Warri based constitutional lawyer, Dr Akpo Mudiaga-Odje in this interview bares his mind on the APC led government insisting that it may be too early to assess the Buhari administration. Excerpts:
By Festus Ahon
What is your assessment of the President Buhari’s led administration?
Even though, it may be too early for a holistic appraisal,
nevertheless it points towards a government that would be responsible to
the people’s yearnings and aspirations.
Indeed, we are passing through very difficult times in terms of
insecurity, economic challenges, including scarcity of petroleum
products. It will surely take time to heal these wounds inflicted on our
dear nation by previous administrations.
What is your take on Buhari’s appointment of himself as petroleum minister?
In retrospect, we challenged the erstwhile President, Chief Olusegun
Obasanjo GCFR when he appointed himself as the Minister of Petroleum. We
challenged it up to the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Interestingly, whilst we were at the Court of Appeal, and due to the
pressure brought upon him by the case and the people, Chief Obasanjo
promptly appointed Prof. Edmund Daukoru now a Royal Majesty in Bayelsa
State, as a Minister of State for Petroleum. That case has now been
reported as Austin Ayowe & Ors. Vs. The President & Ors. (2006)
All FWLR (PT. 334) 1967
Though we lost on grounds of locus standi, the pressure arising from the legal action prevailed on OBJ to do the needful.
On the President Buhari scenario, he has appointed a Minister for
Petroleum, be it a Minister of State or not, because he is recognised
under the Petroleum Act and Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution of the
FRN (as amended).
Under Section 5 of the Constitution, General Buhari has a right and
duty to supervise his Ministries and by extension control and manage the
Ministry, provided however, that he has a Minister duly appointed at
all material times relating thereto.
Looking at the crop of Ministers he has appointed, do you see any good prospect for Nigeria under Buhari’s government?
Relatively speaking, I do believe that from the background of some of
the ministers, its very apparent and real that they will impact
positively in the administration of the Nation.
It has a blend of old hands and new technocrats which is good for us.
However, it may be too early to give an informed assessment of them
since, they just started work.
Again, the Urhobos have no minister in the Federal Government?
It’s very sad if not frightening that the Urhobo Nation which
produces economic wealth no matter how small to the Federation Account,
cannot have a Minister to partake in the Federal Executive Council as to
how the commonwealth of the Nation is shared.
In terms of population, we are the fifth largest in Nigeria, we host oil and gas flow stations including the Otorogun Gas Plant.
We have a reservoir of eminent, cerebral and proficient
professionals, politicians and scholars per excellence both here
and in the Diaspora.
Accordingly, I urge Mr. President to do the needful timeously by
appointing a Minister from any of our eminent sons and daugthers of
It is in the light of the above, that I commend the Governor of Delta
State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, for his wisdom and magnanimity in appointing
many qualified persons of Urhobo extraction into his Administration. It
is very commendable and encouraging.
Don’t you see it as a ploy to undermine the Urhobo Nation which is the 6th if not 5th largest ethnic group in the country?
Yes indeed if an ethnic Nationality that is qualified to have a slot
as a Minister in Nigeria and its not given that slot, surely it will
undermine that ethnic group. A point of reference is Section 55 of the
1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides that:
“The business of the National Assembly shall be conducted in English, Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba…”
This section does not recongise my Urhobo language, yet my village,
Evwrein in Ughelli North hosts a flow Station which produces over eleven
thousand barrels of crude oil to the Nigeria State.
My oil and gas resources are a blessing to Nigeria, whilst my language is an abomination in the National Assembly.
The National Assembly was built from our resources. The Constitution
was also printed with our resources. Yet my language cannot be spoken in
the National Assembly.
Be that as it may, we the Urhobo people must now come together in our
collective history to unite and speak with one voice! A house divided
against itself cannot stand!
As long as we remain disunited, our fighting and staying power becomes weaker and weaker by the day.
So in as much as we are justifiably agitating for representation at
the federal level, we must close ranks
\because when Mr. President
decides to give us a ministerial slot, we must be prepared to speak and
choose one person with one voice!
It is on this note, that I advise the Urhobo Nation to start to reach
out to our brothers from other minority ethnic groups, such as the
Itsekiris, Ijaws, Ibibios, Aniomas, Isokos, and others, to forge a
common front with us as we agitate for both political and economic
What is your reaction to the emergence of a new Olu of Warri?
Firstly, we share in the mourning with the Itsekiri nation of the
departed Ogiame Atuwatse II; whilst at the same time we congratulate
them on the nomination through overwhelming proclamation and acclamation
of the entire Itsekiri nation of the new Olu of Warri.
The unity, swiftness and reverence with which the Itsekiri people
selected their new king is worthy of commendation and it is shining
example to all other tribes, especially the ethnic minorities, that once
a tribe speaks with one voice, nothing, I say nothing can ever stop
their progress and development.
Do you have faith in Buhari’s corruption crusade?
Faith in Mr. President’s corruption crusade? I think faith is too
strong for me at this point in time, I think whether I have confidence
in President Buhari’s corruption crusade? Yes!
For now, his body language is encouraging towards the fight against corruption, however let it not be selective.
We must commend him for his patriotic stand before and now on the
fight against corruption and urge all Nigerians to support this fight
for a better Nigeria.
The appointment of the proficient and well respected international
scholar, teacher and lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay SAN as the chair of the
presidential Advisory Committee on corruption is a big plus for
President Buhari and the fight against the incubus of corruption in
However, for Government to fight corruption frontally the
institutions responsible for investigation, arrest and prosecution of
corrupt persons must be urgently reformed, funded and made more potent
in that respect.