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The Esther of Ogoniland!

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By Donu Kogbara

NDDC, Interim Management. Akpabio
Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC

THE Federal Government has set up an interim management committee to run the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. The interim committee was inaugurated last Tuesday by Senator Godswill Akpabio, the ex-Governor of Akwa Ibom, former Minority Leader of the Senate and current Minister of Niger Delta Affairs.

READ ALSO: NDDC: Buhari seeks Senate confirmation for Odubu, 15 others(Opens in a new browser tab)

The mandate of the committee is to help create an “enabling environment” that will enable NDDC to undergo a forensic audit that will cover its operations between 2001 and 2019.

Akpabio has quite rightly said that the Commission needs to be cleansed and restructured because “people were treating the place as an ATM, where you just walk in there to go and pluck money and go away…(instead of) looking at it as an interventionist agency”.

The Acting Managing Director is Dr. Gbene Joi Nunieh; and it is because of her that this new development delights me.

I’ve known Joi since we were children. Our fathers were great friends. We are both Ogonis; and I believe that she possesses the intellectual ability, the psychological resilience, the compassion and the courage to do a great job on behalf of ordinary suffering Niger Deltans who are crying out for justice and progress.

Joi- a lawyer, activist and peacemaker who was given the title “Esther of Ogoniland” a few years back because of her keen interest in the welfare of our brethren – is not perfect. But who is? What matters is that I am proud of her and know she has the brains and the guts (she recently persuaded a bunch of scary militants to hand in their weapons) and a heart that is in the right place.

READ ALSONDDC: Interim board necessary to carry out forensic audit – Group(Opens in a new browser tab)

She also happens to be instinctively detribalised. She has warm relationships with plenty of non-Ogonis and will, I think, be fair to all of the ethnic minorities that are part of the NDDC family. The NDDC has long been accused by its numerous critics of being chronically corrupt, lamentably incompetent, cynically politicised and of little use to the constituencies it was set up to assist.

Fingers tightly crossed that Joi keeps her eye on the ball, dynamically addresses the above problems and doesn’t disappoint. Joi is very popular. One of her strengths – which will stand her in good stead when she is trying to communicate with disgruntled Niger Delta communities – is that she is a sociable and skilled networker.

The “Old Porra” WhatsApp group she established for her Port Harcourt chums is livelier than most online groups and has morphed into a thriving beyond-cyberspace club that provides its members with emotional support, advice, amusement and a debating platform.

Many Joi fans from Rivers and other states have asked me to express their gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari on this page for choosing their daughter, sister and friend to play such an important role. So, I’m doing what I’m told and saying: Thank You, Sir!

Atiku’s defeat

ON Wednesday, the Supreme Court confirmed Buhari’s February 23 presidential election victory and dismissed the case brought before it by his main opponent, our former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

I feel very sorry for Atiku because it can’t be easy to let go of a dream; and, having met him a few times, I totally warmed to him as an individual and am convinced that he would have been an effective Numero Uno because he is smart, an entrepreneurial perfectionist by nature and a Citizen Of The World (as in sophisticated, exposed and laudably unconcerned about where people come from).

Looking back, major mistakes were made during his election campaign. For example, he shouldn’t have said that he would sell the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC,…an assertion that led many voters to (understandably but unfairly in my opinion) conclude that he intended to sell it to himself and his cronies for peanuts!

I personally think that selling NNPC would be a marvellous move because government is a bad businessman as a general rule; and NNPC is floundering and a sad shadow of the flourishing company that it would be if it was run by serious private sector executives. But many people regard NNPC as the main gem in Nigeria’s crown; and it’s risky to tell them that you are planning to sell crown jewels because their knee-jerk reaction will be intense suspicion.

They won’t believe that a sale will add value until they see the value. And your enemies will stoke up their suspicions to boiling point. Even I who am usually recklessly straightforward would – if I’d been in Atiku’s shoes – have shiftily kept my mouth shut about the NNPC plan until I had my feet firmly under the presidential table!

Anyway, despite this and other mistakes made by the Atiku campaign, the Buhari campaign effort was also riddled with errors;  and there are plenty of Nigerians who think that Atiku actually won and has been cheated of victory by compromised judges. Atiku himself has accused the judges of being “sabotaged and undermined by an overreaching and dictatorial cabal”.

Whatever the truth may be, nobody is rioting on the streets to defend Atiku’s position, so I guess this is the end of the road.

Garba Shehu, Buhari’s spokesman, has this to say:‘‘…The President and Government of Nigeria do wish to extend our gratitude (to Atiku and PDP) for undertaking their campaign through protestations to the courts. In this regard they have conducted themselves in line with the laws of the country they sought to lead.

“Now, following this final legal bid before the highest court, it is time the country is afforded the right to move on – in the interest of all Nigerians – regardless of how they voted.”

Shehu then listed the government’s priorities – economically empowering the population, fighting terrorism and corruption.

Then he acknowledged the Opposition’s right to hold the administration to account for its decisions (“The governance of a democracy only functions as it should when those checks on the executive are in place – and utilized”).

Kudos to Shehu for issuing such a civilised statement…though some might feel that Buhari’s “fighting corruption” thing is a mirage and that no significant mitigation of our nation’s woes is on the horizon.

By the way, Atiku has bitterly accused the APC government of “undoing almost all the democratic progress the PDP and its administrations nurtured for 16 years, up until 2015.”

Some might feel the PDP was not a fine bastion of democracy – Atiku himself was a victim of some very undemocratic moves when he was the besieged deputy of a hostile PDP President! – and that there isn’t much difference, overall, between APC and PDP.

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