The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and supervising Minister of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Senator Godswill Akpabio, stormed the stage in an unscheduled visit.
The man popularly known as The Uncommon Transformer for his exceptional feat in the transformation of Akwa Ibom State from a relatively unknown state to a wonder of the world in a 21st Century Nigeria, within the eight years of his government had depicted rare courage to walk into the Lion’s Den at the time most of the Government officials have scampered to safety in the face of the heightened insecurity in the country.
It was the sudden break of grave silence by Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo who goes by a sobriquet, Tompolo, where last week, he issued a 7-day ultimatum to Senator Godswill Akpabio, to constitute a substantive Board for the running of the NDDC.
Tompolo is the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and also the Chief Priest of the Egbesu Deity, according to Wikipedia. He was very much around the corridors of power under President Goodluck Jonathan, after late President Umaru Yaradua granted Amnesty to all the Niger Delta militants and Agitators for Justice and Equality.
Though he was later declared wanted by a Court and that forced him back to his creek, he had jolted the public when he suddenly raised his voice against what his group considers the unconstitutional running of the affairs of the Commission by a Sole Administrator, where the Act establishing the NDDC clearly states otherwise.
Tompolo may have spoken but he obviously is not alone. He spoke in the voice of an Agitator, notwithstanding that he chose a familiar path of threats to the safety of oil workers as well as others but it was definitely the hands of other highly placed interested Nigerians who have continued with their agitation to steal the region’s allocations dry through the Management of the NDDC.
When the video of Akpabio’s visit hit the media space, it became a subject of controversy as some section of the reading public condemned his decision to parley with a man wanted for alleged infractions through phoney contracts as well as threats to the oil sector. Others booed and clapped as they watched the humiliating speech by the President of Isoko Youths Assembly, Comrade Amos, who exhibited nothing but a flagrant disrespect for the visiting Minister and his Chief Host, Governor Okowa of Delta State, who was represented by his Deputy. This was in the presence of the highly revered Traditional Rulers who probably may have lost control over the recalcitrant youths or are inactive connivance with them, for obvious reasons of fear or interest.
While the rest of the audience continued as cheerleaders to the not too palatable speeches in support of Tompolo’s threat and ultimatum, the man who represented the Federal Government, Senator Akpabio maintained his mien, reserving his displeasure and exhibiting an uncommon deportment.
The former Governor who has been under sponsored attacks since his appointment as Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, under whose control the juicy Commission had since come under, would have chosen to either raise his voice in anger or worse still staged a walk-out in the mannerism akin to most influential public officers, but he listened with rapt attention as Tompolo’s representatives hit the gavel, insisting that the 7-day ultimatum stands.
It is rather bemusing to read a section of the youths and leaders not represented nor in attendance at the stakeholders meeting urge Akpabio to go back to Abuja and constitute the Board without recourse to the President’s directives that the Forensic Audit must be completed before a duly appointed Management Board would be inaugurated. It is an effort in futility for President Buhari to seek to salvage the people of the region from the shackles of deliberate underdevelopment by a cabal that have undermined the region through continuous filtering of the resources allocated for the oil-rich region.
The people seem not to be concerned anymore about the quest to ascertain why the region does not evidence the monies that have been sunk in there through a Commission that has run aground for 20 years. Not even a befitting Corporate Headquarters could be completed 14 years after until the emergence of Senator Akpabio as supervising Minister.
While many condemn his August visit to the creeks of the Delta, in consultation with the stakeholders, probably to explain that by the end of July, the Forensic Audit would have been concluded and the report made available for implementation by the President, it is expedient to commend Akpabio’s bold steps to the hotspot at a time there is an increased security concern in the Eastern part of the country. Where he to have remained docile and stayed aloof, Nigerians would have again gone for his jugular, if there was an outright breakdown of law and order. The number of gunboats and security men at the venue of the meeting would have been immaterial if the killing of security men in the East is anything to go by.
This uncommon courage to navigate through the troubled waters of the Niger Delta reflects a no-snobbery mentality nor an ego-polishing leader who has seen it all in terms of power, affluence and fame. Rather it shows a great but scarce attribute known as humility which is rarely seen amongst the high and mighty in Government.
Relative to other government officials, Akpabio may not have gloried in victory over the ultimatum given by Tompolo and his associates, but he definitely has accomplished a noble task, treading where others feared. Only a man who is at home with his people can dare to take the battle to the snake-infested creeks, win or lose.
The timely decision to try to nip in the bud another wave of insecurity in the fragile Niger Delta is a decision not to run away from his fears but have the courage to confront that could blossom into a full-scale war.
This is the untold truth of the uncommon walk into a waiting bomb.
Written by Chief Obiaruko Christie Ndukwe, a sociopolitical commentator, analyst and columnist based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State
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