Home Features OZB: Time To Raise The Niger Delta Ruins -Kennedy Ogenna

OZB: Time To Raise The Niger Delta Ruins -Kennedy Ogenna

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Let’s count our blessings. We will get to to the bad news in a moment. It is the third largest wetland in the world. Besides, its “rich flora and fauna” have sustained life for many generations. But this is not all. For more than four decades now, the oil wealth found in its underbelly has provided the bulk of Nigeria’s revenue. This perhaps, is how far the good news about Niger Delta region of Nigeria can go.

Beyond this, the rest is bad news. Out of its belly flows rivers of precious water but its inhabitants drinks from a poisoned brook. In spite of its oil wealth, the people of the Niger Delta remain largely neglected and unfulfilled. The region is rocked by many problems and has become the euphemism for social injustice. These challenges range from conflict of interests to the economic and social malfeasance in oil-prospecting communities.

Added to this is the unmitigated abuse of the ecosystem and the insensitivity of successive Nigerian governments to the plight of the region. And the attendant fallout of this social injustice is that fear, gloom and dissolutionment are glaringly written on the faces of the over 4.5million people that reside in the nation’s treasure base.

Rt. Hon. Ozurigbo Ugonna( OZB) is the freshest chairman of the Niger Delta Ministry and Amnesty Committee. Is he too fresh for the job? Would 8 years as an Imo State lawmaker and former deputy speaker of the State Assembly and his over 4 years current political adventure at the lower chamber of the National Assembly qualify him for the delicate job? His role as the House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Justice before his latest position coupled with his political history gives an answer: a resounding possibly.

Whether addressing his colleagues during plenary or talking regional security with relevant stakeholders, OZB, representing the people of Nkwere, Isu, Nwangele and Njaba federal constituency of Imo State, seems to relish exporting expertise and management and making the national transfer of leadership know-how his biggest-growing political occupation. His latest appointment is certainly no surprise to close watchers of the big-screen politician. While many of his critics in political and policy circles remain skeptical about his new position, few of them question his political integrity. In the current political era in Nigeria, as both ethnic politics and financial inducements have stained the reputations of many formerly respected politicians and professionals, OZB has retained the respect and trust of the citizenry.

The task before OZB at the Niger Delta Ministry and Amnesty Committee is enormous but not unsurmountable. The new job will afford OZB the opportunity to devote his time and policy research to one of the most crucial topics confronting the region and the nation at large, namely the governance of our natural resources. Along with various stakeholders and experts from the nation, OZB is expected to lead the chart to find answers to the many critical issues that must be tackled in order to transform the region’s economy, and to preserve and judicially exploit its natural resources to enable the people of the region to live in peace and sustainable environment.

The strategic and comparative advantage that Niger Delta holds in natural resources must be managed to ensure that the region has full ownership. The success of his job will depend on OZB’s capacity to reflect on strategies that will find answers to one of the most vexing paradoxes of our time: how can the people of a land so rich live in squalor? This question has plagued the region for decades and will continue to hunt the nation for generations to come if we fail to find the right answers. This urgency makes the new job of OZB a most important one, especially at a time when our universe is threatened by resource scarcities that will eventually lead to a global hunt for everything that Niger Delta and the nation possess, both on and under the land.

OZB is also expected to fill the knowledge-sharing gap among political leaders. His job ought to create an environment where stakeholders can share their ideas, find similarities across different activities and set up long-term strategies for the wellbeing of the Niger Delta people. He is eminently tipped to play his role perfectly as a mediator between an increasingly skeptical region and a nation standing aloof.

Some commentators have raised debatable points that the people of Niger Delta have been berated as if they are all bad people. These labels on the people of the region that they are lazy and too demanding because they feel entitled to strong labour rights do not help. But maybe there is also a grain of truth in some of those labels that need to be worked on. The arriving foreign and Nigerian companies who work in the region actually create jobs for local people, but admitting that requires humility, however.

Furthering his role through diplomacy is the ultimate purpose of OZB’s appointment. International Relations expert Hans Morgenthau wrote, “Of all the factors that make for power of a nation , the most important, however unstable, is the quality of diplomacy.” High quality diplomacy is one of the strongest weapons OZB can posses. Weak diplomacy, on the other hand, can thrust a nation into crisis. In the context of OZB’s new position, diplomacy entails the art of bringing the different elements of the regional and national power to bear with maximum effect upon those points in the situation which concern the regional and national interests most directly.

In 2016, world nations adopted a new development agenda at the United Nations called Agenda 2030, replacing the Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs), which expired in 2015. Africa and particularly Nigeria, played a key role in developing that framework. Among the many universal goals of Agenda 2030 are a few of utmost importance to the Niger Delta: safe soceity built on justice and fairness; national resource mobilisation to meet the needs of the people and break away from the exploitative savagery syndrome that has slowed our regional and national progress.

Interestingly, one of the most critical challenges OZB faces in his new job is how to reverse the misfortunes of exploitation and bring governance back in ensuring that benefits accruing from the region’s providential endowments create opportunities, jobs and positive multiplier effects for both citizens and the region. In line with the prescriptions of African Development Bank and other contributing organisations, OZB can be counted on to negotiate contracts, licences and concessions; encourage private sector investment; and work with relevant partners to certify and track natural resources through the rigorous monitoring of supply chains.

OZB’s value to the present democratic dispensation has evolved since his first day in active politics. Inside the Niger Delta Ministry and Amnesty Committee, his real test will be to keep a focused head in the rough and tumble of an entrenched corruption syndrome that has over the decades seen many technocrats and politicians sink in its traditional quicksand.

By Kennedy Ogenna

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