First published in the PEOPLES DAILY, MONDAY JUNE 13, 2011.


Mr. Tony Oyatedor is the president of the Newstime organization and a crusader for peace and stability in the Niger-Delta and the country at large. In this interview with Mohammed Isa, he speaks on how to overcome the socio-ethno-religious conflicts across the country.


What would you say is the cause of the incessant religious crisis in the north?

Holy Qu’ran, Surah 7 of Chapter 7. Al-Araf, which is ‘The Heights’ or ‘the wall with elevations’ verses 85-87, it says “And to the people of Midian (We sent) their brother Shuaib, and he said, “oh my people! Worship GOD, ALLAH, JEHOVAH! You have no other ALLAH.

None has the right to be worshiped, but ALLAH, and sit not on every road, threatening and hindering from the path of ALLAH, those who believe in Him seeking and to make the road crooked”. That means, do not destroy, do not burn churches or mosques, do not kill, only build. If there are clashes in the North, the North alone can end it. It is high time they know that violence does not pay. Those who hide under the umbrella of jihad to perpetuate or torment trouble will pay for it when the time comes. I know that my Muslim brothers who are religious heads, frown at the carnage, and they have continually called for peace and I am sure that president Goodluck Jonathan is not asleep. His election, no doubt, marks a new chapter in Nigeria’s history. Under his leadership, it is time all Nigerians roll up their sleeves and work for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians. It took the late Yar’adua – a Northerner – to bring amnesty to the Niger-Delta in the person of Goodluck Jonathan to bring peace to the North and the entire nation.


How will you describe the post-election violence?

It is only peace that will strengthen our security. We at Newstime, are offering a message of love and not hatred,  hope and not despair to Nigerians and people all over the world. Love your neighbor as you can love yourself. Our agenda for Nigeria and the world is to focus on what we will build and not what we will destroy. The slaughter of innocent lives in the North and Niger-Delta must end. We are calling once again on the federal, state, and local government, private and public companies to come and join Newstime to bring peace to Nigeria because only peace attracts development. Prevention is better than cure. If you prevent it today, you do not have to cure it tomorrow. The entire people of Nigeria must reject political violence, but favor peace that will bring security, for, without peace, there is no security. 


Do you think the panel set up to probe the violence is the solution?

With the new administration, we must look at the future of a greater Nigeria with lasting peace and security instead of looking at the past with chaos and insecurity. The fundamental choice of all Nigerians, freedom fighters in Niger Delta and Boko Haram in the North, is the choice between hatred and love, the poverty of the past and the prosperity of the future, a choice between destruction and building. These choices must be made by leadership and by the people of Nigeria. My hope and prayer are that we choose peace that will bring security and development. Leadership should be all-encompassing of the people and not one born out of village mentality. Leadership must yield something potential. Leadership must have the ability to think forward. We are in a world where those who own innovation own the future. It is that tenacity that will move Nigeria to the forefront of economic activity in the world and ensure a steady and successful financial future for the country as well as for the people. The people and the leadership of Nigeria must stop the way we have been doing it syndrome, and instead ask questions such as how come? What if? And why not?


Why did probe panels set up in the past fail?

I call on all Nigerians to stop these killings. This senseless violence has so far claimed the lives of countless Nigerians, while those who survive the violence are in various hospitals with nursing injuries, many of whom are permanently deformed. Nigerians must have peace that attracts development. Evil can only thrive when people of good conscience keep quiet. Silence is a moral crime. We will teach leadership and politicians that you can and must be victorious without having victims. 


Has your effort in this regard yielded anything?

The story of Noah in the (Torah, Bible, Qu’ran) teaches that his own people ridiculed him and rejected his message. But he built his Ark and was saved while his rejecters perished. The fundamental question is, will humanity learn from this past to save the future? In the three holy books it says, “for whom the Lord loves, He corrects, even as a father, He corrects the son in whom He delights.” No blasphemy intended, but we are not criticizing Niger-Delta leaders, but correcting them out of love and if they heed corrections, perchance, they will work from darkness into glorious light. Prophet Muhammed’s message (Peace be upon Him), as was the message of all prophets before him, was to warn against evil and to bring the glad tidings of God’s mercy and grace to all who would receive it in faith and trust only in God. All revelation is one when you know, that we are all worshiping one God. Allah in Arabic, Chukwu in Ibo, Olorun in Yoruba, Oyin in Ijaw, and Obari in Eleme, you will not burn a church or a mosque.


From what we have witnessed in the past few years, do you see religion as a problem in Nigeria?

Nigeria’s unshakable economy is based on oil and gas. The government must be prudent with people’s money in good and in bad times. You can make a great deal of noise in your time of power and position, but you will be reduced to silence, like spent ashes, unless you use that very power to do good deeds. Look at Egypt, and Tunisia, if leadership cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates has prospered during the last 50 years from its wealth created by oil reserves. In the last 50 years, what has Nigeria in general and Niger-Delta, in particular, has to show for its oil wealth? Abject poverty everywhere in Niger-Delta is the rave of the moment.  Laxity is blamed on the lame and stupid excuse of “terrain is bad”, yes terrain is bad, that is why God gave you oil and gas to build your people and infrastructure, and not for you to give anyone excuse in the book and live in Abuja over time, instead of living and working for your people whom you campaigned to lead. The time for playing around is over. The time to work is now, each one must profit from their labor. 


Like what is happening in other countries, do you think a responsible Nigerian will take up arms against his fellow Nigerian?

Only a fool will be surrounded by water and he or she will be thirsty. Niger-Deltans are surrounded by oil and gas yet, due to self-hate and foolishness, they are poor. Niger-Deltans in leadership is the wicked, self-hate, selfish people.

They will not invest in birth and growth but they will invest in death and funeral. We will also like to inform and remind the various leadership of the Niger-Delta that as public servants, they are not public masters. They are to lead their people from poverty into prosperity. With love and not hatred, from darkness to light. Instead, you carry yourself as a public master and use security agents to guard you and your family against the people that you are mandated to serve. Let me use this opportunity to warn the leadership of Niger-Delta, especially those who rigged their way into power that their days are numbered. Be rest assured that in no time, the hands of justice will not spare them. The Northerners on the other hand have an open-door policy; hence they strive to save the souls of their people from poverty and prosperity. If you do not invest, how can you harvest? You must invest in your people for you to harvest from your people. Every public servant that has the interest of his or her people should be applauded. 

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