Edwin Clark, elder statesman and leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, has described the naming of the railway complex in Agbor, Delta state, after ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, as an insult.
In July, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the naming of railway stations after some “deserving Nigerians”.
Obafemi Awolowo, premier of western Nigeria; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Olusola Saraki, former senate leader; Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state and Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, were among those honoured.
But in an open letter to Amaechi, the elder statesman said the gesture is “demeaning”, adding that Jonathan deserves more than that.
Clark noted that rail transport is one of Jonathan’s legacies and that bestowing the same honour accorded the former president to other citizens diminishes the prestige of the ex-president.
He wondered how Awolowo could be bestowed the same honour as people who “benefited from his Free Education Scheme in Western Nigeria?”
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.
He said grouping others alongside great men like Jonathan and Awolowo is not acceptable and asked the president “not do to others what he will not like to be done to him”.
He, therefore, asked Buhari to withdraw the honour and name a more befitting national monument after the former president.
“Jonathan was the president of the whole nation. We don’t like anybody to make a mess of him,” he said.
“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,” Clark said.
“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.”