Osinbajo in the Niger Delta

Vice preisdent Yemi Osinbajo flanked by Chief Edwin Clark and Delta State governor Ifeanyi Okowa during as  the vice president addresses leaders of the Niger Delta during his visit to the region recently. PHOTO: TWITTER/PRESIDENCY

Vice president Yemi Osinbajo flanked by Chief Edwin Clark and Delta State governor Ifeanyi Okowa during as the vice president addresses leaders of the Niger Delta during his visit to the region recently. PHOTO: TWITTER/PRESIDENCY

As though the recent fact-finding visit of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to the Niger Delta during which he lamented the scandalous neglect of the people of that zone by successive administrations was an eye opener for him, his comments about the unacceptable neglect of the region remains a true expression of genuine sentiment by anyone who has any modicum of a sense of rights and justice.

Osinbajo, who led a Federal Government delegation that included the Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, decried the deplorable state and criminal neglect of the Niger Delta in the most uncomplimentary terms. He was quoted as saying: “Many of the initiatives to change the story have not been able to make those changes. From the Niger Delta Development Board in the 1960s to OMPADEC to the NDDC and the Amnesty Programme, many of these projects have not been able to meet the objectives they were set up to achieve. My message to you today is that it is time to prepare for the future.

“No Nigerian can be proud of the state of development in the Niger Delta. We are all beneficiaries from resources from the region. However, we cannot have instability and be able to carry out speedy development of the region.”

Whatever informed this gesture, it could be recalled that in the heat of the agitation by the militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), President Muhammadu Buhari was advised to reach out to Niger Delta people by paying a working visit to that region. If the Osinbajo’s visit was a way of heeding that plea, it was a step in the right direction. Thus by his frank and sincere comments, the vice president seem identified with the Niger Delta people. He did not rebuff them and did not demonstrate the characteristic arrogant, hard-line posture of the Presidency, which once suggested that the place be put under siege for oil exploration to progress.

As a symbolic gesture, the vice president’s visit was long overdue. Even though he seemed to have done the right thing by leading a delegation to the region as this newspaper had advised, that visit would be termed a token or a mere vocalisation of platitudes except some substantive gesture begins to take place with alacrity.

One clear demonstration of government’s readiness and commitment to the Niger Delta people would be a national development plan to completely rebuild the region through massive investment and intervention in terms of infrastructure. Despite the revenue generating capacity of the Niger Delta, there is no official edifice of the kind in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja that would be found in the whole of the South-south. Notwithstanding the challenging terrain and topography, roads and infrastructure that signal federal presence are in a terribly bad shape. The ports in the region are not viable. With the establishment of the FCT Abuja, it became as if every development agenda of the Niger Delta stopped. Why can’t the model used in building Abuja be used in rebuilding the Niger Delta?

In agreeing to a common euphemism, the Niger Delta should be transformed into the ‘Dubai’ of West Africa and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) must be made to work.

Owing to decades of neglect, inattention and systematic pauperization of the people, there is a growing mistrust of, and bitterness over the rest of Nigerians. Because they seem politically powerless, the elite of the Niger Delta seldom muster enough political will to address issues affecting the collective. They seem to have been so emasculated, demoralised and stationed at the periphery that a total vision for the Niger Delta people is lacking, or so it seems.

Years ago, the coalition of governors of the South-south region established what they termed the BRACED Commission, with an economic development initiative established by the states of the south-south, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Edo and Delta for massive reconstruction and infrastructural development of the region. Owing to pervasive politicking as well as the ethno-culturally heterogeneous nature of the region, and despite the many blue-prints this commission has churned out for the development of the region, there has been nothing concrete to show for long years of existence. There is no apparent sign of any big picture about development coming from the South-south.

The Niger Delta does not need routine managers, who are tenured to man the mills as usual. It does not need actors who want to merely make a living, or fill political slots of godfathers, or those seeking to better their lot. What the people of the Niger Delta need are visionary leaders who are sufficiently motivated to sacrifice their talent, time and treasure for a drastic turn-around of that region.

Perhaps, it is time to challenge the Niger Delta people and ask them: What do you want? Are you conscious of your needs? Except one is conscious of one’s needs, help cannot come to one. The Niger Delta people should talk to Nigerians when they are airing their grievances. They must know that they do have compatriots, who are ready to support them in their struggle, and also work with them.

All this would however, come to naught if the government does not begin to think along the lines of true federalism. In whatever sense this might be interpreted, true federalism requires that a people take custody of their resources for their own growth and survival. It demands that power gets back to the people. As it concerns the Niger Delta people, it is a passionate proposal for economic restructuring as a principle of distributive justice in the management of national resources. Although it has been wrongly construed as a step towards national disintegration, restructuring by its true meaning is a viable economic philosophy that ensures equitable distribution of natural resources in the land.

As this newspaper once posited on this issue, having a proper understanding of what restructuring entails would inform leaders about having a sense of rights and justice, and that it is morally wrong and unethical to denial a people that which is incontrovertibly theirs. The owners of the product of a given land are the people of that land. It is a warped sense of justice to think and do otherwise, be it for oil, or for gold, marble, or any product.

To demonstrate the sincerity of the vice president’s lamentation and erase the impression that he was merely carrying out a mere messenger’s public relations assignment, the Federal Government needs to address these problems for they are very timely.

For as long as the destruction of the region in the name of oil mining continues without corresponding infrastructural development of the area and empowerment of the people, the Niger Delta problem would continue to be a ‘Nigeria’ problem.

In this article:
Ifeanyi Okowa.Yemi Osinbajo
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4 Comments
  • Ezekiel Okeke

    Hypocrisy of an errand slave, maybe he came from the moon, not born and grew up in the territory presently call Nigeria, maybe the first time he was there, maybe he spent a calenda year for his research to come to that conclusion. Just a word put in an errand slave mouth to say after few hours spent in one village or town of such a huge region, thinking he is talking to fools like them- an insult to Niger Delta People. BIAFRAN REVOLUTION WAR is on, if they have not conceded defeat as their leader has been crushed, they should prepare for their own defeat in a more shameful way.

  • vincentumenyiora

    [Osinbajo, who led a Federal Government delegation that included the Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, decried the deplorable state and criminal neglect of the Niger Delta in the most uncomplimentary terms. He was quoted as saying: “Many of the initiatives to change the story have not been able to make those changes. From the Niger Delta Development Board in the 1960s to OMPADEC to the NDDC and the Amnesty Programme, many of these projects have not been able to meet the objectives they were set up to achieve. My message to you today is that it is time to prepare for the future.

    “No Nigerian can be proud of the state of development in the Niger Delta. We are all beneficiaries from resources from the region. However, we cannot have instability and be able to carry out speedy development of the region.”
    Whatever informed this gesture, it could be recalled that in the heat of the agitation by the militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), President Muhammadu Buhari was advised to reach out to Niger Delta people by paying a working visit to that region. If the Osinbajo’s visit was a way of heeding that plea, it was a step in the right direction. Thus by his frank and sincere comments, the vice president seem identified with the Niger Delta people. He did not rebuff them and did not demonstrate the characteristic arrogant, hard-line posture of the Presidency, which once suggested that the place be put under siege for oil exploration to progress.]

    Let President M. Buhari go and visit Niger Delta as part of Nigeria and so part of his constituency and see things for himself first hand and not through Osinbajo’s eyes! Past experience shows that in most of the cases after such visits by the Vice observations and recommendations submitted you discover that such recommendations are doctored by the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ members unduly then you wonder then, what purpose is the visit in the first place? In situation of the kind you have in the zone, it is advisable for the Head of State to take trip to the zone to see things for himself first hand and not through hear-say and you have persons like Garba Shehu and Abba Kayai in the ‘Kitchen Cabinet’ advising in Aso Rock – they too have no knowledge of what is happening in the zone – all sitting on the ‘Olympian height’ for the purpose of that ‘Fiefdom DESPOTIC’ arrangement with the bias of ‘Bigotry’ for Nigeria!! I have no quarrel with such visits, my concern is that after such visits and recommendations submitted there is no reason why there should be any ‘doctoring’ of the reports/ recommendations because if you do it leaves the dangerous impression that both eh ‘purveyor’ of the recommendations and the people concerned are stupid and wasted their time assembling for such consultations therefore, your problems become even more magnified! This has been part bane in Nigeria and nobody seems to recognise these failings/flaws – in Nigeria where people like Garba Shehu is hired to advice the Presidents! I wonder what he knows/ has as experience, folks!

    See the irony about Nigeria, talking about advancement of ‘entrepreneurship’ folks! Last night in NTA News we were shown an (8 year old) boy said to have discovered how to manufacture ‘bow tie’ and arrangement being made to grant him loan under the (SMEs) policy so that he can start a factory when he comes of age – possibly 18 years old! Now, ‘bow-tie’ has been in use since time immemorial and Nigeria is telling us unashamedly that an 8 year old has manufactured ‘bow-tie’ vis-a-vis under her promotion of enterprises policy! I recall we had such pronouncement in 1986/87 – Prof. Wole Soyinka was present at the Int. Exhibition in Enugu and Comdr. Alfa and his team were visiting also to see the works; by the students of Abakpa Nike Grammar School Enugu assembled mechanical plants like caterpillar and pay-loaders – we don’t know where the boys are or how far Nigeria Industrial Bank promoted them! Manufacture of ‘bow-tie’ indeed and you have queues of Nigerians with special innovatory proposals filed away at the Industrial Bank not attended to due to corruption in Nigeria!

    And I have a design to save you people the cost in building for the bamboo you use for the decking for concrete floors and even about the blocks and you don’t know where the Banks are located! Now see the new Irony; the presidency will not sent name of the Cross Rover Judge to the Senate for confirmation they are waiting for the time to expire so that they will send the next name on the list of hierarchy on the ‘Bench’ and possibly the Cross River Judge will be asked to retire! And last week they were urging Nigerian to always do those things that make us look united and less of the things that show us that we are not united – now, you tell me; Which way Nigeria about this very particular matter – who is formulating your National Orientation policy? And I said it earlier that Nigeria is in a QUANDARY afflicting even all those PhD holders advising the administrations!

  • vincentumenyiora

    See the major irony of the year – Justice Walter Onnoghen’s name is for submission to the Senate for clearance for contirmation as the Chief Judge for Nigeria this has not passed for the vetting and confirmation and his representative from South-Sout in the House Mr. Enang Ita Solomon is seen carrying the Budget box for the President and Nigerians are told don’t do things that will expose you as not being One rather do the things that will show you as ‘One Nigerians’ – you wonder where else can this gesture be exhibited better than on the Federal Character representation in appointments particularly at this level of the Arm of Government, folks! They tell me that part of the reasons for the dithering is that Justice Walter is old and that the next Judge on-line comes from Nasarawa State – Northern Nigeria and you wonder who is not old in Nigeria about leadership, folks! Tell you the truth folks, managing Nigeria politically is full of intrigues and ironies with almost disheartening (damning) expectations/ result!

  • real

    They all continue to provide lip services to a region that badly needs to be invested in. There are very simple solution that can begin to change the region and improve the lives of the people. for starters, how proposing that any pipeline going thru any community in that region, pay lease amount to that community. That would give the community some kind of owners or responsibility of the pipeline. That lease payment could then be invested in public works that the people approve to improve the lives of the people. The next step is to give a good percentage of control of the resources to the community. give them ownership in oil wells, and other investment. finally the government has to be serious about ensuring that all agencies task with developing the region are effectively carrying out their duties.

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