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NEDC and the Nigerian Gordian Knot

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This file photo taken on February 06, 2016 at Mairi village outskirts of Maiduguri capital of northeast Borno State, shows young girls fleeing from Boko Haram Islamists walking past burnt livestock / AFP / STRINGER

The denotations of the word infant would fit the nascent North East Development Commission (NEDC) like a custom-made cloak, for stark reasons. The Commission recently became a reality with the success of its foundational law at the National Assembly. The excitement has been palpable, for finally, the efforts to rebuild a crucial part of Nigeria, commandeered into a theatre of horrors by the largely vanquished Boko Haram terrorist group can now be co-ordinated. But like a ghost at the feast, a stark choice challengingly projects itself from the NEDC`s plate like a poisoned piece of meat: to be or not to be “Nigerian.” The temptations are copious, just as the terrain is treacherous and the issues thorny. For after all, this is Nigeria – a country where corruption contradicts our way of life and daringly defies every meaningful project. If the very noble idea of the NEDC, one chewed with the teeth of concern for the haplessly displaced people of North East Nigeria, which is rebuilding is to succeed, then the hour calls for a decision which must be the product of a decisiveness pregnant with humanity, and barren of politics, nepotism, cronyism and the cancer of parochial interests. It is a decision on who heads the NEDC and the internal culture it must adopt and operate. For, though its day is still young the vultures have begun circling and their hunger is ferocious.

Make no mistake about it. The North East is in rubbles. The back story of its journey to this state of devastation is cast in the notoriously dark shadow of the Boko Haram terror group. The group at the height of its bloodlust headquartered its campaign of death in the North East. Before its days became largely numbered by the unflinching determination of the Nigerian armed forces, it had done incalculable damage to lives and properties; one that would take humongous work to repair. The grim recognition of the amount of work needed informed the establishment of the NEDC as a vehicle for rebuilding and repositioning the North East.

If the NEDC is entirely new in its conception and creation, Nigeria, when it stares at its newest project does not face a blank canvass. There is a precedent; one stretching way back to17 years ago―precisely in 2000― and the Niger Delta region of Nigeria―the golden goose that lays the golden eggs, which has been poorly treated for many years. When the devastating environment disaster dealt the Niger Delta region of Nigeria squealed into the public space amidst accusations of iniquitous negligence, the Nigerian government judged it apposite, practical and pragmatic to establish the Niger Delta Development Commission with the arch-mandate of developing the oil-rich region. Setting about its work in the midst of soaring hopes and stratospheric expectations, the NDDC showed a resolute streak in its earliest days. Straddling fine lines of ethnic tension and savage environmental degradation and deprivation, the NDDC determinedly went about the herculean task of reversing the course of a people`s treasure that had become their curse. This was before it clambered into the cyclopean cancer of corruption. The loss of steam the NDDC freight train endured was swift and severe. Abandoned projects began to litter the region, as one scandal after another rocked successive managements. As a result, long-suffering people of the Niger Delta found themselves wincing from all-too-familiar pains.

Where there was supposed to be respite, recriminations abounded leaving rot in its wake. It can only be cheery news that in recent years, the NDDC has looked towards cleaning up its acts and acting out its core mandates, aided, of course, by an increased political will to tackle the Niger Delta nightmare, increasingly brought to light by a particularly Niger-Delta-minded civil society. The NEDC is poised for a similarly difficult peregrination – one that will see it chart the particularly toxic waters of rebuilding people`s lives and livelihoods. The stakes are indeed very high. Where Boko Haram left rubbles, the people would rightly expect roses. A great portion of the success or otherwise of this unenviable assignment of rebuilding the North East entrusted to the NEDC would largely be determined by its management cadre, staff and all those charged by law with its smooth operations. In appointing and recruiting them, great scrutiny must be exercised to preclude from inception those schooled in the familiarly Nigerian attitude of “business as usual.” As one of the more nauseating offshoots of corruption and nepotism, the “business-as-usual syndrome” has been a ruthless disruptor of national life and progress since the monster of corruption began to mercilessly prod our existence as a country. Public institutions have been rendered a little more than mere conduit pipes for greedily insatiable pockets. As selfless service driven by the sinew of patriotism has suffered from this syndrome, progress and prosperity – those glittering hallmarks of thriving nations – have largely abandoned us. The results of this nemesis-laced abandonment have been sobering: A vicious cycle of neglect, negligence and sheer dereliction has spun a vortex of nightmarish security and economic situations. Of the former, the Boko Haram tragedy is probably the most pernicious example.

Thus, the baby born to clean and rebuild the mess Boko Haram left behind must be kept away from the Herodic hands which abound in Nigeria. In this current state, the people of North East Nigeria can ill afford to travel the paths the NDDC took the people of the Niger Delta before it awoke from its slumber. It is a call to vigilance. All those who have the interests of Nigeria at heart must respond. The North East must be rebuilt so that Boko Haram would be denied a museum for its atrocities.

Obiezu wrote from Abuja.


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