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Sen. Akpabio And NDDC Pandora’s Box


The issue, largely, is not whether or not he has the strength of character and administrative capacity. It is about turning words into action –which many believe he can, everything being equal.
Will Akpabio really change the storyline of the NDDC, indeed the Niger Delta Region, from common to uncommon and from under-performance to super-performance? Will he sustain this introductory tempo and aggression and drive matters to logical conclusion? These appear to be the most prevalent questions on tongues of many Nigerians, especially those from that zone of the country, who have listened to the former Governor and Senator spoke on issues concerning his office and blueprint in different fora.
Sen. Akpabio himself appears literarily uneasy yet enthusiastic and undaunted in the face of unpleasant realities and mountains of expectations before him, even as the NDDC with its poor scorecard is now directly under his expanded jurisdiction. The steps he has taken so far, since assumption of office as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, are deficient in nothing from that of a man in a hurry to change things; somebody who knows the history of the region to the least and last of the oil-bearing creeks; and someone who, without any pretentions, has shown strong rays of determination to push further his patented and celebrated philosophy of Uncommon Transformation to this regional platform.
From the very moment he took over office, the minister’s utterances have been as expository as they are incontestable. On an NTA Weekend File programme, last Saturday, the Minister expressed dismay and lamented over the unconscionable and condonable plundering of the NDDC and promised to hold the bull by the horn in making sure a reverse is immediately and progressively effected, a systematic and all-out reversion that shall usher in a new culture of transparency, due process, pragmatism and efficiency in service delivery.
“I’m angry at the state of NDDC. They saw the NDDC as an ATM and choose to steal it dry, leaving nothing to show for. They also believe that the Bible says one who works in the pulpit deserves to eat from the pulpit. But they don’t know that God didn’t say they should steal the pulpit in the process. I am here to do thorough auditing in the ministry”.
That was a daring no-holds-barred exposition and strong indictment of the past. It is however instructive that, maybe for want of evidence to the contrary, nobody yet has had the boldness or superior logic to challenge the minister’s sweeping observations, Akpabio said it was time the narrative of the region be changed for good, a proposal he maintained is possible with the right focus being given beyond mere words which have been the case since year 2000 when the NDDC came into being.
To galvanize his concerns, the Uncommon Transformer drew renewed strength from his past record in leadership positions: “I don’t like people to look at my lips. I’ll like them to look at my records. I am also from the Niger Delta region, and I had the opportunity of being a governor for eight years, and I did my best. Some of the roads I did 11 years ago are still functional till today, with no potholes on them”.
The next point the minster ruffled more feathers: “We have also had a lot of political interference; people have not allowed NDDC to work as it ought to; people coming with ideas not to move the region forward but to move their pockets forward. It has always been so”. Depending on what the minister exactly meant in his thinking, people are curious about whether or not politics can truly be ensconced from the NDDC. That might include politics of appointment, politics of employment, politics of contract, and politics contract sum inflation. Indeed, in what sector of Nigeria is there no politics? So inoculated shall Akpabio be in introducing his reforms.”
By Akpabio’s postulations, that kind of politics comes with corruption and its multiplier effects. “Even the idea of giving out a job to somebody who does not have requisite skills is corruption on its own. The idea of bloating the contract is also corruption. Even collecting money and abandoning the site is corruption”, the boss reasoned. Recently, there was a fuse around the award of contract water hyacinth and the just colluded recruitment into the NDDC bothering on what some observers called “lack of transparency, cronyism and nepotism” that the echelon of the Ministry, allegedly, cannot feign ignorance. Going by Akpabio’s new template, there is therefore the need for authoritative clarifications on matters like these so that public opinion would not still stuck to the past.
Where does the politics begin, where does it stop? The hassles that the Minister faced in the National Assemblies with his 2020 budget may be an indication that he also has some diplomatic and ideo-political battles with the powers, perhaps making it hard to strike at what the minister calls “political interference”. Who in the critical political class really believe that for Akpabio to succeed things have to be done differently, both in attitude and funding? What if there is suspicion of intentions that might affect individual contributions?
One underlying but most critical question therefore comes: Considering our political terrain and who Sen. Akpabio is in Nigeria’s leadership narratives, will he get or be given all the needed support by the powers and the people to translate into reality, to the best of his ability, his lofty dreams within the space of time he may have to serve? Is his can of worm not already repulsive to some interests?
Worried as he obviously is, the minister cares little or nothing about how those in the past who had played certain roles in the stunting of the NDDC may be directly or indirectly affected by recent discoveries and corresponding criticisms. It is noteworthy, and commendable, that although he freely bares his mind on issues, apparently based strictly on facts and figures, he does not attack persons or names but the vexing matters within the circle of discourse. That some have made insinuations of witch-hunting to that effect must be seen as normal, maybe very normal in a country where the right thing is always given names.
Take the Honourable minister out, the general assessment without sentiment, is that the Niger Delta region, which the NDDC was discreetly set up to play the catalyst, still remains a shadow of itself, 19 years after. From inception in 2000, every minister that has come aboard the Ministry of the Niger Delta has come with tantalising great promises of turning things around for good. But Sen. Akpabio has argued that his celebrated appointment by President Buhari was an answer to years of yearning. “I believe that my appointment is as a result of the pain and the agony Mr. President felt in terms of not seeing things on the ground”, he posited.
Whereas there is the strong hope that Akpabio shall bring about great changes in the Niger Delta, the extent to which he will shield the NDDC with material evidence from the evils of profligacy, corruption, politics, inefficiency and stunted growth, the virulent and endemic cankerworms his clinical diagnoses have confirmed, still remains a matter only time and events shall prove.
“I don’t associate myself with failures”, the minister emphasized during the NTA interview, “I believe that if you are given opportunity to serve, you must leave the place better than you met it” This is the Uncommon Transformer’s figurative helmet of “Burden of Proof” as it concerns the Niger Delta.

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