Ovie Omo-Agege: Raising the Bar of Effective Representation



with  Eddy Odivwri
eddy.odivwri@thisdaylive.com   08053069356

Long before he became a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege has been in the vanguard of service to his people. His has always been a life of political struggle. The struggle to serve. Several times, he had striven to be the governor of Delta State, where he believes, he can best serve his people. But this has remained a work-in-progress project for him. But in December last year, his political profile received a boost when the courts ruled that he was the validly elected candidate to represent the Delta Central senatorial district in Delta State.

Before him, was Chief Ighoyota Amori whose stint in the Senate was marked by whimperish  representation. He was too eager to be a pro-establishment senator. He was famous for jokingly (or seriously) claiming to have his political strength drawn from weird sources. His vaunting and boastings were anything but edifying , even in banal politics.  Aside the partisan support for the senate establishment, not much is on the credit side of Amori’s balance sheet as a senator.
It is remarkable that his legislative adventure is now history. What is new and trending is the strides being made by the incumbent senator representing Delta central senatorial district: Senator Ovie Omo-Agege,
In quick succession, he has demonstrated a capacity to be initiative-driven.
For so long, the status of the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) had remained like an under-priced institution. The Goodluck Jonathan administration however elevated it to a university—as Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE).
However, it had remained just like that without a legal framework backing up its existence. Last April, barely three months after he assumed his seat in the red chambers, Omo-Agege sponsored the Bill, arguing that despite satisfying all necessary conditions for the establishment of a university, the FUPRE remained as it is without a legal status. The Bill passed second reading last April. The FUPRE is a prized federal institution in Delta State and the Urhobos, in whose domain the institution is, have remained markedly grateful to Omo-Agege for his feat in establishing the legal construct for the institution.
But what may have hoisted his flag at the roof top is the Bill seeking to tame randy lecturers from harassing female students in higher institutions in the country. It is a commonplace story of how male lecturers coarse female students into having sexual affairs with them in exchange for high grades in university examinations. It is indeed a running malaise which had made many female students go through horrendous experiences in schools. Although the penal code frowns at such offence, the Omo-Agege Bill seeks to properly criminalise the act in the nation’s judicial system in such a way that no offender or victim of the law goes without feeling the heat or the touch of the law.
This is confirmed by Elo Adhekpukoli, a lawyer, who affirmed that the Bill ‘fills the void in the existing anti-sexual harassment laws in Nigeria’, noting that only the Lagos State Criminal Law of 2011 defined sexual harassment properly.
Reading through the Bill, one cannot but agree that it is a product of deep and wide research.
With many provisions aimed at ensuring the law is not circumvented by smart lawyers, the Bill has indeed ranked as one of the most popular in recent times.
 It is remarkable that the Bill removes the clause of consensual agreement (as a defence) in a lecturer-student relationship, with the quaint argument  that “the voluntary consent of a student held hostage by the official authority of a predating lecturer is not a willful consent”. And that makes it a statutory offence.
It is even more interesting to note that lecturers are similarly protected by the provisions of the Bill as there is a recommended punishment  of expulsion for students who falsely accuse their lecturers or educators of sexual harassment.
By the provisions of the Bill, any educator who is found guilty of the provisions of the law risks a five-year jail term without the option of fine.
In the same vein, the Bill also seeks to provide compensation for victims of sexual harassment. And this makes the Bill unique. Presently, there is nothing in the penal code that stipulates how a victim of sexual harassment or rape shall be compensated. But the Omo-Agege Bill provides for the compensation of victims.
The Bill which was read on June 20, has a rousing support from 57 senators who are indeed its co-sponsors.
What the two cited Bills have shown is that the Delta Central senator has demonstrated a strong connect between him and his constituents. Put differently, he knows what his people want and he seems poised to meeting them at the point of their needs.
One marked difference between him and those who had occupied the seat before him is that he is not a bench-warming senator. He is not only visible, but also vocal. His strikes fall on the right chords.
This is in spite of the fact that not only is he not a ranking senator, he is indeed from a minority party: Labour Party (LP), although there is now a bourgeoning collaboration between LP and the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). His newness in the senate has not smouldered the fire of effective representation in Omo-Agege.
And with the bursting zeal of the senator, it may be safe to conclude that it is morning yet on creation day for the Urhobo people of Delta Central senatorial district.

pix: Ovie Omo-Agege.jpg

No, Buhari is not Northernising Nigeria
Ihave been reading of complaints from many quarters about the favouritism being shown to the people from the northern part of the country by President Muhammadu Buhari, and I shudder at what they mean.
So why do you shudder? Are the complaints out of place?

You mean even you share in the mischievous complaints being sponsored by those still sulking from the lost election of last year?
No, no, no. This has nothing to do with partisan judgement. The facts are clear. Lawyers call it Res ipsa loquitur.

What  facts are you talking about? I am disappointed that you are among the gullible crowd that merely hangs on to the hysteria of the masses, which lacks logic and coherence most of the time.
Look, I don’t care how much of tirade you pour on me. I am saying that by the actions so far demonstrated by  Mr President, there is room and ground for genuine complaints in the polity.

Oh, you are among them that believe the fight against corruption should be suspended so the nation can face other issues of governance?
I am not talking about the fight against corruption. It is a necessary war to be waged so as to redeem Nigeria from collapse even though, I also believe that it should not be the over-all pre-occupation of this government. What I am saying and being echoed by majority of Nigerians is that the appointments Mr President has made thus far, very heavily favour the north to the detriment of the south. And this is not good for the country. The era of favouritism, ethnicism, and narrow-mindedness should be gone for good. The point really is that….

(cuts in) Enough of your pontification. We are talking about a President here. An elected president for that matter. For your information, Mr President has executive powers and they are constitutionally-assigned powers. Or do you want to say that the President has breached any section of the constitution  from the appointments he has made?
My friend, you cannot be more Catholic than the Pope. The constitution is made for man, not man for the constitution.
How can it be explained that out 14 national security agencies, only three are headed by southerners while all the remaining 11 are headed by northerners? How can it be explained that out of 20 National entities, (including the security agencies),  17 are headed by people from the northern part of the country? How do you explain that INEC, NEMA, NNPC, Fire Service, Customs, FRSC, NIP, NIS, DSS, NSDC, Police, Airforce, Defence, EFCC, NSA, Army etc are all headed by northerners in a country where we are all said to be equal. And you talk about constitution. Why didn’t you talk about Federal Character?

You don’t understand. Security issues should be shielded from politics and banal considerations of national shenanigan like Federal Character. What should count most is efficiency and competence.
Look at your mouth like efficiency and competence. How come this so-called efficiency and competence is only found among northerners? Ehn? Answer me! And pray, are these not the same people we always waive standard for so they can gain admission to federal government colleges and universities because they are said to have come from educationally-disadvantaged states? Suddenly they have transformed to become champions of efficiency and competence! Indeed, There is God!

Do you know that in matters of appointments especially in security organisations, that it follows order of seniority and merit?
The same question arises: how come it is arranged in such a way that only people from a particular section of the country are lined up to succeed themselves? And Mr Defender, are you not aware that over 30 senior police officers including 21 AIGs were  recently retired compulsorily so as to create room for the appointment of Mr Ibrahim Idris as the present IG? Is that the order of seniority and merit you are talking about?

Em, em, em…..
You don’t have to stammer. Call a spade a spade.
Ok. Look at the recently constituted Board of NNPC with eight members. While the north has five members, the south has a paltry three slots. And don’t forget that the President’s Chief of Staff-Abba Kyari, is a member, just as you mustn’t forget that the substantive Minister of Petroleum is Mr President himself.
Do you also know that as at August 2015, out of the 30 appointments the President had made, only seven came from the south and the remaining 23 from the north? And even at that none of the seven from the south came from the South east? And you say one nation? Surely, as Achebe would write, There was a Country!

Look, I will not allow you to stand here and make divisive comments. We cannot sacrifice the ethos of national cohesion on the altar of sectional pursuit. Mr President has breached no law. In fact, he had personally explained this in the past and it bears my reminding you. And I quote:
There is an English word called expediency. Aside the so-called confidence Mr President may have had with people he had flocked with over the years, it has become expedient for him to look beyond his narrow circle to make appointments so as to give it a national colouration. Afterall, he was voted for by the entire country. And pray, we are talking of the president of a country of disparate people of over 180 million . And if the president has only flocked with people of his own region and so knows and  trusts people from his region only, then there is something wrong with the national root and outlook of such a president.

Are you saying something is wrong with our President?

You said so.

I can assure you that Mr President means well for the nation. His spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina had once assured that “there will be a balance in future appointments”.
Does that not tell you that there has been imbalance? And when will that future be? And lest I forget, let me say that such acts like this deliberate skew of appointments to the north are some of the unstated gasoline kindling the fire of anger and destruction in the Niger Delta. Or do you think those Avenger boys are fools? You think they don’t they read newspapers?  How many of their people are strategically located in the oil and gas sector? My brother, all these things matter. Let’s not deceive ourselves. This country is a delicate web. All sections of it must be carefully and justly managed, otherwise it will be a return to point origin. Dues avertat!

I don’t understand your Latin. But what I understand is that Mr President not only means well for us all, he will surely not northernise Nigeria.
Go and tell him he still has chance to redeem his image. We are watching!!!