Dr. Oke Michael Aziakpono is the President of Isoko Monitoring Group, IMG, a non partisan advocacy group of Isoko professionals dedicated to good governance and national development. In this interview with some journalists, he spoke on restructuring, the marginalizaton of the Isoko nation, ongoing consultation on constitutional review and other topical issues.
What is your opinion about restructuring?
The usage of the term restructuring has been so abused but for me, I would wish for a federation with self sustaining states which are able to develop their infrastructure, critical amenities, education, health care, security and have their own institutions.
While at the federal level we don’t need a bi- camera National Assembly. The current geopolitical zones should serve as regional governments which can carry out some of the functions currently being carried out by the federal government. At the same time minority rights should also be entrenched in the federal constitution to protect minorities like the Isokos in their geopolitical zones which can enable them to evolve into states.
However, for restructuring to make meaning there must be clear cut devolution of power from the federal government to the federating units in the country. This will check the indiscriminate abuse of power as seen in the present day Nigeria as well as address the majority/minority dichotomy which has fostered unrestrained oppression amongst citizens of equal constitutional rights. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Restructuring should not be limited to resource control, but should be channelled towards dignifying the Nigerian citizenry as a whole
Are you in support of the current agitation about inauguration of the NDDC board?
We as a group would like to join our voices with other Niger Deltans and Nigerians who have been calling on the Federal Government to constitute and inaugurate the board as the act establishing the NDDC neither makes provision for an administrator nor interim administrator. So it is an illegality and we will not support that.
Have the Isokos been treated fairly in terms of federal appointments?
No. The federal government has continued to marginalise and neglect the entire Isoko nation especially in the area of federal appointments for Isoko sons and daughters. No Isoko man or woman has been appointed minister since 1973. Also, no Isoko man or woman have been appointed a board chairman of any major federal government parastatal or agency. Even on the NDDC board no Isoko son or daughter have been the board chairman, MD or director despite our huge contribution to the national coffers. So I would like the federal government to consider Isoko sons and daughters for appointments.
There are a lot of intrigues going on in respect of power rotation in Delta state, what do you have to say about it?
At the early stage of this current democratic dispensation there were various gentleman agreements with the various political parties even among the three ethnic groups that make up Delta South and a popular word in the mouth of many then was 3I’s (Isoko, Ijaw and Itsekiri), where power rotation agreements were reached and among the three ethnic groups in Delta South. As at today, the Itsekiris have produced a governor for two terms, the Ijaws have produced a senator for four terms as well as a deputy governor for two terms whereas Isoko has only produced a senator for just one term so for justice, equity and fairness, Isoko should produce the next senator. I am fully in support of power rotation in Delta state because that is the only way minority ethnic groups can test power hence I am calling on all political parties to give their Delta South senatorial ticket to an Isoko person
Farmers/Herders clashes in Nigeria are no longer news. In this lieu, there are calls for ranching amid other solutions, what is your take on that?
We are aware of the resolution reached by the southern governors in respect of ranching but we want to urge our governor, Senator Dr. Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa not to succumb to any pressure from the federal government by ceding any land especially in Isoko to any herder for ranching. Beyond words, steps need to be taken to checkmate the spate of insecurity. We strongly opined that security is critical to development and as part of our core values we are obsessed with seeing rapid development across board particularly in Isoko where development is almost at a snail speed. We can’t afford to politicize security for any reason.
Consultations on Constitutional review is currently going, which one request do you think the Isokos should make?
I would want our people to ask for the Creation of Isoko State, the Isokos in Delta and Bayelsa state are being marginalise and oppressed in terms of number of local government and developmental projects despite their huge contribution to the national purse. Do you know that Isoko is the second place where crude oil was discovered in Nigeria and the oil has not stop flowing with eight flow stations with net production of over 100,000bpd. Isoko has alot of agricultural produce and aquatic products. Isoko is the food basket of Delta State. With the resources that God has blessed Isoko with, funding Isoko State will not be a problem. We are also blessed with human capital, there is no sector today that you will not find an Isoko person so we have all it takes to have our own state. Secondly, l want the reinstatement of the Isoko north constituency 2. On the scale of justice and equity, Isoko ethnic nationality whose population is well over 500,000 deserves more than two local government councils as four local government area councils is ideal. Isoko Ame should be one of such local government to be created. The Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State is inhabited by the Aboh and Isoko speaking ethnic nationalities. The Isoko speaking people are sole inhabitants of Ward 9 which is made up of Igbuku, Ibrede, Awa, Anyama, ogege, Okah, Egwokorafor, Lagos-Iyede, Iyede-Ame and Onogboko. There are also Isoko Communities in Wards 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10. These communities are Akarai-Eti, Akarai-Obodo, Umuti, Iyowu, Oko, Ibedeni, Azagba, , Asaba-Ase, Ekelegbesi, Ase, and Umuolu. These communities as numerous as they are, make up the Isoko-Ame communities in Ndokwa East Local Government Area of Delta State. The present sufferings of the Isoko-Ame people in Ndokwa predates independence. Like many Nigerian ethnic groups, the Isoko-Ame people were victims of the British Colonial indirect rule system. Unfortunately, the British granted Nigeria independence since 1960 but the Isoko-Ame people in Ndokwa East are still under the chokehold of underdevelopment, political and infrastructural extermination by successive Governments of Delta State and the federal government. Until 1931, the Isoko-Ame people were still paying their taxes to the Ughelli Treasury like their upland Isoko brothers in Isoko North and South Local Government Areas of Delta State. Our Isoko-Ame people had to travel through difficult terrains and pestilential waters and environment. To obviate these challenges, the Assistant District Officer (ADO) moved them to Aboh Division with headquarter at Kwale/Obetim for administrative convenience. This made the Isoko people along the River Niger become a part of Kwale/Obetim which was the headquarters of Aboh Division. What was suppose to be a vehicle of administrative convenience became a weapon of administrative impediment, infrastructural neglect and decadence. As of today there is no bridge linking Anyama to Egwokorofor, no motorable road from Ofagbe – Awah – Anyama, Egwokorofor to Lagos-Iyede to Iyede-Ame, also Egwokorofor – Azagba.
Electricity is alien to the communities from Egwokorofor down to Akra-obodo. Beyond these obvious issues of underdevelopment, we advocate for Provision of health facilities in all the communities with personnel, renovation of all primary and secondary schools in the area, and the need for the construction of a Police Post at Ibrede and Iyede-Ame.