Alhaji Mujaheed Asari-Dokubo, President of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) is arguably the most visible Niger Delta activist that has openly refused to submit himself to the Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme.
He has not only proclaimed the programme fraudulent, but insisted on the declaration of an independent Ijaw nation under a renegotiated term through the convocation of Sovereign National Conference.
In this interview with the Abuja Bureau Chief, Iseoluwa Ige and Olufemi Adeosun, he speaks on Jonathan presidency, Boko Haram and other national questions. Excerpts:
The actualisation of resource control and self determination are at the heart of your group’s agitations in the last few years. To what extent will you say your group has achieveed these twin demands under President Goodluck Jonathan, who happens to come from that region?
For me, government is not represented by an individual; it is represented by the ground norm. And the ground norm in Nigeria is the Constitution. And as long as the Constitution remains as it is, it cannot engender development because development can only be achieved when there are enabling laws. When you have the Land Use Act, Inland Waterway Act, Petroleum and Pipeline Act, and so many laws that confiscate the resources of the people, the land, the water, it becomes very difficult for an individual to change it. Goodluck Jonathan cannot on his own say this is the law and it becomes law like in some countries where some people would say I am the law. When Saddam Hussein was the President of Iraq, he said and he would say I am the law, whatever I write with my hands is the law. Nigerian laws are worse than the Apartheid laws of South Africa before the eventual freedom. That is why we have always demanded for self determination through the peaceful Convocation of the Sovereign National Conference.
In the thick of the agitation for these self determination and resource control, the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo arrested and charged you to court in Abuja… (Cut in).
I was not only arrested during Obasanjo’s administration, I have been in and out detention, not because I am a rapist, a bunkerer or an armed robber, but because I am an Ijaw man who proclaimed to be and remained an Ijaw man. I have been arrested and interrogated by the men of the State Security Service more than 70 times. I have been in detention more than 40 times. There was a time I always prepared my bag, waiting for them to come. When they come, I pick my bag and follow them not knowing when I would be back. It is not a new thing. The only time I have not been arrested or harassed is during the current administration. When the late Umaru Yar’Adua was in power, it took the intervention of President Medvedev of Russia to bring me out of detention. That was when a question was asked about why an amnesty could be declared and at the same time effect arrest of others at the State House during a joint press conference between Russian President and Yar’Adua in 2009. My offence at that time was that I had the temerity to tell Yar’Adua that the amnesty was fraudulent. That was it, but shortly after then, I fled the country. For 10 months, I was outside the country until I arrived when Jonathan became Acting President. From Babangida to Yar’Adua, I have been detained by the government.
National Mirror was monitoring and covering the case by then, but till now we are yet to ascertain the position of the case in court.
I don’t even know what happened because I had no access to my lawyers and even my doctor. All I knew was that one day SSS officials just came and told me that I had been released and that I should go. I never applied for bail. Of course, I was privy to some surreptitious moves and so on. I never begged. There are people who are alive. The Amayanabo of Nembe, His Royal Majesty, Edmund Madubebe Dakoru, came to me in my cell (at that time, former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva was his SA) came to beg me to change my lawyer and take Afe Babalola(SAN) and then make a bargain to beg Obasanjo. But I told him I would prefer to die in the prison. Also former governor of River State, Mr. Donald Duke, came to beg me, myself and his wife, Onari, attended the same Primary school. He told me there are only living heroes, but I told him that almost all the heroes that I knew were all dead.
He told me that all I needed to regain my freedom was to go tell Baba that ‘I am sorry,’ but I insisted I would do no such a thing. I would never beg Obasanjo to release me from prison. When Obasanjo knew I was not ready to beg, he tried to use some elders to come and talk to me, Chief Edwin Clark, George Alfred Diete -Spiff and several people from Niger Delta. Senator (Uche) Chuckwumerije and former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, also came, but I stood my ground. I cannot deny the fact that I am not Nigerian. I am an Ijaw man.
If for that I am going to be killed, I am ready to die. So the government granted me bail behind my back. Since I came out, many people have been agitating that I should tell the government to discontinue the case, but I said it with Goodluck Jonathan or anybody? But I know why the government would want to use it as the last card to blackmail me to submission. I don’t give a damn. Last year, many of my mates, relations and friends died. They never knew they were going to die. They had tall dreams. So, how do I know that if I beg today, I will not die tomorrow? It will be very shameful for me. If the government feels it is going to use it, It cannot hold me.
My aspirations and dreams are very clear. I came into this world to be alive, to glorify God and to lift up my people. I cannot come into this world and not contribute to bringing out my people from slavery. And to make sure we become free men and in doing that, I am ready to die because whether I am afraid and run away, death with still catch up with me. Our struggle is very clear; we are not struggling for Niger Delta Ministry or Presidency. We want an independent Ijaw nation with Ijaw people ruling themselves. But this first, should be negotiated. A Hausa man would not force me to live with him. A Fulani man, a stranger who invaded this country some 200 years ago, cannot force me to live with him. A Yoruba man cannot force me to live with him. I have Ibo blood. If I cannot live in Ijaw land, I can go and live in Ibo land. I know my root. But somebody I have no connection with cannot trust me.
During the administrations of former Presidents Obasanjo and Yar’Adua, militancy was on the increase, but now that Jonathan is in power, it appears to have been reduced. Could it be because Jonathan share the same views with you on this self-determination? If he does, would you really say his administration is doing something towards the realisation of the emancipation of Ijaw people?
I don’t think Goddluck Jonathan is going to do anything. We are becoming very impatient. But it will be wrong to fight your own brother. Jonathan is one of us; he is our brother, our blood, our flesh and our bone. You give him the benefit of the doubt and see if he shares the same aspiration with you. But overtime if it is clear he does not share the same aspiration with you, then you say, ‘my brother, e be like say the way you dey waka no be the way we dey do our own o, we wan leave you waka on our own o.’ And it would come to that because people are becoming impatient, they have started asking questions. The Boko Haram people are becoming bolder now.
They think we have been subdued, and this is not what we can take. Our belief is that for us to peacefully live together, we must peacefully re-negotiate the terms of our living together and if Jonathan does not believe in that, then we must ask ourselves question whether we are on the same template. He is our brother, but we cannot sacrifice our freedom for him. When Isaac Boro started, he didn’t know Goodluck Jonathan, when King Jaja of Opobo started, he didn’t know Jonathan, when King Koko Okia of Nembe started, he didn’t know Goodluck Jonathan, when Nana of Itsekiri started, he didn’t know Jonathan.
All the people who started this struggle never knew Jonathan. So, we cannot sacrifice our patriotic struggle for freedom for the sake of one man. We cannot do that. We must re-negotiate the terms and that is why there must be an un-inhibited gathering of the people with sovereign power to negotiate. Nobody can tell us that Nigeria is sacrosanct; it is not. It is a dubious, evil creation of the British for their economic interest and white supremacy.
You cannot put an old wine in a new bottle; it will burst. For us, we have given Jonathan enough time to look at this fundamental issue of freedom. Jonathan became the President not because he was the best, but because of what he represents. When the Gbagi man from Abuja look at him, or a man from Birnin Kudu look at him, he sees in Jonathan his own image and picture – the image of the deprived , oppressed people who have been put under the jack-boot of the “Born to Rule Project.”
It is the same thing with the Biron and Ogoni men. How can Jonathan stand shoulder to shoulder with former military President Ibrahim Babangida, it is not possible. It is the collective strength of the deprived people that said no to enslavement that brought Jonathan to power. If today, having climbed up, he pushes down the ladder, we will be waiting for him when he comes down.
Could that be the reason why you were quoted as saying that he would not be eligible for a second term?
I didn’t say so; maybe you didn’t read my interview well. What I said was that the way Jonathan is going on, the South-South might lose its uninterrupted eight years because there are nothing on the ground, nothing is happening. That is the truth and it must be said without mincing words. You cannot continue to keep quite when nothing is happening. East-West Road is a death trap; the coastal roads that Yar’Adua spoke about have been thrown away. Where is the Ledum Mitte Report? How long shall we wait?
In specific terms, what are your expectations from President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration?
We expect nothing from him other than what belong to us. He cannot give us anything because he is a part of us. Whatever he is, we gave to him. Not the other way round. What we are saying is that ‘you are the one we have prepared for the battle, where are the bounties?’ Why did we lose our lives? Why did the Ibo youth corps CONTINUED FROM PAGE 14 members, Yoruba youth corps members, Itsekiri youth corps members and Urhobo youth corps members who stood their ground in the North were burnt alive? What did they sacrifice their lives for? Jonathan did not become President the way Yar’Adua and Obasanjo became President. Goodluck became President with the blood of the people because the “Born to Rule” people said that he would never win. He therefore cannot tell us we have no right to the benefits of what we fought and died for. Jonathan should not play with our emotions.
When Goodluck Jonathan came into power and the agitation simmered, many people attributed it to the fact that some of the brains behind the agitation were allocated with oil block..(Cut in)
That is an insult, oil blocks belong to us. Why should (Aliko) Dangote, (Femi) Otedola and (Mike) Adenuga have oil blocs? Who are they? What rights do they have to my oil blocs? What rights do they have that I don’t have? I am not a gentleman at all, what belongs to me I will take, peacefully or by force.
Don’t you think some people would say that you are picking on the President at this time because he has fallen short of your personal expectations of him?
So, if a man takes food from my mouth I should support him? What are you saying now? So if one Editor in National Mirror fires you today would you smile at him? Why should I not expect what belongs to me, that Otedola should expect? That Wale Tinubu should expect? That Dangote should expect? That Adenuga should expect, but me at 50 years I should not expect? That Jonathan should eat in the Villa and fill with excess and I should not eat? And I should support him; ‘I no shame for that one. If he no give me wetin be my own, I go fight am.’ Period! There is no two ways about it. Do you want me to die with my 18 children in hunger? No way! I am too prominent in this struggle; I have made some sacrifices. I did not emerge from the blue. I was the Vice-President of IYC, I was Deputy President of IYC and I was President. I started the armed struggle from the creek. Nobody wins and hands it over to people. That is why those who were at the cadre of revolutions in North Korea, in China and elsewhere that are pushed forward for leadership. So, nobody can push me around; it is not possible. I don’t expect anything from Jonathan. I demand what belongs to me. If he doesn’t give me, I will fight.
How then would he be able to settle down with the business of governance if you, his kinsman, is fighting him on one hand and Boko Haram is killing innocent Nigerians, causing security challenges?
It is because he is unable to manage his goodwill. If people support you and make sacrifices for you, you should appreciate them. But if you sit down comfortably in Aso Rock and become Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, then Moses would come to lead the people to freedom. Since Boko Haram is fighting him, he must be cautious and ruminate on this. (Bola) Tinubu supported Jonathan to win the last presidential election, but what is his relationship with Tinubu today? Obasanjo fought for him, what is his relationship with Obasanjo? Jerry Gana, Solomon Lar and Edwin Clark put their lives on the line, what is his relationship with them. Why are they angry with him? That means you are not able to manage your goodwill. And if you are not able to do that, I cannot hold forth for you at radio and television houses.
Would there be peace if President Jonathan decides to give you what belongs to you?
Obasanjo gave me. Yar’Adua even did more. He gave me right to lift oil, 10,000 barrels. Almost every month I was getting 5,000 DPK until I disagreed with him. Five thousand tonnes of DPK at that time translated to N36 million. Obasanjo offered to make me the first Director of Youth Sport and Women Affairs at the Directorate of NDDC, I rejected it because Obasanjo awarded a contract worth N4.5 billion in my village, Soku, when I told him that my people were suffering and he, a man from Abeokuta, was enjoying. I am a king in my village. NDDC has also awarded another dredging contract in Soku. When this terrible flood came, Soku was never flooded. Under Yar’Adua, he awarded road construction in my community. Even with all that, I spoke against Obasanjo government. When SSS wanted to recruit new hands during Obasanjo’s administration, I went to him, spoke to him and he said ‘bring a list of your people’ and I took the list, the people went for interview. Luckily out of the 15 people, only two did not pass.
During Obasanjo’s government, they were recruiting people in the Immigration Service. Some Obasanjo’s aides told me to meet with the immigration officials. Some of my people were recruited. These things were done under Obasanjo’s administration. Even when I was in prison, Obasanjo took filling stations to my village, (Funsho) Kupolokun gave me the management of that mega filling station.
Are you satisfied with the way Jonathan is addressing the menace of Boko Haram?
There is no way you can crush an armed agitation, it has not happened anywhere around the world. The most vociferous and boastful state, Zionist Israel, who claims all sorts of credit, has not been able to silence Hamas, with all its scientific powers. The United States has not been able to silence armed agitation against global policies of repression. In Libya, they have not been able to root out (Mommar) Gadaffi’s men with all the bombing, the killings and the spate of genocides committed against the people of Libya. In Syria, with the United States, Zionist Israel, the NATO and the armed bandits that entered the country have not been able to silence the voices of the resistance of the people of Syria. How do you expect Jonathan to silence Boko Haram.
It is difficult to fight people without face. Boko Haram is not just a religious movement; it has something to do with the agitation of those who have the mentality of “Born to Rule.” This is the last battle. It is either we become their slaves or they win or we regain our freedom and go our separate ways.
It has nothing to do with religion. Yes, initially, the “Yusuffirian” movement was a religion movement, but the Northern political elites thought they had got their own militants in the like of Asari Dokubos, the Tompolos and they embraced them. It is a Northern militia against the government of Goodluck Jonathan to distract and make sure he did not work. When Yar’ Adua killed Yusuf, that did not cure it. It has now become an octopus, with several wings. It was very easy to trace the group during the leadership of Yusuf. But now you don’t see anybody, that was why when Yusuf was killed, I condemned it. I said the consequences would be far reaching, but some people were jubilating. Even if Jonathan wants to give them power in 2015, we will not allow it because he does not have such discretion. Then we will meet at the battle of Armageddon. They are killing and bombing at home. Now there is every suspicion that the helicopter crash in which (Andrew) Azazi and (Patrick) Yakowa died is not an accident.
There is a build-up. People are saying this is not an accident. A time will come when a group of people in Port-Harcourt and anybody that looks like Boko Haram will be killed – innocent people – the “Maruwas” and the “Mesuyas”. It will reach a point of elasticity where people would not be able to stand it again. When our agitation was on, we did not kill and bomb people. The easier thing to do by any Ijaw man is dynamite. People know how to make dynamite in every Ijaw village. That is the point that Jonathan presidency has been able to prevent.
What then do you think is the way out?
That is where I am driving at. The man has tried to make peace with them, but they have refused to dialogue. When Azazi said ‘you cannot negotiate with terrorists,’ he was sacked. There are people who are gaining from the Boko Haram enterprise, people who are buying guns and other weapons. If you go to some offices, you will see CCTV, some people get the contracts. Boko Haram is a big enterprise. Some businessmen would want it to go on, like some people are working to sabotage power sector so that we continue to buy generators and run on diesels.