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Amb. Sam Edem’s ‘Indictment’ Of Niger Delta Governors


“Have the governors of the Niger Delta States ever sat down to draw up a peculiar master plan or combined efforts to benefit from the oil and gas sector in the region?” – Amb. Sam Edem, October 16, 2019.

Left, right and centre; from North to South; from East to the West; home and abroad; the verdict is the same: The Niger Delta region is a shadow of itself. It cannot justifiably account for the said much invested in it. It has been robbed. And there appears to be no sentiments in that unanimous assessment. Most appalling perhaps may be the fact that the region has been robbed by her very own, those issuing form her womb who were supposed to protect it from external aggression by typical Nigerian endemic corruption and ethnic politics. There is obvious scarcity of logic to argue to the contrary.

But how ridiculous and sad it must be that, largely for reasons of who occupies the office of Minister of Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA) or Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the political party he belongs at a given time, critical stakeholders from the region always to be looking at matters affecting the zone with blurred binoculars of politics. Yet, the fact remains, and it is unarguable, that from the protracted birth of the NDDC by the President Obasanjo administration in 2000 and corresponding creation of the Niger Delta Ministry by late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua in 2008 respectively, all ministers and chairmen of the Commission have been indigenes of the oil-rich region of provocative and chronic poverty.

Tangentially, it implies that whenever and however the story of the controversies bothering on the stunted growth and development of the Niger Delta shall be told to posterity, against all genuine and pretentious efforts that were made by successive administrations at changing its pitiable situation, a chapter shall be dedicated to how leaders from the zone conspired against its growth in seeking their selfish personal gains.

Otherwise, 19 years were long enough for tall legacies; for leaders from the region to have presented a common front beyond grandstand rhetoric and sanctimonious remonstrations and demand for patriotic commitment devoid of politics from whoever had occupied or is privileged to occupy strategic offices that were supposed to better the lots of the people of the delta. If you study the Nigerian narrative very well, it is easy to foresee that in the final analysis, people from the region shall be mocked more than they are mocked at the moment.
History bears witness to the fact that, the open struggle that ultimately led to the creation of both the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta had come more as a result of the selfless, risky and sustained agitation by those who never may have held any statutory strategic positions of leadership in the region and the country, say like governors or presidents. The fight for emancipation of the region has always been borne by the disregarded men from the creeks who are directly and repeatedly bombarded by literal bullets and figurative missiles of privation and deprivation by the very ones who have unconscionably been raping the region since 1958.


Overtly or covertly, directly or indirectly, implied or in real terms, the agitation for the emancipation of the Niger Delta, which would later manifest in the tactical and grudging creation of States that subsequently would form today’s South-South geo-political zone, dates back to time and comes in phases starting from the 1953 political crisis in the former Eastern House of Assembly where a section had sought, by the inspiration of chauvinism and ethnic majority, to decimate the so-called minorities. The fallout of the segregation, maybe, was the pace-setting demand for the COR State.
Soon after, Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro led the struggle for the creation of independent Niger Delta during Ironsi’s administration. Then came Ken Saro-Wiwa and the famous Ogoni Nine who paid the supreme price on November 10, 1995 and latter-day agitators who even violently demanded for justice and equity for a region that almost singlehandedly feeds the entire country. Names like Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, Mitee, Government, Ateke Tom, etc, gave the struggle a new face that immensely contributed to the creation of the NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta. It is therefore a big shame that such hard-earned victory has been taken for granted by those who have had opportunity to administer the region.


These facts cannot be swept under the carpet. Not a few analysts have argued that the greatest hindrance to the emancipation of the Niger Delta through integrated development are those from the region who have had ample opportunities to have changed the storyline. In a recent interview with the pioneer Chairman of the NDDC, who in all fairness, to the best of his ability, justified that appointment with his visionary models, Ambassador Sam Edem, he did not speak tongue in cheek about the huge and infectious disappoint that the NDDC has become over the years. To him, it is an avoidable misgiving he bravely and unequivocally would place at the doorstep of leadership and governors from the zone.


One of the burning issues we presented to him in the interview was why Nigerians of northern extraction are known to have dominated the ownership of oil wells in the Niger Delta. With patriotic sentiments of true a statesman, the carrier ambassador and war strategist turned the nozzle against us with questions that were intended to be rhetorically self-examining: “It is only in the church that you go and stretch your hand out for communion and get it free. In life you have to fight for everything you need. How much have our people fought to get oil wells in the Niger Delta? I strongly believe that if you made the right contacts and moves you get what you desire. You cannot fold your hands and expect miracles”.

The former ambassador’s next remarks was a thunderbolt that got everyone in the cosy sitting room put up a thinking cap: “Have the governors of the Niger Delta States ever sat down to draw up a peculiar master plan or combined efforts to benefit from the oil and gas sector in the region?”. However, to the credit of the celebrated diplomat are the Niger Delta Master Plan and the original voice behind the idea of amnesty programme for repentant militants, amongst others. Investigations have shown that Niger Delta governors never for once mulled the idea of disregarding politics and pulling resources together to create something peculiarly identifiable with their developmental concerns for the Niger Delta people.


To wit, it would have made a world of sense if all Niger Delta State governors, on their own, in effective collaboration with the Ministry, the NDDC and relevant IOCs, pulled resources together to float one functional and sustainable industry or vocational centre where youths in the region were employed, trained and empowered to become self-reliant. Leaving everything to politics and depending solely on the NDDC or the Minister at the mercy of a tight-fisted and calculative federal government to develop the area do not portray clairvoyance of 21st century self-determining leadership with eyes on altruistic legacies.


What hurriedly come to mind at this juncture are the inerasable footprints of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. His vision, selflessness and peculiar blueprint today make the Yorubas kings and queens in Nigeria’s socio-political eco-system. Nor can we forget in a hurry the impact of the famous Groundnut Pyramid that was lifeblood to Kano’s lasting, enviable renown across generations.


Beyond fleeting mercantile benefits, many who are worth their names today in these places in the north and west cannot deny the effect of such well-managed times in their autobiographies. Former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah’s fight and victory over resource control against the dreaded “Federal Might” comes next line in the discourse of regional emancipation when leadership entrusts such benevolent opportunity to us. But today, Niger Delta governors hide under politics to trade excuses.


Judged by gross lack of evidence to the contrary, Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders tend to have abandoned the growth and development of the Niger entirely to the NDDC or whoever occupies the office of Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. Worst still, if such a fellow were unfortunate to belong to a different political divide. Leaders of the zone tend to be more interested in finding loopholes to launch blames and counter-blames, to accuse and counter-accuse, than in seeking possible areas of growth that would have made for collective gains. Amb. Sam Edem’s concerns must be taken as a wake up call than an indictment.

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