Oosi Olisa (Esq), a barrister at law is the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State. he speaks with The Daily Times MEMOYE OGHU on how he restored peace to the once turbulent council in the state
You took over the Caretaker chairmanship of ONELGA more than a year ago. Can you give us a picture of the security situation in the LGA when you took over?
Before the inception of my government, we used to have an ONELGA wherein every day, here and there you hear that 15 or 20 people have been kidnapped; 20 people, 30 people have been killed, beheaded; human bodies littering around the place and rape was the order of the day.
You see a situation wherein a woman would be raped before the husband and the children. All manner of atrocities were being committed there; ritualism and ritual sacrifices were the order of the day; barbarism of any kind.
People took flight, all places shut down, and the place became a ghost town, so much so that people were running away from ONELGA.
But by the grace of God we have been able to arrest all that, so that today we can thumb our chest and say that by the grace of God Almighty, the issue of kidnappings, ritual killings in ONELGA is a thing of the past.
How did you do it?
Oh, it was the grace of God. One with God is majority. Anything you are looking for is from God; God has the solution to every problem.
What we did was to anchor our case on God, sought directives from God, prayed to God and God exposed to us how best to solve the problems, because it’s a human problem and must also be solved by humans.
And of course, I must not fail to tell you that I had the support and still have the support of the governor of Rivers State to do things the way we did it.
I want you to talk about OSPAC?
When you talk about OSPAC, OSPAC is ONELGA Security Planning and Advisory Committee. It’s a body that is made up of youths from ONELGA, volunteers;
the youths that were hitherto considered as bad ones but who had now decided to turn a new leaf, who have appreciated the fact that the killings that were going on there, the kidnappings were not in the interest of the place;
that it was infact detrimental to the jobs, because they were complaining that there were no job placements, that there is no progress there.
We caused them to understand that they were the architect of their own problems and that for the problems to be solved they must join us and turn a new leaf and work for peace and security to be there so that meaningful development can take place, because meaningful development can’t take place in an atmosphere of insecurity.
Having convinced these young people who were ready and willing to listen to us, we went into town to get ex-servicemen; people who had served in the army, Navy, Airforce, Police, you name them. We brought them together.
And also, we went into the traditional institutions and brought in some traditional rulers: brought in some academicians. Infact, the head of OSPAC is an Associate Professor and also a traditional ruler.
We brought him in and caused him to understand what we intend and caused him to kind of subscribe, associate himself with our vision and aspirations.
So, he’s working with us and we’re together. By the grace of God, we dare say that we’ve secured ONELGA because OSPAC is in the entire ONELGA. There is no community now that doesn’t feel the impact of OSPAC.
What was the reception when you were planning OSPAC? Was the reception negative or positive?
Well, I started this thing and by the grace of God, the reception was not quite encouraging. You know, humanity always find it difficult to subject itself to changes.
But over time; we started experimenting first in Omoku, so when it was a story of success, other communities, other clans in ONELGA started clamouring for it. Today, we’ve replicated it in the entire communities in ONELGA.
But we learnt that some political leaders in the area were against you?
Well, you must realise the fact that there are persons too whose interests may be at conflict and at variance with other persons interests.
You see, as our faces vary and differ, so are our world view, our attitude, our philosophies of life, our thinking differs.
There are some persons who didn’t see any light in what we’re doing, who saw it as opposed to their own interests. But ours is that of service to humanity.
We went there and we’re there to serve God and serve humanity. In line with the mandate given to us by the governor, His Excellency, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike who said that we must make sure that the weather there is made clement for businesses to thrive.
So, we’re more interested in making sure that we abide by the directives, the instructions and political views and principles of our principal, who is the governor.
So, we felt that we must do what the governor asked us to do and by the grace of God, we’ve done it and the result now speaks for itself.
How do you feel when ONELGA people trooped out in their numbers to protest against your planned removal by these political masters?
What happened was that while my people of ONELGA desired me to remain, the governor of Rivers state was interested in the well being of the people.
He’s a people-oriented governor who feels for the people; he’s a governor that empathises and put himself in the peoples situation and position.
So, the governor saw the situation and position of my people and felt that he will give them what they want. Ours is a listening governor; he’s not the governor that can’t take advice.
He’s a governor that hears advice and listens and also has a way of carrying out his own independent surveys and investigations.
So, it is the governor’s realisation that this is what will help calm down the situation in ONELGA and above all, protect lives and properties, because the primary responsibility of government is to protect lives and properties. So, the governor merely did what is right for him to do.
Recently, the military raided the criminal hide outs of a notorious dreaded criminal, Don Waney where we gathered that human skulls, decomposing corpses, shallow graves and many others were discovered and security was again heightened in the area. What’s the situation now?
Oh, the situation is normal, ONELGA is peaceful.
What actions did you take to restore normalcy again?
Well, the actions I took were the actions a local government chairman should take. Just acting within the rules of my engagement.
What about the ban on youth bodies in the LGA?
I have not lifted the ban on Egi Youths Federation and Idu/Obosiku Youths Associations, because they were being used by certain persons who don’t want ONELGA to progress. They perpetrate ills and threaten the security of lives and property in the area.
Don’t forget that there are people who profit from insecurity. So, these people who don’t like good things for the ordinary people were using these youths to see how they can foment more problems.
So, we saw it as a very serious and direct threat to the security and safety of lives and property there. So, we’ve to keep them waiting.
For now, their activities have been suspended. When they come to the realisation on the need to have peace reign there; when they understand that when there is peace and security it will have positive impact on them, we can meet again and review the situation.
It’s not a punitive measure. But it’s a measure geared towards causing them to be responsible in their attitudes to life.
They must realise the fact that in as much as they are supposed to be there, their activities and conducts must not be a direct threat to lives and property there.
What would you say are the economic effects of insecurity to the council?
The economic effect is that the IGR is no longer there because you have to get these money from those who do businesses there.
It tries to bring down the economy of the place and it tries to make the place unsafe for businesses. But with what we have done now, businesses have started coming back. There is serious improvement.
How many banks have come back to Omoku?
So far, we’ve two banks operating there and four others have decided to come back. What is only remaining now is for us to hold the last security meeting with the Army, DSS, and Police for them to come in. Some of them have already started preparations to come in.
I have not lifted the ban on Egi Youths Federation and Idu/Obosiku Youths Associations, because they were being used by certain persons who don’t want ONELGA to progress. They perpetrate ills and threaten the security of lives and property in the area. Don’t forget that there are people who profit from insecurity. So, these people who don’t like good things for the ordinary people were using these youths to see how they can foment more problems.