Brimming with contentment following his Tuesday’s defection to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, former Governor of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, wants all hands on deck to accelerate development of the Niger-Delta region.
The oil-bearing Niger-Delta has been the backbone of Nigeria’s economy since the late 1960s on account of its huge petroleum and natural gas endowments. Revenue from crude oil, for about five decades, accounted for over 80 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign revenue.
However, Niger-Delta’s socio-economic fortunes are not commensurate with its huge contributions to Nigeria’s economic well-being, a reason youths from the region, who are dubbed militants, took up arms since the late 1990s.
The Federal Government’s hard line response, in most cases, against the protesting youths led to increased restiveness in the Niger-Delta, which in turn hampered seamless oil exploration and exploitation with the attendant hurt to Nigeria’s economy.
Although, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua Administration granted the militants amnesty in 2009, which brought some measure of peace in the region, there are huge threats to orderliness with the ex-militants threatening to return to the creeks over government’s unfulfilled or partially fulfilled promises.
However, Uduaghan wants the youths, and Niger-Deltans to support President Muhammadu Buhari to allow his developmental efforts to bear fruits and permanently address the problems of the region.
In his defection speech titled: ‘’Moving On To The Bigger Playing Field,’’ Uduaghan said that President Buhari has embarked on measures to solve the problems of the Niger-Delta.
According to him, since President Buhari assumed power, there have been ‘’encouraging interest and activities to bring a permanent solution to the Niger Delta crisis. This has pointed in a direction that is at once progressive and developmental.’’
How Buhari is addressing Niger-Delta problems
He said: ‘’Topmost in these activities are the engagement processes. Rather than using the military to harass our people, the Buhari administration has embarked on various engagement processes that have led to agreements and brought hope to the people of the Niger Delta… Mr. President has personally engaged several regional leaders and youths. Senior officials of his administration also engaged many Niger Delta leaders and youths. Very significant is that Mr. President mandated the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, to visit virtually all the oil producing states, engaging various stakeholders. This is unprecedented in the history of the region. Such engagement processes have brought some measure of peace in the Niger Delta. Things can only get better.’’
He continued: ‘’Beyond the engagement processes, however, the Buhari administration has embarked on some infrastructural and human capital development activities in the region. In Delta State, the opening of a Maritime University; the setting up of a steering committee for the EPZ (Gas City), the plan for a deep sea port, the dredging of the Escravos-Warri River; the opening of the railway line to Delta Steel Company, the soon to be flagged off, by Mr. President, the Omadino-Escravos Road that will pass through many riverine communities; the various road construction works by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the various TCN projects across the state are some of the positive activities in the region.’’
The former governor said since the President had set his priorities pursuant to creating an environment for peace in the region, it is incumbent on every well-meaning Niger Deltan and Nigerian to key-in.
He urged: ‘’In this era of partisan politics, it is necessary for the people of the Niger Delta, and Delta State in particular, to identify more with the Federal Government led by the APC. By so doing, we can push some of the agreements between our leaders and the Federal Government through, and also engage the government to do more.
Politics is about interests. The Niger Delta is a major area of interest for me, because I staked my life going into the creeks severally without security and sometimes coming back at night negotiating peace. I will, therefore, give the strongest support to any President that shows commitment in the affairs of the Niger Delta.’
‘’I call on, and enjoin, other well-meaning leaders in the region, who have very useful contributions to make, to come on board and join hands in helping this Federal Government to pursue a robust development agenda that would uplift our people. Whatever milestone that appears not to have been achieved yet is not for lack of efforts. Joining hands with and supporting the process will lead to a faster delivery on expectations.
–––Okorie, a school teacher, wrote from Asaba