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NDDC Is Determined To Change The Narrative

...Our Projects Will Meet Global Rating

Apostle Abasiandikan Nkono is the Akwa Ibom State Representative on the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The seasoned administrator takes on his duties in the interventionist agency as someone on a missionary journey, totally committed to changing the narrative in line with the Commission’s mandate.

His depth as a socio-political and economic analyst easily comes to the fore when he dissects issues. In this exclusive interview with our editors, the renowned grassroots politician, cleric and philanthropist speaks on a wide range of interesting topics, covering Akwa Thom State, the Niger Delta region and Nigeria as a whole. It is a must-read. Excerpts:


Let’s meet

My name is Abasiandikan Nkono. I attended about four primary schools because my father was a government official then, but I ended up at Urban Central School, Ikot Ekpene, where I passed out with a First School Leaving Certificate. Thereafter, I attended Ibiono High School, Edem Urua in Itu then, but presently in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area; later, I joined the School of Arts and Science, Uyo, and then the University of Lagos. Two years after graduation, I relocated to Akwa Ibom State and started pursuing my career both in private life and in public space.

I got my first political office with the assistance of a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, His Excellency, Chief Godswill Akpabio. I was appointed Vice Chairman, of Eket Local Government Area, where I had the privilege to serve as Supervisor for Education and Supervisor for Works, then Agriculture and Natural Resources. I left my imprints in each of those positions. My performance became a reference point at the time. It was during my time that I engaged 88 women who used to clean up the roads, making Eket a very clean city. Youths were also engaged in the desilting of gutters to keep the city clean and green, and the then-governor urged other council areas to emulate what was going on in Eket. That was a job executed with less than N500,000 monthly, and since I left, such a thing has never happened again in that city. I did that job selflessly. At a personal level, I also engaged in the publication of magazines.

I also served as a project supervisor under the Udom Emmanuel Government, but I resigned after three years, and I received some bashing from some of my friends in government for opting out. Life is about taking risks, and I did what I did believing that tomorrow will be greater. I have had a stint in the NDDC as an assistant manager and, in between, contested elections as both council chairman and State House of Assembly member but lost both owing to the terrain we found ourselves in. I observed that the mercantile spirit is high, and materialism is destroying our politics. Our people place money above all other considerations in politics. We need to change the narrative. After the failed election saga, it was not easy for me as things became rough before my latest appointment as a commissioner in the NDDC, representing Akwa Ibom State, and that is where we are now.

What has it been like since you resumed here as the state NDDC representative?

This office has made me appreciate the enormous challenges people like my boss, His Excellency, Senator Godswill Akpabio, president of the Senate, are going through. He is one man with extraordinary grace. I have seen a little of what he goes through every day. The kind of pressure that comes with public office is tasking, but when I look at the way he copes effortlessly, I advise myself to tap into his grace. In the last eight months, I can only give God all the glory. The requirements are so high, and it demands discipline and love to cope with people. Public office is transient, just like life, so it is expected of every occupant to do their best to assist the people. You may not please everyone. However, we have been doing our best. The office itself has so many challenges. I have just called a meeting of contractors handling NDDC’s projects in Akwa Ibom State for next week.

The meeting is necessary to ascertain the number of completed, ongoing and abandoned projects and to know what to do next. And in some cases, process payments depending on the category to which the cash belongs. We need to do that because we know that most of them have secured facilities from banks to execute these projects. We are working for the people and will not allow them to slip into despair because they worked for NDDC. The state office has a robust relationship with the board, management and even our staff, and we are doing more to boost the morale of our workers, depending on the available resources.

In the recent past, the Akwa Ibom government hasn’t had a smooth relationship with the NDDC. What is the situation presently?

The greatest commandment in the Holy Bible is in Matthew 22:37–39: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” And who is my neighbour? It is you and every other person. You don’t need to be biologically related to someone to experience his or her benevolence. When you are opportune to be in government, you have to help as much as you can. Your leadership must reflect the fear of God and love for humanity. Ego was the order of the day in the last government, and that did not take us anywhere. The biggest losers were the Akwa Ibom people because the money that would have been deployed for the public good must have been spent unnecessarily on the defence of positions or litigation. It is a known fact that more money is wasted during a crisis than in peacetime. I am a principled person and thank God, we have a man with the fear of God as governor. On assumption of duty, he has shown love to pensioners by paying gratuities and pensions, and that got my heart. He has human sympathy and has practised what God directed: that we love our neighbours the way we love ourselves. Again, he won’t be governor forever. Secondly, he took off fantastically well in education. If I have the opportunity to be governor, I will upgrade the public schools so much that no parent will ever send their children to private schools. I will ensure that the quality of education and facilities in public schools are not compared with what is obtained in any private school.

I went to Christ the King School to see things for myself and also visited a primary health centre in the Nsit Atai Local Government Area to appreciate what the governor is doing. He is not just doing good jobs but with quality materials, and that is what is expected from a good leader. He has brought tangible political inclusion via bipartisan politics into his government by embracing other political parties. He has high regard for Mr. President and gives him his due respect. He also acknowledges the vital position of the Senate President and, as an indigene of Akwa Ibom, gives him his due regard and respect. He acknowledges that our son is holding that revered position and must be given maximum support regardless of political party affiliation. He is a very humble man, very unassuming and relates very well with everybody, both the rich and the poorest of the poor. He is one man who knows that life is transient and political office too. The word of God says, Humble yourself under the mighty hands of the Lord so that. He might exalt you in due season. And I believe the humility of the governor brought him this far. I pray he sustains it.

Read Also: A’lbom NDDC Rep. Hails Tinubu, Akpabio, Eno On Democracy Day

The public perception is that jobs handled by NDDC are either poorly delivered or abandoned. What is your take on this?

That perception may be because of the way certain foundations were laid. But I can assure you that the present board, led by Mr. Chiedu Ebie and efficiently run by Dr. Samuel Ogbuku as Managing Director alongside others, is here to change the narrative. At several fora, they have made the world aware that NDDC no longer operates on a transactional basis but now operates on a transformational scale. We are out to optimise our models as an interventionist agency and ensure the completion of any job awarded by this new era with a serious monitoring team that oversees the progress of any awarded project at every stage. The emphasis is to ensure the usage of quality materials and the delivery of jobs with specifications on time with a good result. Our proposed meeting with contractors is in tandem with the mandate to address every challenge and close all loopholes to see the efficiency. delivery of projects within the allotted. time; there is no room for persons who cannot deliver jobs and zero tolerance for failure and uncompleted projects. The board is building an agency that people and financial institutions will be proud to deal with and honour all our obligations.

The managing director has always assured that his mantra is to build quality signature projects in the Niger Delta. How does this reflect on the people of Akwa Ibom State?

From time to time, he has been talking about projects that will attract global acclaim. In our earlier meetings, we had resolved that the new board must stand out and be a complete departure from the past. In NDDC, we have resolved to do projects that are globally rated. Don’t worry about Akwa Ibom State; they will have their fair share of the projects. We are also building a sprawling permanent site for the agency here in addition to other projects; we will soon move over there.

Apostle Abasiandikan Nkono

Senator Akpabio Is Exemplary In Human Empowerment

…He Is Rare Gift That Comes To The Human Race Once In A Long Stretch

You had closely worked with Senator Godwill Obot Akpabio in the past. How will you rate his performance in the last year as the President of the Senate?

The Senate President, His Excellency, Chief Godswill Akpabio, is a special, rare gift that comes to the human race once in a long stretch. That is why I sincerely pity people who fight him because they don’t know what God has given them. This is a man who thinks about others more than himself. For every 10 discussions I have with him, eight have to do with human empowerment and development. As Senate President, he has empowered so many people with jobs; many have received employment letters, and I see very young people working in juicy firms. Akpabio has given thousands of people employment. He has made these appointments across ethnic groups too. In Akwa Ibom alone, thousands of people have collected letters of employment, but many kept their lips sealed. In terms of human empowerment, Senator Akpabio stands out. I sincerely thank God for his life and pray for such grace to reach out to others. He has the confidence of Mr. President and has represented the President in so many events, especially the very important ones. At the National Assembly, he has stabilised the place and ensured that it is peaceful and rancour-free. In just one year, he has done so well.

What are the criteria used by the NDDC in the allocation of projects to states covered by its operations? 

It is mostly quota that determines what goes to states, but you cannot overlook the area of interest. If you are the managing director, you will also want to attract the best to your area, just like a governor would want to do. There is competition. Therefore, the criteria include using quotas and, secondly, the comparative advantage of such a project, which X-rays the acceptance of such projects and their economic value to those concerned. These are the considerations before starting projects, like the current operation Light Up the Niger Delta, which we know is appreciated by everybody. A few weeks ago, we were in Abia State, a very interior area, and the whole place is now lit up. People hardly know when it is day or night there, and they run their businesses freely. In Akpasak Estate, where I reside, the whole place is lit up, people discuss and move freely up to 2 a.m., and the glory goes to God and the NDDC.

So many good things are coming. I will make it public once the job letters are officially released. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but you can rest assured that good projects are coming. Higher institutions and Youth Corps members will benefit from what is coming. Also, roads and solar-powered water will come. I am the chairman of the Environment Committee of the Agency, and we will soon kick-start activities. You know that what is under the environment is quite large, so many things will take place. I am happy for the synergy between the NDDC and the Akwa Ibom State government. After our inaugural meeting, we will begin to set a template for the nine states of NDDC operations, and I will ensure that my state benefits very well. We will sit down with the state commissioner for the environment to see the best way we can intervene. The state and people will be better off for the synergy and cooperation.

With the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway under the present federal administration, what is the fate of the East-West Road, which is yet to be completed? 

There is nothing to worry about; the projects carry indices of development, comfort and transformation. Even though the East-West Road construction has been awarded and is still ongoing, the coastal highway, in the magnanimity of Mr. President, has come to stay. Both are to make life easy and the movement of humans and goods less stressful. In terms of execution and delivery, the coastal highway is different from the existing East-West Road. The federal government should be encouraged. The beautiful thing is that the project will start in Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States simultaneously. The president is very sincere about the completion and approached the construction of the project from both ends. The quality of the project, too, is top-notch and will stand the test of time. The quality of the project is guaranteed, and not even one of the specifications will be tampered with; the same standard will run through the entire length, and again, the project is designed to last for years. Once achieved, one can freely travel from here to Lagos with ease; it will cut down on the on the cost of flying to Lagos from here or coming from Lagos.

You are an appointee of the Federal Government, and it is glaring that the nation is battling with serious economic challenges. What is your take on the current situation? 

Thank you for the question. For me, I see President Tinubu as a man with guts. There was a time Nigeria was importing ice cream, tissue papers and toothpicks, and I asked myself, How can we survive with such behaviour when we have raw materials here to produce these items by ourselves? However, Nigerians will soon appreciate the enormous jobs the President is doing to turn around the economy for the good of all. Before now, we had been an import-dependent economy, yet God has blessed Nigeria with crude oil. But we have to look beyond it to improve our economy. People lamented over the removal of subsidies, yet it was beneficial to the masses. But for how long can it be sustained? The bad side of subsidy is that it enriches a tiny cabal. That is the network the President has succeeded in dismantling, and the former beneficiaries are not finding it funny at all. Things will soon get better; the refineries will soon start working at full capacity, and once production reaches its peak, the price of fuel will come down. The president has started well, and I pray for God’s courage and wisdom upon him. The foreign exchange market is another area he is battling to grip well because few people are controlling it and wish to keep manipulating it at will. But the presidentgn exchange market is another area hebattling to grip well because few people are controlling it and wish to keep manipulating it at will.  has waded in to dismantle the cabal too for the growth of the economy.

Apostle Abasiandikan Nkono

Gov. Eno Stands Out Fantastically in His Bipartisan Approach to Politics

…He Has Successfully Attracted Stakeholders Into The Development Process Of Akwa Ibom.

What is your message for the people of Akwa Ibom State?

My message for our people is that the governor has started well with good governance, working closely with all, and putting up good energy for development. I want to encourage him. I was impressed that he was there at the Tropicana Entertainment Centre recently to revisit that public project. When that complex is finally completed, many conferences will be held there because it has the capacity to accommodate the crowd. The five-star hotel within the complex will be very beneficial too. The dry park and the theme park will be very beneficial for children’s recreation during the holidays. It was a well-conceived vision, and when completed, it will generate lots of revenue and shoot up the internally generated revenue of the state. I would advise our people to give the government the needed cooperation. Our young men should rise up and work. They should have high entrepreneurial eyes, which means they should see opportunities to become problem-solvers. They should be able to see ability in every disability and opportunity, to add extra value to every challenge.

Someone with an entrepreneurial eye sees far beyond the ordinary and maximises every opportunity that comes their way. Our people should rise up and help the governor develop tourism and mechanised farming, which I have advised the governors of the Niger Delta region to embrace to help suck up many unemployed youths roaming the streets. In Akwa Ibom, we have the longest shoreline of about 129 km. If a quarter of it is developed, it will help the state. The Governor should liaise with the Senate President to meet Mr. President to see to the realisation of the Ibom Deep Seaport. That meeting should have critical stakeholders involved too, and Mr. President should ensure the actualization of the project. Once it is on stream and we have mechanised farming, with our tourism springing up, then the state can be a mini country of its own with our already functional airport and airlines.

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