“Whenever you commend, add a compelling reason for doing so; it is this which distinguishes the approbation of a man of sense from the flattery of sycophants and the admiration of fools.”― Richard Steele
I do not like the present administration. I have never hidden my disdain for the manner in which the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government has piloted the affairs of our motherland, in respect to the how state security apparatus under his watch are being used to harass journalists for carrying out their constitutional duties, intimidating political opponents as well as the nosedive of the economy.
If in times past I have condemned his actions and policies, should I not in his good times commend his action, especially when it touches my root, the very soil I come from? First, he caused the emergence of Obaisi Ovie Omo-Agege to be elected the deputy Senate president and engraved on the sands of time that under his leadership, the Urhobo nation attained their highest political level.
Everything seems to be working for the political good of the South-South under this current administration, but how they maximise it for the benefit of the region will only show its scorecard after four years. For now, Ovie Omo-Agege is right on track, playing the political chess game to the favour of his kinsmen and the region. They never had it this good.
Those familiar with the game of football understand that only skillful players are blessed with scoring of hat trick during their playing days. It sends wild jubilation across the fans once such brace is done. Like soccer, only political maestros have the ability to take three quick successive decisions that go down well, even among political critics.
In less than three months, Buhari has scored a hat trick in the affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). First, he made the commission to be removed from the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government and domiciled it in the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
While the nine oil rich states were yet to catch their breath with excitement, he nominated a board that will be led by the progressive moving Bernard Okumagba as the Managing Director, a man who turns everything he touches to gold. No one has ever faulted Bernard’s nomination as it has been accepted that his appointment is a Daniel come to judgment.
And then came the shocker that could make a new born baby speak. He embraced the political net by sending the names of board members to the Senate for screening and confirmation but rather than leave the board empty without political leadership, he set up a three man interim management committee to oversee the affairs of the board pending when a holistic forensic audit will be carried out from NDDC’s establishment till date.
Anyone who kicks against the forensic audit is worse than a fraudster who does not mean well for the people of Niger Delta. The President has shown his love for the people of the region by this act to carry out surgical audit on the board before Bernard Okumagba will come onboard to start on a fresh and clean note, devoid of the baggage of the past, where the commission became a conduit pipe for political buccaneers, who carted away the monies meant for the development of the region, into their private bank accounts both home and abroad.
There would have been no better interim committee members that would have successfully presided over NDDC and give free room for the auditing firms to carry out their forensic duty than the trio of Dr. Gbene Joy Nunieh as the acting Managing Director, Dr Cairo Ojugboh as the acting Executive Director, Projects and Chief Ibanga Bassey Etang as the acting Director, Finance and Administration.
Those who know Dr Joy readily testify of her royal bloodline with activism running in her veins like her father. The respected Ogoni woman will no doubt be pained at how the NDDC has not lived up to its expectation, with her Ogoni people still living in stone age and the commission past board members using money meant to develop her backyard for personal pleasure.
In holy anger, she will cooperate hundred percent with the auditors, avail them every documents and financial assistance they need to bring the perpetrators and traitors of the NDDC to book. For the few months that she will run the affairs of the board. She has a family name behind her to remind her as she makes every move, a respected name she cannot disgrace.
Dr Joy’s pedigree speaks for her as one that will not come to pilfer the money of NDDC. As the daughter of the late Senator Cyrus Nunieh, she has been exposed to wealth and moral upbringing and has used her services over the years to uplift her people. Mr President must have been divinely told in his dream that there lives a lady christened “Esther of Ogoni”, who cannot be intimidated in the course of her duties by anybody.
The notion that she is a member of the already constituted board and, therefore, should not have been picked to head the interim committee is tales told to babies who cannot decipher wrong from right. If there is anything her addition as a member of the Bernard- led board will do to this new team, it is that the three man committee will be very careful and prudent with funds, knowing that she is coming back to be answerable to her boss, and all the contracts she will give approval to may be probed by Bernard, and if not diligently done, could send her to jail. The President must have known this by making her the head, as one who will steer the ship to the harbour for the Bernard flight to take off to higher heights.
With her inclusion as the acting M.D of the interim committee, Buhari has done noble, even though I hate to admit it.
“Dr. Cairo Ojougboh is the only politician in Delta State who says it as it is. He is not afraid to speak the truth” – Obi (Prof) Joseph Chike Edozien, the Asagba of Asaba, on the occasion of the conferment of the traditional title of Akinuwa Anioma by forty five traditional rulers of Anioma Nation at the Asagba’s Palace.
Those words by the highly respected traditional ruler confirm that Ojugboh, as the acting Executive Director, Projects, onboard the Interim Management Committee of NDDC is a square peg in a square hole. A soldier of truth, a carrier of good news, a man of style and swag, with a high taste for class and beauty, the months that will be spent by Ojugboh in assigning projects to various states of NDDC will remain a reference point for future holders of such position, as man who never tolerates substandard construction both in quality and quantity.
As a dedicated All Progressive Congress chieftain, it is to Cairo’s credit that the Delta State APC became alive and provided a viable opposition to the Peoples Democratic Party’s government of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. Buhari should be praised for critically constituting a committee that has a man of Cairo’s integrity clout, who will give the auditors an enabling environment to perform the butchering of the commission from inception, without hindrance.
It is very important that the new board that will be coming to start as the messiah that will come to redeem the NDDC back to the reason for its establishment. Upright men like Cairo who have found favour in the eyes of Mr President are’ John the Baptists’ that will usher in the way for Bernard and his team. As a honest politician, he was the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on EFCC recoveries, a position that only men without political dirt, men who will not corner public properties to themselves as recovery chairman, are allowed to hold.
The Cairo Ojugboh we know will not be intimidated to do what is not right in the commission or divert the funds of the commission. It is no mean feat that forty five traditional rulers of the Anioma Kingdom gathered to crown him as the Akinuwa of Anioma. It is the attestation of his ability to be steadfast to the truth and what is moral that bestowed on him such rare honour.
To Cairo, service to humanity is a call to duty, devoid of malice and anger. He has never played politics of bitterness, but sees it as a game where winners must emerge and losers join the winners to build. He was the only Delta State APC gubernatorial candidate who attended the victory party of DSP Ovie Omo-Agege which held in Transcorp Hotel. He immediately put behind all that happened behind him to felicitate with his kinsman, sitting on the high table with Ogboru and the Senator.
In summing Cairo’s personality, the University of Benin Medical School award in his honorary citation in 2005 nailed it thus: “His high sense of duty and commitment to results make him treat issues with the required dispatch. He is also a man with excellent public relations and communication skills; a man capable of establishing positive and productive rapport with people, to move things forward. He is a man with ability to maintain steady grace under intense pressure as well as being ever willing to learn”.
With him onboard, Buhari can go to sleep with his two eyes closed, knowing that the three man board will bring good news.
For Chief Bassey Ibanga Etang, his sterling leadership when he was president of the apex socio-cultural organisation of Ekid Federal Constituency (Afighi Iwaad Ekid),is still being talked of as the golden era of the group. As former local government chairman of Esit Eket local government council, and as a two time SSA to ex-Governor Godswill Akpabio on project monitoring, he is credited with monitoring almost all the flyovers and standard roads that were built by the past administration. His wealth of experience in supervising projects is a plus to the NDDC as he did not sign any cheque for payment to any contractor whose work is not certified up to standard.
Every agitation from every quarter should cease. We cannot be seeking for progress and protesting every minute.
Everyone from the Niger Delta should join hands with this new interim committee and give them all necessary support in order to give the Niger Delta a face lift and hand over a brand new commission that we will all be proud of to Bernard Okumagba after this forensic audit.
As the new month kicks off with the leadership of the board, we will hold the acting MD who is a lawyer and an activist to her words delivered during her inauguration when she said, “We’ll get a list of every village in the Niger Delta and also give attention to the disabled and the blind. I consider rural development very important, so we will give attention to the villages. The president has been worried about the Niger Delta region; the amount of money that is allocated to the region and how they are utilised for the development of the region. I welcome you to the Next-Level NDDC. From the end of next month, people of Niger Delta will begin to testify that they have a commission that is responsible for them.”
Ekene Israel, an anti-corruption activist, writes from Bayelsa State.