Veteran Niger-Delta politician and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, has discountenanced media reports that he spoke ill of former President Goodluck Jonathan during an interview with newsmen in Abuja earlier this month.
Clark described the reports, which quoted him as claiming that Jonathan was too feeble to fight corruption while in office, as greatly exaggerated and, therefore, malicious.
“My statements on President Jonathan and my quitting partisan politics were wickedly, sensationally presented.”
The report immediately attracted the fury of supporters and associates of the former president who said Mr. Clark’s outburst showed that he is an ungrateful individual because he had unfettered access to Jonathan throughout his presidency, an access they claimed Clark used to enrich himself.
Clark was also reprimanded by Mr. Reuben Abati, Jonathan’s spokesman, who wrote an op-ed critical of Clark. In the story headlined: “Clark, the Father, Jonathan, the son,” Abati detailed how Clark used to praise his principal and how elder statesman fought a lot of political battles on behalf of the former president.
Writing in a letter he sent to media houses, Clark, a former Federal Commissioner for Information, said the allegations against him were spurious and alleged that those who have continued to propagate them are actually the ones responsible for Jonathan’s ouster. He also said Mr. Jonathan, who’s currently on a Commonwealth mission to Tanzania, showed enormous willingness to fight corruption.
“It must be admitted that President Jonathan was very willing to fight corruption, but he believed that due process should and must be followed otherwise he could have initiated investigations into the scandals of Halliburton, Siemens and other serious alleged corruption charges leveled against some former Heads of State and other prominent Nigerians,” he said.
He also wrote that the former president was very circumspect about the consequences of abuse of power and refused to interfere in corruption cases at the EFCC.
“Jonathan believed that there are institutions set up by the government, such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commissions, EFCC, and other anti-graft agencies.”
Chief Clark alleges further that those whose duty it was to tackle graft shirked responsibility, especially Jonathan’s Attorney-General of the Federation.
“Regrettably, some of those who surrounded him led by the Attorney General, Alhaji Hassan Tukur, made it impossible for these institutions to work either by stopping them from arresting offenders or prosecuting some of the cases.
“Over 50 high profile corruption cases are still pending in the various courts for over eight years now. Laughable plea bargains and out of court settlements became the order of the day.
“It was at this juncture, when there was general complaint about the government not aggressively fighting corruption, that I addressed an open petition to the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, November 2 , 2011, complaining that most of those charged to court, especially former governors who have become senators, were still pending.
“He promptly replied my letter on November 3. Most of the petitions written against some prominent Nigerians, addressed to the anti-graft agencies, did not see the light of the day.”
Clark added that those who have come after him since he was misquoted in the media are lost on a striking irony.
“Ironically, the perpetrators of these corrupt actions were the same persons who attacked Jonathan’s inability to eradicate corruption.”
The Ijaw leader, who recently announced his retirement from active politics, concluded by explaining how he became close to Jonathan; warning his detractors to desist from calling him an ingrate because he never benefited from President Jonathan’s administration.
“It is indeed most disingenuous to insinuate that my relationship with the former President was based on what benefits accrued to me. That is far from the truth as I never benefited any material thing from President Jonathan in all his six years as President.
“With all modesty, I am at this age contented. I state publicly therefore, that I never sought nor obtained any contract, oil block, oil lifting allocation or financial gratification from the ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, during his years of administration.
“Similarly, I never solicited for appointments or special placements for any of my children or relations in any government or private concern on account of my relationship with President Jonathan.
“It is, therefore, ludicrous and totally ill-motived for these wicked and mischievous persons to sell to the public that my decision portends a plan to seek any special favours from President Muhammadu Buhari and his government, or to protect those gains which I acquired from Jonathan’s government, which never existed.
“On the contrary, my public service in this country, which spans over 60 years, had given me the opportunity to seek the political, social and economic development of my people and Nigeria in general. I remain committed more than ever before to the economic, political and social emancipation of the people of the Niger Delta, South-South, the entire minorities and the development and unity of this great nation.
“My support for Goodluck Jonathan predates his presidency. It dates back to the period when he was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State.
“So, for people, who are thinking that I only knew Dr. Jonathan when he became the President or that I was one of his hangers on, I think there will be need to give them a little information.
“My relevance and leadership of my people as an elder statesman and a critical stakeholder in this Nigeria project far pre-dates Dr. Jonathan’s public life and presidency. I have been relevant in politics and I have served my people honestly and creditably well.
“I became very close to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan when he was Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State. I was present in London when the late former Governor of Bayelsa State, the Governor General of the Ijaw Nation, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha, was arrested at the prompting of the Nigerian government under Olusegun Obasanjo because of his hatred for Alamieyeseigha.
“I had to cancel my flight to Nigeria at the London airport when news of the arrest of Alamieyeseigha was conveyed to me by Ambassador Pereware from Paris.
“I went with a few well meaning Nigerians to Essex where we had been informed that he was kept, but could not find him. We went to a few other places before we were able to locate where he was.
“I remained in London for one week with him to put in place machineries for his bail. I recall the large heartedness of Lady Ann Iyoha, who brought out the title deed of her property in London to secure his bail and also the magnanimity of another woman from Amasoma, the home town of Chief Alamieyeseigha in Bayelsa State.
“I still believe that Jonathan performed creditably well in various areas. I am very proud of him and so are millions of other Nigerians.
“He did many good things for this nation. Ordinarily, at my age and position in life, I should not have to justify myself in a press controversy on my voluntary decision to quit partisan politics, particularly when this personal and well intended act has come under unfair politicization of persons of mediocre temperament.”