Elder statesman, Niger Delta Leader, and former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, has described the naming the railway complex in Agbor, Delta State, after former President Goodluck Jonathan, as an insult.
Addressing the media virtually on Thursday, he said the naming of the station is not a compliment, especially for one who was the brain behind the project from Abuja to Kaduna.
Clark said he had written an open letter to the Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, to reconsider withdrawing it and naming a national monument after the former president.
President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the naming of some railway stations along the Lagos-Ibadan and Itakpe/Ajaokuta/Aladja/Warri corridors after some citizens.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, former Senate leader late Olusola Saraki, former Lagos State Governor Ahmed Tinubu and Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.
Other Nigerians including late Premier of Western Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo; the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo; former Lagos state governors, Alhaji Lateef Jakande and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi; Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, were among those honoured.
Amaechi had said that the deserving citizens have contributed to the progress and development of their respective communities and the nation at large.
Jonathan had described the naming of the station after him as a good gesture.
The foremost Ijaw leader, said the gesture is demeaning, maintaining that Jonathan deserves a national honour for ceding power willingly to President Buhari.
He said grouping Jonathan along with other less prominent citizens of the country in the railway stations naming honours’ list, was unfair, urging Buhari not do to Jonathan what he would not want to be done to him.
According to Clark, even if Jonathan accepts the honour “because he is a gentleman and will not want to complain to Buhari,” the Ijaw people will not.
“Jonathan was the president of the whole nation. We don’t like anybody to make a mess of him,” he said.
He said if Jonathan and Awolowo had not grouped with others, he would probably have accepted the honours, recalling that when people rejected the naming of UNILAG after late MKO Abiola, government renamed the Abuja stadium after him, which he observed is a more befitting honour.
“I’m using Ameachi to tell Mr. President that what he will not like to be done to him, he should not do it to others,” he declared.
Clark maintained in an open letter to Amaechi: “My dear, the Hon. Minister of Transportation, Firstly, I hope this letter will not come to you as a surprise, even as I also apologise for making it open.
“My main reason for writing this letter is on the recent action by the Federal Government and the Ministry of Transportation which is currently under your watch, that is, the naming of the Agbor Railway Station after His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR, the immediate past President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While it is said to be an honour on the former President by the Federal Government and your Ministry, the Ministry of Transportation, because it is a known fact that the resuscitation of rail transport is one of the legacy projects of the former President, but for us in the Niger Delta and indeed to well-meaning Nigerians this ‘honour’, diminishes the prestige of a former President when the honour is also bestowed on others.
“One is not in any way adducing that the others are not deserving of the honour bestowed on them, but the same way official responsibilities differ in importance and risks, same consideration should be borne in mind when honouring people.
“For instance, how can Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the Premier of Western Nigeria, be honoured with the naming of a Railway Station after him in addition with persons who were pupils who benefited from his Free Education Scheme in Western Nigeria? Even in giving National Honours, there are different awards for different cadre of persons.
“It will interest you to know, Hon. Minister of Transportation that Chief Lateef Jakande was one of the closest aides to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Mr. Alfred Rewane was one of his (Chief Obafemi Awolowo) assistants, who held the post of a Political Adviser. So how will such persons feel to be honoured equally with their principal?
“Therefore, naming the railway station in Agbor, Delta State, ‘Goodluck Jonathan Railway Station and Complex’, is a misnomer.
“The umbrella body of the Niger Delta, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), had issued a statement to condemn this action, which it described as “meaningless and belittling to the person and status of the former President”, and “demands the immediate reversal…Instead, a befitting National Infrastructure should be named after him.’
“I am in total support of the position of PANDEF, as the Convener PANDEF, and leader of the Niger Delta region.”