BY OVIE OPKARE
Given the growing discontent among the people over the prolonged, unproductive occupation of the Delta South Senatorial seat in the National Assembly by Sen James Manager, former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, now of the All Progressives Congress, APC, towers as the standout candidate to take over the mantle in the 16 February general election.
Aside his track record as former Governor and the momentous move to run his senatorial bid under the APC, the policy drive of Uduaghan’s aspiration continues to win him more supporters, a development that sets him miles ahead of other contenders for the Delta South seat.
Though committed to advancing the fortunes of Delta Southerners, his senatorial agenda transcends his immediate senatorial district, permeating, in his estimation, the entire Niger Delta, considering the strategic position the senatorial district occupied in the region.
Being a lobbyist, no doubt, Uduaghan has the clout and charisma working with his colleagues in the senate to ensure that some of these laudable dreams come to fruition particularly for the people of Niger Delta region.
FIVE PERCENT HOST COMMUNITY STAKES
Among his vision for Delta South is the zeal to legislate 5% ownership stakes for hosts communities where oil and non oil investments are cited and thrive. This policy if enacted will promote a win-win situation for both the companies and locality where such industries are sited.
He said, “There is a model in NAFCON, Port Harcourt in which the community is part-owner of the company that one wants to look at. If since Shell and Chevron came to Nigeria, the communities had had some share-holdings, even if it’s five per cent, the money that would be coming out of it at the end of the month when profit is declared, five per cent of Shell profit is a lot of money.
“If it’s accumulated, put somewhere and managed by international fund managers, so, it’s only the interest that is used for the community, by now, the people would have a lot of money in savings; a lot of development would have come in, even infrastructure. And of course, they would have enough money to send their children to school; that is scholarship schemes. They would construct roads and bridges because they are now having a lot more money than ever.
“That’s one of the things I want to pursue – a law for community participation in company ownership. And I am not limiting it to the Niger Delta. I am saying that in the whole country, once an industry comes to a community, the community should have some percentage participation. I am sure that if we have been doing that, Nigeria would be a different country today.”
Harnessing the potentials of illegal refineries
As one of those prominent in the historic peace deal brokered between the Federal Government and militants in the region in 2009, resulting in the emergence of the Niger Delta Amnesty, the former Delta Governor has set his sight on impressing on federal government to positively direct the ingenuity of illegal refinery operators in the Niger Delta region into technological breakthrough for the country. He said the illegal refineries should be upgraded and licensed by the government to complement the four conventional refineries in the country.
He reflected, “About 6,000 illegal refineries operational in the country were reportedly destroyed by the Joint Military Task Force in 2015. Some of these ‘refineries’ were actually rickety ‘science projects’ being over-glorified by calling them oil refineries.
“Be that as it may, among existing thousands of illegal refineries, there is (a) likelihood that there will be a good number of well set up refineries among them. The illegal refinery industry has been around for years now, and has grown a little. So can a country that is trying hard to manage its four legal refineries afford to destroy ‘illegal refineries?”
He assured on pursuing laws that would legalise the illegal refineries and their operators, observing that the continued destruction of the local refineries by security agencies, which in turn pollute the already degraded environment, was not the solution to the current menace.
Gainful youth engagements
He hopes “Our youth must strive to be peaceful and united in their agitation. Peace gives birth to good children any day. By God’s grace, when the people of Delta South give me their senatorial mandate in the next election, I will largely involve our youths in the security of our communities as well as oil installations therein.
“It would be a win-win for our youths who would be paid for securing a peaceful business environment for investors and companies to operate optimally. Niger Delta youth leaders are becoming articulate and active contributors to nation building. They must now begin to embrace education in their activities if they wish to be involved in the engine room of governance.”
One of his prescriptions for arresting youth restiveness in the region is ensuring that oil and gas pipelines surveillance contracts are awarded to youths in the region rather than outsiders not familiar with the terrain. This he has vowed to pursue with federal government to stem oil assets vandalism and unrest in the Niger Delta.
Dear to the former governor’s heart is the commitment to legislate laws to enforce immediate cleanup of oil and gas degraded Niger Delta. The time, according to him, has come when the people of the region should no longer be beggarly, but to be armed with adequate laws which he would front to enforce Cleanup and punish infractions and misconduct among oil operators.
Equity in power sharing
Through his eventful run of Delta state politics, Dr. Uduaghan remained a prominent promoter of equitable political power sharing among the various ethnic groups in the state, he being a beneficiary of same when, as minority Itsekiri, he became governor in 2007, against all odds. Conscientiously, he carried everyone along.
As Governor, he supported Hon. George Ekpemukpolo of Gbaramatu as two term chairman of Warri South West above his Itsekiri brothers. He elevated several Ijaws, Urhobos neighbors in Delta South Senatorial District to position of prominence.
No doubt, the people of the district would forget in a hurry his human and infrastructural development. His opponents can’t argue the fact that Delta South needs the capacity and audacity Dr. Uduaghan has pegged down for the people of the area. It’s not all about power rotation.
Uduaghan has the icing to turn the gold in Delta South into riches. Senator Manager, who happened to be his archrival, has failed in this respect even when he had the opportunity to do so. Delta South deserves better…Uduaghan is the answer. No wonder his candidature has been received with such much fanfare and gale of endorsements cutting across ethnicity and political lineage. The Isoko see him as more Isoko than as an Itsekiri man. So, it is with the Ijaw and the Urhobo in Delta South.
Uduaghan has promised to periodically engage Delta South people in town-hall meetings to rub minds on finding common grounds to advance his senatorial stewardship for betterment of his district.
To this end, he has promised to his draft bills to people to deliberate and agree upon before he presents them to the Senate.
Going forward, he further promised bills from other lawmakers affecting his district he would also table before Delta South people at fine tuning his response to such development when elected to the upper legislative chamber.
Fine tuning amnesty programme
In his estimations, the former governor said the Federal Government Amnesty has not been executed in line with the ideals spelt out by its initiators. First, he believed the Amnesty was not conceived to reward only violent youths in the region. He reasoned that there was supposed to be a corresponding attention given to the non violent youths in the region. “It a mystery that the non violent have been incited to also take to arms since the impression was created over the years that be a stake-holding youth, you have to be violent and destroy oil assets.
Again, he said, even among the violent that have been genuine trained, there has to be deliberate effort to gainfully engage them in meaningful jobs to keep their minds away from violence.
Incidentally as the former goes about, ward to ward, door to door, selling his well, thought out action plan to make the difference with the Delta South Senatorial seat, his arch rival, Sen James Manager is distant from the people, estranged by his favour to development his district. He’s motionless, not seen campaigning as though he has seeing handwritings on the wall. The results will however become clearer in a matter weeks.
Okpare, a journalist, writes from Delta state