There is no gainsaying the fact that every adult Deltan is aware that the Ijaw leaders, youths, and women predominantly resident in six LGAs of Delta State, recently insisted that the Ijaw ethnic group should produce the Governor of Delta State in 2023, as they have made huge sacrifices, contributing to the social and economic sustenance of the State, and supporting other ethnic groups over the years to emerge as Governors. At the same time, the Urhobo ethnic group in Delta Central Senatorial District are also of the view that it is their turn to produce the Governor in 2023. The question now is, where do we go from here? It is a worrisome political development. The Ika Weekly is also worried and feels that something must be done to resolve the impasse. This explains our choice for interview of this firebrand politician, Comrade Mulade Sheriff, who recently expressed his interest to govern the State come May 2023 and is the initiator of the Ijaw quest for Governor 2023, during Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa re-election campaign in 2019.
While he unfolds his plan for the State if elected, the environment and peace advocate used the opportunity provided by the interview to assess the current Delta State Government and proffered some solutions to the present political quagmire in the State. The interview was anchored by Ika Weekly Special Project Officer, Jerome-Mario Utomi.
Our interview personality, Comrade Mulade Sheriff is a man of impeccable character, reputed for being frank and factual. He is a philanthropist who has, in the past two decades, committed himself to the struggle of building an egalitarian society for Nigerians. He is a businessman with many years of cognate experience in both conflict and business management. He is the Group Managing Director, DPG Group of Companies, Nigeria Limited, a major Marine Contractor; Founder, CEO, and Country Director of a very notable and famous NGO, Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ.
Comrade Sheriff Mulade is a community leader, as well as peace and an environmental advocate. He has contributed immensely to the enthronement of peace in the once-troubled oil-producing areas of the Niger Delta Region, which sustain the economy of Nigeria.
Since 2007, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, through the NGO, has been organizing annual conferences on peace, environment, and security in parts of Nigeria and other African countries, where representatives of the government, past and present African leaders, security agencies, corporate bodies, private individuals and other stakeholders gathered to discuss issues towards sustaining peace and development in Nigeria and the other African States.
Comrade Mulade Sheriff is an Associate Member of the Society for Peace Studies and Practice, SPSP; a Fellow of Nigeria Environmental Society, NES; Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary Club International; and member of the America-Nigerian International Visit Leadership Program, IVLP training, etc. He has continued to expand his knowledge base through extensive training within and outside Africa, notable amongst which are those in negotiation, peacebuilding, environmental and security management, as well as development strategies.
Comrade Mulade has personally funded and implemented community development projects and programmes, and evaluated government agreements with participating groups and other stakeholders, due to his passion for the environment, peace, and development.
Comrade Mulade Sheriff is propelled by his deep passion for sustainable peace and environmental best practices.
He is a certified nonviolence education trainer of the University of Rhode Island, U.S.A.
Comrade Mulade Sheriff believes in the fact that the environment is the greatest endowment from God, and that it is, therefore, the duty of every African citizen to protect the land from unfriendly activities. He believes that all hands should be on deck to make the environment better for all to live in. He is experienced in both conflict and business management. He is the Country Director of the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ; a community Leader and Peace and Environmental advocate. He has been extensively trained in negotiation, peacebuilding, environmental and Security Management, as well as in development strategies.
Comrade Mulade Sheriff holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Delta State University, Abraka, and a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Mass Communication from International Institute of Journalism (IIJ) affiliated to the University of Maiduguri, Borno State; M.Sc Political Science/International Relations, Delta State University, Abraka; an M.Sc (in view) Peace, Security, and Development Studies (MPCD), Delta State University, Abraka; Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (PHC) in Global Leadership and Public Management, IIC University of Technology, Causa, Australia. He is also a traditional High Chief, the Ibe-sorimowei of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West LGA of Delta State.
This interview is a must-read. Enjoy it.
Ika Weekly: Sir, recently in an elaborate ceremony held in Warri, Delta State, you expressed your interest in the forthcoming governorship race in Delta State. What informed your decision?
Chief Mulade: Let me start by thanking the Management of Ika Weekly Newspaper for giving me this great opportunity to express my political ambition, as well as present my scorecard as a development-minded Deltan and professional. Before delving into that, let me introduce myself. I am Chief (Comrade) Mulade Sheriff, the Ibe-sorimowei of ancient Gbaramatu Kingdom, in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State. On what informed my decision, I must underline the fact that, as a peace and development advocate, I am propelled by my burning desire to effect a positive change in the electoral process of my State and of Nigeria at large. I want to change the narrative by awakening the consciousness of Deltans in the collective agenda for the 2023 Delta State Guber race.
As you are well aware, I strongly believe that the masses that constitute the electorate are the deciding factors in every elective process. That is why I am here to formally express my interest in the next Delta State Governorship race. Permit me to state that the best approach for nominating a candidate for an elective position is through the electorate. The governorship seat is not an exception to this. I believe that this is the time to change the narrative by adopting the Bottom-Top Approach, where the grassroots, that is the masses, are consulted in the process of nominating a credible, trustworthy and reliable candidate for an election, and not the other way round (Top-Down) where leaders of political parties and political godfathers select and impose unqualified candidates who are not connected to the masses and may not have the capacity to redeem their campaign manifestos after the election.
Therefore, as a strong advocate of peace and good governance, I believe this is the right time for us to adopt a better, clearer, and effective approach for nominating candidates for elective positions in the State. It is high time we allowed a capable candidate to lead and govern Delta State. Let us say NO to political manipulations and imposition of candidates who are only seen during general elections.
I wish to encourage Deltans to support a candidate of the peoples’ choice and mandate. This is the time for true governance; this is the time for grassroots inclusiveness in Delta State political process; and this is the time for us to nominate and elect a youthful, popular, experienced, and acceptable candidate of Ijaw extraction, who believes in the power and value of the masses, as the next Governor of Delta State. I believe that I have all it takes to be a Governor in Delta State.
‘I wish to encourage Deltans to support a candidate of the peoples’ choice and mandate. This is the time for true governance; this is the time for grassroots inclusiveness in Delta State political processes
I know that with the support of all Deltans, we can engender positive progress in Delta State; and to accomplish this, every citizen, 18 years and above, should obtain his or her Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and vote for the right and capable candidate. My desire is to bring positive change to Delta State, and not to oppose any candidate or ethnic group.
Ika Weekly: Now, if given the opportunity, what will be your major areas of attention?
Mulade Sheriff: It may interest you to note that I have a well-developed FIVE-POINT ACHIEVABLE AGENDA for Deltans. In fact, it was recently well-publicized in the Vanguard Newspaper.
Ika Weekly: That sounds very great to the ears. Can we talk about your five-point achievable agenda?
Mulade Sheriff: Yes of course. Beginning with my well envisioned Human Capital and Economic Development, my administration shall provide employment for our teeming unemployed youths, with a view to removing them from the streets; establish skills acquisition training centres across the 25 Local Government Areas of the State for the training and preparation of Deltans for self-dependence; provide stable power supply for all Deltans; provide potable and drinkable water for every community across the 25 LGAs of the State; construct and rehabilitate roads, health centres, schools and other forms of social amenities across the 25 LGAs of the State, and link all communities by motorable roads; provide agro, ICT and business empowerment loan facilities for business development and growth, as well as self-reliance.
On the physical development of the State, if elected, I hope to create a minimum of three (3) new cities or towns in the rural parts of each LGA to mitigate rural-urban drift in the State. We shall create a special Agency to complement the Government in its efforts at developing the coastal communities in the State. Oil and gas host and imparted communities shall be given special attention in terms of development through the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC. where 50% will go directly to facility host communities, 30% to imparted communities across the State, and 20% for monitoring and evaluation activities of the Commission.
‘if elected, I hope to create a minimum of three (3) new cities or towns in the rural parts of each LGA to mitigate rural-urban drift in the State’.
We shall sustain and expand the popular Ijaw/Itsekiri Peace and Unity Football Tournament to accommodate other ethnic groups in the State as one of our programmes aimed at deepening, promoting, and sustaining the existing peaceful situation among the two ethnic groups and their neighbors in the State. We shall create a pathway for peaceful coexistence among all ethnic groups in the State.
On ensuring sustainable Peace and Security in the state, I have, as a peace and environmental advocate in the country, observed that the greatest challenge in Nigeria today, including Delta State, is insecurity, and no meaningful progress can be made if security is not guaranteed. Therefore, we shall, amongst other things, use Sports and Entertainment to promote peaceful coexistence among the indigenes and residents of Delta State in order to attract investors.
Security agencies, traditional rulers, vigilante groups, and community leaders shall be encouraged and empowered to synergize towards solving all forms of security challenges in Delta State. We shall deploy pragmatic and non-violent approaches to resolve all conflicts. We shall also ensure that Traditional Rulers attend State Security Council meetings to enable us collectively address the security challenges facing our dear Delta State.
‘My administration shall deploy pragmatic and non-violent approaches to resolve all conflicts.
Environmental Sustainability: We shall ensure that our environment is free of pollution through the deployment of appropriate policies and the enforcement of existing environmental laws in the State. There shall be quick responses to the menace of flooding and oil pollution occasioned by activities of oil firms, refineries, etcetera. This is to enable us to achieve zero pollution in Delta state.
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Ika Weekly: What are your plans for the State education sector?
Mulade Sheriff: Education will be given maximum attention by my administration. To catalyze the achievement of this goal, there shall be free and compulsory education for all children of school age at both primary and secondary levels. We shall award scholarships to all first-class students of Delta State origin to enable them to undertake postgraduate studies in any university of their choice across the globe. Every primary and secondary school in Delta State shall have a functional library to encourage the reading culture, and we shall build one central library in each LGA of the State. The famous Peace and Unity Quiz cum Essay Competition is sponsored by my humble self shall be sustained in order to encourage the youths to embrace education and to promote peaceful coexistence among Deltans, particularly those living in the rural areas of the State.
On healthcare delivery, my administration shall provide good healthcare facilities in all communities especially in the riverine and rural areas of the State. There shall be free medical treatments for pregnant women, and children of age 0-7 years. We shall provide free medical treatments for all international stars in the fields of sports, entertainment, research, and inventions, and also encourage skills development, etcetera.
Ika Weekly: Comrade Mulade Sheriff, there is the belief in some quarters of the State that there is a well established political power rotation arrangement in the State among the three senatorial districts, and the Urhobo who belong to this school of thought argue that since Delta Central kick-started the process in May 1999 with Chief James as Governor, who in 2007, after completing his two terms in office, handed over power to Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri man of Delta South made up of Ijaw, Isokos, and Itsekiri ethnic nationalities, who at the expiration of his two terms, handed over power to Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta North; that it is, therefore, plausible to argue that having completed the circle, the position naturally comes back to the Central which was the starting point for another round of governorship. What is your take on this?
Mulade Sheriff: This is a critical issue that requires a holistic approach. Our watchword at this critical point in time should be justice, equity, and fairness. I urge you to go through records and you will discover that the Ijaws have been active in socio-economic and political affairs since the days of Western and Mid-Western Regions, Bendel State, and now Delta State. In view of this fact, equity and justice should be the only approaches to resolving the debate. Also, in the present Delta State, the Ijaws massively supported Olorogun Felix Ibru and Chief James Ibori from Urhobo ethnic nationality, Emmanuel Uduaghan (Itsekiri) and Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa (Anioma) ethnic nationalities as Governors.
The Ijaw ethnic group, like other ethnic groups in the State, is littered with illustrious and quietly influential sons and daughters that can eminently govern the State. The likes of Barrister Kingsley Burutu Otuaro, current Deputy Governor of Delta State, Senator James Manager, Dr. Braduce Angozi, former Commissioner for Agriculture, Delta State; Dr. Patrick Akpoboloukaemi, former DG of NIMASA; Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, former Minister of Police Affairs; Elder Goddey Orubebe, Hon George Timinimi, former Committee of Water Resources, Delta State, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, and my humble self, Comrade Chief Sheriff Mulade, amongst others.
One point we must not forget is that the fundamentals of democracy guarantee the individual’s right to go against the masses and say no according to the dictates of his conscience. It also guarantees the right to call for change, when people cling to tradition out of fear and frustration’. Likewise, the present challenge demands a deliberate deviation from a political party and sectional interest, to achieve collective state interest anchored on equity and justice. The truth is that only Equity, Justice, and Fairness Can Guarantee Peace and Stability in Delta State. I see no reason why other ethnic groups should not support the Ijaw Governorship ambition in the State. It is commonplace in politics that whoever contributes to the common purse, must draw from the commonwealth. As noted by a commentator recently, if we are able to manage this situation and other challenges, it will once again announce the arrival of a brand new State where peace and love shall reign supreme. However, no society, State, or nation enjoys lasting peace without justice, equity, and fair play.
Ika Weekly: Still on Delta 2023, Ijaw for Governor; evidence abounds that the advocacy or agitation for Ijaw governorship quest in 2023 originated from you in 2019. Now, it is generating political tension in the State. Could you, for the sake of our teaming readers, speak more on this, and what is the way forward?
Mulade Sheriff: Oh yes! That is the truth and that was in 2019. As I said earlier, what happened was that the State Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, during his 2019 re-election campaign at Otor Udu in Udu Local Government Area of the State, emphatically, against all known logic, told the Urhobo of the Delta Central Senatorial District to wait as 2023 will be their turn to produce the governor of the State.
Immediately, I reacted in principle via a statement personally issued by me. In that statement. I reminded the Governor that the year 2023 is pregnant. I went ahead to remind Mr. Governor that it was unethical, undemocratic, and illegitimate to make such a statement at that particular point in time.
I concluded by stating that the Ijaw of Delta which unarguably is the second largest ethnic group and occupies over six local government areas in the state would be very much interested in the 2023 governorship race in the State. I made that comment because I was ready to run for the number one seat in the State. I was emphatic about that and that position is true today, and I have my blueprint on how to develop the State.
This statement of mine went viral and I got unprecedented verbal/media attacks from those who felt that I was opposing and countering the Governor’s statement. Very tragic is the fact that some of my Ijaw brothers, for yet to be identified reason(s), joined in this attack. However, today, many of my brothers that were against my call then are now supporting the quest and want to be beneficiaries.
To quell the present political tension in the State occasioned by the struggle for who will succeed Governor Okowa, there are two glaring solutions. One, as noted earlier, other tribes in the State, particularly our great Urhobo people, for the sake of equity, justice, and fairness should drop their ambition for the actualization of the Ijaw nation which is just for 8 years.
Secondly, it will naturally amount to a natural and just decision if my Ijaw brothers and sisters drop their ambitions and support mine since what is currently going on in the State was my brainchild and they cannot use their currently political offices there occupy to intimidate me, all in the name of years of experience in position without impact.
‘To quell the present political tension in the State occasioned by the struggle for who will succeed Governor Okowa, there are two glaring solutions. One, as noted earlier, other tribes in the State, particularly our great Urhobo people, for the sake of equity, justice, and fairness should drop their ambition for the actualization of the Ijaw nation which is just for 8 years.
Ika Weekly: Just before we go, can you assess the efforts of the present administration in the State?
Mulade Sheriff: Well, as I noted during my interview with Ika Weekly a few years ago, the position has not changed. The Okowa administration has performed relatively well particularly in the areas of infrastructural provisions and youth empowerment. For one thing, Okowa has shown that strategic success cannot be reduced to a formula, nor can one become a strategic thinker by reading a book, but through constant demonstration of competence, connection, and character. He provided the people of the coastal region with some level of good internal pedestal walkways as road and other infrastructural development – a feat that qualifies the Governor as the second to give a sense of belonging to riverine people of the State after Chief James Onanefe Ibori.
With this development, the people of the region seem certain that he will make increasing contributions to the development of the State, as a handful of them can now afford the luxury of education and access to good social amenities. It is clear in my hindsight that the Governor’s effort will not only give the people a sense that they have a governor that cares but also act as a technique to support the people to understand the Governor’s vision.
However, there is more work to be done and more reforms to be made, and that is the more reason I recently expressed my interest to govern the State come 2023 in order to make this gain a sustainable achievement. Has a peace, development, and human rights activist. I have my blueprint and a clear vision on how to go about it when the time comes.
Ika Weekly: Comrade Mulade Sheriff, we have recently observed that you are not relenting on the proposed Bill tagged CADA. Now tell us, what is the Bill all about?
Mulade Sheriff: The CADA Bill was scripted by the Center for Peace and Environmental Justice (CEPEJ), of which I am, to the glory of God, the Country Director. The Bill has since been sent to the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, Speaker, and members of the Delta State House of Assembly. The Agency, when established, will be expected to Compliment government efforts to formulate policies and guidelines for the development of the Coastal Area; conceive, plan and implement projects and programmes for the sustainable development of the Coastal Area; prepare a master plan to tackle ecological and environmental problems of the Coastal Area; cause the Coastal Area to be surveyed in order to ascertain measures to promote its physical and socio-economic development; undertake such research as may be necessary for the performance of its functions;
Provisions in the proposed Bill outlined the communities referred to or described as coastal communities to be affected in Ijaw areas of Burutu, Bomadi Patani, Warri South, Warri North, and Warri South West LGA’. ISOKO coastal communities: Iyede Ame, Onogboko, Ofagbe, etc. ITSEKIRI areas of Warri South, Warri North, and Warri south west LGA’s of the State. NDOKWA Communities: Ase, Aboh, and Ashaka. URHOBO areas: Assah, Gbaregolo, Okwagbe, Esaba, Otutuama, Ophorigbala and Otor-Ewu etc.
They are well spread across the three senatorial districts of the State and include the five major ethnic groups in the State; (1) Ijaw; (ii) Isoko; (iii) Itsekiri; iv) Ndokwa of Anioma nationality and (v) Urhobos. Under this form of arrangement and inclusiveness, the case of envy or inter-tribal crisis will not arise. It is my view that Governor Okowa and of course the State House of Assembly shall accelerate this process because the communal rights to a clean environment and access to clean water supplies are being violated. The opportunity provided by the Bill can proffer a broader solution to the challenges created by the Niger Delta Development Commissions (NDDC) Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) and that of the IOCs.
Ika Weekly: Thank you Comrade Mulade Sheriff for your time, and we wish you well in your political and other ambitions.
Mulade Sheriff: Thank you very much for the opportunity.