Over sixty members of Niger Delta Peoples Forum in Borno, dressed in traditional attire with the majority of the men amongst them, wearing hats, paid a solidarity visit to Governor Kashim Shettima at the Government House in Maiduguri. This event took place on Friday where the forum members assembled to express their support for him, and their disgust for their kinsmen, whom they believe do not know the realities on the ground.
Secretary General of the Forum, Prince Stephen U.A Ebri, who read a prepared text said they represent hundreds of their kinsmen who have seen, heard, and know the “real happenings” in the State, and “feel ashamed” when one of their ignorant elders speaks from a-far, and is out-of-touch, and ends-up misleading Nigerians.
“There is one issue that is seriously troubling the minds of every one of us here, and that is how some of our elders from the Niger Delta that are completely ignorant of the true situation in Borno State, by attacking this Government that is doing everything within its powers to address the problem. Sir, we were in Maiduguri when you were sworn in on May 29th, 2011. Sir, in case our elders in the Niger Delta do not know, there are Niger Delta people living in Borno, we are from the Niger Delta, but our difference is that we are well informed about the true situation and they are ignorant, they don’t know, they don’t want to know and we don’t think they will ever know,” said Stephen U.A Ebri in the prepared text.
“We are not fools or sycophants, we are responsible people that will call a spade a spade. When you were sworn-in, Maiduguri was in disarray, people were killed daily, bombs were everywhere, all of us were living in perpetual fear, young boys were threatening everyone with guns, calling phone numbers to threaten people, but today, Your Excellency, you have been able to lead the people of Maiduguri to rise against threats and defend themselves, today, Maiduguri is an opposite of what it was when you came in,” Stephen U.A Ebri said in his emotional address.
He added with a voice of urgency, “Rather than the fear and citizens imprisonment you met in May 29th 2011, today there is peace, security and freedom in Maiduguri. It was you that led us to the peace through the intervention of God almighty. We are worried so much by some of the utterances of our Niger Delta brothers, like Asari Dokubo, and elders, like Chief Edwin Clark. Only yesterday, we read an advert by Chief Edwin Clark, sponsored on the Newspapers, calling for the removal of Governors, saying all manner of things that are out of absolute and annoying ignorance,” Stephen U.A Ebri added.
In perhaps his most pointed remarks, Stephen U.A Ebri added, “Chief Clark said the Borno State Government is not cooperating with the Federal Government. How can a Government that is using resources to finance security agencies, be accused of “being uncooperative,” when we all know that it is the Federal Government that is supposed to fund the security? We are angry and tired with these utterances that are making us very uncomfortable, in a State that the people have been treating us with love and respect. This is a State Government that went as far as giving a political appointment to a son of the Niger Delta from Delta State, and that son (now) works directly with the Governor under the Governor’s office. This is a Government that appointed an Igbo man as a cabinet member, and that Igbo man is in charge of community relations, that Igbo man has been with Your Excellency for many years,” Stephen U.A Ebri said.
The room was silent for much of the time Stephen U.A Ebri spoke, as many in attendance considered this event a very serious occasion.
“Sir, anytime people from Niger Delta speak on Borno out of ignorance, we feel very ashamed because all that they say are not the truth of the ‘ground realities’ in Borno State, and some people assume that we from the Niger Delta all share the hate views of some of these people,” Stephen U.A Ebri pointed out.
“We have had enough of them,” with anger rising in his voice. “They are trying to mislead Nigerians and they are making us unhappy in a place we have been happy for many years. In the light of the foregoing, we the great people of the Niger Delta, in Borno State, hereby disassociate ourselves from all utterances made against the government and people of Borno State. We are however committed to any meaningful goal of the Niger Delta people which do not compromise the unity, peace and progress of the entity called Nigeria. The people of Niger Delta are reasonable, we are tolerant, we fight, but we fight good courses and not feather the embers of hate. Anybody calling for the military is talking out of ignorance of the laws of this country. If anyone has a military man he wants to make Governor of Borno State, he shouldn’t come through the backdoor, he should sponsor that person, to retire and contest elections for the Governorship of Borno in 2015, and we will be very happy to send that person letters of commiseration after we successfully and proudly re-elect Governor Kashim Shettima in 2015, to continue his great works of sustaining the peace in Maiduguri and working to attract peace in the entire Borno State,” Stephen U.A Ebri speaking for the forum said.
The group noted that it shares the grief of schoolgirls abducted in Chibok ,and stands by their parents while it shares the pain of the Borno Government for the human, and material losses, and the huge spending to support victims, and efforts to reconstruct destroyed private and public property.
Responding, Governor Shettima said, he is first a Nigerian before being a Borno man, and hence his decision in 2012, to appoint a Niger Deltan from Delta State as his Special Assistant, working directly with him, and also his appointment of an Ibo man as Special Adviser, as well as his spokesman from Zamfara State and another assistant from Gombe, is with that in mind. He described Clark as someone that acts against his age.
“It is people like Elder Edwin Clark that do not really understand who we are, and who we should be in this country. Power doesn’t last forever. Every opportunity you have is one that you must miss someday, however long,” said the governor.
Gov. Kashim added that he is 87 years old. As such, he said he should be a father to all, and he should champion the course of nation building and not sectional interest, if for nothing else, at least for his age.
From the moral point of view, “God gives some consideration to the youngest and the eldest. Let us continue to urge him in a polite manner, to see Nigeria beyond his walking stick. The hat that he puts on, should provide shield not only to his grey hairs, but to the young hairs of other Nigerians regardless of where they come from. Age should always go with wisdom of tolerance, wisdom of truth and defense of it, wisdom of togetherness and national unity,” Shettima said.
Chief Clark was reported to have said, by several national dailies, that President Goodluck Jonathan should declare what he called, ‘full emergency rule’ in the three northeast states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. That call, say critics of Clark, is on the basis of dubious inferences and has no grounds, nor validity.