Edwin Clark: Elder Statesman or Political Thug?

By: Saleh Ibrahim Bature.

To begin with, who is an elder-statesman? An elder-statesman is ‘’a respected leader, often one who no longer has an active job, who is thought of as having good advice to give.’’ Based on this definition, the octogenarian Ijaw Chief, Edwin Clark, does not fall in the category of icons that enjoy the revered status of elder-statesmen in Nigeria. Clark, according to this definition, is not a respected leader in the real sense of the word. Nigerians do no not respect most of his treatises and advices on national issues, because they sound divisive and self-serving.

Even in the typical Ijaw and African culture on which Clark was nurtured, a fundamental distinction is made between an ‘’elder’’ and ‘’older’’ person. We often but mistakenly confuse one for the other in Nigeria.

An elder person, as succinctly stated by an expert of African cultural studies, Professor Manu Ampim, ‘’ has simply lived a longer life than most of people, but it not considered one who deserves high praise and respect. This is because the older person’s life has not been a positive example for the community.’’

Mr. Clark’s advice always appear to be shortsighted as he hardly goes beyond championing the cause of his Ijaw ethnic group. Chief E.K. Clark, the ‘great leader’ and elder of the Ijaw nation and the political and spiritual father of President Good luck Ebele Jonathan, in my view, ought to be viewed in the light of Professor Ampim’s second classification of ‘’older’’ persons.

His irredentism and negative identity politics, which most observers describe as inimical to peaceful coexistence in a complex and multicultural society like Nigeria, has betrayed the so-called elder-statesman status ascribed him by the Ijaws. The former Federal Commissioner for information’s provocative utterances in support of what some sections of the nation’s press view as a tacit and blind support for Jonathan’s administration has caused the president popular support and goodwill across the nation.

No president since the creation of Nigeria as a nation played so much ethnicity card than the present. Clark, the arrow head of this negative descent has made President Jonathan to look like a president for Ijaw nation in the eyes of many Nigerians.

Recently, Chief Edwin Clark has engaged in a campaign of calumny against Northerners. His unfounded accusations in trying to link some prominent leaders in the north with Boko Haram sect is divisive and has the potential to further create widen chasms in the polity.

Last week, Chief Clark stoked his campaign against former military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, whom he accused of harboring Boko Haram, and tasked security agencies to go after former Minister of Finance, Malam Adamu Ciroma and former Governor of Kaduna state, Alhaji Lawan Kaita. Before this latest onslaught, Clark had, prior to 2011 general election denigrated his former colleague, Malam Adamu Ciroma in foul language that many Nigerians consider as not befitting of an elder-statesman. Ciroma’s crime, as report said, was simply for standing on the path of honor that PDP must abide to the zooning agreement it had earlier entered into.

At present, Chief E.C is at war with almost anyone that is not part of Jonathan administration and that is not part of the president’s cabal which the old Ijaw Chief presides over. Among the personages that had suffered from Clark’s slashing and denigration were former president Olusegun Obasanjo, former Head of state, Retired General Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. He also had altercations at different times with the Northern Governors Forum as well as with Asiwaju Bola Ahmaed Tinubu, Dr. Peter Odili, Femi Fani Kayode, Orji Kalu, Professor Borishade, and so many others.

Nigeria is in quandary because opinion molders that are supposed to play critical role in the current uncertain state have thrown all caution to the winds and speak with callousness and brazen arrogance. The truth is, the Godfather-in-Chief of this administration, the octogenarian Ijaw chieftain, is compounding the difficulties of his protégé by pitting him against perceived enemies.

Pa Edwin Clark is causing many enemies to Mr. President. Unfortunately, the president does not help matters by not cautioning the man whom he so much revered to stop the needless attack of prominent leaders across the nation. Nigerians May misconstrue Mr. Jonathan’s silence for approval of the onslaughts.

Reacting to Clark and recently, Alhaji Mujaheed Asari Dokubo’s rather indecorous and inflammatory statements on vital national issues, Comrade Timi Frank, one of Niger-Delta youths leaders has called on the leaders of the Niger-Delta to sheath their swords and divert their energy towards constructive activities that would promote the country’s growth and development. Timi said that rather than pointing fingers, ‘’all the ethnic groups across the country ought to come together in order to build a strong and united nation.’’

With his age and experience, Nigerians expect Chief Edwin Clark to proffer solutions to the problems bedeviling the nation. Our country is engulfed by corruption at all levels of government, insecurity and mutual suspicion among the different sections that made up the nation. So Chief Edwin Clark should channel his wisdom and boundless energy towards keeping Nigeria together, not to harp on issues that divide us further apart. This is in fact the responsibility expected from all those that wear the garb of elder statesmen from every section of the country.


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