Ann-Kio Briggs is perhaps best known for her environmental activism in the Niger Delta. In this interview with SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, DANIEL ABIA, she opens up on a variety of issues that touch the politics of Rivers State. Excerpts…
How easy do you think it will be for President Jonathan to win second term?
Goodluck is the best President that Nigeria has ever produced. I have said this to several media at various
interviews. I do not say will ever have, unless Nigeria ceases to exist after Jonathan’s administration. If Nigeria does not exist after Jonathan, he is today the best President Nigeria has ever had. The person after we pray should even be better than him, but when you compare the past leaders from the independence till today, Goodluck Jonathan is the best President. Roads that were not working before are working today. There are roads all over the places that are now working. The rail ways that were not working, are now working. The facilities that were not working before, are now working. People will bring all types of arguments, Jonathan is not a superman. As far as I am concerned, people misunderstood it and turn it on his head when he says something similar. People are calling him that he should go and wage war in North East. That he should go and destroy Boko Haram the way Obasanjo destroyed Odi. No! Jonathan will not go and destroy anybody’s community, because he knows what it feels like for a person’s community to be destroyed, because we have in the Niger Delta the communities that the military and political leaders have destroyed. Obasanjo destroyed Odi, so Jonathan is a victim of destruction of communities and there is no way he can go and destroy communities. Now when you look at the issue of Boko Haram, it is completely a different ball game because Boko Haram is even bigger than America. America has been fighting terrorism for the past 20-30years. It has not yet succeeded. Terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon. Unfortunately, the people who are carrying terrorism on their heads are those who are fanatical about the religion of Islam, and that has been brought into Nigeria. That was invited into Nigeria by politicians to fight Jonathan. Why did the sect not fight Obasanjo the way they are now fighting Jonathan. They existed in Obasanjo’s regime. Why did they not fight him, why did they not fight Late President Yar’ua the way they are fighting Jonathan today? It is because President Jonathan is a Christian, and that is why I am amazed, when people say what is happening in Nigeria is not a religious issue, is not Christian Muslim issue. If it not a Christian Muslim issue, what on earth is it? It is happening in Iraq. It is happening in Syria. It is happening in Palestine. It is happening all over the world where you have Christians and Muslims. This type of activity is going on. So when you look at Nigeria, where the military has been manipulated into a ‘stupor’, you now come and say that it is the problem or the fault of the President, who is heading the military today. No it is wrong. It is wrong to say that General Kenneth Minima is not doing his job because he inherited a rotten army, an army that is incapable. General Minima inherited an army that is playing the role of Police and it is still playing the role of Police today. You cannot blame Minima and definitely you cannot also blame former President Obasanjo. The military had been manipulated by the Hausa-Fulani ethnic group for a very long time. Even the issue of National Security has been manipulated by the police for a very long time. How many Inspectors-General have we had in the Police, how many of them are Muslims and how many of them are from the North? How many Chiefs of Army Staff have we had in the past of almost 50 years independence, how many of them have come from the North? If we do not face the reality, we can never solve the problems of Nigeria, but if we tell ourselves the truth, we can forge ahead. How many people have governed Nigeria that are from the North? How many years did the North govern Nigeria? Then we have a man from Niger Delta that has governed for less than four years. Jonathan’s elected office comes to be four years by May next year, so when you are judging him by four years, then how do you judge 38 years of the North? From the day he was sworn in, the threat made during the election, that Jonathan’s government was going to be made ungovernable, and has so far been made ungovernable. Jonathan’s government has been ungovernable, it is really surprising, and I think it is the strength of Nigerians that has made it so otherwise they would have destroyed this country, because a Christian is the President, because a man from Niger Delta is the President. That is why Boko Haram is doing what they are doing. As for performance, Goodluck Jonathan has performed very well. The bottom line of all the crises in Nigeria is the oil and gas and that is why I will continue to insist that we must continue to defend and protect our oil, our gas, our land, they are our own. If there were no oil and gas to run Nigeria, there would be no crises. If these resources were in the North, it would have broken away from Nigeria for a very long time. People that have not set their feet into the Niger Delta region to see the troubles we are suffering are claiming the oil and gas is their own. It is not their own and can never be their own. They can only steal it as they are stealing it and that is the much they can do. The Federal Government and the oil companies came into our land and stole our resources. When I say the Federal Government, I don’t mean the person at the head, but the structures, the institutions of the Federal Government are the thieves. The institutions of the oil companies that are in partnership are the thieves. We are too weak for now to rise up and talk the way I am doing, but I am not weak and I will continue to say the things I am saying. Jonathan has performed. In a normal circumstance, he should not have any problem in coming back; I do not see him having any issue in coming back, but as a peace loving man, I know that he is highly concerned because of the threat his second term seems to face, not because of Nigerians, because of a handful of people that are prepared to unleash mayhem with the money they have stolen from our resources in the Niger Delta, not in Nigeria. The resources are from Niger Delta. When we begin to get resources from selling cows, bitumen, groundnuts, cotton, palm produce and cocoa, I can call them Nigerian resources. Until then, I call it resources from the Niger Delta. If Jonathan is not good enough to govern Nigeria, the resources from the oil and gas of Niger Delta region will never be good for Nigeria.
Recently, the President presented a paper to the Senate requesting that emergency role in the North-East be extended?
In my opinion, the state of emergency so far has not really halted the activities of Boko Haram. The only way I believe that the state of emergency is going to halt the activities of Boko Haram because this is not a civil situation where for instance there is discord in the state maybe there is strike in the state and it has paralyzed the state economically for instance, then you bring in the type of state of emergency that we have had many months ago where the governor still remains but there is a state of emergency that has been declared. In that civil condition, I think it can be understood but after this past state of emergency, for any state of emergency to be effective, I think that the governors have to go, all the civil structures should go, then military should take over because it is even clear now that the governors who swore to protect property and lives of the people of those states have not been able to do so. The military needs to go in, that’s what the military is there for because the security of the nation is threatened by the incursion that is coming in. These things are being done in Nigeria, Nigerians are part of it and also there are strangers that are not Nigerians that are also coming in to partake in this problem that is going on in the North Eastern region. If you see, there is a high percentage of Christians in those areas, and for me it is a persecution very glaring of one philosophy of one religion against the other. That is what is going on. Therefore I believe that in Nigeria, the so-called politicians, people who are politically positioned, must sit down and look at what is happening in this country, and give it a name and call a spade a spade.
Culled from: http://dailyindependentnig.com/2014/12/oil-resources-cause-nigerian-crises-ann-kio-briggs/