BY OLUSEYE AKANMU-BODE
The Ondo Niger-Delta Initiative (ONDI), a group of Niger-Delta indigenes based in Ondo State recently advocated for the appointment of an Ondo-State indigene as the next Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC. In a Special Press Release by the group, it urged the President, in making fresh appointments into the NDDC Board, to take cognizance of equity, propriety and Federal Character.
Looking at the statutes of the NDDC, it is unarguable that the fresh agitations coming from the South-Western State of Ondo has a lot of merits. Conventional opinion in the South-West is that in the spirit of fairness and national unity, the lopsidedness of appointments that has been the bane of the NDDC and has always adversely affected the South-West, especially Ondo State should be corrected once and for all.
The NDDC is a Federal Government agency established by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in the year 2000 with the sole mandate of developing the oil rich Niger-Delta region. One of the core mandates of the Commission is to train and educate the youths of the oil rich Niger-Del ta regions, while developing key infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity. The NDDC Act No 6 of 2000 which repealed the then Oil Mineral Producing Areas Commission (OMPADEC) Decree 1998 provided for the appointment of “a Managing Director and two Executive Directors, who shall be indigenes of oil producing areas starting with the member states of the Commission with the highest production quantum of states in the order of production”.
In adherence to this, the following NNDC Board Managing Director appointments have been made from 2001 till date:
|ENGR. GODWIN OMENE||DELTA||2001-2003|
|BASSEY DAN-ABIA||AKWA IBOM||2013-2015|
|NSIMA EKERE||AKWA IBOM||2016-DATE|
With respect to the NDDC Act and the above appointments, it is clear that Ondo State is yet to occupy the post of Managing Director of the Commission. Ondo State is the fifth largest producer of oil in Nigeria and as such, in adherence to the provision of the Act stated earlier, it is the turn of the state to man the position morally and legally.
The agitations for the recognition of the right of Ondo State in the NDDC didn’t start today. In fact, in 2017, stakeholders from oil producing communities alleged unfair distribution of posts in the NDDC. One of such forums is the Centre for Justice and Fairness in Niger-Delta ( CFJFIND). The group had in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari complained over the monopoly of the three top management positions within the Commission and called on the Federal Government to intervene and correct the inequality in the NDDC. Speaking on behalf of the group, the Executive Director of CFJFIND, Comrade Alex Kalejaye, listed the three positions to include Managing Director, Executive Director, Finance and Administration and Executive Director, Projects, saying the development has been causing sharp division among member states from the oil producing areas.
The APC Ondo State Chapter also in that year canvassed for the appointment of an Ondo man to the post of Managing Director as the State voted overwhelmingly for the President in 2015 despite being under the PDP. For the Ondo APC, it should be a huge payback for the Ondo people by the president if their request was granted. Unfortunately, it wasn’t granted. The new wave of agitation is very loud because it is just, moral and legal for Ondo to occupy the MD post. This time around, the agitation enjoys the support of both the Yoruba and Ijaw groups within and outside the state. One of such groups is the Ijaw National Congress. The INC has impressed it on the Ijaw leaders, the need to support Ondo state’s quest to produce the next MD of the NDDC. The group in a statement by its spokesman Comrade Priye Noel Kuete insist that it is the Western zone’s turn to produce the next NDDC boss, noting that the Central and Eastern zones had at various times produced high ranking officers who managed the affairs of the Commission. While Kuete’s position is somehow appealing to the benignity of other NDDC states to allow Ondo occupy the post, it is however a matter of justice, fairness and equity as it is the turn of the state according to provisions of the Act. Any attempt to do otherwise would mean a breach of the Act and flagrant denial of the right of Ondo state to occupy a position that is legally theirs as the fifth largest oil producing state in the country.
If the Ijaw National Council could be vocal in advocating for the rights of Ondo State, we expect no less from the Yoruba majority in the South West region. It should not be seen as a struggle for Ondo State alone but that of the South West, being the only Yoruba state in the Niger-Delta region. One of the few Yoruba voices speaking frequently in support of the agitation is Superior Senior Boanerge (Apostle) C.O Omogbemi, the Secretary-General and Principal, School of Theology of Cherubim and Seraphim Church of Zion, Nigeria and Overseas, who in a recent interview told our correspondence that “it is not only legal but also morally right for Ondo State to be given its rights through the appointment of an indigene as the NDDC MD. Another very strong voice in the agitation is Prince Joshua Oyetakin, an opinion leader and technocrat of Ondo State origin who believes that the time is ripe for justice to be done to Ondo State. “I have great respect and trust in the President and I believe he will do the right thing for Ondo State and the entire nation at large as usual,” says Oyetakin. “The President will surely allow justice to prevail as a man of honour and integrity.”
Conventional opinion in the region clearly expects the South West leadership of the APC to come out strongly with a position backing the claim of Ondo State to occupy the post of the Managing Director of the Commission. It is expected that the traditional rulers, elder statesmen and opinion leaders to also give their full support to this cause.
Finally, top political gladiators and Governors from the Southwest have been urged to deploy all within their arsenal to ensure that this post does not elude the state. Their influence can go a long way in making sure that the state is not schemed out of what legally belongs to it at the moment. Mere mouthing of the need to stop the monopolization of the NDDC by the big 4 states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa without backing it up with the necessary political will of the leaders of the Southwest may not deliver the expected outcome.
Vernon Van Dyke, an emeritus professor of political science defined politics as the “authoritative allocation of resources in terms of who gets what, when and how’. In respect to the issue under discourse THE WHO is Ondo state, THE WHAT is the Managing Director of the NDDC, THE WHEN is now and THE HOW is through observance of the NDDC Act. The Federal Government cannot afford to marginalize the South West in the NDDC. An attempt to wrestle the post from Ondo State would smack of marginalization.