By Chancel B. Sunday & Simon Adewale
Comrade Sheriff Mulade is an environmental and human rights activist and an aspirant to the Delta State House of Assembly in Warri South-West Constituency. He is also the national coordinator, Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ). In this interview, he speaks on issues affecting Gbaramatu Delta State and Niger Delta.
As a community leader, what roles have you played to bring development to Gbaramatu Kingdom?
I hail from Benikrukru and Kokodigbene communities in Gbaramatu Kingdom. As a young man, I have done the best within my capacity for the well-being of my people. I was the youth president in Kokodiagbene. During my leadership, I founded the Gbaramatu Youth Council that has today become a formidable youth body in Warri South-West. I also founded Kokodiagbene Model Secondary School in 2008. Unfortunately however, when I left leadership position, the school collapsed. Knowing the importance of education, I went back to the community and, this time around, they gave me the opportunity to serve them as Chairman. And as Chairman, I opened a boarding school in Kokodiagbene in 2014, which is the first in the creeks of the Niger Delta. As I speak, the school has about 200 boarding students from various states including Ondo and Bayelsa.
Kokodiagbene being a major oil bearing community in Gbaramatu, what are the major challenges that beg for urgent intervention?
Educational and social infrastructure, job for the teeming youths by the multinationals and the need for government to give attention to the construction of roads to link the kingdom. Kokodiagbene hosts the Jones Creeks Flow Station, the single largest oil producing field with over 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It also hosts the Otunana Flow Station operated by Chevron. These two fields produce over 370,000 barrels per day. I established another school at Jones Creeks for government to take over. Now, the school has over 180 pupils because there are many villages in Jones Creeks.
So, what informed your decision to contest for the Warri South-West seat in the state House of Assembly?
Following my developmental strides in Gbaramatu, natives started the clamour for me to represent them at the state level in 2011 while the elders and some others insisted I must continue as community Chairman. However, I decided not to honour the clamour at that time because our representative there, Hon Daniel Nayeiju, was doing very well and there was no need to distract him. After due consultations this year, I yielded to their call and declared my intention on January 13 at the Kokodiagbene community hall.
What will be your priority if elected?
I have the qualifications, the contacts, the influence and the connections to give effective representation to the people of Warri South-West. My going to the House is not to make political records. I’m going to bring the desired dividends to my people in five cardinal areas, and the first among them is peaceful co-existence among the ethnic groups in the constituency. Warri South-West is a peculiar local government area. With my experience in conflict management, I will bring issues to the table for government to see the need to resolve them all. By the time Ijaw and Itsekiri come together, I don’t think somebody else can penetrate us. So, building sustainable peace in Warri South-West is my priority.
As an environmental rights activist, how are you going to go about the issue of environmental degradation in your constituency?
When I’m elected, my legislation will focus on environmental justice. Environmental justice will start from Warri South-West with environmental friendly laws that will be made in the House. I will initiate people-oriented and environmental justice bills that will bring the multinational oil companies to adhere to environmental best practice in our environment.
The issue of job creation for Niger Delta youths seems to be a tug of war for the multinational oil companies operating in the region. What is your view?
The claim by the multinationals that our people are unemployable is a deceit. There is influx of non-Niger Deltans into these companies. The non-indigenes are the ones blocking us. To say the truth, we are employable. The companies should do well to do justice to Niger Delta people. On my part, I will encourage youths in the area of skill acquisition. I will also work hard to ensure that our youths are developed in sports, so that, in the next few years, youths from Warri South-West will be part of the Super Eagles, the U17 and the Falcons. The good news is that I already have the Peace and Unity Tournament on ground.
What is your view on Gov Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration?
I believe Governor Okowa, has given a sense of belonging to the people of the riverine area. He may not have been able to touch all communities but I can say he is working hard for Deltans. Recently, I followed his trends and I found out how he is constructing internal road network in some communities such as Ogidigben, Oporoza, Okerenkoko, Sokubulo, Obotebe and Ogulagha. I cannot talk about other ones I heard of. I think if we give him another opportunity he will perform very well.
So, how do you rate his S.M.A.R.T. Agenda?
If l am to score Okowa based on the data at my disposal, I will give him 50% in infrastructural development and 90% in peace building in the state, taking into consideration his efforts for peace amid economic recession, which has now brought relative peace in the Niger Delta.
Do you think the PDP will create a level -playing ground in the forthcoming party primaries in the state?
As a party loyalist, I believe the party will get it right this time around because we are not ready to create any opportunity for our opponents. Okowa has already assured us of free and credible primaries after his wonderful job at the Ekiti State gubernatorial primary.