ROSTRUM: The Silent Agenda

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If you are conversant with the history of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), you wouldn’t need to be told that on her establishment in year 2000 by the Obasanjo-led federal government, the Commission was saddled with the principal mandate of developing the Niger Delta region. Delivering on this mandate will translate to the managers of the Commission formulating and implementing actionable policies aimed at bringing into being sustainable development in the region.
But there is no way sustainable development can be experienced in the region if there is no genuine peace and security in operation. Already, the history of the region is riddled with violence, insecurity, unrest, poverty, environmental bastardization and human rights abuses. It will be reasonable, therefore, that for any policy to be useful for the long term development of the region, such policy must have, embedded in it, the potentialities to address – without unnecessary noise – the challenges of violence, insecurity, poverty, environmental degradation, and other factors militating against the development of the region.
Granted, all the identified inhibitors of development in the region cannot be addressed at once in a one-size-fit-all policy. Some sort of tact and novelty must be used to isolate and subdue the demons that undermine the development of the Niger Delta region and her people.
Now, that’s easier said than done. It may be easy to identify violence, insecurity and poverty as some of these anti-development demons; but how can the managers of the NDDC execute their policies in such a way that the venomous fangs of these demons are broken at the root, making it impossible for them to paralyze the vision of development in the region? Many options and approaches are available; and successive leaderships of NDDC since 2000 have deployed the options that appeal best to them given the prevailing conditions in the region at the time of their service.
H.E. Obong Nsima Ekere took over as Managing Director of NDDC in 2016. Expectedly, he has chosen to follow the path of honour by sustaining the implementation of policies, and execution of projects focused on developing the Niger Delta region. Shamefully, though, his efforts at road construction and other interventionist, developmental projects have come under heavy criticism by his political adversaries at home, who seem to be ill-at-ease with his strides. Even the choice of his Special Assistants has also come under intense pillory. That notwithstanding, Obong Ekere has continued with his duties, undaunted, and with the familiar air of confidence that surrounds a man who knows what he wants.
One of the projects executed by the Ekere-led NDDC is the provision of dual desks to schools. Although this has been dismissed by some pedantic critics as being petty, I will show you the silent agenda in this act; but first, let me take you somewhere.
On November 7, 2001, the Aga Foundation and the World Bank met over the theme “Education for All.” The common resolution at the end of that meeting, as reported by Seydou Sarr in the January – February, 2002 edition of The Courier, reads: “One way of beating world poverty is to invest in children: to offer them a safety net in the form of basic education, and to listen to them.”
This position is as true today as it was in 2001. But the extended truth is that, apart from having a direct impact on the poverty index of a nation, education – especially early childhood education – has a deep long term influence over the violence index of any country. This quickly explains why many experts and leaders keep chorusing that the boko haram crisis in Nigeria is tightly linked with the poverty and raging illiteracy levels in those regions worst hit by this social catastrophe.
Experience from history teaches that leaders who seek to push the frontiers of development in their regions often opt to invest in education. Such investments have yielded dividends which are undeniably evident in Nigeria where the expansive economic development and control in the Western part of the country is, without hesitation, linked with the free education programme that was put in place by late Pa Awolowo.
The provision of dual desks by NDDC to schools is a direct intervention in, and support of the provision of qualitative education. After all, no serious learning takes place where the pupils are not comfortable. And the provision of qualitative education at the pre-primary level, where the young minds can easily be cultured to accept peaceful coexistence and non-violence as a way of life is a potent, unorthodox and non-invasive tool for crafting and entrenching long term peace and security for sustainable development in the region. In this lies the silent agenda.
One of the beneficiaries of the NDDC dual desk intervention is St. Saviour’s Primary School, Uruk Uso, Ikot Ekpene. Established by The African Church in 1920, this school has produced a number of prominent persons, including Otuekong Uyo Nathaniel, Special Assistant on Security and Protocol to Obong Nsima Ekere, Managing Director, NDDC. However, the school has, in recent years suffered the plague of poor facilities and threat of flood. Before the intervention, most of the pupils received lessons sitting on bare floors and bricks. A pathetic sight!
Without saying, it is safe to speculate that Otuekong Nathaniel must have been the guiding finger that brought St. Saviour’s case before his boss; after all, charity, as they say, begins at home.
While we trust NDDC to continue with the intervention where and when necessary, it is expected that recipients of these facilities and the host communities owe themselves and NDDC a duty to protect and preserve what they have received.

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