At Edwin Clark’s Book Launch, Tinubu, Gowon, Jonathan, Others Harp on Nigeria’s Unity

* Septuagenarian elderstatesman pledges to fight on

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

Prominent Nigerians, mostly serving and former political office holders and eminent personalities from all walks of life, converged on Abuja Thursday for the public presentation of the autobiography of Chief Edwin Clark titled ‘Brutally Frank’.

Some of the guests at the occasion were President Bola Tinubu, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume; former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd); and former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The list also included former and serving National Assembly members, serving and former governors, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero and other first class monarchs across the country.

In his speech on the occasion, Tinubu, who was represented by Akume, commended the septuagenarian politician for commiting himself to the unity of Nigeria since his youthful age till now.

He extolled the numerous roles played by Clark and encouraged Nigerians, especially the youth, to embrace his sterling qualities.

Tinubu also urged Nigerians to bear the current pains and sufferings following the sudden removal of the fuel subsidy because better days are ahead.

He said: “We are going through a difficult phase in the history of this country but these pains are pains of birth, the birth of a new nation and that if you want to celebrate a child, then the mother must go through some pains. 

“At the end of the day, there is joy in merriment when the baby arrives and we will certainly be there.

“Solutions to problems can never be as instant as coffee but we must certainly be there. 

“I know the removal of fuel subsidies has created some pains and that is why palliatives are being put in place. One hundred trucks of fertilizers have been sent to the states, one hundred truck of grains have been sent and more are coming and more are also coming.

“We can endure this for a moment but what we are going through today is for a better tomorrow. Our citizens have hoped that tomorrow will be better than today and we won’t disappoint them.”

Tinubu also commended Gowon for the roles he played in leading the country to a path of prosperity, peace and unity after the civil wars.

He said: “To our father, General Gowon, we wil continue to celebrate you for your uncommon service to your father land. 

“To you former President Goodluck Jonathan, you did something which was a little bit rare in Africa when you voluntarily accepted defeat. You’re being celebrated today particularly because of that singular act, may the good Lord continue to bless you.

“Nigeria is structurally complex and structurally difficult but can never be difficult to manage. Our plurality and diverse cultures and with our religions constitute the source of our strength.”

Gowon, who was the chairman of the occasion, expressed joy that the book presentation on Clark attracted prominent Nigerians who undoubtedly are the country’s political, traditional and economic leaders. 

According to him, “It is deserving to a man such as E.K. as some of us more fondly call him, that at his ripe age of 96 years, the Nigerian nation could gather in this befitting manner to honour him and pay our deserving respects to his towering legacy of national service.”

Going down memory lane, Gowon said his relationship with the Clark family, unknown to many, had been enduring over the years and has been expressed in deep bonds of friendship and mutual respect. 

The former Head of State said: “Even before the circumstances of our shared national service brought E.K. Clark and I close, which I will explain shortly, I had become very close to his immediate younger brother, Ambassador B.A. Clark, who was one of the finest diplomats that Nigeria ever produced and rose to the pinnacle of the service.

“The period when I came into public limelight brought me close to his other close brother, the world acclaimed playwright, Prof. J.P. Clark. 

“Along with J.P.’s friends, Prof. Wole Soyinka, the first Noble Peace prize winner in Africa and others, the government which I headed at one of the most difficult times in the history of our country, got a lot of conscience pricking and encouragement from these men of great letters. 

“Even though they were pungent and rabidly critical of those of us who were in uniforms and jackboots, I enjoyed greatly the favour of their very useful and constructive contributions.

“The period in which Nigeria emerged from its most challenging political turmoil was one that needed great dexterity and empathy in the arduous task of reconciliation, rehabilitation, reintegration, reconstruction and rebuilding our bonds of oneness. 

“I had an exceptional cabinet of some of the pioneers and best personalities that the country ever produced. Besides personalities like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Dapa Biriye, Dr. Nabo Graham Douglas, SAN.

“My cabinet also included  my military constituency such as Admiral Akinwale Wey, Governors and Administrator, Ukpabi Asika. There was also the very courageous and resourceful communicator, Chief Anthony Enahoro from the Mid West and my team of dedicated civil servants. 

“For those who have read Nigerian history, it was Enahoro who in 1953 moved the motion for Nigerian independence and remained one of the most respected voices on the need for the rebuilding of Nigeria.”

He continued: “Enahoro served as Federal Commissioner (i.e. Minister) of Information in our government. 

“However, he opted to exit because of other commitments and there was a search for a qualified and equally passionate Nigerian. 

“This was what took us back to the Mid-West State and brought Edwin Kiagbodo Clark to enter the big shoes left by Enahoro.

“Several things qualified Clark for that job as I had briefly mentioned in the Foreword to this book. 

“Principal among this being the fact that as erstwhile Commissioner for Education in the Mid-West State, he had gone ahead without pressure but with encouragement from me, Governor Ogbemudia and the Federal Government in initiating reconciliation with the war ravaged states of the East Central and its people at the time.

“As a matter of fact, he went to the extent of using his first daughter, now Mrs. Rebecca Okorodudu, who was a teenager in one of the best schools in Mid West at the time as a kind of guinea pig, moving her to Queen’s School, Enugu, which had great impact from the unfortunate years of conflict

“As if that was not enough, he also extended a hand of solidarity to the northern states by sending hundreds of science teachers to various parts of the northern states from the Mid-West and also attracted some of their young persons and gave them places in the best schools in his home state. 

“There was no better Nigerian for the job of information minister at that time when we needed to show our warmness and empathy for one another as a people. He did the same for the East-Central States, sending help to the university and other institutions in the war affected areas.

“The need to fill in the void created by Chief Enahoro’s exit was what gave E.K. the job of minister in the government which I headed. 

“He became my confidant and the voice of the government, fearlessly defending the government and projecting its image. I found comfort in discussing government and other issues with E.K., most amicably at all times. 

“However, considering his strong personality, there were times that he would vehemently disagree with his colleague commissioners and military officers and worked hard to convince them on why his own position is better than theirs and any other.”

Gowon added that the book, ‘Brutally Frank’, therefore, is a very useful chronicle of what had transpired in Nigeria during his lifetime of service. 

He said: “I am hopeful that the younger generations will be better informed on our experiences which has brought the country to what it is today, on which our President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is here with us, represents the centre of our common aspirations of peace, unity and progress.”

Former President Jonathan said Clark believes in the unity of Nigeria and that he demonstrated it on his  book personally written by him.

Jonathan said: “I wouldn’t be surprised because your boss, our father, General Gowon, believed so much in the unity of this country and each territorial dignitory and that is why 70 years after the war ended, sometime in 20l5, President Obama had to appeal to Nigerians not to do anything to undermine the integrity of our country and to respect the wishes of the people by invoking your mantra. To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done. 

“Chief Edwin Clark belongs to that very rare of extra ordinary men, patriots who had at any point in time would be relied upon to stop any effort that could lead to the dismemberment of this country. We are greater when we are introduced as Nigerians than when we are introduced on the basis of ethnic.”

Senate President Godswill Akpabio said: “Edwin Clark has remained ‘Brutally Frank’ in his submissions over the years.

“I am therefore, not surprised that his autobiography is titled ‘Brutally Frank’, as those of us who know him closely, will attest to the fact that Chief Clark will not fail to tell you the brutal truth at all times.

“I have no doubt that through the lens of this autobiography, we shall gain insights into the struggles, triumphs and pivotal moments that have shaped not only the life of our leader, but also the trajectory of our nation, Nigeria.

“I have no doubt that the wisdom and perspectives shared in this great book will offer us a chance to reflect on the journey we’ve undertaken as a society and to glean valuable lessons that can guide our future endeavours.”

The author, Clark, pledged to continue to do his best for Nigeria for as long as he is still alive.

He said the title of the book was coined after the way Gowon described him on the occasion of his 90th birthday celebration.

He said: “I will continue to make comments as it regards the unity of Nigeria no matter whose ox is gored.”

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