Senator Clever Marcus Ikisikpo, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member representing Bayelsa East Senatorial district, is a leading light in the Senate in the past two years. In this interview with Ndubuisi Francis, he bares his mind on sundry national issues as well as those affecting his people. Excerpts:
What do you perceive as the laudable efforts you have been associated with since your sojourn in the Senate?
Well, the Senate is a legislative type of job and our major job is to make laws to better the lives of our people. Polices are made by the executive, senators make laws and a lot of laws have been made in the Senate. I came in 2011 and as an old timer, well experienced in the issues of legislative business, of course, it is not something that will take me a very long time to adjust to legislative business which we have been doing. But the most important thing is that if you are in the Senate, you have to look back to the people that brought you here, you work with them and you go home, you discuss with them. That’s the only way you can know the problems of your own area. I go home every three weeks to discuss with my people and in the course of our discussion, they table their challenges. One of such problems is quality education for our youth which I looked into.
Education is the basis for leadership and if you are not educated, there is no way you can lead somebody today or tomorrow. I believe that we have to take up that issue seriously which informed the establishment of Ikisikpo Foundation. This foundation gives scholarship to people who are in the universities; we assist them with their school fees. For now, we have well over 150 students in various universities in the country that are benefiting from this foundation. On the issue of bills, I have two bills— one has gone through second reading. We have the bill on College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine; this is a bill that, if passed, will help the nation with respect to IGR (internally generated revenue) because we need to have something that really concerns us, our own. Not that when anybody is ill he goes or order drugs from overseas at all time. Nigeria should look inwards and also outwards. Inwards in that we have our own God-given herbs compared to those that are outside (orthodox). We have a lot of medicines, a lot of stuffs around us that we don’t really want to explore and the College of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, if it comes into operation, it will change our health care system.
The people that will man this operation are not illiterate or local witch doctors, but people who have read, who have PhDs in Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Natural medicine, Homeopathy etc. PhD holders in different areas of medicine will run the complementary and alternative medicine. A lot of things will be done if that bill really passes through; Nigeria will be able to produce medicines locally. It will create employment and so give room for foreign earning for our economy. The next bill that I am working on is a bill on this Quarantine which has gone through second reading also. I think a while ago, they did the public hearing on the Quarantine Act. This is an Act that was established in 1926. It is about a century from today and the Act has been lying down there and the Act only talks about ships. So, we need to modernise, following the modern way of life. When the Act was established in 1926, there was no plane, there were not many roads crossing but today most of the means of transportation is air transportation, but the Act did not really envisage air transportation. So, the new Act will take care of ground crossings, air plane and even go deeper with what they have done with the Quarantine with respect to the ships and this will help the nation because it will check so many things. It will check so many infectious diseases and most of the new diseases that are coming now with the Quarantine Act, it will really check them and make Nigerians not to be easily infected with that type of disease.
Take for instance, in Uganda we have the Nimpola disease, it is a dangerous kind of disease. So if they check now, within the Quarantine borders or the Nigerian borders, with the Quarantine Act, they should be able to establish who is carrying these diseases and save the nation. So, these are some of the things that we are really working on.
Let’s look at the 2013 budget; were there things that you were able to capture with regards to your senatorial district?
Well, the Nigerian budget is a federal budget; this means that your constituency gets only what your representative is able to lobby or influence to the constituency. This, to me, has being my focus and my driving force to ensure my people get the best. In most cases, let’s look at the issue of water, for instance. If you come to my constituency, everywhere is water but there is no good water for us to drink. Last year, a lot of things like water were sent to three different places, school renovations and some other things like that—ICT, because today we have gone nuclear. We have gone digital, so ICT is now the reigning thing. ICT was supposed to be built in five different places, but because of the way our budget implementation was done, only two were really done. But this year again, I entered same ICT projects in about five different places again. Even at Imiringi, the Federal Government Girls College, I think I put in a hall that should be built to enhance teaching in the girls’ college. So those are some of the things that we have entered but we have to continue to work to enhance the lives of the people around us.
What impact have you made vis-a-vis job creation?
Employment is one of the things that we need for our people, though the chances are not much, but any where there is opening opportunity, we take advantage of same or, we exploit them to help our unemployed people. We have been doing this overtime, though we don’t really have the full records of jobs we have given out, but whoever that comes, the ones that God helps us to assist we give such assistance.
Effective representation is the hallmark of a good lawmaker. For your people, what are those things that are upmost in your heart?
You see, if you talk about good representation, a lot of things come to mind. If you come to the Niger Delta, one of our biggest problems is the issue of pollution which we have been talking every day. Even when I came to the House of Representaives, my first motion was on Oloibiri / Onuebum oil.
I don’t really know when the federal government will start that project. My area was the first place to produce crude oil in Nigeria far back in 1956. Of course, if you come to my area, you will see that the place is really abandoned, which is not good for most of us. I moved the motion for government to come and see the level of pollution, the level of damage done to the communities there. I think three Committees of the House of Representatives went—Committees on Petroleum, Culture and Tourism and Niger Delta. They went and saw things for themselves; they came back and produced a report. I think there’s something going on there now, they are now talking of building the oil museum and if that is done, it will really help. But the problem is that pollution of our area is another big thing that we need to look into with a view to finding a lasting solution.
There is this view that overtime, the federal government has really tried to develop the Niger Delta but the leaders from those communities seem not to key into what it takes to develop their people. What’s your take on this?
When you use the word, the “federal government overtime”, from what level of overtime? The only level time that I can say the federal government came in to develop the place was during this derivation time. When Alfred Diette Spiff was the governor of old Rivers State, there was nothing like derivation but he did better than even most of those states that are up here. Go and see what governor Spiff did in the old Rivers State as a military governor from 1967; Derivation only came in the 80s, alright? So, he did those things without derivation. Well, I am not talking for our governors because our own is that our governors should use whatever money or things we are having judiciously. If the money comes, use this money judiciously, let people see that this money has been used in doing what will add value to the lives of the people.
Then how many federal government projects were built in the South-south area before today? If you go to Bayelsa, how many federal government amenities will you see there? So don’t use the word “overtime” because the federal government has not been trying overtime, we have been suffering, those things done there were not from derivation. Derivation only came in the 80s and in the 80s, it was 1.5 per cent which you know very well, then 13 per cent came when they prepared the 1999 Constitution. Then, we now started this 13 per cent. So, how many times have we used this 13 per cent? At most, it is about 13 years also. So, all the states have been on the same level. So, the development that was in the old Rivers State was not with 13 per cent. But whatever be the case, we plead with our governors to use the money judiciously so that everybody within the area will benefit.