THE Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, is 23 years old this year 2023. A man of that age, our people would say is no longer a child. And all things being equal he would have started to see things that his father sees in secret and perhaps he would have started to raise children in his own name. This analogy portrays what a productive and responsible organisation can achieve in 23 years.
The NDDC, unlike rain drops, did not fall from the sky. It was a deliberate establishment of government to compensate the people and address the issues of development in the Niger Delta. Development in this regard is defined in terms of human capital, physical and social infrastructures and value reorientation. But 23 years down the line, what can an honest man say of the NDDC?
For 23 years the NDDC lost its mandate. There are no laudable investments in physical and social infrastructures anywhere, no good and durable roads – standards are visibly compromised, no healthcare and electricity supply to the communities at least to enhance the welfare of the people. Need I talk about the many frustrated contractors who got high blood pressure, HBP, or those who died untimely struggling for contracts’ payments that never came?
Can anyone forget how the banks treated NDDC contracts award letters? This actually was a time when no one took the NDDC seriously. The region remains dilapidated yet billions are being frittered away in pseudo contracts. We saw an NDDC where greed and administrative irresponsibility pervaded the minds of those entrusted with the mandate of building a degraded Niger Delta. We saw successive management boards and caretaker committees that were afflicted with myopia and pride in the midst of failure, shame and moral emptiness.
Yes, we saw administrative jokers who defined their appointment into the NDDC only in terms of the police escort around them and many underground deals. We saw men who thought they owned the NDDC and for the sake of a temporary appointment threw away brotherhood, dignity and honour. Today, they have all slumped into the nadir of history, but the NDDC remains. It’s sad that this is the story of NDDC for 23 years.
Surprisingly, there is a new story. It’s the story of recovery from the days of the holocaust. Dr Samuel Ogbuku, the new Managing Director, is setting a new order and the public is developing new consciousness about the NDDC. In few months, Ogbuku has shown capacity to renegotiate NDDC’s lost mandate. Signing MoU with the Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas Limited, NLNG, Ogbuku said: “This MoU is a demonstration of unity towards sustainable development and progress.
It represents new collaboration for the betterment of the Niger Delta region… While the NDDC and NLNG each have unique missions, our common goal emphasizes sustainable development, socio-economic empowerment, local content promotion, capacity building and stakeholders’ collaboration. This alliance represents a pivotal moment in our journey towards progress and prosperity for our people”. Ogbuku did not stop there.
Speaking recently to a team of bank operators, Ogbuku hinted thus: “We are looking at providing a single digit interest loan to support our women. The registration of the Niger Delta Chamber of Commerce was meant to expand NDDC‘s empowerment programmes to more people through entrepreneurial training and support and we have decided to adopt the Private Public Partnership, PPP, model to provide alternative sources of funding for our key development projects and programmes because we need to get everyone on board.
The Niger Delta is the bedrock of the Nigerian economy and we need peace for development to thrive in the region. Therefore, we need to get people engaged to ensure peace. And we consider our women as part of the process. They are very industrious and we need to strengthen them to add value to their living”. Need I mention the HOPE project? That is an issue for another day.
Ogbuku recognises the value of collective approach and the difference it will make when all stakeholders in the Niger Delta put their hands on deck. Committed to his collaborative advocacy, Ogbuku, by continuous persuasion and selfless courtesy visits to various stakeholders and dignitaries in the Niger Delta, has rekindled public interest in the activities of the NDDC. It’s no longer news that different local and international organisations are now partnering and signing MoU with the NDDC on sustainable development of the Niger Delta.
Ogbuku is a mixture of loyalty, humility and service, love and care. They call him the Nehemiah of Ijaw nation. Ogbuku, whose appointment some described as third missionary journey or second reincarnation, was first appointed MD alongside Mrs Lauretta Onochie (Chairman); Major-General Charles Airhiavbere, (rtd) Executive Director Finance and Administration, EDFA, and Charles Ogunmola, Executive Director Projects, EDP. In less than six months, their committee was dissolved by former President Muhammadu Buhari. Ogbuku, EDFA and EDP survived the dissolution.
But soon after he was sworn into office, President Bola Tinubu fired another ferocious and more devastating missile. This time, while only Ogbuku’s prayer found grace and as he was reappointed a third time, the EDFA and EDP got a red card each and were given a marching order to leave the stage. The question is: Who is behind the Ogbuku’s miraculous exploit at the NDDC? Is it some form of charitable waterside goddess in Ogbia, Bayelsa State or mere divine favour from the throne of grace? One member of staff who believes that humility is working for Ogbuku said this: “The man is humble. He listens to everyone and always tries to help if you meet him”.
For many, Ogbuku represents a new dawn at the NDDC. He is determined to leave behind legacies that people can celebrate. I listened to Ogbuku speak at a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt and I saw a square peg in a square hole – an MD whose mind is made up to take the NDDC to new heights. I watched Ogbuku as he demonstrated an uncommon passion to make a difference – to lead an NDDC that is guided by purpose, care for people and will build tangible infrastructures. Basically, Ogbuku represents new hope for different people – hope that unpaid contracts of many years will be paid; hope that casual workers will now be paid regularly; hope that hundreds of Niger Delta youths, idle for many years, will soon become entrepreneurs and CEOs. Youths who previously beat the drums of war are now becoming psychologists and preachers of peace.
Ogbuku is making a difference; he is rewriting the NDDC story; he is integrating the people. In less than a year, Ogbuku has made himself a marketable product of tomorrow if not in Bayelsa State but in Nigeria.