By Idowu Ajanaku
Love or hate her persona of courage and candour, there is no denying the fact that in the leadership equation, here in Nigeria and elsewhere in every democratic dispensation, loyalty and commitment to service pay. Those factors come of course, with character, hard work and being passionate to a cause one firmly believes in.
That may perhaps, explain why the name, Lauretta Onochie sends shivers down the spine of her traducers, all because she has stood solid and strong with her abiding loyalty to the President Muhammad Buhari’scause to promote integrity, quality service delivery and gender equity especially in the political spectrum.
In essence, that would also explain why the leadership of Project Niger Delta, PND, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for heeding the calls of the good people of the Niger Delta. That is precisely so in the recent nomination of men and women of proven integrity to constitute the substantive board of the controversy-riddled Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
Good enough, this falls in tandem with the Act setting up the Commission Niger-Delta Development Commission (Establishment etc) Act 6 of 2000 as part of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
It would be noted that in spite of the barrage of verbal attacks that have trailed her commitment to sanitizing the New Media, which she has been spearheading as the Senior Special Assistant to Mister President she has remained resolute. She has therefore, acted as a beacon bearer against the dark background of unproven innuendoes and insinuations, even from some of her own Niger Delta people.
On the other hand, some others, like members of PND recognize her worth. What that implies or the point it proves is that President Buhari has made this rare appointment beyond loyalty, to competence.
The confidence he has exhibited in Onochie, the graduate of Harvard University, University of Greenwich, University of Benin, University of Calabar, will surely go a long way for her to prove her mettle again.
In fact, as the PND group rightly noted, the inauguration of the substantive board of the commission was long overdue. Onochie’s appointment has therefore, revived the hopes of the people of the oil-rich region that the lost glory of the commission will be restored under her able watch.
Interestingly, Onochie, once approved by the Senate is coming as the fifth chairman of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the first woman to do so. That is history in the making.
Her appointment is coming some three years after the last chairman of the board, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba was dropped by the president on January 25, 2019. The senator was appointed in 2016.
It is also on record that Onochie was a National Commissioner nominee of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but was rejected because her state, Delta had already produced a commissioner in the electoral body.
In retrospect, the NDDC was established in 2000 by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, to fast-track the development of the oil rich Niger Delta region.
The past chairmen of the NDDC board were: Chief Onyema Ugochukwu from Abia State and Air vice Marshal Larry Koinyan (rtd) from Bayelsa as well as Senators Ewa-Henshaw and Victor Ndoma-Egba, all from Cross River State.
In a letter addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, Buhari also announced the nomination of 15 others as NDDC board members.
It would be recalled that in September 2008, President UmaruYar’Adua(of blessed memory) announced the formation of a Niger Delta Affairs Ministry. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) became a parastatal under the ministry.
One of the statutory functions of the commission is for human capacity development- to train and educate the youths of the Niger Delta region. The objective is to curb militancy and the attendant destruction of lives and property, whilealso developing important infrastructure to promote diversification and productivity of the region’s economy.
Similar to PND, the Movement for the Survival of the Izon Ethnic Nationality in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND) has praised the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint Lauretta Onochie as chairman of the NDDC board.
Also appointed as acting executive director, Finance and Administration of NDDC is Chris Amadi, while Samuel Adjogbe, an engineer, becomes acting executive director, projects.
According to MOSIEND president, Kennedy Tonjo West, because Onochie has worked closely with Buhari, he has no doubt that Onochie will implement the president’s vision for the Niger Delta.
West said: “I think this is the first time we are having a woman as chairman of the board. It is a novel idea. But first, she is an SA (special assistant) to the President and she is doing her job. And the kind of job as an SA, she will definitely do what her boss says.
“If you have put that as a yardstick, then, I am quite sure that was what had endeared her to her boss for being thorough and resolute when it comes to her job.
“Coming back as a chairman, she is a Niger Deltan, she has equal right like every other person that should be nominated. I think the National Assembly should expedite action in giving her the pass to come and serve.”
In a similar vein, the National Coordinator of PND, Comrade Princewill Ebebi in a statement in Yenagoa, the group is convinced that with Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as Chairman and Managing Director respectively, the narratives of the board will change for good.
Ebebi said: “We believed that having duo as the Chairman and Managing Director, the Niger Delta will witness the needed transformation especially now that the pains and agonies running through the heart of people after the calamitous flood disaster that has destroyed the livelihood of the people.
“We charge them to bring their wealth of knowledge to bear in the lives of our people and change the narrative of the current dwindling status of the oil-rich region. We congratulate Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Dr Samuel Ogbuku and others for their well-deserved appointment to move the Niger Delta forward”.
Though some may view her current nomination for the NDDC headship as a form of compensation for her travails since she was turned down by the Senate for the INEC job, people should not lose sight of the fact that had she betrayed the cause she stood by, the pendulum of the appointment would have swung otherwise.
That reminds us of Benjamin Disraeli’s statement that: “The secret of success is constancy of purpose”.
Ajanaku, a journalist, writes from Lagos