Failure to assign constitutional roles to traditional rulers responsible for insecurity in Nigeria — Delta monarch Arthur Whiskey
His Majesty, King Obukohwo Monday Arthur Whiskey, Udurhie I, Ovie of Idjehe Kingdom, Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State, had a talk with EBENEZER ADUROKIYA on the state of the East-West Road connecting about six states, the refusal of the Federal Government to inaugurate the board of directors of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), insecurity in the country, among other issues.
The East-West road connecting Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, is still in a deplorable state six years after the arrival of the administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari. What do you think about this ?
East-West is pretty much the only road connecting about six southern states and we need the Federal Government to fix it as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has failed to remedy the deplorable condition of this road. The Niger Delta Ministry has failed. Therefore, the Federal Ministry of Public Works should come to our rescue, repair the road and put in place a mechanism that will allow regular maintenance of the road.
You have often seemed unimpressed with the performance of the NDDC. You once described the commission’s forensic audit as a scam. Is this still your position?
Yes of course. The illegality has been perpetrated by the federal government in the name of the management of the NDDC for the past three years.
It should be clarified that the NDDC has a sister agency called the North East Development Commission which is still domiciled in the presidency as we speak. For the federal government to domiciliate the NDDC with an individual so that the common wealth of the people can be in the hands of an individual is illegal and we say no to that. The federal government is trying to put an end to the activities of the NDDC by using an individual as a bringer of doom. We will not be silent on this. From now on, all monies intended for the NDDC should be paid into a special account, except that which is intended for staff salaries until the inauguration of a statutory council recognized by the NDDC Act 2000. This is the position of the well-meaning Niger Deltans.
If the federal government refused to heed your call for the inauguration of the NDDC board of directors, what would the leaders of the Niger Delta do?
The federal government should return the NDDC to the presidency and probe the commission’s spending over the past three years. If they fail to do so, they will still account for NDDC money one day. They should stop funding the NDDC except for the payment of staff. The sums intended for it must be deposited in a special account. Companies that help fund the NDDC should stop funding it for the time being. These sums must be paid into a special account. I said from the start that the so-called forensic check was a scam. They used it to save time. They submitted the report about six months ago and nothing came of it. If that’s what they used to buy time, they’ve bought enough time. Let them now constitute the board of directors. Those they have nominated and selected should take an oath. There was no forensic audit. In my kingdom here, we have notable NDDC projects that have been abandoned. No one came here to watch them. So where did they work?
What are your tips for fighting insecurity in the country?
The federal government must go back to the drawing board and assign constitutional duties to traditional rulers because they are the people closest to the grassroots. There’s no reason why royal fathers shouldn’t have a constitutional role. They are the ones who control the kingdoms under the local governments. If their kingdoms are peaceful, that means local governments will be peaceful. If all 774 local government areas in the country are peaceful, that means Nigeria is peaceful. It is an aberration that traditional rulers no longer have constitutional roles as they did in the days of colonial masters. Whatever took away the power they had during the colonial years is what is responsible for today’s insecurity.
In my kingdom today, we crush any small uprising in no time because we know that if there is no peace, there will be no development. I therefore call on the Federal Government to reallocate constitutional duties to the Royal Fathers to address the growing insecurity in Nigeria.
How do you deal with insecurity in the kingdom of Idjerhe?
We have set up a very active local security network. We are tracking all crime as we did this morning (Monday January 31, 2022). We have arrested bandits using our territory to transport weapons to other regions. We don’t mess with security throughout our realm. If you got lost in the kingdom of Idjerhe as a criminal, in 24 hours we will find you.
Governor Nyesome Wike is waging a war against illegal refineries in Rivers State. Do you support his approach?
As someone who knows the enormity of the ecological effects of illegal oil bunkering, I do not encourage the threat. If you sold a million products from an illegal bunker site, you would have caused ten times the damage to your environment. And this environmental degradation lasts for centuries. I therefore encourage Governor Wike and others in the Niger Delta to continue to fight the threat. This is part of governance. You cannot allow anarchy in your home because some people take advantage of it. Wike should be commended and others should follow suit and let it be known that our people are not part of the illegality.
There is an inordinate quest for wealth among young people. Is that why you banned the wearing of dreadlocks and artificial earrings for young people in your realm?
If there’s one king who is perpetually against young people engaging in unhealthy practices, I think it’s me. It was only recently that we encountered and banned the cult, the wearing of artificial dreadlocks, young boys wearing earrings, because I know that is the foundation of agitation and radicalism. A few days ago we had a four hour prayer in our kingdom. Each year we set aside a day to pray for this kingdom to experience freedom in all its ramifications. If I’m driving and they see me coming, some kids run away because one or two things will happen. If you wear dreadlocks or earrings, my security will pick you up. As royal fathers, we are the authorities closest to the base and we must not shirk our responsibilities. Royal fathers should be endowed with both laws and funds. What I spend on my domain security is more than the allowance I receive, but I have to secure my domain.
What is happening in your kingdom regarding youth empowerment?
The Kingdom of Idjerhe has so many things working for us. We have an abundance of free land to give away to investors, individuals and governments, local or foreign, because I want to engage my young people. Today, only in Idjerhe do we have about fifteen sand dumps. In other realms the sand is loaded with loaders into trucks, but we said no, as we have thousands of young people roaming the streets. So we assigned five boys to each dumpster. As we speak, up to 100 boys assigned to more than 30 dumpsters are feeding their families by loading sand into dumpsters. A tipper load is N5,000. If the five people load five dumpsters a day, each person goes home with N5,000. Isn’t that better than engaging in crime?
The 2023 general election is near and the aspirants have visited you for the royal blessing despite the fact that you are expected to be non-partisan. What advice would you give to politicians on how they should handle things?
My wish is that the elections take place in a peaceful atmosphere. Political gladiators should realize that only those who are alive can deliver the democratic dividends they promise. Every campaign should be crisis-free. They should campaign in the consciences of people who want to vote for them. They should sell their manifestos to the people and not coerce them. All aspirants must conduct their campaigns in a peaceful atmosphere free from violence, killing and mayhem.