Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
Mr. Hendrick Opukeme is a Niger Delta activist, management consultant spoke to Vanguard on his perception of the government of President Goodluck Jonathan so far want what the President should expect if he does not live up to expectation in the next few months.
As an activist, how do you rate the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who, incidentally is from the same geo-political zone with you?
First and foremost, Jonathan administration speaking primarily of infrastructure development in the Niger Delta has failed. The failure is viewed within the following context: Personal indecision on the part of the President; External intimidation by the northern political elite using boko haram as an instrument of distraction and intimidation; and Niger Delta collaborators within and around the President.
What are you saying – that he has failed?
Let me tell you, today, Jonathan’s personal indecision serves as a disservice to his own ethnic communities because he was not was not prepared for the job and his office has be hijacked by political jobbers and economic hulks masquerading as political supporters.
What do you mean?
Most of the people in and around Jonathan have not been able to direct him properly like was the situation in Abacha Presidency. The issue of Boko Haram was a local issue that could have existed in one or two states in the north, but today, Boko Haram has become an instrument for terrorism against legitimate government and the Christian communities in an attempt to intimidate a sitting Niger -Delta President.
How has he failed the people of Niger-Delta, what is your yardstick?
If Jonathan today cannot develop the Niger Delta region, which President from any other region will do that? Today, there is nothing happening in Niger Delta. Everything has come to a standstill, except the amnesty programme, which to the best of my knowledge has been one of the most remarkable achievements for the Niger Delta ethnic communities.
The point to note is that the Niger Delta insurrection was not because we craved for amnesty programme, but because there was a fundamental error in the Nigeria state. The amnesty programme, therefore, was to sign post development; infrastructure, massive economic empowerment, environment reconstruction, cultural rejuvenation, political development (state creation).
It is my opinion that the Jonathan administration is the least serious of all past Nigeria president in all these issues.
The construction and development of Abuja to Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory was directly financed by the lifting of crude oil from the Niger- Delta by Julius Berger for the period the project lasted.
Therefore, for the same Federal Government to have alleged that paucity of funds has stifled the major project is to say the least, lack of commitment on the part of the Federal Government and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs also headed by one of us.
What are your views on the NDDC and 13 per cent derivation fund?
First and foremost, the NDDC has lost its focus and vitality. Today the people of the region have become disillusioned because the various managements have bastardized the processes and procedures through which the genuine and purposeful objectives of the commission could be realized.
One of the greatest problems of the commission is unwieldy bureaucracy, which has often brought together strange bed fellows for a very critical delivery. The 13 per cent derivation funds have been hijacked by the state governors who have subjected the oil and gas producing communities that are supposed to be the end beneficiaries of the fund to a beggarly status, if not outright seclusion.
Therefore, there has been agitation for direct disbursement of the funds to the communities in the form of Commissions and Trust Funds.
The few governors that actually did this never allowed the commission to operate freely. Today, the oil and gas producing communities are worse off. The only visible thing in the oil and gas producing communities is the presence of the Joint Military Task Force whose business is to protect oil installation.