The toughest challenge for any leader in the Niger Delta since 1997 has been the issue of peace and security. For over 12 years, I was deeply involved in the management of the issues of the region, first as Secretary to State Government (SSG), and then as Governor of Delta State for eight years.
Strategically, we had engagement as our major tool. This involved government officials, with me in the forefront (sometimes personally going into the creeks without security at nocturnal hours), community leaders, traditional rulers, religious leaders, our youths, retired military officers, activists, etc. Of course, ensuring that Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) was active was also part of the engagement process.
Since the inception of the current All Progressives Congress (APC) administration at the federal level, there has been an encouraging interest and activities by President Muhammadu Buhari to bring a permanent solution to the Niger Delta crisis. This has pointed in a direction that is at once progressive and developmental.
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. In the last years, 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.
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.
There are also various human capital development programmes especially the school feeding and the “social security net” that is making N5,000 available to the poor, the continuation of the YouWin programme, the various SME programmes, and several other projects across the region have brought hope to the people.
Indeed, once Mr. President was able to set his priorities pursuant to creating an environment for peace in the region, it became incumbent on every well-meaning Niger Deltan and Nigerian to assist the process of building an economically prosperous nation.
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.
•Uduaghan (CON) is the immediate past Governor of Delta State
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