First published in The Peoples Daily, Thursday, July 22, 2010.


Tony Oyatedor, is a veteran journalist, author, President, and founder of Newstime Foundation. The Bayelsa-born American-based preacher of peace spoke with Harry idoo Jnr. about the Niger Delta struggle, PDP zoning formula, and other issues.Excerpt:


Has the gospel of peace made any impact on the people of Jos?

Right now, Newstime is a lone voice crying in the wilderness with nobody paying attention. But we are praying to the Almighty God, Allah that people will often listen. Having chronicled all that can be done to salvage the Jos crisis, we are now facing a twin problem. One of them is the religious crisis affecting the entire northern region and Jos in particular. The second is the post-amnesty program and the militancy in the agitation of the people in Niger Delta. We hope that the leadership in this country will listen to us because God has bestowed it upon us the solutions to these problems. We are calling on the leaders both North and South, Christian or Muslim, traditionalists or otherwise to allow us to carry out this mass campaign to all parts of Nigeria to bring peace. We ought to use our natural resources to help the people of this great nation, first by investing in one another, the people as well as infrastructure. 


What do you mean by investing in people and infrastructure?

When I say investment, people think I am talking about money, when it says, “it is better to give than to receive” in all three Holy Books, it never says money. Investment cuts across being good and kind, giving a note, and greeting somebody. So, it is not until you have counted the money that you have invested in that person. Helping others get back their lives is part of the investment I am talking about.


Outside the media, what other avenues have you explored to reach out to people?

Like I’ve always said, I cannot do it alone, and neither am I going to try to do it alone. Moses and Musa in the Bible and Holy Qu’ran respectively were told they could not do it alone. That was why Aaron and others supported and carried out the cause. In this vein, we have gone to those in leadership positions and asked them to join us in the campaign for peace. We want people even from the grass root to join us to put an end to the militancy and religious crisis in the country.


Has nobody partnered with you?

We have stretched out our hands in fellowship to a lot of people, but at the moment, only one organization, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has thought it wise to partner with us. The commander-general, Dr. John Ade Abolurin – a man who reverently fears God, a man who knows and believes the Bible and the Holy Qu’ran, is the only one who has joined us. And I believe his fear of God has been instrumental to the positive changes we now see in the Corps. But we are still hoping and praying that others will join us.


What about the Christian Association of Nigeria, especially during the leadership of the immediate past president Arch Bishop Onaiyekan?

First of all, I want to send my profound congratulations to the newly elected CAN president, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor. My fervent hope and prayer are that he will partner with us to bring peace to Nigeria. I equally want to send out my gratitude to the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar for preaching to the adherence of Islam that peace must prevail. Having said that, it is not in my nature to talk about Onaiyekan’s tenure or cast aspersion on Oritsejafor’s tenure. We are at Newstime, in a business of uplifting people. It is the people of CAN whom Onaiyekan worked with that will be able to compare whether or if Oritsejafor will do well at the end of his tenure.


It’s like CAN and Newstime has not been the best of friends in the campaign for peace.

I will categorically tell you that, of all those we have met, on the NSCDC has agreed to join us. I really do not want to point accusing fingers at anybody, but each and everybody knows who they are that we have gone to. We have a situation today where people are only interested in entertainment. They are not ready to listen to solutions. If I have called for a seminar where awards will be presented to Governors, Ministers, and top Politicians, everybody would want to partner with us. But now that we’re talking about peace nobody wants to listen except Abolurin. If we were doing Nollywood movies, everybody, including banks and major industries, would want to support us, but we single-handedly tell people to come and join us in preaching peace. Perhaps they would listen if we were foreigners. Just like William Henry Gates, who invested in our son and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates we are calling on people to invest in us, and they will see what Newstime will bring to this nation.


Has the amnesty program yielded any gain considering the mass rally carried out by the militants in Abuja recently?

People keep referring to these people as militants, which is wrong. People keep saying that they don’t want to work, which is also wrong. Others say they are being paid stipends, and they should be satisfied with it, again another wrong assertion. The last time I checked when they came to Abuja, not one of them is handicapped; they were all able-bodied men who wanted to work, They were asking to be integrated back into society. But how? Is it by lumping them in camps and treating them like animals? No, away from the boys are the Niger-Delta women; they cannot farm on their lands because of the oil spill. Grants are not being given to them. I advocated for amnesty and rehabilitation, reconstruction and re-integration as was given to the Igbos after the civil war, and the late President Yar’adua rightfully implemented it. 

Now, people kept saying they stormed Abuja with arms. This last time I checked, they didn’t come with any ammunition; they only came with white flags. The country is a free country, and anyone is free to pour out their grievances. They simply cried to the presidency that they were being misrepresented and neglected. Recently, believed to be Kogi state indigenes blocked the entrance to Abuja, and nobody addressed them as militants or a threat to national security. But when it comes to the people who provide the nation’s wealth, they are being called and addressed with derogatory names. Why can’t they treat these boys like the human beings that they are and give them the opportunities they deserve? Again, I will not blame the federal government, both past, and present, or the army, but my people – the leadership of the Niger-Delta. The Niger-Delta is the only part of the world where its leaders call their people criminals, meanwhile, some governors from the northern region address their citizens as “good people”. But unless we change and learn to love one another, we will be fighting a lost battle.


Have you visited the rehabilitation camps of these boys?

Of course, I single-handedly organized a seminar to re-integrate the so-called militants in the Niger-Delta with my money. Every ex-freedom fighter that left that seminar on January 28, 2010, at Wellington Hotel in Effurun would not hurt a fly. I have given people employment, scholarships for school, and a means to change their lives for good. As I have continually said, if every well-meaning Nigerian can contribute his/her own little quarter, this world will be a better place. We must not all wait for the government.

How do you see the move made by Goodluck in opening a Facebook Account?

Again, my congratulations to President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan. It is not good luck that brought him to office; it is patience. Having said that, here is a man who has read my book, ‘Leadership’ while as a governor of Bayelsa State, and today, he is following some of the things I wrote in that book. Everything I predicted in that book is gradually coming to pass. For instance, the issue of militancy and the need for dialogue has come to pass. I also said that until Nigeria solves the issue of electricity, we are chasing shadows; I am proud that the president has taken light as a major agenda in his government. That notwithstanding, President Jonathan, just like President Obama, is an avid reader, that is why he could go to Facebook, listen to the people, read about their comments, and also answer them. Therefore, we are grateful to God/Allah for bringing such a man to lead this nation.


Did you also predict that the leadership of this country would take a twist?

Nigerians generally are failing to read. This is the only nation where people in leadership do not read; else, they would have known that I am a gift to this nation. This is because I have predicted 99.9 percent of what is happening in this country. In the book, there is a place where I said if somebody from Ijaw, Urhobo, Isoko, Calabar, and Benin cannot vie for the presidency, why are we calling ourselves a united Nigeria.? You cannot have a situation whereby only three groups, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, can run for president. We also predicted that unless teachers are leaders of this country, we are not going anywhere. God is so kind; we had Yar’adua and the person of the current president, and everybody has the right to vie for the position. But in this situation, the party hierarchy has the right to choose who they want to be their flag bearer. Well, the north can say the presidency is zoned to them; the south can say there is no more zoning, but they are all swinging arguments. Whoever the northerners feel should be their flag bearer under the PDP should come out and convince the populace as to why he should be the one to rule the country. Also, the incumbent president can do likewise. So, the issue of zoning is a PDP affair.

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