The Ijaw Elders Forum on Wednesday called on the government to ensure the protection of senior elder statesmen to foster national integration, interest and peace.
The IEF made the call against the backdrop of the invasion of the home of nonagenarian and Ijaw/South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark by the police, apparently in search of arms and ammunition.
The IEF’s National Secretary, Efiye Bribena, told the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Lagos that the government should guard against the recurrence of extreme acts by the police.
He added that an elder statesman like Clark should have been shielded against the humiliation he was subjected to, when his home was invaded based on an unfounded allegation of stockpiling of weapons.
Bribena said: “When we are talking about national integration, we should have it as a matter of paramount interest that elder statesmen that have laboured for the integration of this country should be protected.
“The elder statesmen represent some sections of the country, and they are leaders of interest, groups and communities, an elder statesman like Clark represents the vast Ijaw nation.
“The leaders in his repute should be respected and we don’t expect the government or any institution to treat them with disrespect. It is not only him, but wherever they may come from.”
Efiye said the peaceful co-existence of Nigeria was non-negotiable; hence, those that fought for the relative peace should be shielded from harassment from security agencies.
He said: “Our peace in Nigeria is non-negotiable, but some actually fought for it. People like Clark were at the forefront of making sure that we have peace in the Niger Delta Region.
“In 2014 and 2015, it was Clark that negotiated with the Niger Delta Avengers seeking a way to resolve the militancy in the region so much that, some accused him of betraying them.
“He assured that all matters of militancy were resolved, for this, a man of his pedigree who has once been a Federal Commissioner and a Senator should not have been subjected to grave humiliation.
“What we need in Nigeria is national integration and involving people like him to mediate will go a long way in healing our diversity.”
The secretary told NAN that national interest should be pursued under the guidance of rule of law, adding that the process at which the national interest could be protected was under the rule of law.
He said: “The defence of Clark is not because he is from a particular section of the country, but all senior citizens in Nigeria irrespective of where they come from should be protected equally.
“Also the president should be more sensitive to the yearnings of the South-South people because he is being seen as the father of all, we have been so neglected.”