•Describes PDP convention as contest of equals
A MEMBER of the House of Representatives, Mr. Daniel Reyenieju in this interview speaks on the tenure of the Chairman of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, national convention, and the forthcoming local government election in Delta State among other issues of national relevance.
BY CHARLES KUMOLU
What is your take on the ongoing controversy over the tenure of the NDDC chairman?
It is important that I make this learned assessment on the unfortunate trend. First, that office is a constitutional preserve that should be placed exclusively from the doughty fabric of our grab and gabble politics. Government is designed to be a continuum so as to preserve the essential character of the institution of governance. This, I think, was the overwhelming thought of those who in their wisdom set the framework of laws through which we can evaluate and administer our Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
But experience with our political practice, especially the cynical and petty template around which most of its issues revolve, has tended to show irrationality, sentimentality, and erratic dilatory forces at work to scuttle our forward movement as a nation. There is a law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission ,NDDC. We cannot for the sake of any quasi-partisan consideration for that matter disregard the instructive paradigm of that law.
It is a trite practice that when for example the seat of a legislator is vacant under any guise; whoever is elected to fill that vacant seat can only serve out the term of the predecessor, irrespective of the length of time served or the brevity of time involved. The replacement of late President Musa Yar’Adua by Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was another tenable precedent. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan could only serve out the term of Alhaji Umaru Yar Adua within the context of space and time left in that term. By law, the NDDC structure allows for a zoning arrangement among states listed in the NDDC framework.
Membership of the NDDC board is zoned to the respective member-states as encapsulated in the NDDC law. Thus, the beneficiaries of the respective positions are assumed to be proxy elements representing their different states in the NDDC board. It is thus within the context of this plan that the erstwhile board was dissolved, and a new board reinstituted in its place. It is important to mention that the new board must essentially in terms of States and related classification, reflect the propositioned arrangement.
In which case, the present chairman who is from Cross River State replaced the former chairman who is also from Cross River State. Along the same legal trajectory, the Managing Director of the defunct board that was produced by Akwa Ibom was also replaced by an individual from Akwa Ibom in the present board.
This method of replacing every member of the defunct board with persons from their respective states of origin was a vector that ran through the selection of all members of the present board. Under such arrangement, the present members of the board can only complete the terms of their immediate predecessors. Any reasoning outside the above framework constitutes an uncharitable variegation of the NDDC law.
As someone, who hails from the region, what leadership structure would you suggest for the Commission?
The present structure of the commission only reflects the national malaise of centripetal pattern of governance within a cartographic space strewed with the multiplicity of diverse ethnic groups largely arid of common history, culture, and worldview. The result is that the politically powerless groups remain victims of the greed and hegemony of the politically powerful ones. This informs the present battle cry for restructuring particularly by those from the Southern part of Nigeria. At the regional level, the contextual majority replicate the characters and tendencies of the national majorities.
As you are aware, the NDDC law only recognizes member states and not ethnic groups. In all the oil-producing states, it is a clear fact that not all parts of such states are oil bearing. Some ethnic groups within an oil-bearing state are indeed not oil bearing. But the law empowers the federal government to only take cognizance of state of origin in making appointments to the board of the commission. When for example, some individuals who are not from oil-producing parts of their respective states are appointed to represent such states, experience has shown that those from the oil-bearing ethnic groups always feel cheated.
In my candid opinion, the commission should be decentralized with each present member-state having its offices so as to ensure a higher level of fairness and equity. The present nature and structure of the commission will always remain disadvantageous to the weak. Among the ethnic groups nationally that are oil-bearing, the Itsekiri occupies the second position next to the Ijaw. It may shock you to note that earlier in the year when the commission published the projects it intended to embark on, the commission for whatever reason never considered any Itsekiri community to have any project sited on it.
This was only haphazardly remedied after Itsekiri youths embarked on series of protests through supplementary advertorial of projects earmarked for execution. Also, the present arrangement whereby the board of the commission is in custody of the money allocated to the commission is a recipe for corruption from different directions.
The local government election in Delta State is approaching, what is your impression about the level of preparedness?
From what I have seen so far, the Delta State Independent Electoral Commission (DSIEC) just got its legal fillips from an enactment of the State House of Assembly. I am aware of the many memoranda it put out in the public space to would-be contestants regarding how it would conduct the elections. I am further aware of other composite moves by the opposition All Progressive Congress in Delta State to scuttle the local government elections through court processes.
Nevertheless, it is hoped that the electoral commission should be able to deliver a truly credible, free and fair polls. As for my party, the PDP, our state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa flagged off of our party’s campaign in all the local government areas. On our part, we have begun our vigorous campaigns in the three local government areas in the Warri Federal Constituency and we are hopeful that the groundswell of support we enjoy with the people will resonate in a resounding victory at the poll.
The planned sale of national assets in order to generate funds for the 2018 budget has been termed a wrong move, especially given the fact more than 80 percent of the national budget is often spent on recurrent expenditure. What is your take on it?
Who are going to be the sellers and buyers of these assets? From what sources will they achieve the liquidity to buy up these assets? I thought the All Progressive Congress-led central government said it wants a national carrier as it perceived the sale of the Nigerian Airways as a strategic mistake. Why does it want to take the nation on the same path?
I see a criminal conspiracy of a few to use political power to own economic power. But it is even more than this. It showed the same tendency towards the failed conception that predicates on the consumerist economics. It also comes down to put the nation in the skip trace of Fabianism which essentially is the doctrine of middle-class complacency which only thrives where national prosperity is high and where there is lack of impetus to sustain economic growth.
We must move away from this cheap conception to a point where we are able to present a superior intellect, energy, sacrifice, and patriotism towards advancing other economic options with the capacity to turn things around without resorting to selling any assets. It is my suggestion that the Buhari’s administration should have a rethink, and concentrate on how to get decent and honest Nigerians to manage these assets.
The December National Convention of your party, is expected to make or mar the party, how do you think conflicting interests can be resolved to ensure that the exercise produces a good outcome for the party?
I am aware that there are moves for consensus. We need to regroup urgently to catch in on the anger of the Nigerian people who are waiting to post a vicious electoral bill on the All Progressive Congress in 2019. Besides, the leadership of our great party has put an organizational team in place led by my state governor and others to lead the elective convention. It is my hope that this team will not slip to the tendency that shot our great party on the foot and caused us to limp out of the 2015 elections.
It is, therefore, incumbent on us as leaders and stakeholders to use the opportunity of the convention to reflect on the challenges confronting us, identify our flaws and seek a plausible way to correct them in order to come out better in future elections. The team must, therefore, deplore all its statutory assets to ensure that the process is credible, transparent and people-oriented. That is how we will be able to rebound in the hearts of Nigerians who see no future in the Buhari-led central government.
In my estimation, all the respective contestants are loyal members of the party who have made enormous contributions to the party. Any elective convention should present a rare opportunity and veritable platform to elect in a holistic manner, credible, tested, down to earth and truly urbane personalities with enough stamina, complementary character and national acceptability. They are also people who are patriotic and are driven by incurable optimism and passion for inclusivity.
The supremacy battle between PANDEF and Ayemi Botu-led group appears to constitute a threat to the relative peace in the Niger Delta region. What do you think should be done to have an acceptable leadership platform for the zone?
The reported emergence of a group said to be led by a traditional ruler is most unfortunate and painful. It is my appeal that those constituting the said group should have a rethink for the sake of our future and common destiny. It is such a petty bickering that has historically stultified our development and capacity to confront the successive federal governments that have neglected our region. It is my fear that the said group may be sponsored by those who do not mean well for the region.
As for PANDEF, I sincerely commend the group for its commitment to a better Niger Delta region. Its 16-point agenda is novel. I appeal to all Niger Deltans to give PANDEF maximum support. It is a group that is endowed with all it takes to honestly represent the region
How best do you think the Warri port and others across the country can be revived by the Federal Government?
I am more concerned about Warri and Koko ports given the fact that both are located in my constituency. Of course, you heard about the Koko radioactive waste dump saga orchestrated by criminal minds for whom till this day no one has been brought to account for such optimum national transgression. However, the first step is to dredge the Escravos Bar which was last dredged during the First Republic to allow for deep sea naval activities into Warri and by extension Koko ports.
Having composite ratio of ports development should be the pride and economic target of any nation but deliberately applying ethnocentric will to make one port competitive over another is a quasi-will fraught with stupidity and lack of innovative thoughts. Are we saying that if there is a decision to close the Lagos Port in order for it to undergo overhauling to meet the challenges of modern maritime activities, naval action over the Nigerian estuaries should be aborted?
This will only be unfortunate and counterproductive. Importantly, therefore, we must shun any deliberate policy to vitiate on the capacity of one port with the propensity to create massive employment and stem the tide of rural-urban drift, in favour of another. Imagine the present reality whereby Koko and Warri ports are left to die whereas Lagos Port is sometimes congested and ocean-going vessels carrying Nigerian goods are diverted to neighboring countries.
This tragi-comedy of errors explains the callousness exhibited in the cheap thoughts to sell national assets when in actual facts, we can conserve revenues to drive any segment of our economy.