By Joseph Tedwins Emudainohwo
In times like these one begins to wonder what manner of representation we have at the National Assembly (NASS) from the South-South geopolitical zone, beside the fearless, erudite and vibrant Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy President of the Senate.
It is true that after elections and once sworn in as a representative of the people, the interest and welfare of the people becomes the fulcrum around which the actions and decisions of elected representative (such as in the NASS) must revolve.
To this end, one can boldly state that not just the pronouncements and actions but indeed the decisions taken by the Obarisi of Urhoboland towards engendering good leadership and accountability in the affairs of the South-South and Niger Delta in particular and Nigeria in general, have been devoid of political leanings and affiliation and largely for the benefit and interest of the people.
Flowing from the above, I have chosen to elevate our people-oriented Senator Omo-Agege above many of his National Assembly colleagues from the zone for the simple reason that I find it distasteful and totally shameful that when matters that dangerously impinges on the survival and welfare of the people of the South-South are debated at the National Assembly, the majority of our Senators and House of Representative members from the South-South turn deaf ears and resort to playing the ostrich, and usually along party lines, except of course, the matter affects them directly. You would not find them speak up for the sake of the people they claim to be representing yet, many of them are already planning vigorously to return to their respective constituents to seek reelection.
In what can best be described as a diabolically-loud-and-deafening silence by the majority of our Senators and House of Representative members from the South-South zone, we are yet to hear anyone of them speak on the issue of ‘Zamfara Gold’; a matter raised on the floor of the Senate by Senator Omo-Agege who primarily is the Senator representing the good people of Delta Central Senatorial District.
The gold in Zamfara State, just like the crude oil reserves in the Niger Delta region of our country – to which our Senators and House of Representatives members from the South-South belong – is an item on the Exclusive List, which should belong, according to the 1999 Constitution of the country, to the Nigerian State. It is therefore a selective application of the laws of the country to have Zamfara State exclusively sell her gold to the country via the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while the crude oil of the Niger Delta is drilled, refined, and sold for financing projects in Zamfara State. If other senators from the area had spoken up, just like Senator Omo-Agege, against this lopsided policy that is aimed at making a joke out of the Niger Delta whose crude oil is seen as a ‘public property’ as against the Zamfara Gold that is treated as the ‘private property’ of Zamfara State, the issue would have attracted serious attention from the Federal Government by now. The loud silence from the National Assembly members from the Niger Delta on the matter is not only deafening but a serious source of concern for those from the oil-rich area.
Before now, we had the unsettled scandal in our very own Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which brought to light the humongous funds that have been, and still been stolen by a few Niger Delta politicians at the expense of the area – a situation that has crippled and stunted the socio-economic as well as the physical development of the area for over 20 years.
Instead of the same National Assembly members from the area to aggregate and speak truth to power with one voice to Nigerians and restore to the South-South people in particular and Niger Deltans in general what is rightfully theirs, it became a situation of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, promoted along partisan and ethnic lines. Rather than fight an “uncommon thief and enemy” on behalf of the people suffering from the impacts of oil exploration and exploitation, the matter became a misdirected attack on the very few persons who insisted that the truth must come to light, and that the area must not only reclaim what is theirs, but that the NDDC must be repositioned to provide people-oriented services in line with its mandate.
With the attitude of the NASS members from the area, who then was better for it, and who is suffering it now? Just so you know, a very few cabal fed fat – (and are still feeding fat) from the NDDC issue, while the entire Niger Delta is suffering from the disunity exhibited by us. Need I inform you that what is happening with our NDDC will never be tolerated in the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) by the people of the North-East.
While the above is so, our people-oriented Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy President of the Senate has, in his characteristic way of siding with truth, equity and transparency, drew the attention of the South-South and indeed that of the Niger Delta States to the fact that Governors of the region are diverting the 13% derivation funds that is specially meant for the development of the oil-bearing communities in their states. The NASS members from the South-South would as usual demonstrate their ‘diabolically-loud-and-deafening silence’ on a matter as grave as this. Of course, for their continuous loyalty to their State Governors and their party, they dare not open their mouth to as much as say “pim”. Yet some of them are already planning to come to us tomorrow, to canvass for our votes to enable them be Governors. Just so they know, we would not be fooled by anyone who refuses to speak up now, and would come to us much later, to say, “trust me, I will do it differently”. Show us how you would do it differently now by bringing to limelight, activities of governors from the area, many of whom receive billions of naira in monthly federal allocations, plus undeclared internally generated revenues (IGR), even as their people continue to live in abject poverty.
As the South-South region craves for a holistic and better representation, and while we continue to watch and note with keen interest, the conducts of our NASS members from the area, I wish to thank our Most Distinguished Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy President of the Senate, for rewritting the chapter on how to provide quality representation to the people, and to ask him to please continue to do that which has endeared him to his people, as well as to Nigerians as a whole.
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