Columns

November 18, 2023

NDDC: Chiedu Ebie To The Rescue, By Tony Eluemunor

NDDC: Chiedu Ebie To The Rescue, By Tony Eluemunor

Ebie

Thursday, 16th November 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu inaugurated the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board with Mr. Chiedu Ebie as chairman, a radical departure from the trend since year 2,000 (23 years ago) when Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan and Mohammadu Buhari, appointed lackeys to lead NDDC.  Mr. Ebie’s appointment is a recalibration of the NDDC, taking it back to what it should have been if it had not been taken hostage by pretenders.

The result, since 2000, has been a disaster foretold. For an interventionist agency that is supposed to help right the over half a century of wrongs Nigeria has visited on the goose that lays her golden eggs, the management of NDDC has always fallen short of the South-South region’s expectation. Yet, the sordid result couldn’t have been different; those who made the appointments were not those who fought for the establishment of the NDDC. And so, those they appointed to head the Commission were their boys (and a madam) who owed allegiance to the Presidents who appointed them and not to the ideals behind the agitations that gave birth to the Commission.

President Olusegun Obasanjo did not sign the NDDC Bill the National Assembly sent to him in 2000 but vetoed it. I was there at the gallery of the House of Representatives the fateful day early June 2000 when it overrode Obasanjo’s veto. House Speaker Ghali Umar N’Abba sat there, his face inscrutable as the stage for that history-making event was being set; it was the first time a President’s veto was being over-ridden in the Fourth Republic. Obasanjo had lobbied and cajoled and threatened but all came to naught as Na’Abba and his revolutionaries – Nduka Irabor, the late Yari Suru Gandhi, Chidi Duru, Chijoke Egoga, Sadiq Yar’Adua, and many others had their minds firmly made up. As the voice vote was ending, Hon. Ned Nwoko walked into the chambers and Na’Abba asked him how he would vote: he answered “yeah”.

A final applause erupted; Obasanjo had been roundly defeated and his plot to rob Paul to pay the same Paul (instead of Peter) had backfired. Obasanjo wanted some monies deducted from the NDDC member states  to NDDC’s purse, yet those states will have no say in how the Commission will be run. Also, he wanted a reduction in the amount of money accruing to NDDC from the oil companies. Obasanjo wanted a much impoverished NDDC.

On 6th July, a week after the House of Reps overrode Obasanjo’s veto, the Senate under late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo’s Senate presidency, followed suit.

As Obasanjo must be Obasanjo and prove petulant, he then refused to inaugurate the Board for good 12 months. Then he appointed Chief Onyema Ugochukwu as the first NDDC Chairman. Ugochukwu quickly set the standards; Obasanjo’s appointees into high NDDC positions fought strenuously against independent-minded state governors. As Ugochukwu fought to push out Orji Uzor Kalu from Abia state Government House, so did Ugochukwu’s successors fight their governors.

Now, President Tinubu has handed over the NDDC chairmanship baton to a man with a background which differs from his predecessors. Chiedu Ebie is not being sent by a radicalized reactionary to NDDC to cut certain state governors to size. As journalists have always added when portraying him, he is in the James Ibori political family of Delta state. Every knowledgeable Nigerian can attest that Ibori hazarded himself the most among his 1999 – 2007 set of governors for the cause of true federalism in Nigeria.

He led from the front every fight for the betterment of the Niger Delta sub-region, supported openly by former Governors Dr. Victor Atah (Akwa-Ibom state) Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Lucky Igbinedion (Edo state) and the late Alamieyeseighia (Bayelsa state. Having been close to these gallant gladiators, who fought lustily for the betterment of the Niger Delta, the issues are not alien to him and the problems can’t prove insurmountable, either.

Mr. Chiedu Ebie, a lawyer, has been prepared by his experience as Secretary to the Delta State Government. And oh, he has the pedigree, too. He had not only been a Commissioner for Education before becoming SSG, his father was a full-fledged Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Benin and was also a Commissioner for Health by 1972 in the Samuel Ogbemudia regime. That was when Ogbemudia was struggling, with the aid of Prof John C. Ebie, Mike Okonjo (the SSG under Ogbemudia) to make Bendel a super state.

The ICT savvy Chiedu Ebie (often called “Digital” by friends) should drive this wholesome dream of his father and Ogbemudia further to help turn around the quality of life of the people of the Niger Delta -5000 communities, in 187 LGAs in nine states within three geo-political zones. Covering an area of some 70,000 square kilometres, the Niger Delta is the largest river delta in Africa and the third largest in

the world. Mr. Ebie is equal to the task; he is an ideas man, grabs concepts easily, seeks novel ways of solving problems, is a great asker of questions, he is broadminded and tasks subordinates in a way that brings out the best in them. So, he has all the ingredients for greatness.

All Ebie needs do is remember that he is the one the South-South has been waiting for since year 2000; someone who identifies with the staunch agitators for a better South-South, a well-funded NDDC, true and fiscal federalism, unlike those before him who were veritable outsiders appointed by those intent on caging state governors and true South-South agitators.

Yes, he should remember that he is a core member of the group that fought for the genuine betterment of the South-South. He should also remember the fragrant memories of his great and widely beloved father and remain his true son – a public-spirited son of the Niger Delta.