Politicians! I have no relationship with them — King Oweipa Dele Jones
Our Present Governors Are Afraid To Pursue Resource Control
His Royal Highness, King Oweipa Dele Jones, Ere Ibenanaowei of Ogboin Amassoma, a first class king, has for the past 13 years overseen the affairs of the people of Amassoma kingdom. And since his ascension to the throne, he has witnessed and weathered so many crises in the Niger Delta Region. The violent conflicts in the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria are said to be, to a very large extent, responsible for the present pathetic state of the country.Recently, Palace Watch had an interview with Oweipa Dele Jones.
During his tenure as governor of Bayelsa State, the late DSP Alamieyeseigha, who was an indigene of this town, made it a cardinal point to fight for the rights of Niger Deltans, whom he insisted must get their dues in the Federation. His other dream was to leave behind a very peaceful Niger Delta Region. After his death, would you say the much sought after peace has returned to the region?
Yes. To some extent, I’ll say that peace has returned to the Niger Delta Region. But much still needs to be done by the present administration to ensure that the peace we now have in this region is sustained. However, there is peace in the creeks for now. In the area of militancy, the magic of late Alamieyeseigha is still missing. He approached it from bottom up. I just hope the Federal Government will do all within its powers to ensure that the peace we have now endures.
As the King of Amassoma, you must have been very close to the late DSP Alamieyeseigha. What type of person was he? Was he as corrupt as is the general belief?
The late DSP was quite close to me while alive. He was by every standard a very decent person, who had the interest of his people at heart. He wanted the general good of the people of Amassoma, Bayelsa and Nigeria as a whole. He did his very best to develop this place, while he was in office as governor.
It is arrant nonsense for anybody to say that DSP was a corrupt person. Who has held public office in Nigeria, even as we speak, that is not corrupt? We are in the habit of trying to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. So, I would rather we move to other issues, since he is now late. May his soul continue to rest in peace.
What particular role are you playing or have played, as a traditional ruler to assist Federal and Bayelsa State governments in maintaining peace in your domain and in the region generally?
As kings, our role is definite. We are by nature peacemakers. We have been involved in consultations and negotiations, and when the need arises, sensitisations. But of late, we have been holding meetings. In the past four or five years, one of our panacea for peace in the region is the adoption of a revolving meetings, where kings of various clans meet to approach whatever problem(s) any of their domain has, particularly when peace is under threat. This approach, I must confess, has paid off.
So, I will give it to the government that has continued to encourage such consultations, which of course, has translated into peace generally.
I will not claim to be personally behind the peace we have achieved so far in this region. It has been collectively done by all the traditional rulers in this region, as most of the Kings in these areas have been consulting and comparing notes. This has ensured that none of the situations has got out of control.
What has been your experience with politicians generally, who after being voted into office hardly take advice of traditional rulers? Some even go as far to discipline traditional rulers that refuse to do their biddings…
Politicians, ha!!! Honestly, I keep away from them. All this while, I have deliberately kept my distance from them because the majority of them can never be regarded as gentlemen. They never get to keep their words, so, I keep my distance from them.
But as usual, they come to my palace on courtesy visits, whenever they want to come to campaign and I make sure it ends there. We have no relationship whatsoever.
Is the agitation for resource control still going on in the Niger Delta Region? What methods are being adopted to achieve this aim?
The agitation for resource control is being gradually eroded. I only hope with the return of Chief James Ibori, we will gradually return to true agitation for resource control, so that we all continue from where Alamesiegha stopped. However, I must say current governors of the region are not seeing it as something they should pursue. Maybe they are scared, after seeing what happened to the two progenitors of resource control: Alamesigha and Ibori. But to be honest, very little is presently being done about it.
Lots of arms used to go through the creeks in the Niger Delta Region. Would you say this has now reduced?
There has not been any drastic reduction in the rate arms and ammunitions are being smuggled across these areas to the creeks in the Niger Delta Region. This massive arm buildup is due mainly to the distrust and tribal uneasiness in the Niger Delta, especially in the Delta areas of the region. Naturally, they are transporting all this through Bayelsa areas to the creeks.
What are you doing, as a traditional ruler to ensure that this is controlled?
As a traditional ruler, there is very little I can do. But now, the Joint Task Force (JTF) has set up a roadblock or if you like, a check point here. This was recently done to check massive movements of arms. It is the duty of security agencies to check this illegal movement of arms, which
I think they are presently doing. I am not saying we do not help security agencies, whenever the need arises.
Are you satisfied with the present approach of Federal Government to the amnesty programme or deal, which was brokered during the administration of late President Yar’Adua?
The amnesty has long lost it values. The purpose of the amnesty has been defeated, because it was not holistically approached. The graduates, the products turned out from this amnesty programme are already returning to the creeks, because the purpose, for which they were trained, had not been achieved. Why train a person you will not give the opportunity to express or practice what he or she has learnt?
So, if the Federal Government could look at the second and third phases of the amnesty programme and implement them, then it will make meaning. It will also go a long way in solving so many problems now and in the future. It is not just enough to start paying them for doing nothing. So, if you ask me, I would say the amnesty programme has failed.
If you were to advise the Federal Government, what would you ask to be done; put the original plans of the amnesty programme back on track?
There is a lot the Federal Government can do. Like we advised Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, when he came, that the Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, harness the local crude refineries, and give them modular refineries so that the boys can do it properly. Two, there should be direct investments and setting up of petroleum based industries in the Niger Delta Region.
The region should also have power plants, because it does not make sense, if we are flaring gas, and gas plants are cited somewhere else very far away from where the gas is being flared. All the gas production plants should be in the Niger Delta Region, so that we stop flaring gas.