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By Ake Asked Jnr.


“We have a lot to learn from the beautiful game of Chess. In Chess, as in life, sustaining the initiative is imperative and makes all the difference in the end game. Sustaining the initiative requires vision, deep insight, experience and timely execution of the right moves (plans).” This remains one of the greatest quotes of Obong Umana Okon Umana, the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, which defines his current engagement.

When President Mohammed Buhari announced Obong Umana Okon Umana as the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, he received quite a loud ovation and several nods of agreement. The reason is not farfetched; the president in his characteristic manner went beyond political expediency to look for capacity in transformative leadership, bearing in mind the need to sustain the initiative of actualizing his administration policy thrust enshrined in the MNDA and NDDC.

A cursory look at the minister’s career trajectory further justifies the president’s choice, seeing that he is not just capable but also dependable and stays focused, from scratch to delivery, on any assigned responsibility. He gets the job done without hassles.
That said, it is worthy of note that reforms initiated by President Buhari will leave indelible marks in the region as it will midwife the rebirth of NDDC, geared towards actualizing development and enhancing quality of life of its people.

Few days after the ministerial retreat, the genuine intention of federal government to fast track development of the Niger Delta region has started manifesting. The synergy built between the ministry and commission during that retreat is unprecedented. Hopefully, it will produce a workable roadmap to navigate the two institutions through which the Nigerian state sustains interventionist interface with the people.

The ministry hit the ground running by publishing a ministerial action plan soon after swearing in, forging ahead at full throttle to make impact. This is a testament to the fact that Obong Umana Okon Umana is in his element; an unassailable proof of a life dedicated to hard work and excellence in enterprise. He creates the flame that will drive MNDA’s mandates, some of which include to promote and coordinate policies for the development, peace and security of the Niger Delta Region.

In fact, if MNDA must serve as the primary vehicle for the execution of government’s plans for rapid socio-economic development of the region, if MNDA is expected to attain it lofty objectives to formulate and execute plans and programmes as well as coordinate the activities of agencies, communities, donors and other relevant stakeholders involved in the development of the region, then the minister’s knack for sustaining the initiative is the sure pathway to the region’s infrastructural and socio-economic successes.

It is heartwarming to know that the Mohammadu Buhari-led federal government undertook the ongoing reforms of the NDDC as well as recent reactivation of the suspended NDDC Scholarship Scheme by the Federal Government. Hope is rising again for Nigerians, particularly the people of the Niger Delta region that focus will now be on finding solutions to development issues in the region, developing and organizing skills acquisition programmes for youths and women as one of the ways to develop human capacity.

Considering the huge work that needs to be done against a very limited time, one will agree that the minister’s approach to development in the Niger Delta Region centered on reformation and retooling the NDDC to function optimally will meet the pressing needs of the people thus he needs support from stakeholders in order to sustain the initiative.

Ake Asked Jnr. Writes from Southern Ijaw, Bayelsa State.

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