Comrade Sheriff Mulade, a Niger Delta environmental activist, is aspiring to represent Warri South West in the Delta State House of Assembly. In this interview, he speaks on his ambition and his covenant with the people of his constituency. It is a good read. Excerpt:
Somebody has been there for these years, what made you to think you will do better and what is the driving force behind your ambition?
Well, thank you very much. It is important for us to know that Barrister Daniel Mayuku who has been there has been representing us very well. He has been there for good four terms which is 16 years by next year May 29. In 2011, I indicated interest, I had one on one discussion with him, he told us he would still be running. I had to allow him go because he is doing very well. Our constituency is highly respected in the house. So, I felt there was no need going to truncate a good representative. In 2015, we also looked at it because I had a glaring call from my people who said when Mayuku backs out, we want you to go for us. He also indicated interest and we allowed him to go.
In the coming 2019, he told us you people have given me a great honour for allowing me all this while, I had no serious contender, no serious challenge. Whenever I say I am going all of you give me maximum support. But this time, I have served for good four tenures, I am no longer running for the house. That gave us the opportunity to say now let us throw our strength in and test the waters. Despite the fact that we have the calling from our people to say run for us, we need to get some clearance to know he is not going. Assuming he was not representing us well, then we could challenge him. From our consultation and engagement we have been able to discover that since he is retiring from the state house of assembly, he is also indicating interest for the House of Representatives.
He is one of the best candidates for us from the Warri south west. I don’t know of any other coming from Warri south and Warri north. So, except others may emerge, because he represented us very well, we see him as the best for us. So, we are throwing our weight behind him. To that your question, the coast is clear for us and based on that I have the capability, the contact and the influence needed to represent the people of Warri south west in the state house of assembly.
Now that the coast is clear for you to go, why are you interested in this race to the house of assembly?
People may tell you run or contest but if you don’t have interest to make the desired change, if you go there, you will fail because it will look like you were just sent by people and you don’t have the interest to do anything. So, I have the interest, that is why I gave you how I started since 2011, 2015 before now.
I want to go to make life meaningful for my people. One of my primary aims is to see how I can create a new environment for Warri south west. You will agree with me that the headquarters of the LGA which is Ogbe-Ijoh is always in confrontation with Aladja people of Udu. So, I believe as a member of the house of assembly, I will be in a better position to work with government and the stakeholders to find a lasting peace to the area.
And because I have the pursuit of peace, I have also carried out some investigations and discovered some of the root causes and which I believe we have the mechanism to address. Today, one of the root causes why the crisis is lingering is because of politics. But by the time we begin to educate both parties on the need to embrace peace, work together, we will overcome all these ethnic conflicts in the area.
Beyond the Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja, you will see the Ijaws of Warri south and Itsekiris have always been in conflict. So, the Warri south west is peculiar to peace building. If there is peace in Warri south west, there will be peace in Delta state. Crisis usually erupts from that axis that metamorphoses into what we call the Niger Delta crisis.
My primary concern why I’m going there is to see how I can use that office to find a lasting peace to the area. Another thing is that yes, as a child and young man, when I was growing up, education was very far from our people. But with the passion I have for education, I want to see how I can introduce education empowerment to our people so that if people have sound education, automatically you have nailed all this communal crisis. When people are educated, when they are exposed, they don’t need crisis. All of us will use our education to attract development. We willl use our education to influence opportunities.
Another way we can nip all these issues in the area is football. It is one of the key unifying factors in Nigeria. Beyond football, you see all of us we are from the west, the south and north. But in football, you see everybody talking about super eagles. So, based on that I have the strategy to develop the grassroot football. We use it to bring the Ijaws and the Itsekiris together. We will be having the next edition for this year very soon. So, when you talk about the education aspect, I have the peace and unity education quiz and essay competition. These are key areas.
Another great concern I have why I’m going to the house is that our environment has been bastardised, the ecosystem has been destroyed, the entire livelihood of our people is at stake. If you visit the creek, you will discover that the traditional occupation of the people which is farming has been eroded because of oil and gas exploration. This is coupled with the man-made destruction and the continuous pipeline vandalisation. So, we must nip it in the bud. We must find a way to see that our environment is protected. This is one of the best ways we can use to crush the challenge.
It will interest you to know that Nigeria has one of the best environmental laws on paper but not enforceable, not implementable because the legislature is not even helping to enforce the laws. They are just making laws but not being enforced. The laws are enough. Now we need enforcement of those laws. If you carefully look at the environmental arena we have in NOSDRA, the National Oil Spill and Response Agency, which is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring oil spills and enforce laws for the multi-nationals, you can’t even find them in the region. How can the body that is saddled with the responsibility to monitor oil spills in the Niger Delta be located in Abuja? The Director General of NOSDRA is from Delta. Rather than seeing officials of NOSDRA at spills sites, you see foot soldiers, at the end of the day they are handicapped.
If the legislature is honest, we can enforce some laws that will bring NOSDRA to the Niger Delta. The DG of NOSDRA can even relocate to the region. These are key areas and for my constituency people, we will try as much as possible to utilize the constituency funds for the betterment of our people because those funds are not for you as an individual. We want to see how we can use those funds to carry out some empowerment programmes for our people, especially women and youths. If youths and women are empowered, they can take care of their children and husbands.
A situation where youths are kept as tools for the next election and for the next election, is not good. So, even you the big man cannot sleep. There is a saying that when the poor are awake, the rich cannot sleep. We need to provide a level playing ground for everybody where both the youths, the women, the aged, everybody is living fine in our society. I also want a situation where people will use Warri south west as a reference point to others.
Why are you sure that you can make the desired change if voted to represent Warri south west in Delta state house of assembly?
I am very sure because change is enforced by people with ideas. Ideas do not emerge from heaven. You must initiate an idea and when people key in, it gets implemented. So, I believe if given the opportunity, I will share this with other members. You house 36 houses of assembly in Nigeria. And these 36, you must do something new for others to emulate, that look at what Delta state house of assembly is doing. When you bring a new idea people will key in.
Now, you have said a lot of things, many have talked like this to us years back but when they go into the house, they begin to given reasons why they cannot do what they have promised. What assurance do you have that for these beautiful things you have said when you get there, you will perform according to your word?
Yes, that is one of the reasons when they go in from outside they will say we will do this, we will do that. When they go under handpicked platform, you will succumb to what they want. Because rather than being loyal to your people, you will be loyal to an individual. So, whenever he is doing something, you must be there. But if you are picked by the people, your attention will be on the people. And at that level you will be afraid of the people to vote in or vote you out. But this other one believes that when he pays attention to his godfather, he can be handpicked for the next tenure, for the next tenure and so on. He can be there for how many tenures he wishes as long as he is paying his due to the godfather.
That is why our politics is not growing. Our democracy is not growing. But if we allow the best candidate to emerge, there will be a big change. I want to assure my people that the relationship we are building and the promises we have made, we will try as much as possible to sustain them irrespective of position we hold in life. Relationship is better than positions.