Interview

Nigeria @ 56: You can’t separate by force – Clark tells Igbo youths

Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark has intimidating credentials: He is a lawyer, administrator, Ijaw national leader, nationalist, and leader, South-South Peoples Assembly. He was Commissioner for Education, Mid-Western Region, 1968-71; Commissioner for Finance and Establishment, defunct Bendel State, 1972-75; Federal Commissioner for Information, 1975; and Senator, 1979-83. In this interview, the Kiagbodo, Delta-born elder statesman, who turned 89 recently, goes memory lane, tracing the history of Nigeria and how the country has fared. He identifies the kind of leader Nigeria needs at this period and what the present administration must do to transform the society,

Excerpts: Nigeria is 56 today. Looking back at where we are coming from, what is your assessment of how the country has fared? First and foremost let’s congratulate us for celebrating the 56th year of Nigeria’s independence. We have every reason to celebrate. Nigeria remains one indivisible country. Nigeria is united despite the fact that we fought a civil war. Nigeria remains one and the question of whether we are where we should have been being a matter of different interpretation.

There is no doubt that even three persons at the age of 56 would have developed in different ways. Similarly, those countries that got independence the same year with have developed in different ways. You can’t measure our success in the same way. There are countries that have broken into two. India got its independence in 1948 but split into two with the emergence of Pakistan as Pakistan later split into two. This could be said of other countries that have split into two or three countries, but the fact that we remain united is a plus. It is true that corruption has done a great havoc to Nigeria. But for corruption, we would have progressed far more than what we are now. Educationally, Nigeria started with one university, the University College of London in Ibadan, but today we have so many universities. Today we have over a hundred universities including private universities. And most of these universities have teaching hospitals which mean there is an improvement in the educational system in this country. How many airports did we have? We had very few airports in Nigeria, but today almost every state has an airport either developed by the federal or state government. In the field of communication, almost everybody in this country, whether literate or illiterate own a mobile phone unlike before and that is a plus.

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