By James ABANG
Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was a result of years of struggle by oil producing communities to have a fair share of the oil wealth produced from their domain.
The Region produces the oil wealth that accounts for the bulk of Nigeria’s foreign earnings. Paradoxically, however, these vast revenues barely touched the Niger Deltans. All their expectations from government and oil companies operating in the region have remained frustrated.
While many, especially the youths took to arms, others embraced dialogue. They produced charters, declarations, agenda and resolutions to express their demands. These began with the Ogoni Bill of Rights in 1990 and the Kaiama Declaration by Niger Delta youths, containing “100 reasons why we want our resources”. In Akwa Ibom the Oron Bill of Rights in which the Oron people resolved to take their destiny into their own hands came into being. There was also the Warri Accord in which the Itsekiri people of Delta State sought ways to maximum benefits from the oil production in their area. And many other struggles.
The aggregate of these and voices from the international community forced government during the Obasanjo Administration to consider establishment of NDDC with a mandate to develop Niger Delta.
But ironically since inception of NDDC in 2000 those that have been given opportunities to execute the above mandate have been hounded by a ghost which closed their eyes to NDDC Core mandate.
What every appointee of NDDC from cleaner to chairman of the board has always done is to see their appointments as an anointing to take over from their respective state governors in the “next election”. Under that illusion, they resort to series of uncoordinated, spontaneous and sub-optimal projects and decisions with a view to actualizing their governorship illusions. Meanwhile their jobs and the people suffer. This has been the case since inception, board after board.
Therefore when Sen Ndoma Egba led board took over with Obong Nsima Ekere as MD, this writer was happy that for once a team has come to NDDC who would for the first time implement the mandate of NDDC for the benefit of the people. I still have faith that the team is solid with relevant qualifications, experience and discipline to deliver on that mandate.
Speaking with Vanguard News shortly after his inauguration, Obong Nsima Ekere said the new board will work with partners to create a new narrative for NDDC and return to the core mandate of the commission which is regional development.
This writer has not the slightest doubt that Nsima Ekere would deliver on that promise.
But in doing this he must strongly resist the ghost that has hounded previous board members. From what I have seen of late it seems to me that ghost is on the prowl.
The first sign that the destructive and distractive ghosts have arrived was a few weeks ago when I read an article published by APC purportedly written by one Nsikakabasi Edemekong titled “NDDC Projects: Why Udom Emmanuel Is Jittery”.
The article shamelessly implied that 375 projects for which billions would be spent were hurriedly put together purportedly to make Udom jittery (whatever that means) rather than painstakingly targeted at serving the people’s needs.
This is usually how they start to create confusion.
If I thought that one was absurd, the next one was an enigma. This one was titled
AKSG Vs. NDDC: The Dog in a Manger Mentality
In paragraph 6 of the said write-up which was also published by APC the writer brazenly and foolishly implied that people are trying to mess the “POLITICAL GAINS” Obong Nsima Ekere’s new projects sought to achieve from NDDC Contracts Award. See below extract:
“…But instead of situating the contracts and jobs done in their proper time and circumstances, they brought in Obong Nsima Ekere into the fray, all in a bid to pre-empt the likely political gains the MD would make of the new wave of contracts in the state”
Political gains? For God’s sake we want to talk about people’s satisfaction, people’s appreciation of the Buhari led FG through NDDC projects/programs, not some phony political gain of one person. Any discerning mind would know that these dangerous, ill-informed and self seeking sociopaths behind these publications can’t mean well. All they want is creating tension which would bring them in to secure contracts purportedly to push one political ambition or the other. This is the same path they have guided all previous unsuccessful boards of NDDC.
Another terrible one was that by a group that introduced themselves as Independent Akwa Ibom Media who published a screaming headline
“Nsima Ekere’s NDDC of Fraud”
When you read it you find out it was a loud sounding nothing just to tarnish the image of the MD who is by all means a high value Akwa Ibom son.
All these nonsense only create tensions and deny the state the synergy that could result from cooperation between the state and federal appointees for the benefit of the state.
Judging from what Nsima Ekere himself said, the only way NDDC can succeed in its task of developing the Niger Delta is through partnerships with the respective state governments, oil companies and other stakeholders within the region. They should take a cue from Obong Umana Okon Umana’s handling of the Free Trade Zone and Engr Ben Ukpong of National Population Commission. Unlike previous boards, members of this board should forge partnerships within and beyond their immediate states of origin to deliver on their mandate rather than the self limiting practice of allowing themselves to be used by these sickly elections seeking ghosts.
Nobody says rehabilitating roads in Ewet Housing is not good but it does not deserve the attention these ghosts sought to portray.
Drafters of NDDC Mandate documents knew something very vital – they didn’t need to say it that in the documents that NIGER DELTA IS POPULATED BY NEAR SCRAPS OF HUMANITIES WHOSE MEANS OF LIVELIHOOD HAVE BEEN ERODED BY OIL EXPLORATION ACTIVITIES. But they handed over a great opportunity through NDDC for a total ECONOMIC REHABILITATION of the region. But no Board of NDDC to date has seized that glorious opportunity. The Ndoma Egba led NDDC Board has opportunity to write its name in gold by making NDDC relevant to the needs of Niger Deltans for the first time since inception. They can do these through cooperation, exchange of ideas, joint needs identification and partnerships with their state governments rather than what has become traditional tensions between the respective board members and their states of origin.
Drafters of the core mandate felt our pains and therefore introduced a clause in item 2 in the document setting up NDDC which clearly said:
“Conceptualize, plan and implement, …projects and programs for sustainable development of the Niger Delta area…”
The emphasis is not only on projects like roads but programs as well. This involves coming up with tailor-made programs and/or projects that would assist Mrs. Susanna Ofume of Aniocha South LG in Delta State, a widow with 7 children whose farm at Aniocha village can no longer produce (because of effect of oil exploration) to recover some form of livelihood to enable her feed, put a roof over the head and train her children in school thus preventing them from becoming fodders for militancy. It doesn’t matter whether the program is micro lending, grant or conditional cash transfer so long as it leapfrogged Mrs Ofume out of poverty and many others like her.
It also involves liaising with Amaebi Nwokike from Yenagoa who read petroleum engineering but is in detention because he developed what the authorities termed illegal refining process and activities at Otuoke. Amaebi and his likes within the region should have an opportunity to explain their inventions and if possible be assisted to expand on it to create jobs for himself and other youths within the region to calm restiveness. NDDC has what it takes to create such opportunities.
Uliong Essekak and his two friends Nsima Tai from Ikot Abasi and Kayode Babalola from Ondo State who came together many years ago to buy “ubom sakokpe” for fishing business at Inuabasi in Mbo LGA but could no longer catch fish because of environmental challenges in their area of operations should have access to an alternative, like fish farm, using the strength of their partnership and experience if the board create a path where such ventures can find vents. This should be the spirit of NDDC and not a platform for politics.
People are tired of politics. People want to see service, they want to see creativities. The type of creativity that could see NDDC partnering with states, for instance, to develop low cost Housing Estates and made affordable to the likes of Mrs Ofume. After all the same money is used to resettle somebody in North East who was displaced by Boko Haram for free. How much less someone displaced by oil exploration? Luckily this is the field of the current MD.
All over the world people are reacting against over politicization. People are revolting against political establishments. In Arab Spring, many of the established governments were toppled in the Middle East. In Brexit, the British voters disgraced all the mainstream parties. Same in France as late as last week. In US the people trumped the political establishment and brought Donald Trump. In India and Indonesia, the voters elevated promising provincial chiefs to premiers in 2014, both of whom coming from poor backgrounds.
And it is just the beginning. Across Europe and elsewhere in the world changes are happening to the post-WW2 coalitions and political arrangements.
Everywhere, there is an anger against politicians. Anger against the status quo. Like in the late 18th century, this is the worst time to be a part of the political elites.
People around the world have gotten tired of everything being politicized. They have existential worries about their economic status, their future and that of their children. Everything cannot be politics.
While this writer is not against anyone’s political ambitions, he is of the opinion that politicians should begin to put service first and foremost rather than use every platform for politics.
Abang Writes From Atte-Okiuso Village, Urueoffong/Oruko LGA.