Dr. Felix Tuodolo is not only from the Niger Delta region but one that believes in and fights passionately for its emancipation. A pioneer president of the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) and former commissioner for Culture and Ijaw National Affairs, Tuodolo is the current Special Adviser to Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state on Niger Delta Affairs. In this interview with JOHN ODHE in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, he endorses the appointment of Mr Maxwell Oko as the Executive Director of Finance and Administration at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
How did you receive the news of the appointment of Maxwell Oko as NDDC’s Director of Finance?
The announcement for the appointment of our brother, Maxwell Oko came to us with a high level of excitement. We, in the struggle in the human rights circle and those struggling for the emancipation of the Niger Delta, were very happy to hear the news of the appointment of Maxwell Oko into the NDDC. Some of the things we have been talking about over the years, which is the essence of our struggle, is to develop the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta people controlling their resources and managing same. These are the issues we are talking about, but most times, we realize that while we are talking and struggling on these basis, the little available to the Niger Delta is mismanaged by persons that are holding several offices. But we are happy when a person who has participated in the struggle gets into office. That person, we know, he knows the pains and suffering of his people and that person tends to do things better than the ordinary man. He pursues his office with the eyes of somebody who is in the struggle. We have examples of such persons. For instance, when one of us, Kingsley Kuku, was brought into the Amnesty Office, he performed very well. He sent our children abroad for studies and educated the militants. It was a welcome development. All of it is because he was part of the struggle. Even in Bayelsa here, Governor Seriake Dickson who was part of the struggle and an officer of the Ijaw National Congress, has brought development to the state. He has taken Bayelsa to another level. So, with Maxwell Oko there, who is part and parcel of the struggle, we know that he is going to leave his marks; excellent marks that we will appreciate that people will talk about. He knows the pain and suffering of our people.
Would you say that the NDDC is meeting up with the dreams and aspirations of those that fought for its establishment?
I want to say that if we had got there, there won’t be any need for the struggle. The NDDC has not done what is expected of it by the Niger Delta people.
There are one or two things they have done but we have not got it but we don’t blame them too much because most of them that have held position in NDDC have never been partakers in the struggle. They have never been participants in the struggle for the development of the Niger Delta. So, when they get there, they do what their masters tell them. That’s why we have not got the best results from the NDDC. More so, it is controlled by external forces. It will even interest you to note that in the NDDC board, you have persons representing north/east, north/west, south/east, South/west and so on. So, it’s not even purely a Niger Delta affairs. It’s unfortunate. When you go to boards in the north and other parts, you don’t see the representation of the south or the Niger Delta. But when it comes to our own, because they want to control us, you see their representation in our boards and those persons are very powerful persons, being part of our boards. So, we have not got there but the struggle continues. One day, we will get there. With people who have been in the struggle now holding positions, we know that there will be some dividends we know they can impart. We had actually wished that Maxwell Oko was the MD instead of the Executive Director of Finance and Administration. Though the EDFA is a member of the board and very influential too but he won’t have final say on so many issues.
He will only do his best but we know that because he is one of us, he will do well.
What should Niger Deltans, particularly, Bayelsans expect from Maxwell Oko?
We want Oko to be focused in the new appointment he is to take up. He should remove politics from the assignment he is to carry out. Some of the things that have affected us is the politicization of our development. He should depoliticize his position and work to represent his people, the Bayelsans, the Ijaw people and the Niger Delta as a whole.
We are aware that the NDDC is indebted to several people to the tune of N2 trillion, what is your advice to Maxwell Oko on how to defray those debts?
Candidly, Maxwell Oko is not going to be working alone. It is a board. They should work collectively and think outside the box and not to behave like past boards behaved, awarding contracts that were never executed and bringing so much debt to the commission. I advise that they should be circumspect. They should be careful and manage the funds that come to them. They should be circumspect and frugal in their spending and do what is right for the Niger Delta people.
What is your advice to Bayelsans towards Maxwell Oko’s new appointment?
He is one of us, we should cooperate with him. They should advise him when necessary because no one is a know-all. He needs our advice, he needs our support, and let us give it to him so that he can succeed.