Friday, 29th September 2023

Tell them, Governor Okowa

By Matthew Agboma Ozah
15 December 2021   |   3:21 am
Institutions go beyond buildings or arenas within which people make policy. There are also the rules of behaviour which influences or guides individuals to make good decisions.

Delta state governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. Photo; IAOKOWA

Institutions go beyond buildings or arenas within which people make policy. There are also the rules of behaviour which influences or guides individuals to make good decisions. Of late, there seems to be potential worrying signals that the good intentions put together in the establishment of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) may by subverted by fundamentally flawed leadership style. This was why Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the other day, chose to pleasantly inform the nation of the distress faced by oil bearing states in a recent mind blowing media interaction in Asaba. He, among others, revealed that the NDDC was operating against the law establishing it to the displeasure and detriment of member states.

The governors position cannot be over-emphasised in these disarticulated times. The facts and figures on parade can only be disputed by those with a hidden agenda. But those who had been clamouring for a human face to be grafted on the NDDC must continue to call for the inauguration of its board. It is a wrong-headed approach for the commission to be running for two years without a substantive board members. If one may ask, how has the commission been meeting with its objectives in the oil bearing areas? The point must be made that constituting a board does not require a rocket science syllabus. But it is wrong using a forensic exercise to propagate innocence and cause undue delay over a people’s development and well-being. Such an attitude is decidedly unhelpful and ought to be condemned.

More concretely, Nigerians need to know that politics has not been idle under Okowa’s administration. Under his watch, the need to curb bigoted behaviour associated with government contracts has become an institution. Just as the complexion of politics has changed from self-enrichment to selfless service to the people. For me, however, the most remarkable part of Okowa’s NDDC displeasure is the task and demonstration of his ability to be on the peoples’ side always. In Britain, during the heated debate about Brexit, Boris Johnson was said to be undecided on which side to support in the call for referendum. Out of that frustration he famously wrote two columns – one for, the other against; and chose the argument he found most convincing. But, in the case of NDDC, Okowa needs not double speak before informing Nigerians once again of the Presidency’s insensitiveness to the peoples’ plight, especially as it concerns Niger Deltans. Of course, it has been the signature tune of the Federal Government to pay lip service to issues concerning the region as it always has its way while the people have their say in lamentation.  What the NDDC needs most at its highest level of policy and executive function is a constituted board in these trying times. This would assist in no small measure to bring the region’s needs abreast with the commission.

Indeed, Okowa was touching as always, when he said, “We have made our position clear as South South governors. We have spoken about how we feel and it is very unfortunate that…states are now being deprived of opportunity of having their representatives on the board…”Despite all the talks, the NDDC continues to be run on irregularities even as it does not enjoy administrative fiscal autonomy. In the face of these aberrations, the NDDC is going on as if the member states were enjoying an unprecedented representation. Indeed, this dismal picture is saddled with a reputation member states had not sought and certainly not enjoying. In a way, the NDDC has become a victim of some political power play, thereby undermining its objectives. Listening to some of the executive utterances, one could be forgiven for thinking they are from space. Of course, their lifestyle furnish on daily basis evidence that anyone so minded would question whether the limit of patience is not overstretched.

To ensure a clear focus on developmental objectives being the reason behind the NDDC creation, the need for oil states’ representatives is very paramount. The lackadaisical attitude to constitute the NDDC board has once again given bite to the endless narrative of poor handling of issues relating to the Niger Delta region. For instance, the issue of gas flare end in the region can best be described as goal post shifting; while oil spills are sometimes explained away as handiwork of vandals. However, one thing that is common among oil companies and the Federal Government is the scramble for oil blocks and to grab petrodollars. That it took several painstaking years of government wrangling and setbacks to put NDDC to law makes it unsurprising that little has been done to allow it achieve its goals.
Sadly, the Niger Delta region is growing ever harder to live and work in. The indices that necessitate the above are not far-fetched: environment degradation, oil companies doing business in the region have their head offices in faraway places, lack of training opportunity for youth in the region among others.  In all these, the ruling government seems to be sending out discordant tunes as it refuses to honour its words that as soon as the forensic report was submitted, the NDDC board would be inaugurated. Such discontinuities between pronouncement and practice are indeed not the best display a democratic government should be seen to be doing. In these hard times, they are not only a grave provocation, they are subversive to development programme of the Niger Delta region.

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