As preparations for the 2019 general elections gather momentum, amidst alignment and re-alignment of political forces, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State believes that in the race for the Brick House, nothing can change the status quo.
In this exclusive interview with the Acting Political Editor, Soibi Max-Alalibo, the Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Hon. Solomon Abel Eke reveals why Rivers State is a no-go-area for the opposition, and many more.
How does it feel like being the Chairman?
For me, it’s a call to service. Ascending to this high position of Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor LGA is guided by my sense of responsibility to the people of Obio/akpor LGA. So, I see it as a call to serve. And with humility and due respect, I owe everything to God, and the good people of Obio/Akpor LGA. We need to make our place better; we do not have another LGA. God brought us here, and I know it’s for a reason.
What would you say are your targets as Chairman?
I have always said that this is a government of continuum. It started from where Nyesom Wike started from 1999 to 2006. Then, from Timothy Nsirim, under whom I served as Vice Chairman, up to 2014. As a former VC of the Council, I know where we stopped; I also know some of the things we had in mind to do. These are the things I’m tackling head-on. For instance, since we broke out of Port Harcourt City Local Government, Obio/Akpor does not have a library. Currently, we have a suitable land for it. So, I’ve made necessary arrangement to embark on it. It will be among projects to be commissioned in my first 100 days in office. We also do not have a sports centre. So we’ve decided to build a sports centre for the people of the LGA. We do not have a cemetery. This will also be provided. And, considering that Obio/Akpor is still developing, with people migrating to the LGA almost daily, we also need to make provision for absorbing the influx of people to avoid unnecessary congestion of our roads, and in order to create sanity on our roads, we’re building more parks for cars. If you live in Obio/Akpor you’ll know that road congestion has been a key issue. We’ve already created some parks, but we shall still come up with more modern enclosed parks like we see in advanced countries, to be commissioned within our 100 days in office. Within the first 100 days too, we are going to institute a green culture: we’ll plant flowers and trees at strategic places in the LGA, such as roundabouts and parks to beautify them. This will be done through the Parks and Garden Committee. We also have in our agenda, a deliberate and planned step to sanitise, secure and develop Obio/Akpor.
In sanitising Obio/Akpor, we want to make sure that cleanliness is maintained. To ensure this, we have commenced fencing some of the key markets on major roads, such as the Oil Mill market. We’ll also do same for the market at Rumuokoro Roundabout, and any other place such markets are found. This is to ensure that those who sell are cordoned off the major roads on which they have hitherto caused nuisance.
We will also provide a health insurance scheme for everybody in Obio/Akpor. They include indigenes, those who live in and do business in the LGA. With just a token of N4,000.00 (for men) and N5,000.00 (for women within reproductive age) for registration in the scheme, bills from people’s health challenges will be catered for by the LGA.
The amount for registration for women within reproductive age is higher because some of them may require caesarean section that would require more money. But it will be done with no additional cost to the patient. The LGC will foot the bill.
Again, we have commenced the training of our youth in various skills to either make them employable, or turn them to entrepreneurs knowing that Obio/Akpor is a viable LGA that is developing at a fast pace. For this purpose, we are training our youth in such skills as pipeline welding, soap making, hair dressing, etc. As the popular saying goes, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, we do not want our youths to be idle, so they cannot easily be tempted to go into social vices.
Any challenges so far?
There’re indeed challenges. But such challenges are not insurmountable. Most of the challenges we face now are the result of people being used to doing things in a given way, and so find it difficult to change to a better way. For instance, markets are provided for traders to sell their wares in them. But these traders prefer to sell on the roads, thereby constituting nuisance. So, when we now tell them to go into the market to sell, they go to the streets to protest. We have decided to take steps to talk to them in order to convince them that beyond the need for them to sell in the markets, they also endanger their lives by selling on major roads. As we do the talking, we are also taking precautionary measures to gradually send them to the market.
What would you say are the chances of PDP in Rivers State in the 2019 governorship election?
The truth is that in Rivers State, there is no rivalry to the fact that PDP is a household name. Governor (Nyesom) Wike has done so much that virtually all parts of the State have something to thank the government for. His projects are far reaching. Beyond this, he has a listening ear. It is for the same reason he has ensured that the third tier of governance, which is the Local Government, is resuscitated to enhance governance by bringing it down to the people. Rivers People are very comfortable with the PDP-led Government, so there’s no way they can give room for APC, which has already failed Nigeria at the centre People are wiser now, they can compare the hardship caused by the APC-led Nigerian Government, and so nobody can come and deceive Rivers People to the point of not voting for PDP in 2019 in Rivers State.
In his first three years in office, Wike commissioned projects every day for over a month. There is no Government in Nigeria that achieved such feat, at least not in this present dispensation. And, the good thing about these projects is that one way or another, they touch the lives of the people positively. So, having done this much within three years, it is obvious that Rivers people will support the Governor to do more in delivering more dividends of democracy to them.
What is your advice to the people of Obio/Akpor, Your co-chairmen in the State, and Rivers people?
My advice for the people of Obio/Akpor, who voted me into power, is for them to have faith in me. I can only urge them to follow my leadership path for which they voted for me, promising them that I will not lead them astray. I am making sure that I carry on with the development pattern set from the tenure of the Governor when he was Chairman.
To my Co-Chairmen, I urge them to toe the line of the Governor in developing their LGAs by executing projects that will touch the lives of their people directly, because it is the only way to live up to the expectation of the people and our “Mr. Project”.
To Rivers people, I can only say that everybody needs a good life, and the Governor is creating the enabling environment, so, let’s support him. Let us not be deceived by these “money bags”. Since three years they have been in power at the national level, they’ve not brought any development to Rivers State. But the PDP Government in Rivers State has been doing a lot because they are answerable to our people: communities that do not have roads, they cry out to the Governor and he provides for them in good time. He promises and fulfills his promises. There are so many things. The essential thing is that anything identified as the problem of the people and brought to his knowledge, he takes care of it. He has a listening ear, and this is what we demand of our leaders. Let us therefore come out fully to support him and resist any attempt to compromise this position because at the end of the day, if you sell yourself for peanuts, you’ll suffer for it.
Of Governance And Clamour For Unicameral NASS
Although the heavy cost of maintaining Nigeria’s 469 federal lawmakers has always been a source of concern, “sitting politicians’’ have joined in the campaign for the reduction of the number of federal legislators.
In fact, one of the converts even suggested the scrapping of the Senate, as according to him, it is the House of Representatives that represents.
The converts: Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti; Sen. Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo and Chief Osita Chidoka, former Minister of Aviation, made their suggestions at different fora.
Chidoka who advocates for a unicameral legislature, made the suggestion after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2020 budget.
“In Nigeria, we need a unicameral legislature with six members each from the 36 states and two members from FCT.
“The legislature with 218 members will be less than 50 per cent of current members and term limit of three terms.
“The 2020 budget for the National Assembly (NASS) is N125bn, higher than the combined budget of Education N48 billion (excluding UBEC and TETFUND), Health N46 billion and Social Investment N30 billion.
“Reducing National Assembly members by half will provide over N60 billion annually for the social sector, that will be 600 billion over 10 years.”
Chidoka said the new National Assembly would be both efficient and economical.
He described the budget of N125 billion for the National Assembly as “hugely extravagant,” in an economy adjudged to have over 100 million poor people with gross infrastructure deficit.
The former Minister of Aviation said that funds saved from the contraction would be available for investment on policies and projects that would serve the common interest of the greater number of the population.
On his part, Fayemi advocated for the scrapping of the Senate in order to save cost and reduce financial burden on the government.
He also advocated for the adoption of Stephen Orosaye’s report which recommended the merging of federal government’s agencies that perform similar functions.
Fayemi said the type of legislative system that would be more productive for Nigeria in this current economic situation is a unicameral legislature.
“As it stands, the country’s legislative arm consisting of 109 Senate members and a 360-member House of Representatives, on yearly basis gulps millions of Naira.
“We do need to look at the size of government in Nigeria, and I am an advocate for a unicameral legislature.
“What we really need is the House of Representatives because that is what represents.
“You have three senators from little Ekiti and you have three senators from Lagos State, I guess the principle is not proportionality, but that if you are a state, you get it automatically.
“But I think that we can do away with that. There are several things that we can do away within the government,” he said.
Okorocha, the immediate past governor of Imo, now the Senator representing Imo West, on his part called for the reduction in the number of federal lawmakers representing a state.
He suggested that a Senator and three members of House of Representatives should represent each state.
“I want one senator and three House of Representatives members per state, which will cut expenses.
“A Senator and three House of Representatives members can do what many have been doing.’’
He said that the reduction in the number of representatives from the states would help cut cost and ensure effective representation.
While advocating for ways to cut cost and ensure effective representation, Okorocha said he would sponsor a bill that would seek for the reduction of the number of Senators and House of Representatives members for each state.
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), has endorsed the suggestions for the reduction of the number of federal lawmakers.
The CNPP via a statement from its Secretary-General, Willy Ezugwu, said Okorocha spoke the truth concerning the need to reduce cost of running the National Assembly.
“The former governor simply told Nigerians the truth when he said what three Senators from a state can do; one lawmaker is capable of handling the same.
“Like Sen. Okorocha asked, what is too sacrosanct that Senators and House of Representatives members are doing that only a Senator per state can not do?’’
Also, two professors of political science at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Jonah Onuoha and Aloysius Okolie, agreed with the advocates for unicameral legislature, which they reiterated would reduce the cost of governance.
Onuoha, who is the Head, Department of Political Science, said bicameral legislative system is not cost effective, especially in a country like Nigeria, where federal lawmakers receive bogus salaries and allowances.
“It takes huge amount of money to maintain bicameral legislative system, especially in a country like Nigeria where federal lawmakers receive bogus salaries and allowances monthly.
“Bicameral legislative system is not only costly but delays legislative processes of passing bill into law, since the bill will pass through the two chambers.’’
Onuoha, who is also the Director of American Studies in UNN, urged the country to adopt unicameral legislative system as it is cost effective.
“If the country settles for unicameral, the extra money it could have spent in paying salaries, allowances and maintaining the two chambers which runs into billions can be used to carry out capital projects,” he said.
He said if the country insisted on running bicameral legislative system, the number of lawmakers should be reduced.
Okolie in his contribution said that it was as result of bicameral legislative system that every year the budgetary allocation to the National Assembly had remained the highest.
“I subscribe to opinions in some quarters that the country should adopt unicameral legislative system as it will reduce the cost of running government as well as quicken legislative processes.
“The country is spending much to pay salaries, allowances and maintaining the two chambers — 109 Senators and 360-members of House of Representatives,’’ he said.
Okolie, former Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, UNN branch, also said that as part of measures to reduce cost of running the government, the country should return to the regional structure.
“If we have one federal parliament and one regional parliament in each of the six geo-political zones, it will go a long way in cutting down cost of running the government,” Okolie said.
However, a legal practitioner, Mr Dele Igbinedion, said that people should not clamour for unicameral legislature just for cutting cost, adding that the issue is not whether or not a bicameral legislature is good or bad.
“I believe the bicameral system should remain because it has been proven to be sustainable and necessary. The process of law making is a very serious business which cannot start and end within a short time.
“The problem with the unicameral system which we have at the state level is that a bill can be introduced and passed the same day and sent to the governor for assent.
“This is not the case in the National Assembly; the two chambers must meet and possibly form a joint committee to look at the bill before sending it for presidential assent.
“The rigorous process a piece of legislation has to pass through forms part of the beauty of democracy.
“I think Nigerians should stop looking at the legislature each time there is a slight challenge and asking if we really need that arm of government.
“The judiciary often doesn’t respond to executive excesses, except there is a case it initiates, but in the legislature, a member can raise it as a matter of urgent public importance, national importance or ethics and privileges, and the attention of the parliament can be brought to it.’’
Apparently, Igbinedion was surmising that many state assemblies have become rubber stamps because the governors could easily “conquer’’ them, because it is only a single chamber.
Stakeholders say that unicameral and bicameral legislature have their advantages, but the country should settle for an option that cuts costs and wastages.
Ukoh writes for News Agency of Nigeria(NAN).
Dickson Dismisses APC Candidates As Militants, Terrorists
The Bayelsa State Governor, Hon Seriake Dickson, has described the the All Progressives Congress (APC), joint ticket of Lyon/Degi for the November 16 Governorship election in the state, as a representation of militancy, terrorism, cultism and criminality.
He emphasized that the APC government after five years at the centre has done nothing in the state but to promote violence in different communities, adding that the consequences of losing election to the APC in the state will be dare to imagine.
Dickson made the revelation during the official inauguration of the gubernatorial campaign teams and secretariat on Tuesday, in Yenagoa.
He said, “Consider what would happen if things were to happen otherwise, none of you will spend a week in Bayelsa State. APC is presenting a ticket of militancy, terrorism, cultism and criminality, it’s going to be a government of criminals and cultist.”
Democracy in Bayelsa State can never turn to a government of militancy and criminals.
As we are formally inaugurating the campaigns, we will also launch “Operation wind APC in Bayelsa.”
“The consequence are too dare to imagine, people will be scared to visit the state , even indigenes will be scared to visit their communities.
“If we don’t take this elections seriously, by 17th the day after the election we should be ready to leave the state. This election is not about the candidate or even me but about the future of our state and our children.
“In 2015, when I was contesting, I saw more than the defection we are seeing today but let me assure us of victory. And don’t be perturbed but that doesn’t mean that we are happy as party leaders are decamping but victory will be ours at the end.”
Okowa Inaugurates 42-Member State Advisory Council
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State yesterday inaugurated a 42-member State Advisory and Peace Building Council with a charge on the members to sustain and deepen the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
The council has Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, former Minister of Information, as Chairman.
Okowa named former state Deputy Governors – Chief Benjamin Elue and Prof. Amos Utuama – and Prince Sam Obi, Chief Chris Agbobu, Alawei Brodrick Bozimo, Brig.-Gen. B. Demeyeibo (rtd), Chief Mike Adiotomre and Chief Ignatius Agidi as members.
Other members included Chief Patrick Egone, Mr John Nwagimeje, Sen. Stella Omu, Mr Paul Enebeli, Sen. Patrick Osakwe, Dr.(Mrs) F. Nwaeze, Prof. E.C. Nwanze, Dr Pius Sinebe, Chief Joseph Ejigba, Chief Eddie Sorhue and Chief (Mrs) Esther Uduehi.
Also, Chief E.D. Oborfukoro, Chief Robert Ejifoma, Pa. John Edah, Chief Roland Oritsejafor, Chief E. E. Ebimani, Chief Judith Enamuotor, Rev. Gideon Oyibo, Mr Joseph Ikhena, Chief Denis Etaluku, Prof. Sam. Ukala, Chief Jonathan Uyeri and Chief Samuel Okoro are members.
Other members are Mrs Felicia Ajagu, Mrs Theodora Giwa-Amu, Mrs Felicia Sani, Rev. Oke Akokotu, Elder Ayo Odonmeta, Chief Emmanuel Okumagba, Rear Adm. Mike Onah (rtd), Chief Magaret Unukegwo, Mrs. Grace Boyo and Rt. Rev. Justus Mogekwu.
According to the governor, the inauguration is part of the State Government’s effort to further strengthen the wheel of governance in the state.
“As a way of tapping from the wealth of experience of our people, it is necessary to reconstitute the Delta State Advisory and Peace Building Council through the appointment of these men and women of tested integrity and exemplary character.
“Let me reiterate that the appointment of the members of the council is not based on any political consideration whatsoever,” he said.
He charged the council to bring their experiences to bear on their function and create environment to deepen the peace between the state executive and other arms of government.
Okowa charged the council ensure harmony between Delta government and the Federal Government and other international bodies.
He called on the citizens to give the council the needed support and corporation to succeed while thanking the members for accepting to serve.
“I urge all of you to bring your wealth of experience to bear on this appointment,” Okowa said.
Responding on behalf of the council, Oyovbaire thanked the governor for the appointment and pledged their resolve to deliver on the assignment.
Also in an interview, Rev. Mogekwu said the appointment was a call to service, adding that the council would not betray the confidence reposed on it to sustain and deepen the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
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