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We should play politics of development in Niger Delta –Sara-Igbe

Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe is an opinion leader in the Niger Delta. Presently, he is a traditional ruler as well as the Publicity Secretary/Public Relations Officer of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, a regional group that agitates for good governance and development of communities in the region.

In this interview with our correspondent, Blessing Okorite, in Port Harcourt, the monarch, who doubles as a political analyst, advises sons and daughters of Niger Delta serving at the federal level to attract development to the region and not blame state governments for under-developing the area. He also spoke on the crisis, rocking the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

As an opinion leader in the Niger Delta, how would you describe the renewed crisis in the Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC?

You see, democracy is something that is very beautiful; something that takes power to the people. The people decide what will happen in democracy. The All Progressives Congress, APC, has been in problem because one person wants to decide and not the people deciding. And until they change that model to allowing the people to decide what they want, the party will remain where it is. The APC would have won the 2019 general elections in the state if people were allowed to decide. But because one man wants to make a show, that was why the APC failed and they are scattered today.

They are starting on a very wrong footing again by not reconciling all the factions. You cannot build a home where there is no peace. So, I think the party, particularly the National Executive Council, should use wisdom in resolving the political crisis in Rivers State and Niger Delta at large. The region is a good cash cow for APC. The states are rich; anyone who governs those states will have enough money to develop the states and also support the party. So, they should put the house in order, because the way they are going, they will still go down to the same problem. Like I said earlier, there are people who don’t want to see that there is peace in the party. Well, if we still follow that part, the crisis will continue.

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One of your sons, Awara Biokpomabo, the governorship candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, is contesting the victory of Governor Nyesom Wike in the 2019 governorship election. Is there any likelihood that he would win at the tribunal?

Well, it is very evident that Awara may not get justice in the tribunal because of the way the judges are behaving; their actions have shown that they are not interested in the case. First, the case was thrown out without looking at its merits. Secondly, the Court of Appeal said there should be a different panel to listen to the case, but the same persons went to court and imposed themselves because of their personal interest. They have shown personal interest in this matter. Therefore, as a person, I don’t expect justice from this level but hopefully, justice will be gotten at the right time.

How would you describe political activities in Rivers State and what is your candid advice to politicians and leaders in the state.

All is not well yet, until the governorship case is over. I think that is why the governor has not appointed superior officers for now. On the part of the APC in the state, there is still misunderstanding among the leaders of the party. I am sure after the judgement, there will be clear-cut directions. But the security issue is our major challenge in the entire environment. So, the government needs to do much with the support of the security agencies.


You just spoke on the security challenge facing the state. What advice do you have for the state government on how to address this serious issue?

Security agencies should re-strategise to address the security challenge in the state. This is because the governor will not leave his house to go and monitor security. It is the duty of the security agencies and we should also give our own support to the security agencies to be able to monitor, mount surveillance and act swiftly to distress calls and ensure that the state is safe, the roads are safe and the communities are safe. If the governor can do that in conjunction with the security agencies, everything will go down well. Generally speaking, there is insecurity across the country and Rivers State in particular. Well, the governor is my friend. We used to be very close and I think he has a lot of work to do. He is trying his best as governor. He is an individual and he is not God. But, I think he needs to work harder.


What is your advice to Rivers people?

My advice to the people of Rivers State and the Niger Delta is to be focused and be calm. PANDEF will continue to try its best for the region. As a building light, we will continue to agitate and support our people. And to the communities, they should also be peaceful. If they have any case, they should follow the OML 25 communities’ pattern by writing to Mr. President and copy PANDEF. When PANDEF is aware, we will investigate the details of the issues and we will give our support to such communities and ensure that justice is done.


Recently, Governor Wike accused the Federal Government of not including Rivers State in federal developmental projects. What is your reaction to this?

Not the Federal Government per say; our sons and daughters there at the federal level should be able to represent the state in whatever the government is doing. Whether there is political differences or not, the people suffers. So, we need our sons and daughters in the government to ensure that they are telling Mr. President to do the needful. Whether the state governor is from another party or not, the people are the same. So, if the state governor is showing capacity, those at the federal level should also show capacity by developing the Niger Delta region.

So, we are advising our sons and daughters in the Niger Delta region to try their best in resolving their differences and attract development to the region. We will not say because state ‘A’ belongs to another party, so there should be no development. That is not politics; politics is all about development. Politics is all about the welfare of the people; it is all about attracting good things to your people. So, each of them should be able to attract good things to their states and to the region.

Again, you see when elections come; we play election. After election is development. After elections, we don’t need to fight ourselves, we don’t need to quarrel. We should look at the Yoruba. That is how they develop their region. Today, the Yoruba are the most developed parts of the country because they understand the game of politics. When the game is over, it is over. Look at the northerners; no matter what they do, they will go to the same mosque and they reconcile themselves and they are moving on. Whether we like it or not, they are united when it comes to their interest. We should also learn to be united when it comes to our interest. Even though we have personal interest, those personal interests should not interfere with the development of the Niger Delta. Niger Delta is why we are here in politics. We are not playing politics here for our pockets. We will all die and leave whatever we acquire, but we must build legacy that will live after us and that is the principle of politics.

And that is why Nelson Mandela for example, was one of the poorest Presidents. But when he died, the whole world stood still and came to pay him homage and even Cuba and America reconciled on his death. Let us also look at Abiola, one of the richest Nigerians. Today, his riches are not speaking out for him, but his legacies that he left behind. So riches come and riches go. We have great leaders today; they are known because they are rich.

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As a frontline agitator for the development of the Niger Delta communities, how do you assess the call for the relocation of the headquarters of oil companies to their areas of operations in the region?

That is one of the recommendations made to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President when he also came around the Niger Delta. We made a proclamation that all the oil companies should move their head offices to their areas of operations. But, they deliberately disobeyed the Vice President and played politics with it. But when our son, Belemaoil came in, he has been operating in the Niger Delta. Despite pressure from influential people to move his headquarters to Lagos, he resisted it and stayed in Port Harcourt. Today, Belemaoil is moving directly to the operational community and that is a very good step. On September 28, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and the Group Managing Director of NNPC, laid the foundation stone of Belemaoil Headquarters in Kula, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of the state.

As PANDEF, we will emphasis, since Belemaoil has set the pace, others should follow and the National Petroleum Investment Management Services, NAPIMS and other Federal Government institutions should come over to the Niger Delta and coordinate all the oil activities in the region. Even the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, should move to the Niger Delta and show their presence. If these institutions are in the Niger Delta like the local content is I think it will assist the people of the region in terms of employment, in terms of building the business, in terms of empowerment and in terms of capacity building. So we are insisting as a people that these things should take place and we pray the government will listen to it.