, President Muhammadu Buhari is leaving the nation, especially the Niger Delta region, worse than he met it. He is bequeathing bouquet of unfulfilled promises, divided nation and myriad of critical federal infrastructural projects in shameful states, especially roads, and particularly in the Niger Delta region; in addition to the debilitating state of insecurity in most parts of the country, being perpetrated by the menacing killer herders, Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, heinous bandits, kidnappers and sundry criminals; to the extent that a vast majority of citizens, particularly the youths, are gripped by feelings of annihilation, fear and desperation due to lack of adequate protection by the government resulting to the now common “japa syndrome, where leaving the country has become the aspiration of most active Nigerians.…

I am 96 years old now, and I have been actively involved, by the Grace of God, in the affairs of Nigeria and the Niger Delta region, for over 70years, I have seen it all.

Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari declared in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015 and I take liberty to cite.

Having just a few minutes ago swore on a holy book, I intend to keep my hope and same as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody

In the past 8years, President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated in most cases that he did not belong to the whole country but to a group; his tribe and religion, which is contrary to what he said in his inaugural speech that he belongs to everybody.

For instance, he appointed fourteen out of seventeen security Chiefs from one section of the country. So, the declaration that he belongs to everybody and nobody”, was a sham. I make bold to say that the reverse has been the case, “he belongs to some people”, but not the entire Nigeria.

Even in simple matters like extending the good wishes of the government to notable personalities in the country on their birthdays or other landmark attainments, the Muhammadu Buhari administration was selective and biased in who it chooses to recognise or consider worthy of goodwill messages.

Muhammadu Buhari’s team has publicly recognised the anniversaries of people who in all humility are either much younger than me, or have contributed much less than I have, to this country. On my 91st birthday in 2018, I protested this anomaly in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari. I became 96 on Thursday last week; the Buhari administration did not deem it fit to send a goodwill message to me.

Given my patriotic services to Nigerian, three of my colleagues in General Yakubu Gowon’s government’s cabinet became Heads of State and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, mainly, General Murtala Mohammed, General Olusegun Obasanjo, and Alhaji Shehu Shagari, over the past 70 years. I regard myself as a senior citizen of this country. I am convinced that if President Muhammadu Buhari was not illiberal and “belongs to everybody, he would have been consulting some of us for advice.

Let me recall that I worked for release of the over 200 Chibok girls who were abducted from their school in 2014. For instance, when Ms. Bilikisu Magoro raised the issue of the abduction of the girls during the National Conference, the former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, asked me to move a motion condemning the abduction and to plead to the federal government to do everything to secure the release or rescue of the school girls.

At some point, Senator Shehu Sani approached me and related that he had been working with former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the release of the girls and they had visited Maiduguri on several occasions without success. That he was advised to approach me to partner with him in the quest for the girls’ release. I agreed!

Subsequently, the federal government was informed and we met with some leaders of the Boko Haram sect in a place where I do not want to mention. Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, a former Member of the House of Representatives and Presidential adviser at the National Assembly, moved around to some places on my behalf. The Red Cross in Abuja was involved, and the Swiss Embassy was represented by the Ambassador who had meetings with us including; a school proprietor in Maiduguri and a confidant of the Boko Haram, because some of the children they left behind in Maiduguri were attending his school.

During the negotiation, the Boko Haram sect gave us names of seven (7) of their leaders who were detained in Kuje prison by the federal government, they want those persons to be swapped in exchange for the school girls.

Following which the federal government constituted a committee that was headed by late Chief of Air Staff, Alex Badeh, with the then Director General of Department State Service (DSS), Mr. Ita Ekpeyong, and other security men as members. They went to the prison, but they could only identify 4 of the 7 said Boko Haram leaders. But unfortunately, our attempt to get the girls to do the exchange failed in Yola due to reasons I do not want to disclose here.

It is some of the men I worked with including Senator Shehu Sani and the school proprietor in Maiduguri that the Buhari administration later used in securing the freedom of some of the Chibok girls. But, unfortunately, till today, the government could not consider it necessary to recognize my contributions, apparently because I do not belong to Buhari’s tribe and religion.

While President Muhammadu Buhari’s government did not appreciate the role we played in the rescue of the Chibok girls some of the girls’ parents travelled all the way from Chibok in Borno State to pay me a ‘thank you’ visit last year on 23rd February, 2022. I also learnt more about the abduction of these innocent girls and the effect it had on their parents.

At my age, the present government had treated me with ignominy to the extent of sending armed policemen in loaded vans to my Abuja residence on 4th September 2018, to search my residence with a warrant procured from a certain Magistrate Court with the false allegation that I was stockpiling arms and ammunition from the Niger Delta. And the search took place for about two hours, and by the time they ended, journalists and eminent Nigerians, in utter bewilderment, had flooded my residence to know what was going on. The Ijaw youths in Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa States, and other places were already demonstrating against the federal government for invading my house. I thought if I belonged to Mr. President’s tribe and/or religion, he would have personally apologised to me for the embarrassment they caused me.

Having expressed my own personal travails with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, I will now address His Excellency on the issues of neglect and marginalization of the Niger Delta region.

When then Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, visited Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in March 2017, as part of fact-finding tour of the Niger Delta region, he told our people at a Town Hall meeting that the International Oil Companies (IOCs) would be directed to relocate their Headquarters to the Niger Delta where they operate from. Unfortunately, this was not revisited again because the Gbajabiamilas’ opposed it, knowing fully well that without these IOCs headquarters in Lagos, Victoria Island, and some other parts of Lagos State, the State will be empty. In fact, Chevron has an estate for workers in Gbagada, Lagos.

Since after President Muhammadu Buhari returned from his medical trips, the issues of dialoguing and fulfilling the 16-point demand that was presented to the federal government on November 1, 2016 by Pan Niger Delta Forum, (PANDEF) has remained unattended to by the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The sad truth is that the South-South Geopolitical Zone has been treated very unfairly by the outgoing administration, despite the region’s contributions to the national economy. For reasons unknown to me, there has also been series of unwarranted and unjust actions against people of South-South Extraction, even with regards to top appointments in the federal public service, in last seven years.

That brings to mind, the way and manner the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, GCON, and some other Niger Delta sons and daughters, were harassed and humiliated out of office, to the extent that the office of Chief Justice of Nigeria was denigrated.

The situation in the Petroleum Industry is even more appalling, where the discrimination and seeming snobbery have been elevated to unreasonable heights. It appears all strategic positions in the NNPC and its subsidiaries are reserved for people from the Northern zones of the country, while the peripheral positions are for people from the South-South.

The situation whereby the Niger Delta Region continues to suffer marginalization and isolation in critical sectors of the Country, especially in the Oil and Gas Sector, should be unacceptable to all fair-minded humanity. While our resources are being managed mainly by people from other parts of the country, the people of the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta, who bear the brunt of the degradation, arising from the oil and gas exploratory activities, receive mere soupçons and are rendered spectators of the oil business.

At this juncture, it may be necessary I reproduce a news item published in Punch Newspaper on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 by Damilola Aina; “Gas flaring: Companies fined N346bn in five years, says CBN ….

The flaring of gas as referred to above in the humiliating piece, published in the Punch Newspaper have been on for a very long-time and I remember addressing this issue in a lecture I gave at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos over 30 Years ago, where I stressed the damage being done by gas flaring to the host communities in the Niger Delta. The damage done to buildings where the roofs have all become darken by the flaring sooth and the disease caused by the gas flaring; every Nigeria Government has promised to stop the gas flaring and to pay part of the money being paid by the oil and gas companies to the victims has yielded no return. During a protest to Mr. President by first class Chiefs about two years ago and host community leaders of the Niger Delta; the President promised that the matter will be seriously looked into and money paid, but nothing has been done by Mr. President, by way of compensating the host communities which bear the brunt.

Likewise, the abandonment of the Export Processing Zone (EPZ), Deep Sea Port Project in Gbaramatu and Gas Revolution Industrial Park Project at Ogidigben in Delta State, and related projects in the Niger Delta Region from where the gas is gotten, in favour of the $2.8 billion Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) Gas Pipeline project; and the callous exclusion of Oil Producing Communities from participation in the Oil and Gas Industry, including the Ownership of Oil Marginal Fields and Blocks, are issues that cannot be swept under the carpet.

We had demanded that Niger Delta indigenes, with the capacity and willingness to participate in the Oil and Gas industry, should be given the Right of First Refusal in the bidding processes for Marginal Fields and Bloc, but all we got was a tone-deaf snub. Only very few were awarded to people from the Niger Delta in the last marginal field bid round.

Perhaps, we should also ask the immediate past Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, to tell the Niger Delta people, now that he wants to be Governor of Bayelsa State again, how many of the 57 marginal oil fields were gotten by persons from the oil and gas producing host communities of the Niger Delta region.

Most regrettably, in 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari with rare swiftness assented to the Petroleum Industry Bill, which was passed by the equally lopsided National Assembly, despite overwhelming outcry and condemnation that greeted certain provisions of the Bill, especially the paltry 3% provision for the Host Communities Development Trust Fund and the shameless appropriation of an outrageous 30% of NNPC Ltd profit for a nebulous Frontier Oil Exploration Fund. The PIA fell grossly short of the expectations of the Oil and Gas Producing Communities; certain provisions of the act legitimized the subjugation of the oil and gas-producing host communities.

The point which must be underscored here is that the Niger Delta people are not interested in handouts; we want to be shareholders, not servitudes, hence we demanded for 10% and not 3% in the industry that operates in our backyards.

Today, the international oil companies are reportedly, hastily and abysmally, divesting their onshore assets to indigenous proxies, without any recourse to the oil and gas host communities, given the devastation done to our environment by their exploration and exploitation activities, over the years.

The state of Roads and other critical Infrastructure in the Niger Delta region equally leaves a sour taste in our mouths.

The East-West Road remains an ugly stain on Nigeria’s Political Administrative logic, especially for something considered a Signature Project, because of its economic significance. No substantial inch of construction work has been added in the 8 years of the Buhari Administration. Sections of the road supposedly constructed were washed away like whitewash on walls by the 2022 floods, obviously due to the poor standard of work done.

The Calabar-Itu Road is in an appalling state of disrepair even months after its takeover by NNPC Ltd. The Benin-Sapele-Warri Road is not anything different; recently, women and youths protested over the deplorable state of the road. And if one may ask, what is the status of the US $333m Bodo-Bonny Road, a project expected to open up opportunities for rapid socio-economic development of the areas, even with a reported contribution of US $167m by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Limited?

Meanwhile, four years ago, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, while addressing the House of Representatives Committee on Works, disclosed that 524 road projects were ongoing in the six geopolitical zones of the country. Fashola said there were four multilateral-funded road projects, 81 under the Presidential Infrastructural Development Fund and 45 others being funded under the Sukuk bond.

Mr. Babatunde Fashola, again, on 3rd November 2021, advanced a list of major roads that have been completed by the Federal Government and which were ready for commissioning nationwide. The minister reeled out the names of the roads when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Works to defend his ministry’s 2022 budget proposal in Abuja.

Certainly, billions of naira, from the Niger Delta oil and gas, have been approved and expended on the construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges across the country, excluding roads and bridges in the South-South zone.

Whereas, Fashola said, the Ministry of Works and Housing have about 13,000 kilometers of roads and bridges under construction and rehabilitation in 856 contracts, comprising 795 projects and aggregate length of 815 kilometers of roads and 733m of bridges. The only projects listed in the South-South zone are the construction of a two-lane Bridge at the Cameroon-Nigeria Border at Ekok/Mfum, including Approach Roads.

The critical question, in all of these, is where are the roads and bridges in the South-South zone in the said list of 854 contracts comprising road and bridge projects of the Ministry of Works and Housing?

In October 2021, the federal government approved NNPC’s request to take over the reconstruction of 21 federal roads nationwide, totalling 1,804.6 kilometres at N621.2 billion naira, under the Federal Government’s Executive Order No. 007 of 2019 cited as the Companies Income Tax (Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme) signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. From the information that was made available, in terms of kilometres (length of the roads), the South-South had the least with only 52.2 kilometers. The North Central had 1,479.9 kilometers; North West had; North East had; South-East had 122 kilometers and South West had 119 kilometers. The question we asked at the time was, what were the reasons for such an absurd distribution? What was the yardstick?

In January this year, 2023, the Federal Executive Council at its meeting of January 18, 2023, which was presided over by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, approved another request by NNPC to reconstruct 44 additional roads across Nigeria at N1.9 billion, the East-West Road and Benin-Sapele-Warri Road were not captured. For the federal government to wait until less than a month to the end of its tenure to reportedly approve NNPC’s takeover of the reconstruction of the Benin-Sapele-Warri Road is deceitful and insulting.

The minister of works and housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, neglected the South-South zone in the allocation and distribution of projects by his ministry, in tandem with the established pattern of the Buhari administration. Even the housing units being built by the federal government across the country, we are unaware of any being built in the south-south.

Recall that when the $311 million Abacha loot was returned from the United States in 2020, the South-South was excluded in projects designated for the fund, which included the second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressways, as well as the Mambilla Power Project in North East zone; no project in the South-South zone was listed. That scenario was repeated with the Ibori loot.

The Federal Government seems to have been instigating situations to truncate the proper functioning of every Government Agency with direct bearing on the development of the Niger Delta Region, and the well-being of its people. Consider what went on at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for over three years where hundreds of billions of naira were squandered by the Commission under the supervision of Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, while President Muhammadu Buhari watched on like an unconcerned spectator.

Meanwhile, in paradoxical parallels, the North East Development Commission, NEDC, and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, and other agencies, are operating unfettered.

Conclusively, uncivilized bias, unfairness, and nepotism have been the staple characteristics of the Buhari administration. For instance, as I had cited earlier, out of the 17 top Military, paramilitary, security, and Intelligence related positions in Nigeria; persons from the northern zones of North West, North East, and North Central are at the helm of fourteen while only three are held by persons from the three southern zones of south-south, southeast, and southwest. The government need not be told that discrimination is a danger to any society, particularly, a plural society like ours.

We, I and 15 other patriotic Nigerians, are currently in court, over the desecration of the Federal Character Law on appointments by the Buhari Administration.

Probably, it never occurred to President Muhammadu Buhari that he is president of the entire country and not just a section; and that he was elected by all zones of Nigeria, including the southern zones; without the votes from the South, he would not have satisfied the constitutional requirement of 25% in 2/3 of the States and the Federal Capital Territory to become President of Nigeria.

I considered it an obligation to make this communication from a standpoint of patriotism to limelight the failures of the outgoing administration, particularly, the callous inattention of the administration to issues of the Niger Delta region and to further accentuate the developmental necessities of the people of the region, with the justified expectation that the incoming federal administration will bestow a fairer disposition and responsiveness to the Niger Delta region.

What is needed, indeed, is a just, equitable, and more egalitarian approach to the administration and management of the nation’s resources and the conduct of state affairs. THIS COUNTRY BELONGS TO ALL OF US!

Signed:

Chief Dr. Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, OFR, CON

Elder Statesman and Leader, South-South/PANDEF

Like I said, the above was my farewell message to former President Muhammadu Buhari on the eve of his departure after serving for eight years as President of the country. It was period of complete and total retrogression.

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