(By Iheanyi Ezinwo)-Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s vice president during the eight years of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration is one man who do not only preach justice but also fights for it. This aspect of his life was evident during the second term of his joint ticket with Obasanjo, when Atiku had to engage in protracted legal battles to ward off schemes contrived to stop him from contesting for the office of president of Nigeria and takeover from Obasanjo.
While offering himself to serve, Atiku had among other things promised to create the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to facilitate development in the Niger Delta region. Well, he did not win in the election but Umaru Musa Ya’Adua, who succeeded Obansanjo, went ahead to create the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.
However, observing that the establishment of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has not enhanced the development of the Niger Delta, Atiku, who is now back to the trenches and strategizing to secure the Peoples Democratic Party ticket to run for the office of President in 2019, is reportedly suggesting the relocation of the ministry to the south in the interest of justice to the people.
This suggestion of Atiku is a clear indication that his vision of Nigeria goes beyond Adamawa, his home state and the north east. It also shows that he is concerned about the well being of other sections of the country, unlike some political leaders who limit their vision, plans and appointments to close relations. Without doubt, the businessman, who has first hand knowledge of the challenges of doing business in Nigeria, is convinced that, it takes justice to have genuine peace and love for one another in a plural country like Nigeria.
No doubt, sustained call for justice for the people of Niger Delta presents Atiku as a broad minded individual, who will not promote nepotism and can be trusted to run an inclusive administration- where no one section of the country is unfairly favoured over and above the rest.
Although the relocation idea may have its merits, we are however afraid that the problem is not about location, because the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, that is located in the Niger Delta zone is not meeting the legitimate expectations of the people.
The problem of these agencies has to do with the subversion of their modus operandi by local politicians working in collaboration with officials of the government at the centre, to serve the narrow interest of few politicians instead of that of the vast majority. As long as politicians see these agencies as channels to appropriate their own share of the national cake, the Niger Delta Ministry and NDDC will continue to under deliver irrespective of their location.
To ensure justice from the people of the Niger Delta, we suggest that the ministry be scrapped while the funding, mandate and method of operation of NDDC be reviewed, spelling out specific area the development agency should intervene, instead of the usual practice of intervening in road rehabilitation and other duties that even council authorities can handle. The new order should restrict NDDC to mega projects only, that would be beneficial to the states in the Niger Delta. If the focus is more narrowly defined, situations where heads of the agency would be awarding all kinds of contracts will become a thing of the past. It will also make monitoring and control easier.
Our considered opinion is that, if the purpose of creating these agencies is to develop the Niger Delta, then one of them would suffice in order to avoid duplication of efforts , while achieving nothing for the people.
It is public knowledge that the people of Niger Delta are being shortchanged by their own local politicians in collusion with outsiders. But we believe that, with his well known interest in the development of Niger Delta, Atiku Abubakar, if he has the privilege of leading Nigeria in 2019, should be able to assemble people of like minds to head the agency, and we can be sure that the resources meant for Niger Delta Development will be used for that purpose.
Furthermore, we believe that Atiku has the right mindset to promote unity and rekindle the love of all Nigerians for their country. We have no doubt that only actions that are inspired by this line of thinking are required to bring about healing of the wounds inflicted on Nigerians by political leaders, who are not responsive to the feelings and aspirations of the citizens. Jerzy Popieluszko, probably had Nigeria in mind when he said: ” Love cannot exist without justice, love outgrows justice but at the same time it finds reaffirmations in justice “. The time calls for Nigerians, who are dissatisfied with the statusquo, especially the challenges of insecurity and poor well being, to go beyond rhetoric and get involved in the political process that would throw up a national leader of their choice in 2019.