The 2015 general elec
tions in Nigeria made history in many respects. One of the novelties that resulted from that exercise was the fact that a ruling political party became the opposition party for the first time in Nigeria.
Another dramatic outcome of that electoral exercise was that the strong hold of the opposition in Nigeria did not fall to any of the three majority tribes but to the South-South/Niger Delta region which had hitherto always found relevance and prominence on the national stage by affiliating with the ruling party or government at the centre.
Perhaps for fear of domination and/or subjugation by one or a combination of others, the minorities of the South-South region had never felt strong enough to stand alone and had always found it convenient to form alliance with, at least, one of dominant groups, especially the North, for political cover and protection since the inception of democratic governance in Nigeria.
This development has been viewed differently by various political observers. While some remain skeptical about the ultimate outcome of this turn of events in the political landscape of the Nigerian federation, there are others who see the development as a test of the political maturity of the region and its people. Yet there are those who consider it as an opportunity for a more rapid development and progress of the region endowed with natural resources but inhibited by an unfavourable political system in Nigeria.
“I think it’s a new dawn for the Niger Delta and it’s a good thing that has happened”, says Biebele Arimie, a Procurement and Supply Management expert and public affairs analyst.
According to Arimie, the development comes with an opportunity for a healthy competition that will benefit the people if the leaders understand it and will be wise enough not to tear themselves and the people apart along party lines.
He enjoined the political elite in the region to use the opportunity to engage in what he called “Developmental competition; rather than use it to precipitate crisis and violence that will help to further impoverish and underdevelop the people.
“Those who are opportune to be functionaries in the federal government should begin to think of strategies of how to work out ways to compete with their various state government, not by precipitating violence but by attracting projects from the federal government to their various states in the Niger Delta”, he said.
Arimie observed that the long years of romance with the central government had not much benefited the region after all, insisting that belonging to the mainstream had made it difficult for the leadership of the region to be assertive and vehement in agitating for what is their due but had rather just tagged along for fear of losing their place.
“It is also not so beneficial to have the region and the centre in the same party like when Goodluck Jonathan was in power. There was no competition. Everybody was afraid. But right now, if you ask me, we are supposed to have a healthy competitions,” he emphasized, adding that this is possible by functionaries at both levels of government who belong to opposing political parties closely watching each other and taking appropriate development, actions to win the endorsement and support of the people.
Arimie, who was also the Rivers and Bayelsa States Chapter Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Supply and Procurement Management, urged political leaders in the region to avoid the temptation of using the occasion to engage in unnecessary bickering and unhealthy rivalry that will not yield any beneficial results in the end.
“There will be criticism of how well each one is doing. But we don’t want a situation like what happened in Ogu where Nyesom Wike as Minister of Education came to the Technical School and laid the foundation to say we want to build this school. By then, Chibuike Amaechi as governor of Rivers State also went to the same place and said ‘look I also want to build the same school. At the end of the day, nobody built anything. We don’t want that kind of competition”, he reiterated, adding that, “if both the majority party and opposition will listen to the voice of wisdom and ensure that nobody continues to precipitate violence under any guise, Rivers State and the Niger Delta will grow faster and faster.”
Comrade Christian Lekia, a rights activist and a crusader for non-violence in the Niger Delta shares the sentiments and hopes of Biebele Arimie cautiously. According to Comrade Lekia, the task of the minorities surmounting the challenges of opposition politics in Nigeria is not insurmountable but clearly very difficult. He expressed the fear that with the soul of the opposition outside the three dominant tribes in Nigeria, it would be difficult for the minority tribes to assert themselves on the nation in that role.
He said even though this was not the first time the country would be experiencing politics, it was difficult to see if the minorities of the South-South region have the ingredients to survive and surmount the challenges as Lagos State did under the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency. “Whatever Lagos State did to re-enact itself nationally through alliance and friendship with the North, the minority political opposition party in the South-South must redouble that effort,” he said. Comrade Lekia said Lagos State survived opposition because they remained strong in their focus, principles, belief in their party ideology in addition to believing in themselves and urged the present political leaders in the Niger Delta to borrow a leaf from that experience and make the desired impact for the region and the nation at large.
“When you find a political leadership which major interest is about receiving allocation from the centre and going cap in hand to the centre for every need at the state level, then you justify why we were doing better. Doing better in the sense that they had smooth relationship with the centre but in the actual sense of it I really do not see so much in terms of benefit from the centre because the political leadership was so comfortable with what they were getting”, he stressed.
With the turn of events, Comrade Lekia urged the current political leadership in the region to be “challenged with how to become more productive; how to device better and more effective means of managing our economy, especially when it comes to internally generated revenue and engaging the people.”
“This is an opportunity for the minority opposition in the South-South to show the might of their intellect, the might of their understanding in terms of the game of politics. It’s not about surviving from breast to mouth like a mother-baby relationship,” he said, adding that this is the first time they will have to stand up and devise means of surviving and making a statement that they understand why they are in power as minorities and as opposition in Nigeria.”
He said even through the region remains a component of the federation, the political and socio-economic survival and wellbeing of the states and the region lies squarely on the shoulders of their leadership as no one can dictate to them nor run their affairs directly for them. I couldn’t see it as a disadvantage. I see as a call on the political class within the South-South to re-echo their voices and show their might and that they understand what they’re in power to do. Let them play according to the rules of the game and think of ingenuous ways of generating income from independent sources,” he said, pointing out that if Lagos could stand alone and pull through with only a service based economy, the Niger Delta region with its rich natural endowments cannot but fare better with the right attitude and commitment by its leadership.
“So, if you find a responsible leadership managing the economies of these states and delivering the dividends of democracy to the people, you won’t really find any reason why you will be feeling the impact of the centre negatively,” the rights activist concluded.
Perhaps this is the right time to revive and strengthen such initiates as the BRACED Commission and the South-South Peoples Assembly to foster regional integration through social, cultural, economic and political cooperation aimed at achieving a united front and a structural development for the disadvantaged people of the region.
Ex-APC National Chairman Tasks Party On Responsive Leadership
Chief John Odigie-oyegun, former National Chairman, All Progressives Congress APC), has charged the party’s leaders to be more progressive and responsive to the people.
He said this at the public presentation of a book”APC’S Litmus Test, Nigerian Democracy and Politics of Change”, written by Dr Salihu Lukman, Director-General, Progressives Congress Forum (PGF) in Abuja, yesterday.
“We are in charge today, a progressive government, a progressive regime, and I think it is proper that we show to the nation that when the people want some degree of change, “we should be responsive to it, we should address it, compromises have to be made, there’s no question about that,” Odigie-Oyegun said.
He added that the APC document on true federalism was still being worked upon before its release.
Odigie-Oyegun said the ideas of people from different parts of the country would be different up to the extent that they would want to go with the proposals in the document.
He said it was however, necessary, vital and mandatory in the interest of the survival of the country that issues regarding federalism were addressed.
“We cannot continue to allow the subject to become something that threatens our nation at any turn.
“So, the earlier we address it, the earlier we show that as a party we are responsive to the feelings of the people, the desires of the people and the wants of the people.
“It becomes easier then, to diffuse the kind of stresses that the nation is passing through today,”Odigie-Oyegun said.
He added that for those at the formation of the APC, the uniqueness of its Constitution and its manifesto promised change was meant by all members with their hearts and beings.
He said unfortunately, the forces of economics had made things not quite the way it was planned.
The APC former national chairman said there was need for the party members to do everything possible to keep it not just alive but very virile.
He added that in spite of general belief, the APC was one party that had put together things that meant hope for the country.
He said the fact that things were bad and people were angry and hungry was not questionable, saying that these were worldwide phenomenon.
Odigie-Oyegun decried the current security challenge in the country.
“It is my hope that we will begin to get control of the security of this nation,” he said.
PDP Rep Harps On Justice, Dialogue To Secure Nigeria
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), House of Representatives member has enjoined Nigerian leaders to tow the path of justice, equity, dialogue, and rule of law in the country.
Rep. Toby Okechukwu, the Deputy Minority Leader of the House, said this in a statement issued on Saturday in Abuja to commemorate the Democracy Day
He added that such path would help to arrest worsening insecurity and arrest separatist agitations across the country.
Okechukwu said that opportunities still abound in preserving the nation’s democracy and reconstruct the union to a more workable piece.
He said that June 12 was designated Democracy Day in honour of a symbol of the nation’s democratic struggles, the late Chief MKO Abiola.
He added that Abiola was unjustly denied the opportunity to exercise an overwhelmingly popular mandate handed him by the Nigerian people on June 12 1993, but only to be celebrated at death.
“The greatest debt the governments and leaders of Nigeria owe every part of this country and every Nigerian is a sense of justice and equity according to the letters and spirit of our constitution.
“The golden rule of justice is to do unto others as you would have them to unto you,” he said.
He called on the Federal Government to take conscious steps to do things that would promote national unity and earn it loyalty.
He also called on leaders to be proactive in creating a clement environment for peace to reign to arrest the present security challenges in the country.
Okechukwu commended the leaders of the South East and the Federal Government for the June 11, dialogue in Enugu to deescalate tension in the region.
He stated that it was a right step that should be sustained and replicated nationwide, while wishing Nigerians a happy Democracy Day.
Democracy Day: PDP Lawmakers Wants Observance Of Rule Of Law
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives has called for strict observance of the rule of law to improve democratic practice in the country.
The caucus made the call in a statement by its Leader, Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP-Rivers) last Saturday in Abuja.
Chinda called for an environment that would guarantee freedom of speech and standard operations for the fourth estate of the realm.
The lawmaker stressed the need to place greater value on Nigerian lives and for decisive and pragmatic steps to end the avoidable deaths in the country.
He called on the government to restrain the Police and other security agencies from further unleashing violence on unarmed youths and other peaceful protesters.
“They choose to go out and exercise their rights in commemoration of Democracy Day.
“June 12 is a symbol of democratic freedom and supremacy of the people’s power and should be respected by ensuring that all the tenets of democracy are adhered to in all ramifications.
“June 12 is not only about introspection, it is about renewing the commitments of all to the growth of democracy in our dear county.
“It is about ensuring that our country is never again enveloped by darkness, hemmed to the abyss by the sinister forces that threaten our collective rights and freedoms,” he said.
Chinda urged all Nigerians to hold on to democratic principles in spite of the challenges facing the country saying that “good will triumph over evil.”
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