By AUSTIN OGWUDA
SENATOR Stella Omu, former Senate Chief Whip and a retired Deputy Comptroller General, DCG of Prisons in this interview speaks on burning national issues including the flood in many parts of the country, the Boko Haram menace, state police and why women must be empowered in all sectors. Excerpts:
WHAT is your reaction to the handover of Bakassi to Cameroun?
This issue of Bakassi is a complicated thing. I believe that the people concerned should be allowed to say where they want to belong. That is why a plebiscite could have been proper for them to say exactly where they want to go to.
What is your take on the Niger Delta question?
Many people get it wrong because they just look at oil and what they want to benefit from it. And some of them just look at it and say people from the South want to get everything and run away with it. It is not so. It is not correct. They don’t want to think about people living in that area and how the exploration of oil is affecting the people living in that area.
Houses built in the Niger Delta
If you look at the houses built in the Niger Delta area, every minute people are dying because of pollution. In fact, I am so afraid that in about 20 years from now something might happen to our children.
If you look at what is happening to the houses there, then you now think about the children, the human beings that are going to be born years to come, how it will be. And that is why people keep on talking about 50 per cent derivation.
Derivation was 50 percent before and it was because we wanted to fight the civil war that it was abrogated. Now we have finished fighting that war and we are now fighting the war on poverty. We are fighting the war of poor health.
We are fighting the war of unemployment in Niger Delta. That is why the issue of the 50 percent derivation should be brought back so that those that the oil exploration is killing gradually will have money to take care of themselves.
Look at what oil subsidy is doing. All those who are benefiting from the oil subsidy, are they Niger Deltans? Niger Deltans are dying everyday from oil exploration while other people are busy looting and taking away the money.
So it could have been nice for everybody to have his own and pay tax to the Federal Government. There is no part of Nigeria that God did not bless but oil has made us to be so lazy that nobody wants to look inwards to develop what he or she has.
So to me, the issues of 13 per cent derivation and offshore/onshore dichotomy are not the question. The question is let everybody develop the wealth in his own area and pay tax to the Federal Government and that is what will make us to work hard.
Are you satisfied with the top positions presently occupied by women in the country?
It depends on how you look at it. One, two or three women? That is not the thing. We are talking about a population of 160 million and by the goodwill of President Goodluck Jonathan we are able to reach 30 per cent now in the government.
We are saying open the door for everybody not necessarily in government, everywhere, anywhere there is activity taking place, give women chances. Women understand by nature that a man is the head. It is the men who do not understand it.
And because a woman understands that the husband is the head, a woman will not allow her husband or son to fail. That is why you see women working so hard to ensure that their husbands do not fail. They also ensure that their sons do not fail. Some men get it wrong they think that the woman is trying to compete with men.
On state police
When they talk about state police, I normally advocate for community policing. Community policing will lead to a situation where the DPO will call a town hall meeting to find out what is happening in the community and so on.
From there, information will be getting to him; not for him to sit in his office and not knowing what is happening.
But for corrupt practices, state police could have been the best thing. Now, everybody is afraid that the governors will misuse the police and so on and so forth. But to me, the governors are not going to be there for ever.
I believe that as our democracy grows, things will not be as they are today where godfathers are choosing people and are playing the roles they are playing. Once our democracy is strengthened, I believe state police should be the answer, the right thing.
Not only the state police even the prison service. You know we talked about the derivation thing, every state will be able to manage according to its own strength. If you can pay 1000 policemen then you keep 1000 policemen and pay them properly.
What are your thoughts on the 2015 governorship race in Delta
My advice is that let the best material be voted for; the person, who will manage Delta State intelligently to make Delta State the most prosperous state in the country
How can that be done with godfatherism?
We can when everybody is allowed to cast his or her vote. When everybody vote and the votes count that is the end of godfatherism.
Like what I have said, if the best man or the best woman comes, our children who have left universities can get jobs, the sick ones can be properly treated in the hospitals; there will be food on the table for everyone.
Is President Jonathan treating Boko Haram with kid gloves?
No, no! The way President Jonathan is handling it, I am sure that very soon, the issue of Boko Haram will be a thing of the past. There are many ways of handling an issue. He feels his own style will give the country a better result.
Do you think the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA did a good job in handling the recent flooding situation in the country?
I must say that NEMA did a good job by warning; some governments also tried their best to ensure that they made arrangement for flood victims.
When you talk about flooding there are some areas in this country that are used to flooding and these people know how to manage their lives especially in the riverine areas.
For instance, I remember when I was young, during the flood season, they built very high platforms so when the flood approached, the people all moved to the platforms and stayed there until the flood came down.
I used the experience because when the flood was approaching my house, we built platforms all over the house, the sitting room and everywhere instead of transferring properties to camps and all that. All the properties were raised in the house and then it is now left for the individuals to take refuge.
Assisting flood victims
They are different ways of handling these flood victims. You may want to assist by carrying all the victims to a camp; empower victims, who have places in upland areas to relocate, etc. In Delta State like Isoko area where I come from you ask them (victims) do you have anywhere in Ughelli or Warri where you can go to?
If they say yes, you can now transport them to where they want to go to and give them some stipends that would enable them live there until the flood recedes.