By Clifford Ndujihe

His Royal Majesty, Pere S.P Luke Kalanama VIII, the Pere of Akugbene Mein Kingdom and first vice chairman of the Delta State Council of Traditional Rulers, in this interview spoke on burning national issues and why all eligible Nigerians must take part in the 2023 general polls.

On 2023 polls and his advice to Nigerians

All Nigerians of voting age must get their PVCs so that they can vote into power credible candidates who can give life back to Nigerians, take back Nigeria from the ruling class. 

Today, the ruling class has disengaged from the grassroots. Only a few people are coming together to share the wealth of the country. There is disconnection between the government and the people and that is not the way it should be. The government should be afraid of its citizens not the other way round but we now have a government that the citizens are afraid of and that becomes a tyranny.

We don’t run a tyrannical government, we run a government of democracy but we now have a government that is being ruled by a plutocratic system. It is only those with deep pockets that win elections and that is something that must be condemned. We should be running a democracy, which is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. But we have a government that can best be described as plutocracy or greedocracy, which is a government of the greedy, by the greedy and for the greedy. That is why Nigerians must get their PVCs and vote for a government that can protect her citizens, vote out a government that cannot come to the yearnings and aspirations of its citizens.

On the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC 

As a Monarch, our role is an advisory one and that is exactly what I want to do here. I am not in support of any political party but because I am a Nigerian and I am also deeply concerned about recent happenings in the body politics of Nigeria, I make bold to say that our diversity must be respected. 

Nigeria is a secular state and there has not been anytime that our fault lines have been so visible like we are experiencing today.

In 1993 when Chief MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe campaigned on Muslim- Muslim ticket in the SDP, as a student, I campaigned for Chief MKO Abiola of SDP and at that time, we were not talking about religion; religiousity was not part of the system.

Abiola being a philanthropist, a sports lover and a pillar of sports in Africa everybody was looking at the pedigree of Chief MKO Abiola. We looked at his pedigree but today you have a government that has so much balkanised the various tribes in the country; we have a government that has made our fault lines widen.

It is wrong for people to argue for Muslim-Muslim ticket because Chief MKO Abiola did that in 1993 and nothing happened. You cannot juxtapose 1993 and 2023 because the indices are quite different. In 1993 were there major issues regarding Islam, Christianity, and so forth?  There was nothing like that but today, the security architecture of Nigeria is being manned by one particular religion and tribe and of course as a government, you must give that sense of belonging. If you have someone from the South-East, South-South as one of those in the security architecture in order to balance the security architecture based on ethnicity, everybody will be at peace. But we have a situation whereby even though an officer is qualified because he is not from your tribe, you will discard him and bring in a junior officer thereby retiring very competent military officers that should have given this insecurity a bite but because they are not from your region, you tend to bring in their juniors to superintendent over them and then retire them. This is why we are where we are today. I pray that whoever is coming after President Muhammadu Buhari should be somebody that will not treat one particular tribe, religion above the others, and that we should be seen as Nigerians first.

On the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, without a Board for years now 

The story of NDDC and the issue of the Niger Delta region when placed side by side is very disturbing to those of us in the Niger Delta region. Yes, the Willinks’ Commission in 1956 recommended that special attention should be given to the Niger Delta Region because of the difficulty in developing the area. After the Willinks’ Report, there was this Niger Delta Basin Authority, saddled with the responsibility of developing the Region. But were those things achieved? The answer is No, not until the youths of the Region began to agitate, the elites started to agitate for a better deal to the Niger Delta Region and that prompted the emergence of OMPADEC, from 1.5 to 3% OMPADEC; little was achieved but when we had this democratic dispensation under General Olusegun Obasanjo, he created the Niger Delta Development Commission in 2000, with a statutory board to manage the affairs of the commission. 

The activities of the Commission have always been managed by a Board but unfortunately, not again and this is not good enough. From 2019, when our President was elected for a second term in office, there has been no statutory board, but it is being run by either a management committee or sole administrator as it is at the moment which is a clear aberration of the law establishing the Niger Delta Development Commission.

Funny enough, on Monday, August 15, 2022, there was a newspaper report on a paid advertorial in one of the national dailies that the Whatsapp account, the facebook account, the email account, Instagram account of the sole administrator of the NDDC had been hacked and that the general public should beware. So where are all these things leading us to? When the commission was managed by a substantive board, they were able to construct a road to the headquarters of my kingdom even though it was not tarred. If there was a board in place, that road would have been tarred properly by now to attract massive development to the area. 

On a yearly basis, after the rains, we carry out repairs, which are not supposed to be the case. The essence of government is to provide for the needs of its citizens but here we have a case where they give out with the right hand and take it back with the left hand.

What was the essence of the President setting up a forensic audit for the Commission? The essence of setting up the forensic audit was to find out if jobs that were approved are executed. Mid-last year, the Ijaw National Congress paid a courtesy visit to the President at the Villa and one of the demands by the group through the Chairman/President of the INC, was the constitution of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission. It was one of the major requests made, but the President said unless a forensic report is released and the forensic report had been presented to him and up till now the content of that report has not been made public and you will begin to ask yourself what were the findings of that report?

Some big shots are also capable of doing wrongs to the people of the region in making sure that the report does not see the light of the day.

The NDDC was moving well until President Buhari came on board and those in power stifled the voices of the Niger Delta region so that they could exploit our God given wealth. They want to exploit it at the detriment of those that are producing the oil.

The President should be prevailed upon to set up a statutory Board even if not in tune with the board that was cleared in the Senate. Let him send a fresh list to the Senate for screening and confirmation in order for the Board to be constituted so that the purpose of setting up the Commission can be achieved. 

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