The NDDC Debacle: Between Ahmed Lawan and Godswill Akpabio

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Existential questions are as old as human existence. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg, the man or the embryo, Ahmed Lawan or Godswill Akpabio? The latter poser might be infinitely less meaningful in the grand scheme of things, but for the rank and file of the Niger Delta, not to mention those who earn their daily bread from the activities of the region’s federal commission, it is a question that requires an answer. And fast.

Parallel governments are nothing new in politics. Nigeria’s two main parties have been victims, and sometimes victors, of splintered factions, especially at state levels. But when the fate of a region’s development is at stake, such divisions morph from a political game to an emergency that must be rectified at once.

Enter Senators Ahmed Lawan and Godswill Akpabio. The two former comrades of the legislative upper chambers certainly have a lot in common. But it is their differences that are sticking out like a sore thumb. Ever since Akpabio was made the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, observers already claimed it was a matter of time before he went on a collision course with the second arm of government.

Akpabio had, against some advice, and perhaps even his own better judgment, set up an interim management committee to pilot the affairs of the Niger Delta Development Commission. The committee was headed by Dr Joy Nunieh from Rivers State.

Immediately, there was a hue and cry in the polity. Not to worry, the senate assured, as they commenced screening for the 15 nominees for the NDDC board put forward by the presidency. With proceedings concluded, ex-Edo State Deputy Governor Pius Odubu was confirmed as Chairman of the board while Delta State’s Bernard Okumagba was confirmed as Managing Director and Bayelsa State’s Maxwell Okoh as Executive Director Finance and Administration.

In an interesting turn of events, Nunieh, Akpabio’s interim MD, who was also nominated for the board, failed to show up for the screenings and was subsequently rejected by the senate. Those close to the matter claimed she might have been ordered to stay away by the new Niger Delta minister in an apparent bid to flex his muscle of influence.