Part of the significant changes that came with the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in Nigerian national discourse are the metamorphosis of and the new role assumed by Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clarke. By the way, we must point out straight away here that there are many in the country that will argue that other significant changes have not been many since the president got into office, as said, that is just by the way.
There is not much proof of any kind of association between Chief Edwin Clarke and Dr Goodluck Jonathan before the latter became Vice President, Acting president and then President of Nigeria. We have no proof of Chief Edwin Clarke’s thoughts or comments on the practices and policies of the Deputy and later Governor Goodluck Jonathan of Balyesa state. We don’t know much of the exact ideas, principles or ideologies that bind the octogenarian former information minister and middle age sitting President. We do however know that they are both Ijaw men. Edwin Clark is generally considered in the media as the leader of the Ijaw nation in Nigeria, but I hope for the sake of Nigeria that there is more that binds them than just their ethnic nationality.
There is also a lot of proof that ever since Dr. Goodluck Jonathan became a national figure in Nigeria, Chief Edwin Clark has been very close to him. The chief has describe himself as the president’s (political) father, many regard him his political godfather. According to Time magazine, in 2007, Edwin Clark took the then newly elected vice president to the wild and dangerous creeks of the Niger Delta, where according to Clark the new VP met some of the militant leaders.
Although the tough battle to make the vice president an acting president was fought by many people from various parts of the country and of different political parties, in the equally tough battle to make Goodluck Jonathan president, the likes of Chief Edwin Clark were clearly in the forefront. During those elections (from party primaries to the general elections) Chief Edwin Clark metamorphosed into a surrogate and defender of candidate Jonathan. He negotiated for him, spoke for him and rallied support for him everywhere he could. At one point, an attack on Chief Edwin Clark was seen as an attack and subterfuge to get at candidate Goodluck Jonathan.
Once Goodluck Jonathan got into power, Chief Edwin Clark has become the chief protector of the Jonathan presidency. There are other leaders too ready to defend Goodluck Jonathan at all costs but Chief Edwin Clark stands shoulder high above others. Lucky President Jonathan, if only Nigeria had people with such dedication and passion.
The passion and dedication of Chief Edwin Clark however comes at a price because he mostly has to defend his protégée against Nigeria and the ever-growing number of Nigerians running out of patience with the Jonathan led administration.
From his vantage position and with his involvement and commitment, Chief Edwin Clark seems to see and feel things different from a lot of Nigerians.
Whilst a lot of Nigerians, including those that voted for him, are not feeling the positive effects of the promised transformation and are now doubting the president’s capacity to perform, Chief Clark is convinced this president is performing very well. When confronted with the well-noted problem of electric supply, Chief Edwin Clark explains that we have no light in Nigeria because though the president is trying, there are saboteurs, he believes that there is a conspiracy against this president and that all the things that were never done by former heads of state like President Obasanjo, are being descended on Jonathan. Someone needs to calmly and respectfully remind Chief Edwin Clark that the sitting Nigerian president is an adult born and bred in Nigeria, fully aware of most of the problems in Nigeria and nobody forced him to run for office. During his campaign, no one forced him to make the promises he made across the country. Once he was declared winner nobody forced him to take the oath of office.
On the issue of the possible candidacy in 2015 of the sitting president, Chief Clark has no doubt: The president has a right to run and nobody can stop him from running. He refers to the constitution and show proof that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan like any other Nigerian has a right to run in 2015 and it must be said that on that issue Chief Edwin Clark is correct. That however is not the point of debate.
The real issues Chief Edwin Clark needs to address on behalf of his protégé are that of credibility and reliability: did candidate Goodluck Jonathan at any time say or make Nigerians believe that he intends to run for only a term? During his negotiations with his party leaders, did he at anytime promise or make believe that he intends to run for only one term in a bid to get the ticket? Or did he boldly look them in the eyes, stand on principles and say “No, I reserve the right to run for the second term”. Whether they are from the North, East or West, Chief Edwin Clark has taken the mantle of defending his protégé against Nigerians, he needs to tell us more.
By Anthony A. Kila