Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Tuesday denied allegation by Chief Edwin Clark, that he (Obasanjo) bore resentment against the people of the Niger Delta region.
Obasanjo, in a letter addressed to Clark, a copy of which was made available to newsmen in Abeokuta, insisted that he had been an advocate of Nigeria’s unity and had never hated the people of the region or any part of the country.
Clark had accused Obasanjo of displaying hatred against the people of Niger Delta during a peace and security meeting, convened by the Global Peace Foundation and Vision Africa, held recently in Abuja.
Clark’s allegations are contained in his recent letter to Obasanjo, titled: “Outburst Against The People of Niger Delta Region”.
The former President, in his reply on Tuesday, insisted that it was wrong and unconstitutional for Clark or the people of Niger Delta region to lay claim to crude oil or any mineral resources found in the area.
“No territory in Nigeria, including the minerals found therein, belongs to the area of location and this remains so until the federation is dissolved,” he said.
Obasanjo, in the six-page letter, expressed dissapointment in Clark for using “bad, imprudent, unwise and immature” words to describe him (Obasanjo), adding that such language should not be used by a leader of Clark’s nature.
“Some of the words you have deployed to describe me in your letter are offensive, uncouth and I totally and completely reject them. I am not inconsistent, hypocritical, unstatesman nor am I anybody’s lackey.
“You use your own yardstick to judge others. I fear God and I respect those who respect themselves and I hope it is about time you changed from a tribesman to a statesman in character.
“That is what Nigeria and indeed the Region you profess to love demands of you at this stage.
“I believe one lesson that we all must appreciate that we have all learned in the last 61 years of our independence is that we all need to be civil to ourselves and occasionally put ourselves in the position of others.
“Bad language does not show prudence, wisdom and maturity. I hope you will think and adjust.
“Negotiation achieves better results than dictation. I believe that we should be reformists rather than being pedantic with leave-it or take-it attitude,” Obasanjo said.
“For me, I have never shown any anger or distraught with Niger Delta Region or with any part or region of Nigeria. Rather, I have always picked points on leadership performance or policies and I will continue to do so.
“My records before, during and after the civil war in Nigeria and Delta Region is without blemish.
“It was all goodwill to all the people of Nigeria and especially the people of the Niger Delta Region which was my theatre of operation during the Nigerian civil war.
“I have always stood for equity and justice in our federation and for me, tribe has to be suppressed for the state to emerge.
“Until the State emerges, Nigeria will not make the desired progress as tribesmen will always sacrifice State for tribe. This has always been my position and it will remain my position until I breathe my last,” Obasanjo said.
Reacting to Clark’s allegation of double standard over resource control in the country, Obasanjo said: “you cannot have two sovereign entities within a State, which is what your position of Niger Delta’s ownership claim of the crude oil found in that location amounts to.
“The territory of Nigeria is indivisible and inclusive of the resources found therein. No territory in Nigeria, including the minerals found therein, belong to the area of location and this remains so until the federation is dissolved.
“This is the position of the Nigerian Constitution and international law.
“If there is a threat of violence to any part of Nigeria today, including the Niger Delta, it is the Nigerian Military, backed by any other machinery that can be procured or established at the federal level, that will respond to any such threat.
In principle and practice, the position I have taken on the location of mineral resources in any part of Nigeria, is the legal and constitutional position.
“Since you have selected the 1963 constitution as your ideal guide, I will now quote the relevant section 140 for the Nigerian public to arrive at a more informed and balanced understanding of our discourse.
“The 1963 constitution, Section 140, titled: “Mining Royalties and Rents”, stated thus: “(1) There shall be paid by the Federation to each Region a sum equal to 50 per cent of (a) the proceeds of any ROYALTY received by the Federation in respect of any minerals extracted in that region; and (b) any mining RENTS derived by the Federation during that year from within that Region”.
“My dear Chief, where in this constitutional provision is it said or implied that minerals located in any part of Nigeria belongs to that location?
“For emphasis and to further buttress the point, the provision is even in the exclusive list – exclusively reserved to the Federal Government,” the letter reads.
The former president, however, recalled his proposed position that equity and justice demand that those domiciled in the locations are entitled to more of the material benefits accruing from the crude oil or other minerals.
“At the end of the day, it may transpire that our linguistic differences on this matter are no more than semantics.
“And we stand on the same logic with respect to the criminal mining of gold deposits in Zamfara state today or any other state in Nigeria or any other part of Nigeria,” he said.