SENATOR Stella Unuezi Omu, OON, mni, is a retired Deputy Comptroller-General of Prisons, a former Chief Whip of the 1st Senate of the 4th Republic (1999 – 2003) and a member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP.
She served as member of the National Political Reform Conference (2005), Niger Delta Technical Committee (November 2008); Presidential Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy; Chairman, Presidential Committee on Port Harcourt and Ogwashi Uku Jail Break, among others. She has a passion for legislative work and is now aiming a second term in the Senate come 2011 to consolidate on her first term. Excerpts:
How is your senatorial district that you want to represent it again?
My Senatorial District is Delta South. It is one of the top oil producing districts in the country. People measure good representation with the degree of improvement of the quality of life of constituents. The problem of underdevelopment of the Niger Delta Area, which includes Delta South Senatorial District, is a burning issue in the country.
For a sustainable development of the area, federal, state, LGA and government agencies need to synergize to avoid duplication of activities, ensure cost effectiveness and produce maximum results.
Therefore a legislator needs to hold regular briefings/meetings with constituents in order to feel the purse of the people and gather data, which will enable good legislation that will improve the living standard of the people.
Legislation is one thing and effective planning and implementation of budget by the executive is another thing. Proper judicial processes by the judiciary complete the circle.
For example, if by the grace of God I become a serving senator in 2011, I will ensure rapid improvement of the quality of life of the people of the Niger Delta and Delta South in particular.
The Mitee Ledum-_led 44-Member Technical Committee Report on the Niger Delta of which I was a member, will be my handbook. I will influence inclusion of projects from the reports into the Federal Government and Federal Government Agencies Appropriation Bills for passage into laws for implementation by the executive.
I will also introduce new legislations to meet the other recommendations of the report all aimed at improving the quality of life of the people of the Niger Delta Area.
By the time you disengaged from the Senate in 2003, you had three private bills at the committee stages. What are these bills and how would they positively impact on people?
It is true that I had three bills that got to the committee stages in 2003 in the Senate and they have not moved from where I left them. This is why I am seeking for a second term in 2011 to complete the unfinished job. The three bills are one on Maternal and Childcare; a bill on Youth Endowment Fund, and a bill on Agency for the Social Welfare of Nigerian Citizens.
These bills will not only impact on my Senatorial District but on the whole country.
Giving legislative backing to all activities aimed at reducing maternal and infant mortality rate will sustain a healthy nation that will produce great men and women vested with the ability to manage Nigeria intelligently to make Nigeria indivisible, men and women who will have the ability and skillful resourcefulness to drive good governance in Nigeria for political stability, social harmony, peace, economic viability and loyalty to our great country Nigeria.
The Youth Endowment Fund bill aims at providing soft landing for unemployed youths in order to make them self-reliant. The Agency for the Social Welfare of Nigerian Citizens aims, amongst other things, to give security and comfort to senior citizens and social care for the old and less privileged. If this is in place, able hands will be relieved of the burden of caring for the aged and have more time to serve the country better.
PDP has given women free chance to run for elective positions. Does it seem patronizing?
It is not 100% free for women to vie for elective positions. The only thing free is the fee for the nomination form. Women still have to pay for everything including the fee for the expression of interest form. If a woman wants to win an election she needs to spend where necessary like the men. I, however, thank the party for waving nomination fee for women as it will encourage more women to come into the race.
Do women have a chance to perform as men or even better? And should women be given more chances at elective positions?
Some men are already giving more chances to women in elective and appointive positions. For example, His Excellency Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State has ensured that the commissioner representing his LGA is a woman, the member representing his LGA in the House of Assembly is a woman and the Secretary to the Delta State Government is a woman.
And there are other women in many key positions in his government.
Let me say this; when it comes to contributing towards national development, the issue should not be men or women.
As human beings, there are individual differences.
Where a man is weak, a woman can be very strong on an issue. It is the person who has the ability and capacity to drive the task to the desired and best result that matters and not the sex.
In the past gender, which usually favours men, was taken into consideration and this has resulted to shortfalls today in our national development goals. The first 50 years of Nigeria’s independence was predominantly managed by men, and the score board is clear.
Going by President Jonathan and Dr. Nwodo, the PDP National Chairman’s gender friendliness, and in fact, the friendliness of Nigerian men today, I can see that in the next 50 years Nigerian boardrooms will be predominantly occupied by women and youths and Nigeria will experience great, positive change.
I also thank my husband Maj. Gen. Paul Omu (rtd) for always giving my daughters, my sons and me the support to become self_actualised. I will not forget to thank Her Excellency Dame Patience Jonathan for her Women for Change programmed, which is giving women encouragement to aspire for positions of leadership in the country.
Now that you mentioned Governor Uduaghan, do you think he has performed enough to merit a second term in office?
Yes, because he is gender friendly. He is mature and experienced. He is an effective crises manager. He has focused on sustainable economic driven projects, which take some time to mature.
These projects include the Green Economic Initiative project, the Koko Export Free Zone project, the Warri Industrial Park project, the Escravos Gas to Liquid project, the Asaba International Cargo Airport project, the dualization of Ughelli_Oleh_Asaba Road amongst others.
A second term will enable him drive these projects to a viable conclusion.
Many have applauded INEC for the time shift, what do you think?
Of course, what is worth doing is worth doing well. If shifting the date within the law will ensure that one man one vote counts, why not? I support the shift.
Are credible elections possible between now and whenever a new date is fixed? How can one man one vote be made possible in Nigeria?
With Jonathan as President and Jega as Chairman of INEC and disciplined and determined voters, credible election is possible. Jonathan has the fear of God at heart.
God will give him the wisdom to inspire all relevant agencies to do the correct thing. All Nigerians should come out and register and ensure that the correct thing is always done.
I can see a revolution ahead that will transform Nigeria into a great nation that is second to none. This is a jubilee year and I believe that God will pilot us to ensure that every man/woman’s vote counts.
What is your comment on the PDP zoning of the Presidency that has continued to generate controversy?
I ask myself why a PDP matter has now become a matter for public discuss. The widely quoted section 7(2c) of the PDP 2009 Constitution, which talks about zoning and rotation got its root from section 224 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which states, “The programme as well as the aims and objectives of a political party shall conform with the Provisions of Chapter 11 of the Constitution”.
This chapter deals with the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of state policy which requires the reflection of Federal character in the conduct of affairs in government and government agencies, thus ensuring that there is no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or agencies.
Therefore, section 7(2c) of the PDP 2009 constitution is in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness as contained in chapter 11 of the constitution of the Feral Republic of Nigeria.
The section frowns at a situation in Nigeria where a zone will produce both a president and a vice president. The issue therefore is not about the North and South divide, but the observance of the Federal Character principle.
We cannot use the decision of a small group of people to override the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. All pieces of legislation, regulations of institutions are inferior to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Let us embrace the one man one vote, and that it should count, and anybody who wants to contest the Presidency should come out, sell his/her programmes and let the electorate be the judge provided that the winner meets the requirements as stated in section 131 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; such as: He is a citizen of Nigeria; he has attained the age of forty years; he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.
Finally, I want say that it is not where the President comes from that matters to me, but the President who has the capacity to drive good governance in Nigeria which will bring about political stability, social harmony, economic viability, security and welfare of the people. I believe Goodluck Jonathan meets these specifications.
What is your comment on the Bomb Blast in Abuja?
I was a victim of the Warri Bomb blast as I had an injury from particles of shattered window glasses. This time around, I was lucky not to be hit. For any person to think of destabilizing Nigeria’s glorious moment and having their way to that extent is a wake up call for our security agencies to close up gaps in their systems. All those responsible for the bombs must be fished out and adequately punished.
I sympathize and pray for the victims for quick recovery and also for the families who lost loved ones. May God provide for them and also give them the courage to bear the loss.
However, I admired President Jonathan’s calmness during the parade in the face of the serious distractions by the bomb blasts. What a great statesman!