Seventh Delta Assembly kicks off amid concerns, expectations
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa recently forwarded a list of eight cabinet nominees to the Delta State House of Assembly in what many observers described as an attempt to keep the lawmakers busy and out of mischiefs.
It could be recalled that earlier in his congratulatory message to the leadership of the state Assembly, the governor had set the tone about the expectations and challenges that would occupy the attention and focus of the lawmakers.
Although the governor promised to give total support to the House and anything they might require to ensure unencumbered discharge of their responsibilities, the issue of political considerations within the 7th Assembly remains moot.
It was perhaps in allusion to those ‘latent issues’ that the governor urged the legislators to be proud of their emergence to represent their various constituencies and not to be distracted from working for the overall interest of the state.
While laying emphasis on the need to work for unity rather than political divisions, Okowa stated: “Our people have entrusted us with this special mandate with a resounding victory in the last elections. The least we can do for them is to ensure that we make good laws for good governance, security of lives and property and ensure service to the people for a Stronger Delta State.
“We need to understand that as representatives of the people, we must always consult with our constituents who sent us to the House and as messengers that we are, it is expected that we return home often to brief them on our representation.”
Most Deltans believe that a lot of issues, including resource allocation, distribution of appointments and amenities as well as calculations for 2023 would influence the performance of lawmakers’ legislative functions.
But in his remarks shortly after his election, the Speaker, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, reechoed the governor’s sentiments, stressing that by working towards the state’s focus on Stronger Delta State, the lawmakers would align with the “consolidation from the SMART Agenda of the previous four years.”
The Speaker pleaded with his colleagues, noting, “I am aware of the challenges that come with this responsibility, and I can assure you that I will not take you for granted. Be rest assured that I will always draw on your advice and cooperation, and also strive to the best of my abilities to deliver on this mandate with diligence, dignity and honour.
“Going forward, we will stress the need for improvement of the internal operations of the House, improvement of internal and external communications and collaboration with civil society organizations/development partners. I believe as a team, we can make our Assembly the envy of other states’ legislatures.”
Touching on the issue of accountability, Oborevwori noted, “The least expectation for our mandates would be honest representation, accountability, transparency and commitment to the discharge of our legislative duties.
“This is our social contract with our constituents, and I pledge on behalf of all members of the Seventh Assembly that we will deliver on this mandate. I therefore thank profusely our constituents for electing us to this Seventh Assembly.”
The question that would be answered as the days go by is how far their busy schedule would help in sustaining unity of purpose among the lawmakers. A chieftain of All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr. Tony Egba, said the lawmakers could succeed if they could remain independent of the executive arm, pointing out that that is about the only way they could carry out their functions better.
Egba said the expectation of every Deltan like himself “is that they will make laws and pass bills that will bring the dividends of democracy and sustainable development nearer to the masses.”
The opposition politician tasked the lawmakers to watch over the autonomy of local governments with diligence, warning that they should not cocoon themselves in Asaba, but frequent their constituencies to be familiar with the challenges in their locality.
Egba, who is also the convener of The New Ndokwa Dream (TNBD), maintained that the lawmakers must at all times know that they are the representatives of the people and endeavour not to betray the trust reposed on them.
“They must remember that four-year tenure is a very short period of time and therefore they must make all effort to represent the people well and write their names in golden,” he added.
Also, while urging the lawmakers to deemphasise political considerations, a lawyer, Mr. Benedita Osakuni, told The Guardian, “Having emerged from free and fair primaries, with a further mandate at the general elections, the people expect the best from the first eleven the state has presented. Gladly, the leadership of the 7th House is apparently square pegs in square holes, as they are political leaders who know what is expected of them.”
While urging the lawmakers to shun division and influence peddling, the former chairman of Ukwani local government council urged the 15-member legislature to quickly align themselves, learn fast about their new roles, and key into projects and programmes of Governor Okowa.
Osakuni, who also served in Okowa’s second term inauguration committee, said Okowa has made the job of the lawmakers easier by pulling the state in the right direction.
“Deltans are therefore expecting the lawmakers to work in sync with both the executive and judicial arms to enable the state achieve the Stronger Delta agenda,” he added.
However, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Christopher Ochor, assured Deltans of an improved service delivery from the legislative arm of government that will affect their socio-economic status in line with state government’s agenda. Ochor, who represents Ukwuani constituency, remarked that members of the current Assembly would aspire to uphold the benchmark already set by their predecessors and surpass the vibrancy of the Sixth Assembly.
He called on Deltans to remain supportive of government, stressing that peace is paramount for the building of a Strong Delta.
According to him, “My elevation to the State House of Assembly and subsequent election as Deputy Speaker are the handiwork of God, and I will do all in my power to reciprocate the kindness by diligently representing my people at the state level.”
Echoes of election
IT would be recalled that during the 2019 Delta State House of Assembly election, the current deputy speaker and the Peoples democratic Party (PDP) scored 17,536 votes to beat the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Eze Omolu, who polled 7,172 votes.
Ochor, who took over from Mr. Alphonsos Ojo, as the member representing Ukwani State Constituency, was also the pioneer Executive Director, Social Services Development of Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) in the newly structured intervention commission from 2015 till 2018.
The immediate past deputy speaker, Mr. Friday Osanebi, felicitated with Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori and his successor, Hon. Ochor, on their emergence as Speaker and Deputy Speaker respectively. He expressed the hope that the two would work harmoniously to deliver the goods.
With only two members from opposition APC, fears of internal division have been at the root of concerns by stakeholders about the stability of the 7th Delta House of Assembly. But a former Commissioner for Information in the state and erstwhile member of House of Representatives, Hon. Mercy Almona-Isei, dismissed such speculations, stressing that the lawmakers are patriots that they are prepared to do the state proud.
Almona-Isei said: “Well, let me start by congratulating all the DTHA members on their successful inauguration. My hearty felicitations go to the re-elected Speaker, Hon Sheriff Oborevwori and the newly elected Deputy Speaker, my representative, Hon. Ochor.
“Indeed, it is said that much is expected from he whom much is given. Therefore, I look forward to a House of Assembly that would be responsive to the yearnings of the people in accordance with their espoused mandate.
“It is also expected that the legislature, which has the ruling party (PDP), in the majority, would work in tandem with the executive, while respecting the tenets of separation of powers to ensure the full delivery of the state government’s vision of a Stronger Delta. Of course, in governance there will always be challenges ranging from security, environmental, human trafficking to other socio-economic issues.
“So I enjoin the members to set to work immediately and remain focused on their commitment to their constituents and the state in general.”
He noted that the nominations and unanimous approval of Hon. Oborevwori and Hon. Ochor by the 29 members as speaker and deputy respectively for the Seventh Assembly showed how united the house is, stressing that the interest of the state remains paramount.