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Uduaghan: Grandeur of a new vision

Stephanie Caudwell
Not too long ago, as I was preparing to go over to Alberta for a meeting where I was billed to speak to a group of tar sand workers, 1 rummaged through my notes again dealing with my research into oil and politics in different parts of the world.

As I rummaged through my notes, I was reminded of some of the enduring thoughts about my study during my initial research into the problems associated with oil and governance In the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. A sudden illumination dawned on me.

It was the kind which was not there when I was doing this research on the Niger Delta. To be sure, a lot has been written and broadcast in the international media about the Niger Delta crisis but as you would imagine most of what has been broadcast in the media of the west has been very parochial and self-serving. One can of course understand why this is the case.

The problem in the Niger Delta, like the problems all over the third world, is seen in the West from the perspective of what the west wants to gain from this region. In the case of the Niger Delta, the obvious is the case. The west sees the problem of the so-called militancy from the perspective of the continuous flow of oil to Europe and America and everything else is colored by this consideration.

Going through my notes therefore, I was thrilled to unravel and then question some of the assumptions that I have made when I went into the research in the first place.

However, as someone working for an NGO at the time and now, there are times when one gets this sense of apprehension, which was what happened to me as I prepared to go to another location of the world where there was some environmental concerns about oil exploration.

I took these notes while I was researching the crisis in the Niger Delta as part of the initiative of the Oil for Good Governance (OGG), an NGO based in Canada, and with affiliates in South Africa, the UK, US and Norway. These notes set me off on a path of reflection, some of which I never thought would happen.

I began to think about the period between September 2007 and December 2008 when I was assigned to study the rather new administration of an incumbent Governor of the part of the volatile Niger Delta region that is administratively called Delta State. Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan had only just taken office.

His administration was barely 6 months old, yet the matter at hand was very grievous and we were looking to know if he had any handle on the grave concerns of the people of this State and of the region as a whole. As I went through my notes on that day, I could not help but feel the good intentions of the new Governor but 1 also wondered if these good intentions can indeed be translated into good deeds.

For after all, good intentions do not have winds to fly. They are made to fly by the will and capacities of those who are given the mandate to make them work. In the case of governance, especially in a situation where the crisis of governance has festered for such a long time, even good intention is anything but mere thought.

I soon came to the conclusion that only an active and altruistic involvement of those who have some stake in the matter of good governance can actually make things work in all such situation. Delta State of Nigeria was for me then and now a classic test book case.

The question that I pondered about at that time was: can this governor make things work again for the people of this administrative geography? How does he hope to do this in this cesspool of festering animosities that have been building up over fifty years of oil exploration and the marginalization of the people under whose feet the source of national revenue is mined?

Can he give a democratic dispensation that would be conducive to the development of the human and material resources of his people? My reference to the term democracy needs some clarification at this point because it is a word that has come to mean different things to so many people. And for scholars from the so-called third world, the word is itself a contested terrain.

But here I mean to use the word to denote any form of representative governance which is sensitive to the yearnings of the underprivileged, the vulnerable and those who have very little say in the actual day to day activities of the Government after the elections are fought for and won.

I use this word in this context to refer to a system of government that is fair and equitable to all irrespective of political and cultural affiliations.

There is indeed a big crisis in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. There is no denying that fact but the crisis has to be situated in the context of each and every part of the Niger Delta and in different and peculiar ways. The crisis does not affect all the part in the same way.

This must be understood in order to provide adequate solution to the very root cause of this crisis in a very selective way. It is in this regard that I am trying to understand the ways that the current Governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, has been able to deal with this crisis in the last two years since he took over the helm of power in the State.

In other words, I am trying here to understand how this governor has been able to maintain a certain sense of calm and tranquility in the State in the last 24 months even when there is heightened tension in the region. Let me now do so by examining three of his public papers-that is speeches which he gave at different time in the course of his governance so far.

I will do this in the background of the very complex social and political problems that the Governor inherited at the outset of his administration, and the ways he has sort to get out of this political and economic quagmire.

All be it, let me say then that in the last two years, he has been able to reassemble the Delta Union into a viable and peaceful one, asking all and sundry to be part of governance of the State. Indeed, he has pointed to the direction that people in the State must take in order to form a future that everyone would be part of, one that will be the envy of the nation and of the world.

He has done so because he has a firm grasp of the crisis of the oil-rich region and its historicity. Justice, as the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, once said is the first condition of humanity.

Dr Uduaghan understands this aphorism very well and has made it one of his administrative pillars. But he also understands that justice is the perquisite for peace and security.

He has fought hard to make this possible in the last two year. Justice is what supervises and sustains social and human capital development. In this regard, he has truly found a way out of what many political scientists refer to as the “resource curse theory,” which argues that everywhere there is oil or any other mineral resource for that matter, there is bound to be trouble-plenty of it.

According to this theory, this is especially true in third world counties where good governance is often lacking.

Governor Uduaghan is changing all that. He has outlined his plan for a Greater Delta in a cogent and very forthright manner from the very beginning of his administration, and has carried through some of this program. In the speech which he gave shortly after his inauguration as governor on August 27, 2007, he talks of “a Greater Delta State” anchored on a three point agenda, which will “produce a new vista of development” for everyone and not for the few.

He outlines the three point agenda as “peace and security, human capital and infrastructural development.” He points to novel ways of achieving these goals with an eye on history as his teacher.

This speech which is very pointed and very well articulated also recognizes the role of the youth in the developmental process. He let it be known that he is interested in bringing the youth into his administration and will be engaging them “in a constructive way.”

In this grand plan for the Greater Delta, which in some ways resembles the Marshal Plan of the US after the Second World War, Governor Uduaghan vision includes “increasing micro-credit at the grassroots through the promotion of cooperative societies and gainful engagement of women in worthwhile economic ventures.”

•Dr. Caudwell (PhD), a Canadian, who teaches Political Science at the University of Alberta, Canada, is an executive of oil for good governance (OGG) based in Canada with offices in South Africa, the UK, US and Norway.


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