NDDC: There is Hope After All
By Peter Udiong
Dr. Tai Solarin, one of the fiercest critics ever to inhabit this part of the world, once met a group of young Nigerian journalists and came away with a change in his forlorn view that there was no hope for Nigeria. Impressed both with the questions raised by the newsmen (most of them in their 20s), and with what he perceived as their promising outlook, the great Tai gave the interactive session more time than he had anticipated.
Returning to his Mayflower College home in Ikenne, Ogun State, after the encounter Dr. Solarin wrote in his popular Thinking with you column in Nigerian Tribune that he had had a momentous day with some Nigerian youths who gave him a “flicker of hope” about Nigeria which he had thought was beyond deliverance from imminent collapse. He said he had seen a glimpse of the future of Nigeria in the young men and women, which offered some prospects that all wasn’t lost after all.
Recently, after a tour of completed Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) headquarters complex ready for commissioning I became convinced like Tai Solarin that for NDDC it’s not all a dreary reflection in the mirror. If you talk of rotten eggs and ugly patches here and there in the polity, NDDC now protests to be an exception by virtue of progressively fulfilling its mission and President Muhammadu Buhari will on Thursday, 11th March, 2021 inaugurate the newly completed office complex of the NDDC which started in 1996.
Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs is a truly rare Nigerian. He is the sort of Nigerian that the populace seek after. It may still be early in the day, but it could just be that when development history of our time is chronicled, the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, for the sake of analysis, falls into two eras: pre and post Godswill Akpabio. A former governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 – 2015 where he ran infrastructure-driven government as confirmed in one of the official secrets WikiLeaks leaked about the government of Nigeria then, it stated inter alia “Godswill Akpabio was undertaking an infrastructural revolution in Akwa Ibom State and was therefore a politician to watch.”
So the people of Niger Delta Region are expecting him to re-enact the same feat in the Region mostly in Ikot Ekpene Aba Road and Calabar Itu Ikot Ekpene Road which have been abandoned by every successive government.
Starting from the era of OMPADEC, about 26 years ago, NDDC has been operated from rented building paying hundreds of million in rents yearly. On assumption of duties as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio gave the interventionist agency a timeline to complete the headquarters building for administrative convenience and for posterity. Historically, months afterwards, the cradle and pivot for Niger Delta development is ready for commissioning.
This journey was tortuous! He achieved this feat without minding what people wrote, without minding their blackmail and without minding character assassination. This privilege few are attacking Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and by extension, President Mohammadu Buhari with pedestrian lies in order to clog development in the region. The administrator, Barrister Efiong Akwa appointed by the President Muhammedu Buhari is to bring sanity to the agency. But they should know or ought to know that we are not a nation of nitwits or morons. And so, their blackmail and character assassination stands the risk of parading them as stupid and silly. We know from Machiavelli that “Those who profit from an old order will do anything to prevent a new from coming about.” No more business as usual hence, they resorted to blackmail and character assassination! They are the real enemies of Niger Delta people and no amount of after-thoughts can obliterate this. I remember my dear mother, a moral teacher, once said: “In this world three things don’t come back: Spoken Word. Sped Arrow. Lost Opportunity. So, their allegations will trail them every step the same way flies swarm over a sinking sore.
In this exercise, the people of Niger Delta region remains eternally bankrupt in gratitude for the support given to Senator Godswill Akpabio by the President to carry out fundamental changes in NDDC and invent the future of the region. On account of its innumerable benefits, it is time to allow a whiff of fresh air to blow over the traumatized citizens of the oil-rich region.
We can understand, then, the ‘boast’ of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio that “the Region will experience much more development where flyovers and roads will be commissioned by the President. Of these achievements, Chief Edwin Clark declares: “…NDDC as it is today, is moderated by patriotism, determination and has been widely adjudged a success in recent past, not by popular proclamation but by the force of its accomplishments.” It is rare in Nigeria for a public officer to ask to be judged, not by what people say, but by the “the force of his accomplishments.” “For indeed what you do should say who you are, not what suborned or compromised persons may say about you.”
The new NDDC office on its own arraigning the best and most sophisticated facilities the industry can’t deliver including hospital, restaurant, banking and conference hall. What is on the ground at NDDC without a well-trained and dedicated workforce.
A competent corps of staff drives it. My trip to the agency in Port Harcourt brought me face to face with a crop of Nigerians who enthused commitment and loyalty to the spirit and dignity of labour.
Perhaps they are so inclined because they are highly motivated: good pay, deserved respect from management, promotions, periodic training and re-training locally and overseas, conducive work environment, etc.
My discussion with the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and his close aides revealed that despite our depressing ideas about Nigeria, its institutions and those who run them there are still oases of hope we can’t dismiss as chimerical or as a nine days’ wonder.
NDDC’s current profile ought to be lauded the same way we hail the command performance of Governors and Ministers. Correspondingly, we must severely pummel agencies and those who administer them poorly and cause us to finger Nigeria as a failing or failed state. It is such balanced perspectives in critique that would help halt the drift and make all of us shape up for the real transformation.
Finally, Senator Godswill Akpabio has breaks the mould and proves that he is driven by ideology, not self-interest and for daring odds to thread where angels fear to tread, he will always triumph over his opposition because the silent majority is always behind you.