Prince Ned Nwoko’s Arise Television interview recently underpinned what we should expect in the 10th National Assembly, which is billed to be inaugurated soon.
Nwoko, Senator-elect from Delta North, proposed that since election and politicking are over, the people’s representatives should concentrate on tackling insecurity, the nagging economy and providing the enabling environment for provision of infrastructural development for Nigeria.
Prince Ned Nwoko also advocated an attitudinal change in the rationing of National Assembly offices, stressing that zoning of offices should be used to assuage the feelings of ethnic Nationalities that feel marginalized in Nigeria.
Nwoko, an international lawyer of repute, also advocated a new approach to the perennial flooding that affects about eight states almost every year. The Senator-elect advised that rather than wait for the floods to come and we start fire brigade palliatives like tents and provisions, we should be proactive by looking for preventive measures that would become permanent solutions to these perennial floods.
Prince Nwoko also advocated for a new National Assembly that is people oriented rather than self serving, stressing that this new National Assembly must be seen to be different from the ones before it.
The summation of the Arise Television interview with Prince Ned Nwoko is that there is hope for Nigeria if his far reaching recommendations are implemented by the new look National Assembly.
What would be your reaction to the claim by the coalition of members elect in the minority caucus that the ruling APC has lost its majority status in the 10th House of Representatives after the supplementary election and that they could not provide the leadership of the house anymore?
The House of Representatives would decide who would be their Speaker and Deputy Speaker and I would wish them the best of luck in making that choice. They must understand the need for them to elect credible leadership that would put Nigerians first. That is the primary concern. It is not a matter of choice for senators, governors or other influencers on who becomes the leaders of the House of Representatives. We would guide and advise them, but they must be independent in all that they do. They cannot continue as business as usual. We have been meeting with them, guiding and advising them and I believe that at the end of the day, they would make the right choices on the leadership. On zoning of the leadership for the Senate, we will be guided by what the party does. We are all party faithfuls, at the end of the day, we will also look at credible and focused leadership, we don’t want to have a rubber stamp senate. That is not what Nigerians need at this point in time. We need leadership for both upper and lower chambers that would be able to checkmate the executive and make sure that things are done properly for the interest of Nigerians. This is what is uppermost in the minds of many of our members.
The current Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives made it clear that the leadership of the APC would decide who becomes the next Speaker and that the opposition would have no choice, but to simply support them. Basically, he said they won’t have a say
….I don’t know where that statement came from, but it’s a wrong assumption that they could throw things at 360 members of the House of Representatives and they would just take it. It’s not going to happen, I just hope that they understand that the mood of the nation is different from what has been happening in the preceding years. We just have to wait and see the kind of personality that they are. It’s beginning to emerge the kind of personalities that were elected from the various parts of the country. But I think that they don’t want to be seen to be influenced from outside on the choice that they make, going forward.
Let’s look at what Senator Ali Ndume from Borno South Senatorial District, said that politicians have started buying leadership of the 10th Assembly and even pushed for an “Unexplained Wealth Act” to deal with corrupt politicians with suspicious wealth, saying that if you display wealth that is not in tandem with your income you should be investigated and the wealth should be confiscated and that if it’s extensive the person should be investigated. Is this something that should be implemented or is it just a distraction?
I have not met with Ali Ndume nor spoken to him about what you quoted that he said. I would not take it beyond Nigeria. We are in Nigeria, a lot happens here, sadly so. We just have to wait and see what happens, when we are inaugurated. I would subscribe to any law that will prohibit unlawful use of money to influence the choice of leadership. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen. There are many capable hands there; experienced, focused, exposed and well meaning Nigerians that we should encourage National Assembly leadership to emerge from. It is not going to be business as usual, where some governors, or ministers would move into with bags of money. That would not work. They are independent minded, very concerned about the state of things in Nigeria and they want to make a different mark from what has been happening before. Yes, there might be some truth in what Ndume said, but of course, nobody would come to Nwoko and offer him money to do what is wrong. That is not going to happen. There are many more people that I know before now that are of the same approach with me and who want the best for Nigeria. Majority of them, individually, are not putting themselves first, they put Nigeria first. That is the kind of National Assembly that I want to see.
There is a set of people known as APC stakeholders under the aegis of “Support Group For Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu,” they are saying that the senate presidency should be zoned to the north. In the event that this happens, what would you say the likely implications might be?
There are many groups and they are clamouring for different things, it depends on the interest they are trying to project. At the end, we will have a choice to make. But I want a balanced system, where every part of Nigeria feels a sense of inclusion from what is happening in the country. We just came from a very difficult campaign and election period and we must seek to make some kind of reconciliatory moves, some kind of appeasement of those parts of Nigeria that have been marginalised. Obviously, South East is one of them, it is on top of them. So, any group that is clamouring for zoning of the senate presidency to another part of Nigeria is not being sensitive to the need for national unity that will focus the country to great challenges ahead of us.
On the issue of leadership of the National Assembly, it seems there is no emphasis on competence and capacity, it is just about zoning, and religion. Is it that we are not focusing on the capacity building of the lawmakers, I am also curious to know who you believe should vie for these two leadership positions?
For me, the most important thing is competence, capability, focus, and strength of character. We need a leadership that will think of Nigeria and Nigerians. I was just talking by the way about zoning because you talked about zoning to the northern part of Nigeria being clamoured by a group. Otherwise, for me it’s the capacity, focus, and strength of character of the people to lead. If you put new comers there, it would be a problem. So, we need experience, and capacity and there are many qualities that you need in a leadership. You need those, who are trusted, those who can say no external influencers that would want to get things that are for the interest of Nigerians done. What I expect both houses to go for the best and we know who the best people are. We know the people that are contesting for the various positions, we have known them since 1999 and Nigerians of 1999 are not the same with Nigerians of 2023. A lot has happened, we know them by their records, history and dispositions. So, the right choices would be made and I am certain that there would be little or no influence from the outside, except of course with the party’s zoning formula.
We will like you to enlighten us on your legislative agenda for Delta North Senatorial District?
They are many because I am concerned about many things in Nigeria. I’m in this because I want to serve. There are many issues; local and national. The first for me is insecurity, we must address it. We must dialogue with the agitators from both ends of Nigeria. Whether they are ESN, IPOB or Boko Haram, we must dialogue with them. Whatever that needs to be done to set that machinery in place must be done immediately. The killings must stop. The huge cost of the fight at various ends must stop, so security is a priority that must be addressed. The other one, which is equally important, is the economy. A lot has happened under this administration. The economy was almost in comatose from inflationary rate to banking interest rate. I can’t imagine why the government would not think of consumers on the banking interest rates. Why would they not think of Nigerians. It is a matter of fact that we were elected to represent the people, so when you are here and you know that Nigerians do not have access to financing, they cannot borrow to buy the things they need; such as cars and houses and you know that banks are making huge profits to the detriments of the masses, then the government must step in and do what they do in civilised societies. These are what I want to focus on. The judiciary, of course, needs support, they need to move faster than they are moving, they need to be empowered to make sure that justice is dispensed as at when it is sought for. Of course, going back to my state, there are issues of some national roads that need to be done without delay because they are serious hazards to the lives of the people and other road users. Of course, I come from an area where there is a lot of hard cry over environmental degradation, talking about Ndokwa Nation. The people there have been abandoned to their fate. It shouldn’t be business as usual talking about gas flaring with pollution here and there. Oil companies that are just operating with impunity, all that must be checked. There are many bills and motions that are already being put in place, so the people should expect a lot of fireworks once we are inaugurated.
Still talking about the leadership race for the 10th National Assembly, you have called for the zoning of the senate presidency to the South East. But the APC has upheld the principle of rotation between the north and the south in respect of the presidency of the federation, are you expecting the party to maintain to same model for the Senate Presidency and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and their deputies?
I expect all the parties to think of what is good for Nigeria. Zoning is what they have been doing for many years, this is not the time to abandon it. They are all politicians, they know what has to be done to calm the nerves of the country. I expect the APC to do what is right, I also expect the PDP and other political parties to do something similar. That would guide the members of the two chambers in going forward. I know that most people would be loyal to their parties. Let’s wait and see what they would do, but they are not going to be insensitive to clamour for some kind of fairness and justice, especially to some sections of the country, South East for instance. You have seen the killings that have erupted in the South East lately and you will ask yourself why, what are they fighting for. What can’t we negotiate, appease them and get things working instead of fighting and killing each other. Just few days ago, five policemen were killed in Owerri, Imo State. You can imagine that, killing five policemen at once and we just carry on as if nothing has happened, as if it’s normal to kill policemen. These are law enforcement agents that are meant to protect lives and properties. Of course, this might continue until we address the issues that led to the killings on both sides. The parties shouldn’t be just thinking about zoning, they should think of it in calming those nerves and dealing with contentious issues.
How do you plan to ensure that there is no much hindrance to your legislative agenda?
I will do this by working with others, all the issues that I mentioned are issues that we all know about. They are issues that we all feel pain from. Of course, one the thing I would have mentioned are the floods between River Niger and Benue area and we know the consequences of the floods. We don’t just need to wait for the floods to devastate the areas. About eight states are involved every year, many people would die, and some people would become homeless. We need to know how we can address this and be proactive. It’s not about my programmes, it’s about what has to be done to safe lives and properties. It is about what we, as Nigerians, must do to make sure that things are done differently. We don’t have to wait for flood to come and start talking about palliatives, building of tents or things like that. What we need to do must be done by Nigerians, whether we are in the APC, PDP, Labour or any other party. What we must know is that we are Nigerians, we want the best for Nigeria. Party is just a platform for us to be where we are currently. After all the campaigns and elections, governance must set in. This is where we must show that we are different from those who have been there before. We must strive for results that will be seen by Nigerians. We are just talking about it, we must do it.