By Etim Ante
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by avoiding it today — Abraham Lincoln
ORO Nation, one of the oil producing areas in Akwa Ibom State, nay Nigeria, is watching with undistracted interest the unfolding scenario in the latest appointment of an Oro-born renowned administrator, chartered accountant and lawyer of high repute, Pastor Effiong Akwa by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ordinarily, one would have ignored some of the issues raised by those calling for the head of Senator Godswill Akpabio for this pacifying and laudable decision taken by Mr. President to strengthen our revered institution at this critical period in the history of the Niger Delta Region and our dear country, Nigeria.
It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to put certain records straight to allow the sleeping dog lie for the common good and the continuous corporate existence of the oil-rich Niger Delta Region and by extension, Nigeria.
Sensitivity of Effiong Akwa’s appointment by Mr. President: In the face of the inglorious drama that characterised the running of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in recent times, we need to resist and possibly avoid undue interference in the ongoing forensic audit of the Commission.
Among other things, this is particularly in consonance with the intolerant disposition of Mr. President towards corruption viz-a-viz the need for proper accountability to consolidate the development strides of Mr. President across the country.
It must be emphasised without reservations that we are very grateful to the President and no less appreciative of the seamless concerns of members of the National Assembly in endorsing this initiative. We state categorically that the choice of Effiong Akwa by Mr. President is a step in the right direction and should be supported by every right thinking Nigerian.
We are confident that Akwa who is very humble and an intelligent person will live up to the expectations of Mr. President and the generality of Nigerians. We also have implicit trust that he will bring his wealth of experience to bear in the smooth running of the institution and will collaborate with relevant stakeholders in stabilising the system for optimum benefit of all.
The patience of Oron people in the face of provocation, gross marginalisation and oppression should not be taken for granted. Granted, every society has strong men and radical youths but we have chosen the part of honour for peace to reign in the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.
We adopt, without the slightest pretensions, the non-violence dispositions of great pacifists like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jnr. We strongly believe this yields better results and creates sustainable auspicious effects.
It is for this reason that we choose the path of dialogue and appeal in addressing this matter, which we believe will not be taken for granted. Because it has been our shared custom, we have chosen to take the pacific and intellectual path of Obong Victor Attah in his famous engagement of the Federal Government of Nigeria in resolving the Onshore/Offshore conundrum.
It is decent to observe that the ultimate victory was not for Obong Attah and Akwa Ibom people but for the entire Niger Delta; and it became a success story because the National Assembly saw reasons and unanimously and patriotically endorsed the concerted steps taken by the contending voices.
The peaceful disposition of Akwa Ibom people in this circumstance does not in any way impose on us a second fiddle status. Rather, we believe in diplomacy for the good of the greater number. While we acknowledge the gallant efforts and the style the youths of other ethnic nationalities in the region have played so far, they should also know and appreciate the roles and the support given to them by other ethnic nationalities.
It should be noted that the Oro and the entire Akwa Ibom people have been giving maximum support to others from the region in matters of appointments and driving of goals. Till date, there is no record of our opposition or mischievous agitation against any other persons from other Niger Delta states who have been privileged with appointments into any capacity or office.
Instead, records are full of messages of congratulation and solidarity, because what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Again, all oil companies presently operating in Oro nation are arguably owned by non-Oro aborigines who have been given conducive atmosphere to do their businesses.
For a fact, our historic support in the emergence of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as Vice President and subsequently, the President of Nigeria, is a proof that our support even transcends socio-economic boundaries to the political realm. We, therefore, deserve and should expect, reciprocal treatment from our other Niger Delta brothers.
We, therefore, view the incessant attacks across all media avenues on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as an affront on the collective sensibility of Akwa Ibom people.
The entire good people of Oro ethnic nationality, the Akwa Ibom people and the good people of the Niger Delta Region should rise and condemn this selfish and discriminatory act which is capable of truncating the peace and cooperation we are enjoying among the youths, women, elders and even the governments of the Niger Delta Region. The humiliation of these Akwa Ibom sons could be construed as pushing Akwa Ibom people to the wall.
Presently, Akwa Ibom is the largest contributor of oil in the Niger Delta. Directly or indirectly, all the five local government areas that make up Oro nation are laden with oil in commercial volumes. Ironically, against the run of play, this is the first time an Oron person has been privileged and impartially considered to occupy the position of a helmsman at the NDDC, even temporarily. It is absolutely necessary for our brothers to sheathe their swords by supporting Effiong Akwa. Let only history condemn or vindicate him by his works at the time of stock-taking.
On the reverse side, Oro people are directly and indirectly suffering the effect of associated environmental pollution arising from oil activities typical of our shared geography. There are no commensurate benefits for the degradation of our environment and the exploitation of land, the total collapse of our ecosystem, the complete extinction of our fauna and flora, etc. Nor can we be so sure of what percentage of Oro persons have enjoyed the benevolence of federal character in the NDDC.
Indeed, no community or ethnic nationality in the Niger Delta has suffered the same oppressive fate with Oro nation. All other ethnic nationalities have occupied one meaningful position or the other, ranging from the President, petroleum ministers, group managing directors of NNPC, ministers of state for petroleum, chairmen of NDDC board, managing director of NDDC, etc. So, why must the appointment of Akwa cause a storm in a teacup as if statistics was too hard to be retrieved?
It is on record that President Buhari earlier appointed a Rivers State person from Ogoni ethnic nationality. Before Akwa, we have had in the last two years names like Dr. Ibim Semenitari, Dr. Akwagaga Enyia, Dr. Joi Nunieh and Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei. Akwa Ibom people never resisted any of these or raised dust. Why then must heaven fall at the singular instance of Akwa?
It is also on record that no political appointee, out of the many so far appointed by the same Mr. President who appointed Barr. Effiong Akwa, has been attacked by any Oro or Akwa Ibom person. Of course, we cannot feign total ignorance of those behind the scene either sponsoring or marshalling the recurrent attacks on Barr. Effiong Akwa.
We cannot be cajoled into thinking that they have monopoly of violence. But they need be told that this is beyond politics and sentiments, but a courageous and discreet balancing of a tilted equation that has lasted for years by President Muhammadu Buhari.
To the contrary, in the face of provocation and mockery, Oro people have decided to remain peaceful, accommodating and yet vociferous in responding to issues like this.
Our hope is that our Niger Delta brothers and those from any region in the country would support Barr. Effiong Akwa as Sole Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission. That in essence invariably means showing solidarity to President Buhari’s holistic template and determination to transform the struggling region.
*Ante, the President General of Oron Union and public affairs analyst, wrote from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State