By Daniel Etokabia
Right from the onset, the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, which was established as a focal point for integrated development of the Niger Delta Region, has wielded enormous power and created a corresponding turbulence in the region. Heading the Commission is the second most influential position in any of the member states after that of the governor.
Some have even argued that it is at par with the seat of state government given the enormous budget it controls, spanning nine states. Its executive power and reach, put together, is far more than any single state in the country. For these reasons, an appointment into the Board of NDDC should confer on one a sense of utmost responsibility and dedication to deliver selfless service and build legacies.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Indeed, the leadership of NDDC is notorious for inflicting an incurable craze for absolute power on appointees. It seems part of the oath of office for NDDC top job reads “…I will earnestly pursue or cause to wrest the highest political seat in my home state”!
Such unbridled ambition and grotesque lust have caused almost all heads of the Commission to derail from driving the interventionist federal agency to build a synergic and productive relationship with government of member states into an unhealthy, competitive and intrusive farce. Under such an ungodly headship the Commission is transformed into a cesspool of corruption and a breeding ground for graft, contract peddling and chaos.
Now and then, the nation is awash with gripping tales of Chairmen and Managing Directors of NDDC, who corner resources of the Commission to struggle for the seat of government in their states. The likes of Chief Oyeama Ugochukwu, Ambassador Sam Edem and Mr. Ndutimi Alaibe readily comes to mind. In fact, it is highly improbable for either a Chairman or Managing Director of the NDDC not to antagonize the government of his home state. It is therefore not surprising that Mr. Nsima Ekere has chosen to follow this inglorious path. Interestingly, one fate that befell them all is failure and disgrace.
Oyeama Ugochukwu, Chairman of NDDC (2000 – 2005)
The pioneer chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Onyeama Ugochukwu, may have viewed himself as an ideal competitor for the Abia State governorship seat. This made him devote resources of the Commission towards priming himself ahead of the polls. He caused so much trouble for Governor Orji Uzo Kalu and was instrumental to the rift between the governor and the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Incidentally, when Kalu’s tenure was at end, Ugochukwu resigned from office and entered the gubernatorial race on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), but Abians knew who to vote for. The hotly contested race was marred by allegations of electoral malpractice, and violence, all of which culminated in the election of Ugochukwu’s rival, Theodore Orji of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).
Chief Oyeama’s woes thereafter became complex and painful. He was charged before a Federal High Court, Abuja for corrupt practices, accused of corrupt handling of about N10.2 billion while serving as the chairman of the NDDC and charged with inflating contract value and making false statement in respect of a N9.3 billion allegedly trapped in the distressed Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria.
In a nutshell, Ugochukwu’s trial was prolonged and disgraceful.
Ambassador Sam Edem, NDDC Chairman (2005 – 2008)
What befell Ambassador Sam Edem, the second chairman of the Commission was nothing but poetic justice. He did not hide his disdain for then Governor Victor Attah and was a thorn in the flesh of that administration. At a point, he became an unofficial governor of the state, taking advantage of his ties with then President Olusegun Obasanjo to run almost a parallel government in the state.
Pundits disclose that he met his waterloo in 2008, when he started nursing an ambition to topple Governor Godswill Akpabio two years after helping him into power. According to reports, he allegedly stole N510 million from the Commission to engage a spiritualist to harm his subordinate, Timi Alaibe and influence Gov. Akpabio to award him juicy contracts as well as spiritually influence the then vice president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The embattled Edem reportedly confessed that he gave the N510million to one Perekanbowei Oga, the spiritualist, but explained that it was for his political campaigns.
Ndutimi Alaibe, Executive Director; MD/CEO of NDDC (2001 – 2009)
Since the day Mr. Ndutimi Alaibe, mostly called “Timi Alaibe” started working with NDDC as Executive Director (Finance) he began nursing an ambition to govern Bayelsa state. This craze pitched him against then Governor Dipreye Alameisia and later Gov Timipre Sylva. It is said that he was an actor in the arrest and incarceration of Gov Alameisieye in London.
As NDDC boss, Timi Alaibe, engaged in several untoward and fraudulent activities in order to amass wealth and foist himself on the people of Bayelsa. Even after he left the Commission in disgrace, Timi moved forces against Governor Seriake Dickson and attempted severally to discredit his administration in order to thwart its second term.
In 2015, he embarked on an unholy quest that gulped over N25billion but did not see the light of day as the people openly rejected him. Record of his atrocities during his protracted tenure in the Commission were published online and some national dailies with the title “Twenty (20) Reasons Why Timi Alaibe Cannot be Governor of Bayelsa State”, by Bayelsa Youths Vanguard For Good Governance.
Eventually, ahead of the 2016 governorship polls in Bayelsa, he curiously withdrew from the race to save face since the body of evidence indicted him for corruption and various vices.
Nsima Ekere, MD/CEO of NDDC (2017 – till date)
We are today seeing a similar pattern of disgraceful antagonism displaced by the current MD/ CEO of NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere against the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel and his administration. The question to ask is: Has ONE learnt from what befell his predecessors?
As a Nigerian from Eket Senatorial District in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Nsima Ekere has every right to contest in the forthcoming 2019 gubernatorial election. The power sharing formula favors his zone, but has he considered the divine mandate that brought about the unprecedented elongation of his tenure as the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC?
Nsima is aware that his position was fought for by the entire Akwa Ibom people. It became a reality in 2017 soon after the townhall meeting between the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and Akwa Ibom stakeholders, held in Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, Nwaniba. He also knows that, notwithstanding to whom he pledges allegiance, he is duty bound to hold the office in trust for Akwa Ibom state and his people as such any rash decision(s) he may take that will short change the people will be answerable to the people.
History would judge him too. I’m however convinced that the ONE I know so well has a very lucid mind and would never be drawn into an enterprise without taking time to weigh the pros and cons. I will not subscribe to the short video trending online, in which the APC strongman, Sen. J. J. Udoedeghe, alleges that ONE’s judgment is beclouded by Indian hemp and cocaine.
On the whole, no one can honestly deny the positive impact NDDC under Nsima Ekere can make in the state. There are critical interventions in roads, bridges, schools and human empowerment should preoccupy his mind as the chief executive of a federal government interventionist agency. Using the Commission as a political weapon against his state government and turning around to play the victim is not smart.
From my sources in the state, I’m aware that Mr. Nsima Ekere has some media agents on his pay roll, whose job is to recruit several other media agents across the country in a campaign to discredit the Akwa Ibom State Government through articles, newspaper advertorials, online news reports, jingles, talk shows and vox pop. These media agents include messers Inemesit Ina, a Senior Editor in the state-owned newspaper, Pioneer; Etim Etim, a former staff of Skye bank; Micheal Matthew, a hacker and social media canvasser and Miss Imaobong Akpan-akpan, a delicensed nurse and radio presenter.
Only recently, Mr. Ekere has extended his attack to overseas, where he recruited two scandalous citizens of the state namely, Clement Ikpatt and Ata Ikiddeh, to misinform the world about the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel. Much as these tactics have failed to dissuade government in the past, it is sad to see the length ONE can go to push a superfluous ambition of governing Akwa Ibom State.
Anyways, I pray that he will quickly wake from this fantasy and not give in to political jobbers, whose sole aim is to make financial gain from his aspiration. There is an Ibibio adage that says “eto ama umia utong ayem akop ikor”! ONE has been beaten on the ears by the proverbial stick once, we shall wait to see if he has learnt his lessons from events of the past.
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