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Chief Edwin Clark

BRUTALLY FRANK – The Autobiography of E. K. Clark: A review by Dr. Edward Agbai 

Chief Edwin Clark

BOOK TITLE: Brutally Frank – The Autobiography of E. K. Clark

AUTHOR:  Chief (Dr.) Edwin Kiagbodo Clark

NO OF PAGES: 688

PUBLISHERS: Safari Books Ltd, Ibadan, Nigeria

REVIEWER:  Dr. Edward Perekebina Agbai, Associate Professor, Emmanuel University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

Foreword – The foreword was written by General Yakubu Gowon (Rtd.), former Head of State, Federal Republic of Nigeria, who opined that ‘Brutally Frank unveils the illustrious career of a nationalist, Ijaw leader, and politician; however, much more than this, Chief E.K. Clark is revealed as an individual who speaks truth to power and fights for the underdog regardless of ethnic group.

Chapter 1 – A Noble Birth – The Clarks come from the ancient legendary Ambakederemo family. Pa E. K. Clark’s great grandfather Ambakederemo was a great trader with the Niger Delta Palm Oil Company. This chapter traces the genealogy of Pa E.K. Clark’s origin to the Ngbille Family Tree, a lineage of great nobility, integrity, steadfastness and wealthy family background and alludes to the brilliant work of the Late Professor John Pepper Clark. It also included his maternal family tree. The rise of Pa Clark as a statesman, administrator and patriot of the Niger Delta may have much to do with his rich ancestral history. This chapter exposes the types of bride prices in Ijaw, like Kiere and Braere (child brides).

Chapter 2 – Halcyon Days – It was a calm period for the Clark family as he and his brothers spent the first ten years of their young lives with their maternal grandmother. It also was a period of name changes for him and his siblings because their teacher, Mr. Thompsom Okitipi, could not pronounce their names. He narrated his love for reading newspapers, which he has carried on until today, igniting his passion for politics.

Chapter 3 – Fervour for Politics – the author opined that his interest in politics was due to his admiration for Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the publisher of “The West African Pilot “and his politics. The newspaper’s motto, “Show the light and people will find their way,” resonated with him. This chapter presents his days as Assistant Community Development Officer, Activities at Hans Crescent London (where he was active in the Mid-West Student Union, Ijaw People Association, Urhobo Progressive Union and Isoko Development Union).

Chapter 4 – First Secretary of the Warri Bar Association – the author narrates his qualification process as a lawyer in the U.K. and how he was received by his family and community with dancers in Nigeria, including using a pontoon to cross the Sapele river as there was no bridge across the rivers. To guarantee his safety, his aunty kept a chamber pot in his bedroom so that he would not have to use the washroom outside his room at night. The author revealed his Ijaw, Itsekiri, Urhobo, and Isoke heritage and the conflict of these allegiances with his legal practice. The issues around speaking for the Ijaws, the Mid-West Movement, the Unofficial Adviser to the Military Government of Col. David Akpode Ejoor and the emergence of Col. Ogbemudia.

Chapter 5 – The Bureaucrat – Becoming a commissioner for education 1968-Dec 1971 and Commissioner for Finance and Establishment were two positions that excited Pa E. K. Clark because of the impact he was able to make serving in the Government of Col Samuel Ogbemudia (whom he speaks glowingly about as his friend and mentor). He talked about how Col Ogebmudia was advised not to appoint him because he was “controversial and stubborn. “This chapter also introduced one of two claims made by the author: as the founder of the Mid-West Institute of Technology (MIT), which later became the University of Benin through an edict Institute of Technology Edict 1971 3(1). He overhauled the education sector, stamped out the flourishing examination malpractice, and cited examples where he disciplined students and teachers. He narrated how he established the Headmasters Institute in Benin to train Headmasters who served as Grade II teachers for at least 25 years but had no opportunity to go beyond the national scale of teacher salaries. About eight native authority schools in the Bomadi area were taken over by the government. He held many positions during this period, including Pro-Chancellor University of Benin. The chapter closes with the story of the death of his Boss, Brig-Gen Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia.

Chapter 6 – Poached to Serve – provided perspective on the Gowon Administration and the intrigues heralding its emergence. It provides insight into the six months of General Aguiyi-Ironis’s regime before delving into the nine long years of Gowon’s rule. This chapter gave a perspective on the Aburi Accord. It opined that ‘perhaps the most offensive clause of the Decree 8 to the Eastern Region Government was section 70 and 71 which empowered the Supreme Military Council to declare a state of emergency in Nigeria if the Head of the Federal Military Government in agreement with at least three Governor to legislate for any particular region whenever they deemed fit during a state of emergency with or without consent to the Governor of that particular region. “The ‘no victor no vanquished’ pronouncement followed by amnesty, and the 3Rs – Reconciliation, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation. The author narrated his appointment as Federal Commissioner of Information and the overthrow of Gowon’s government by Brig. General Murtala Mohammed.

Chapter 7 – Political Witch-Hunt at the Centre – The author gave a detailed narration of how he was persecuted after the overthrow of General Gowon from Office. His properties were seized for fifteen years and only released by the Military Government of General Ibrahim Babangida after court cases and petitioning the government of the Day. He acknowledges the efforts of two former Attorney General of the federation, Prince Bola Ajibola and Clement Akpamgbo, as well as two former Secretaries to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae and Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed.

Chapter 8 – An Elected Senator – This chapter x-rays the activities of Pa E. K. Clark in active politics and political electioneering under the NPN for the Bendel-Delta zone. He was elected on August 20, 1983, along with six other NPN senators and sworn in on October 7, 1983, by then Senate President Dr. Joseph Wayas. This service period was short-lived as Major General Muhammadu Buhari overthrew the Government of President Shehu Shagari in December 1983.

Chapter 9 – Cordial Exchanges with the North During the Civil War – The author laments the abolition of history as a subject taught in Nigerian schools as most irregular and short-sighted. Because, in his opinion, this has created wrong information about the growth of Nigeria to our children. He was, however, confident and proud to note the role played by the minorities in the Niger Delta when during the war, every southern Nigerian escaped to their states, leaving a shortage of staff in the North, but the Minorities kept the country together through the educational exchange program between Mid-West and the North.

Chapter 10 – The Invasion of Mid-West State without a Shot – This chapter opens with a somewhat controversial stance about some of Col. David Ejoor’s cabinet members undermining his government. Some cabinet members disregarded many directives from the Governor, but he refused to take action when evidence abounded. It also provided an account of politicians’ double-dealing, indicating that the political abnormalities we see today had existed during the colonial era.

Chapter 11 – Gowon’s 3R Policy Part 1 – The author acknowledges the role of the Late Dr. Ukpabi Asika, the administrator of the East Central state during the period of Col. Ogbemudia during the civil war. The establishment of the Mid-West Institute of Technology (MIT) provided the government with the opportunity to employ Ibo teachers and lecturers. As Commissioner for Education, the author visited East Central State, allowing him to interact with Ibo leaders who attended the first NPN convention. And the reasons why Dr Alex Ekwueme stood out – i) wealthy with good character and brilliant academician. The author believes he related with the Ibos on five fronts: i) his relationship with the Ibos of the Mid-West, ii) During the declaration of the end of the Civil War, iii) the employment of teachers from the east-central state by the Mid-West state government, iv) rehabilitation of some schools in East-Central State and v) the University of Nigeria. In part 2, he narrated how he decided to send his daughter to a school in East Central State and the accounts of some of the female students that his policies impacted by going the extra mile to touch lives.

Chapter 12 – My Relationship with the Minorities of the Middle Belt, the North and the West – Chapter 12 combines the author’s vast networking in the Middle Belt, the North, and the West. This chapter brought to focus the 2010 October 1 bombing of Eagle Square during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan as President of Nigeria and the politics around the bombing. The invitation was by the Sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the UPN, who later founded the Action Group (A.G.). He narrated the advice by Chief Awolowo that he should not be too hard or stubborn when talking about politicians from rival political parties. He narrated the last time he met Chief Awolowo in Warri on May 2, 1987, when Mr. Rewane and E.K Clark organized a reception at the Warri Naval Base waterside, but sadly, the Sage passed on a week later.

Chapter 13 – The Unique Bond Shared by Three Brothers: And Now I am Alone – The author reminiscences on the life that had been and the bond shared by three brothers. Himself Amb. B. A. Clark and Late Prof Emeritus J. P. Clark. These two were his younger brothers and they spent hours on the phone with literally everyone when they were alive. He opined that absolutely nothing stood between them as they remained one another’s confidants, chief advisors, burden-bearers, and companions. Such extended to their nuclear families. Although he had many siblings but was close to these two, no wonder their passing on due to illness was expressed in sorrowful words tagged the ‘saddest day’ where he chronicled the moment of separation and quoted the poem of J.P Clark titled Full Tide Collected Poems .’The stories covered in this chapter spanned nine decades, but one after the other, his younger brothers left him Prof J. P. Clark in 2020 and Amb. B. A. Clark in 2022.

Chapter 14 – The Catalyst – The author saw his emergence as President of Hans Crescent as a pivotal linkage to his foray into politics. These activities led to the formation of the South-South People’s Conference through the initiative of Chief Joseph Wayas, former Senate President. The initiative later metamorphosed into the South-South People’s Assembly after a breakaway faction of Senator C-O. Dafinone was brought back into the fold. Pa E. K. Clark also participated in forming the Southern Nigeria People’s Assembly (SNPA) and the Congress for Equality and Change launched at Merit House Maitama Abuja on Thursday, August 5, 2010, and their position on the 2011 and 2015 Presidential Elections. The Formation of PANDEF, its alliance with other regional bodies, including the Southern and Middle-Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) and their 16-point demand that included the Presidential Amnesty Program (PAP), Ogoni clean up Maritime University and the Restructuring and Funding of the NDDC. The chapter did not conclude without having the Fact-finding tour of the former Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo, who was Acting as President while the former President Mohammadu Buhari was away on sick leave, amid threat from Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), meeting with the Vice President and the Bitched PANDEF 4th General Assembly in Port Harcourt. The author recommended that the present government replicate what happened in the past when doctors traveled in a launch from the marine department in the company of the Divisional Officers from Forcados to visit schools in the riverine for children to go through screening and various tests.

Chapter 15 – Resource Control – Chapter 15 underscores the need for the inhabitants of oil-bearing communities to access the wealth beneath the earth under them. The criminal neglect of the Niger Delta regions. It chronicles the agitation for resource control at the Kaiama Declaration among other groups in the south-south. It explains the reason why the Niger Delta wants fiscal federalism detailing the misconception on the issue of fiscal federalism and the false impression of the then Federal Military government introducing the Land Use Act. The chapter further explores the contradictions and the need for peace amid the exploitation from international oil and gas companies through GMOUs that are not implemented to the terms agreed upon.

Chapter 16 – Discord Among Peers- This chapter is the longest, covering about 80 pages and documenting Pa E. K. Clark’s open feud with Former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he sent Amb. Igali and Engr. Wodu represents him on a parley when an argument ensured on who owns the oil in the Niger Delta region. The response came as an open letter to the former President. The former President also responded to the open letter by Pa E. K. Clark. The response triggered a response from Dr. Mike Ozekhome SAN and Cardinal (Dr.) Anthony Okogie is one of the respected Catholic Bishops, among other answers. These controversial stances necessitated the author to delve into what obtains in all federal systems of government, the derivation principles over the years, and the obnoxious expropriation laws that steal the Niger Delta People’s wealth. There is also a controversial offshore-onshore dichotomy differentiating the littoral stay. His thoughts on resource control, the lopsided appointments at NNPC and the award of marginal fields to people outside the Niger Delta and the Petroleum Industry Act 2021.

Chapter 17 – The Jonathan Years -chapter 17 provides a narrative about Jonathan from when he became the Vice President based on the political maneuverings of the People Democratic Party leading up to the December 16, 2006, Presidential nomination convention at the Eagles Square in Abuja with its fanfares accompanied by pomp and pageantry. It was no secret that Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, the then Governor of Katsina state, was the preferred candidate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It also provided context for the alliance between the South-South Peoples Assembly (SSPA) and the Northern Union headed by the Late Senator Olushola Saraki. When Yar’Adua emerged as the PDP presidential candidate, he did not name his running mate at the convention ground but deferred that announcement for further consultations. Pa E. K. Clark gave a vivid account of the intrigues that followed the next 24 hours and the role he played in the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as the running mate of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua leading up to the elections and subsequent inauguration. The Vice President’s visit to Camp 5, President Jonathan’s role as Acting President when Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua passed on, the 2011 election of President Goodluck Jonathan, the Fuel subsidy crisis and the abduction of the Chibok girls. Pa E. K. Clark was, however, disappointed when President Goodluck Jonathan was asked how he became Vice President, and he said that “there were many versions, but the one he can remember was when Obasanjo sent for him and handed him over Yar’Adua as his running mate. He opined with the benefit of hindsight that such a posture of President Jonathan might have influenced the reason why President Jonathan never fully embraced him as his political father, limiting Pa E.K Clark’s access to the Villa even other party leaders like the late Chief Tony Anenih and some northern elders did not book any appointment before they went to the Aso Rock Villa to see Mr. President. He, however, closes with the statement that President Umaru Yar’Adua accorded him the status of a father compared to President Jonathan.

Chapter 18 – 2015 Presidential Election – The dynamics of election politics globally are such that barely two years into a subsisting tenure, the gong of elections starts ranting in the air’ is the opening line of this chapter. The author’s focus was how President Goodluck Jonathan could utilize the instrument of incumbency to complete two terms of the South-South Presidency. He got some detribalized members of the Arewa Consultative Forum and Northern Elder Forum to brief him on the various clandestine meetings. He opined that most of President Jonathan’s friends from the North who were in his government betrayed him. Pa E. K. Clark believes that the then PDP chairman Adamu Muazu and INEC Chairman Prof Attahiru Jega had insidious intentions, manifesting as the election drew closer. He thought that the aloofness and lackadaisical attitude of President Goodluck Jonathan fueled Jega’s brazen effrontery. The famous scene of the 2015 result collation by Elder Godsday Orubebe, President Jonathan’s collation agent, was also mentioned. The outcome of the 2015 elections in Nigeria meant many things to many people and will remain fresh in our memories.

Chapter 19 – A World in Disarray: Freedom Fighters in The Niger Delta – tells the story of militancy struggles in the Niger Delta region. It was a result of the criminal neglect and discriminatory treatment of the Niger Delta people, making them not feel a sense of belonging in the Nigerian project. The chapter enumerated extreme poverty, non-existent or bad roads, darkness, and non-participation in the oil wealth. The chapter explored the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), the 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zones, the Littoral states’ issues with Nigeria’s coastlines and the 13% derivation. The lopsided employment by the multinational oil and gas companies, the formation of the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC), and the promise but non-release of 15 billion naira by the Abdulsalami administration through the Gen. Popoola Committee. The Rivers State government sponsored a rift between Ateke Tom and Alhaji Asari Dokubo during the administration of Dr Peter Odilli. The kidnapping of 14 expatriates (14 Philippines), the Amnesty proclamation and the appointment of the various Presidential advisers on the Presidential Amnesty Program.

Chapter 20 – Governors Forum: A Threat to the Peace and Stability of the Nation – The NGF, a non-partisan platform that was created to enhance collaboration among Governors of the states in Nigeria, has become a very powerful block in deciding the direction of federal government policies, governance, and politicking. During the eight years of Buhari (2015-2023), the Progressive Governors Forum (APC), the PDP Governors Forum and the Northern Governors Forum. Various Chairmen have had their impact, but Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari (2015-2019) was mentioned for the Paris Club refund consultancy fee controversy, and Rotimi Amaechi’s anti-Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s government stance that led to the walking away of the nPDP in the buildup to the 2015 general elections was also given prominence. The chapter clarified the Governor’s powers under the 1999 constitution as amended.

Chapter 21 – A Nation in Search of Restructuring – Restructuring means different things to different people. The 2014 National Conference in Abuja gave the subject of restructuring prominence. The succeeding administration of Muhammadu Buhari did not implement these conference recommendations. The APC government set up the El-Rufai Restructuring Committee, which made recommendations like the 2014 Confab. Areas of focus of the confab were a) Politics and Governance, b) Fiscal Federalism and Resource Control, c) Legislative, Legislation, and Judiciary Issues and d) General Issues.

Chapter 22 – Buhari’s Nigeria – The conspiracy against the Jonathan government by members of his government was dealt with in the book’s early chapters. After three attempts at the presidency, Buhari was elected in 2015. Of the various issues highlighted against the Buhari government in the book, the lopsided appointment in the military under President Buhari’s watch and his failed promises gained much attention.

Chapter 23 – Kleptocracy in Our Society – Corruption has become brazen and has eaten deep into all facets of society. ‘Corruption is the great tragedy of Nigeria.’The author believes corrupt tendencies existed as far back as 1892, but the scale we see today makes previous governments look like saints. Corruption is observed among the political elites, from the executive to the legislators and the judiciary. Widespread corruption occurs in the civil services, agencies, and various sectors. The cases of Hush Puppi-Ramon Abbas, Mompha–Ismail Mustapha and Invictus Obi–Obinwanne Okeke were mentioned as the scourge of internet fraud.

Chapter 24 – Living a Meaningful Life – in the chapter, the author re-examines his existence and asks profound questions about the gift of longevity given to him in a country where life expectancy is about 53 years. His thoughts are aptly expressed in the words of Shanon Alder: ‘Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.’ He chronicles his rise to prominence from a humble beginning, his numerous awards and honors, and his fight for the oppressed in society. The Edwin Clark University is a testament to his belief in education and how education can free people.

Chapter 25 – People’s Perception of Me – while chapter 24 deals with what the author thinks of himself and what he has accomplished, chapter 25 mirrors what the author thinks are people’s perceptions about his personality. What was documented are positive statements of himself. His long life on earth and his positions have allowed him to interact with people from diverse organizations. This chapter provided goodwill messages Pa E. K. Clark received on his 95th Birthday from bosses, friends, and contemporaries, including former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon.

The book ends with appendices and an index.

Comments, Conclusions, and Readership: “Brutally Frank” is an autobiography that provides a vivid account of the lived experience of a Nigerian from a minority tribe that rose to become a Federal Commissioner under the regime of General Yakubu Gowon. Blessed with longevity in a country with less than 55 years of life expectancy, the author, an outspoken person, had lived through many governments and administrations to understand some underlying values in standing for the oppressed in society. For Pa E. K. Clark, “Brutally Frank,” a book project that took him ten years to write indicates that his communication style is characterized by his directness, honesty, and a lack of sugarcoating of issues of national discussion and the criminal negligence taking place in the oil-rich Niger Delta. He expresses his opinions straightforwardly and unreservedly. For the readers and receivers of his various open letters to different administrations, the perception of his style varies widely depending on which side the receptors are because if he is fighting for your cause, his letters look great, while if the letters are targeted at you or the office you occupy, then his letters are not always pleasant to read. However, both sides of the divide respect his forthrightness. After reading the book, you will appreciate ‘Brutally Frank’ because it cuts through ambiguity and gets straight to the point in dealing with the issues covered in each chapter. It is transparent and promotes clear communication, and I do not find it abrasive, insensitive, or lacking tact. In his narration about his disagreement with former President Olusegun Obasanjo about who owns the oil in the Niger Delta region, he was able to provide a balance and cited the response letter of the former President. Although his bluntness could lead to misunderstandings or hurt feelings, excessive diplomacy might obscure essential messages.

“Brutally Frank” resonates with recent books and publications validating the need for truth-tellers. For instance, a book with the same title, “Brutally Frank,” published on June 1, 2012, by Mark Berriman – ‘Sharp, snarky poetry that challenges preconceptions and comfort zones. More recently, Marshall Frank’s “Militant Islam in America (Brutally Frank)” is deftly researched, powerfully written and politically incorrect; the author summarizes the bottom line: Under the unwatchful eye of the U.S. government, the non-peaceful side of Islam is using money, political influence and the protection of our Bill of Rights to conquer and create the Islamic Republic of America before the end of this century. As we mark a century of political party evolution in Nigeria, ‘ Brutally Frank’ is about equity, fairness, and justice in our political and social lives.

The good news is that, despite its catalog of issues in Nigeria in 2023, the book has convinced a reader like me that living a life of service to the people is still noble and worthy of emulation. The book will be an issue of public discussion within and outside the political arena; however, it opens a vista of opportunities for researchers to expand the topics raised in the book and offer solutions.

This book is an autobiography, falling in the category of other notable books such as Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu, Wings of Fire: An Autobiography of APJ Abdul Kalam, and I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai.  The shortcomings of the book lie in the following facts. Based on the chapter titles, some chapters contain more information than the reader may expect. The perspective is from a minority tribe leader, and it will be nice to hear the view of others on the various issues about a justiciable country where the rights of all are respected irrespective of your tribe or religion.

Overall, the content of the book is robust. Its writing style is lucid and captivating, with elegant language and explicit. This publication is highly recommended for the following reasons. Firstly, the content strongly correlates with the thinking of most Nigerians in the diaspora about having a fair country; it stimulates the reader to ponder on the Nigerian structure that benefits a few. Secondly, a distinctive feature of this book is its richness in drawing on a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.

Thus, it is a dependable reference material for students and researchers in political science, public affairs analysis, and the history of Nigeria. Thirdly, it serves as a wake-up call for the political class and elite in society, including policymakers, to develop people-friendly policies, as four years in government could change Nigeria’s decline in developmental indices for a positive growth trajectory and economic prosperity. Lastly, the book acts as a mirror for policymakers and leaders in Nigeria, as it aids them in using the document cited in this book to provide policy guidance and proffer better solutions.

It is evident that Pa E. K. Clark likes to speak his mind and intends to keep going on with his political advocacy till the end because advocacy and speaking for the oppressed is what drives him. I think that there should be a midpoint where some of his mentees (younger generations stand at some critical moment while he watches them keenly). From the book, we know that he likes reading news articles and in some cases addressing them through press statements or letters to editors. His legacy in my opinion will be education at E.K Clark University, what other people view of his legacy is up to them.

I commend him for documenting his experiences because he knows Nigeria and has participated actively in the governance processes of the last five decades. “Brutally Frank” is a commendable contribution to Nigeria’s literary landscape, prompting reflection on its past, present, and future. I look forward to witnessing the continued discussions and impact sparked by this thought-provoking autobiography.

To sustain the momentum created by the launch of the book and endear his legacies to the upcoming generation whom because of the non-teaching of our history in schools are oblivious of the contributions of our heroes past, I make the following recommendations.

1) Succession Plan: Consider establishing a succession plan to identify and nurture new opinion leaders under the E.K. Clark school of thought.

2) Regional Reproduction: Replicate Pa E. K. Clark’s brand of activism across various zones in the country to ensure a wider reach and impact.

3) Incorporate Technology: Embrace technology by allowing for a radical metamorphosis of ideas using AI. Leverage its generative capacity to mimic Pa E. K. Clark’s personality and create innovative ways, such as anime, to engage with an evolving audience.

Dr. Edward Agbai is an Associate Professor at Emmanuel University, Raleigh North Carolina, USA, and Secretary, Ijaw Diaspora Council (IDC) and resides in Canada

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