BY AZU AKANWA

Chief Patrick Hebrew Keku is the Chairman of Ijaw National Congress, INC, Lagos Chapter. INC is the umbrella governing body of all Ijaw groups and associations. His view is taken as the opinion of the Ijaw ethnic nationality. He is the 3rd Chairman of the Lagos INC. He spoke with Vanguard on a range of national issues, including the security challenges facing the nation among other issues.

As the new chairman of INC in Lagos, what was your first major challenge?
Well, my first challenge was to bring everybody together again as one body. I put premium value on Ijaw unity. Also another challenge was humanitarian. Just as I came on board, an Ijaw woman in Lagos here was delivered of triplets. The husband had no job. We took up the challenge, visited her, paid the bills and restored hope and confidence. INC  plays a father figure in matters concerning the Ijaw people.

The Ijaw National Congress has not been vocal since the emergence of  President Goodluck Jonathan. Why?
It is not really true that INC has not been speaking out. What happened was that the Lagos INC is seen as the mouth piece of the body, but unfortunately not many understood that. Moreover, not many people put the interest of Ijaw nation first before their personal interests. I just came on board and I have the mandate of the National body to speak. Things will be different now.

Then let?s look at some national issues. Nigerians are worried about the state of insecurity in the country and they blame it all on President Jonathan?
(Cuts in) Why should any body blame the president? Has he been allowed to govern? The present situation was a grand design to make Nigeria ungovernable because some people had vowed to do so if Jonathan emerged as President.  They are now manifesting their promise. Jonathan is surrounded by a lot of wrong people who weigh him down. Jonathan is not being helped by those around him. He wants to dialogue.

Chief Keku

He wants a peaceful solution. His predecessors would have used force as they did in Odi. But he doesn?t want that. People are made differently. Now look at the annoying condition they are giving him; that he should resign and convert to another religion. You can now see what their intentions are. They won?t succeed.

But he is the President. He should be able to do something?
Something like what? The man said he won?t go all out and do like his predecessors did in the Niger Delta, in Odi. He wants to talk, to dialogue. But who will he talk to? The leaders in the North know these killers, yet they refuse to bring them to the table for talks.

Ijaw leaders talked to the boys in the creeks and they ceased fire. Why can?t they do same? Sometimes I wonder if really those killing and destroying people in the North are Nigerians. I had the thought in the past. With every bombing and killing, they are reducing their population. Are they really Nigerians, are they really Northerners?

The American government said Nigeria can not fight the battle alone.
How did it all start in the first place? Some people threatened to make the nation ungovernable, if Jonathan wins. The perpetrators are not faceless. The new National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki said he has the contacts of those involved. He promised to meet them for a peaceful solution. Why is it difficult to reach them? So what are we talking about? So in Jonathan?s case, I believe he has not really been given the opportunity to handle these issues.

Politics and security can not go together. Immediately they go together, politics will overtake security. And that has been the case with Jonathan. People are saying deal with them, deal with them; they have forgotten that there are Northern soldiers in the Army, I don?t think they would want to go and gun down their people.  The president is a peaceful man. He was not a soldier like his predecessors who have no value for human life. He should be given a chance to fulfill his campaign promises to Nigerians in an atmosphere of peace. That has not happened.

What?s your take on the Amnesty Programme?
There is no grassroots orientation for youths. Amnesty will cause more problem when it is stopped. Niger Delta youths need to build themselves for the future. Relying on Amnesty will not help them. Those sent on training under the programme, not all of them have come back as good ambassadors of the Amnesty Programme.

The youth need a new focus. They must not take things for granted because, the time Amnesty is over, we would realise the damage it has done to the psych of the youths and development in the Niger Delta.

Now that you have produced a president and Amnesty is in place, I guess the struggle is over?
Over? The struggle is not over. What development do you see in the Niger Delta? Point out one company, one manufacturing company in the region. Tell me what is in place to stop our agitation for the development of the region. It is not over yet my brother.

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