A former Federal Commissioner for Information, Edwin Clark, has alleged that Reuben Abati, the Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity, sabotaged the former president by failing to promote his image and achievements.
Against Mr. Abati’s claims that Mr. Clark no longer considered Mr. Jonathan his ‘son’, Mr. Clark said he still sees the former president as a political son despite gaining nothing from his presidency.
While expressing his resolve to quit partisan politics, Mr. Clark was recently reported as saying Mr. Jonathan “did not have the political will to fight corruption”.
In his response to Mr. Clark’s remark on the ex-president, the former president’s publicist wrote in an opinion article titled, “Clark the Father, Jonathan the Son” that the octogenarian was only making the disparaging remarks because Mr. Jonathan had lost the 2015 election.
“Who would ever think Chief E.K. Clark would publicly disown President Jonathan? He says Jonathan was a weak president. At what point did he come to that realisation?
“Yet, throughout the five years, he spoke loudly against anyone who opposed the president,” Mr. Abati wrote.
Apart from Mr. Abati, many other persons loyal to the ex-president, such as the Ijaw Justice Forum, IJF, and other groups also took exception to the claims by the elder statesman.
But in an email to PREMIUM TIMES Thursday, Mr. Clark said he could not understand why he came under attack over his comments on Mr. Jonathan “for reasons so obvious”.
Mr. Clark said it was curious that Mr. Abati, who he accused of failing to sell Mr. Jonathan’s achievements to Nigerians, could accuse him of disparaging a man he (Abati) was never loyal to.
He said he had to, at a point, point out to Mr. Abati how negligent he is to his duties by not defending Mr. Jonathan against some of the scurrilous attacks against him and also by not promoting the president’s image and well-known achievements of his administration.
“My advice that a publicity committee made up of eminent journalists be put in place in Aso Rock and that media proprietors and senior journalists should be invited to Aso Rock were jettisoned by Abati because of what I suppose is his covetousness, particularly when many journalists and media houses always complained to me that he was not carrying them along,” Mr. Clark said.
“Dr. Reuben Abati has risen to the defence of his last employer too late. He owes the former President apologies for his (Reuben Abati) failure to perform while in office. I should not be used as a scapegoat. I love Goodluck Jonathan and Goodluck Jonathan loves me,” he said.
Mr. Clark also recalled that before his appointment by Mr. Jonathan, Mr. Abati was one of the strongest critics of the president in his Guardian newspaper column.
“I do not recall any favourable remark made by Abati all those years when he was the chairman of the Editorial Board [of the Guardian] and syndicated columnist about the former president, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan.
“If I recall correctly, they were always the butt of ridicule by Dr. Reuben Abati. In fact, he became so notorious and fearless a critic of former President Jonathan and his wife in the Guardian Newspaper that I had to draw the attention of my cousin the proprietor of the Guardian newspaper to his excesses.
“These vitriolic attacks on former President Jonathan and his wife only stopped when he was appointed the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity by the former president,” he said.
Mr. Clark said Mr. Abati repeatedly lied against him in his article.
He said it was “crude and unpolished” for Abati to claim that he would still have been a card carrying member of the PDP if Mr. Jonathan had won re-election.
“I do not know the background of Dr. Abati but for him to lie and devilishly imagine that I should have remained a PDP card carrying member if President Jonathan had won the election is satanic.”
Jonathan remains my son
He said he remained proud of the performance of Mr. Jonathan in a number of areas such as the railway system, economy, fight against polio and ebola, maternal health, the power sector, etc.
“He tarred more roads than any of his predecessors; he turned agriculture to agro-business, a multibillion dollar business; he built the Almajiri schools in the Northern parts of this country.
“He established new federal universities across this nation; he allowed for free speech across this nation, and did not mind when he was criticised or, even, abused.
“People were not arbitrarily locked up in jail or prison, as he truly respected the rule of law.
“He signed the Freedom of Information Bill into law, which was not done by his predecessors; he modernized the aviation sector; he convoked a National Conference that brought Nigerians together and proffered recommendations on how to better bind Nigerians together as one.
“He sanitized the electoral system of this country, unlike what we had before him, when elections results were announced without actually voting, when ballot snatching were rampant and common place.
“He brought transparency into the electoral process – when people could vote and the votes actually openly counted without violence.
“Today he stands as the first African president to concede an election to an opponent, even before the final counts,” Mr. Clark said.
Mr. Clarks said despite all the achievements, like most leaders, Mr. Jonathan must also have had his weakness, and that stating them should not mean disparaging or disowning him.
“In keeping with my character, I cannot say in private what I cannot say in the public. I do not therefore, reject or disown Jonathan as my beloved political son,” he said.
Why I supported Jonathan
Mr. Clark also took time to give account of why he supported the former president.
He said his support for Mr. Jonathan predated his assumption of office as president and that he was one of the few leaders who ensured a smooth transition of power when the late governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieseigha, was impeached.
“Of course, I openly supported President Jonathan not only as my son but also as the first person to emerge from the minorities of the Niger Delta as the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I had no choice but to support him and I have no regrets. My support is total and unyielding,” he said.
Mr. Clark also said if most of President Jonathan’s close associates and political leaders exhibited such support by exposing all his achievements, rather than the pretence and betrayal they were engaged in, “the story today would have been different”.
“It will be recalled that I had on several occasions openly criticised the former president in the press and in my statements for actions or inactions which were damaging to the president’s image while he was in office.
“When the president failed to check the excesses of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, which included his undue interference with the activities of the EFCC, I did not fail to speak my mind openly in opposition to the president.
“When the president did not deliver on his promise to complete the construction of the East-West Road, I did not fail to speak my mind openly. I even told him publicly that he should not leave the South South people poorer than he met them.
“When the Governors’ Forum appeared to arrogate to itself powers that infringed upon those of the president in the Constitution of Nigeria with impunity, I did not fail to criticise.
“The press conferences and open letters I wrote, which were carried and published by the various media houses are there to confirm this claim. However, with all these, my support for him was and still is total and unshakeable,” he said.
All presidents since 1999 failed to fight corruption
Mr. Clark also said he did not single out Mr. Jonathan on his comments about the inability of Nigerian leaders to fight corruption since the return to democracy in 1999.
He said his comments about corruption were hinged on the fact that “it has been the reason for the neglect of the ordinary man in Nigeria by all governments.”
“I declared, not for the first time, my support for any effort to eradicate the cankerworm from our body polity. I traced the forces that had made the eradication of corruption impossible in time past.
“My analysis did not begin and end with the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
“I actually traced them from the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999, with former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo failing to even scratch the surface beyond using some special purpose machinery to harass real and unreal enemies.
“For the eight years of President Obasanjo’s administration, he definitely institutionalised, legitimised and legalised corruption in this country. The cases of Halliburton and Siemens are typical examples.
“Today, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is one of the richest former rulers.
“The same forces were also at play in the time of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, GCFR, when anti-corruption activities slowed down because of some of those who assisted him in his presidential election in 2007.
“A situation where Chief James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, who was facing criminal charge, was playing a significant role in the affairs of Nigeria at Aso Rock such that his former state commissioner for Finance, Mr. David Edebve, became late President Yar’Adua’s Principal Secretary,” he said.
Mr. Clark said he knew that Mr. Jonathan was willing to fight corruption, but was not successful because of his insistence that due process should be followed.
He said Mr. Jonathan could otherwise have initiated investigations into the scandals of Halliburton, Siemens and other alleged corruption charges leveled against some former heads of state and other prominent Nigerians.
“He believed that there are institutions set up by the government such as the EFCC, the ICPC and other anti graft agencies. But regrettably, some of those who surrounded him led by the Attorney General (AG) and Alhaji Hassan Tukur, etc 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 8 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, I addressed an open petition to the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher, dated 2nd November, 2011, complaining that most of those charged to court especially those of the former governors who have become senators were still pending.
“He promptly replied my letter on 3rd November, 2015. Most of the petitions written against some prominent Nigerians, addressed to the anti graft agencies did not see the light of the day. Ironically, the perpetrators of these corrupt actions were the same persons who attacked former President Jonathan’s inability to eradicate corruption in Nigeria,” Mr. Clark said.