MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Uche Diala
It is said that old habits die hard. We also know that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back.
These sayings can not be truer of the current situation with and at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
In the last few days, the nation has been inundated with tales from that interventionist Agency. An Agency that was set up to be a source of succor to the long suffering people of the Niger Delta region but which unfortunately for years has been turned into a cash cow for a few privileged persons to the detriment of the majority of Niger Deltans and Nigerians at large.
Unfortunately, while many Nigerians are just getting to hear about what is going on with that Agency, the ‘rofo rofo’ fight and mischiefs started as soon as the new NDDC Management Board led by the Lauretta Onochie was announced and inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari and indeed before that.
Certain individuals who believe that the NDDC was(is) their birth right swore never to remove their knees from the neck of the Commission and by extension the necks of the Niger Deltans and Nigerians at large.
Like an organised mafia equipped with all the needed tools, including lush funds, blackmail and propaganda, they have done everything humanly possible and impossible to ensure that the major aims and intentions of the new Chairman of the Board and her team which are probity, accountability, due process and effecient service delivery to the people of the region are scuttled.
To achieve that, the so called cabal within and around the NDDC has orchestrated and deployed all manners of mischief and underhand tactics, including intimidation, dissidence, sabotage, emotional blackmail, negative propaganda, fake news and outright lies against the Chairman of the Board.
The latest of which is the procured court judgement which among other things purportedly barred the Chairman of the Board from interfering in the legal funtions of the Managing Director of the Commission and sacking “18 Aides” allegedly contracted by the Chairman. This would have been laughable if it was not so tragic and the intent evil.
It bears asking: What exact legal functions of the Managing Director has the Board Chairman usurped?
Is it in the Chairman insisting that due processes must be followed in running of the affairs of the Commission and that transparency, probity and accountability must be the watch words?
Or is it in the Chairman’s insistence that multiple accounts opened in the name of the Commission, some shrouded in secrecy must be closed and accounted for?
Or is it in her insistence that the NDDC must be made to work for the common good of the people of the Niger Delta and Nigerians at large for which the Agency was set up?
The Managing Director must speak up and answer these pertinent questions. We are aware of and tired of the gimmick of surreptitiously acting and speaking through hired surrogates and lackeys.
Another vexed issue is the purported sacking contained in the court judgement of “18 aides” supposedly retained by the Chairman of the Board. Nothing could be more preposterous. The simple fact and naked truth is that there are no “18 aides” for the Chairman anywhere. The Chairman has only 3 aides as prescribed by the Act. This is something that could be easily verified.
Indeed, it is because of the Chairman’s stance and insistence on reducing the number of aides available to board members, including herself, that some of her friends and close associates are not happy with her. This is the same Chairman who publicly insisted that existing staff of the Commission would be trained and retrained to serve as Technical Advisers (TAs) instead of recruiting new ones. What therefore could be more unfair to her?
Of a truth, the ongoing devilish fight against the person of Lauretta Onochie was not unexpected, but practically seeing how desperate and how far, low, and dirty some people are ready and willing to go brings home the true reality of the saying that when you fight corruption and indiscipline, they both fight back ferociously like wounded lions.
There is no question whatsoever as to whether Laureta Onochie has the strength of character, level of integrity, resilience, determination and doggenness to fight this fight but we also know that the cabal has amassed a humongous arsenal for what they clearly see as the last fight of their lives, including enormous material and human resources in high and low places.
Part of their gimmick is to present the Chairman before her employers, Niger Deltans and Nigerians as the agent provocatuer and a disagreeable person who does not want the Agency to function and as some one who is equally tainted and hopefully by so doing mobilise public sentiments and opinion against her, using the media and their well oiled and financed propaganda machinery.
Nothing however could be farther from the truth and Niger Deltans and indeed Nigerians should know this. If anything, it is Lauretta Onochie who has from day one demonstrated from her words and actions that the NDDC should be returned to its intended commission of ensuring that the Niger Delta and Niger Deltans do not continue to be shortchanged in the midst of plenty. For this, she is being pushed, maligned and attacked, in the vain hope of getting her out of the way so that they can continue business as usual.
It is very important that Niger Deltans and Nigerians rise up in defence of this woman who’s only intent is that the right things be done for the good of the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.
The powers that be at the Presidency and the National Assembly should also stand resolutely behind her. I also expect the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs who is the supervising Minister to stand to be counted and to prove that he is not part of the canker worms intent on continued eating up of the commission.
We must not forget that we have witnessed instances especially in recent times, where some well meaning patriots and change agents have been allowed to be consumed by the corrupt system only for fighting corruption and insisting on getting things done right.
Hopefully the case of Lauretta Onochie will not be the same but it requires eternal vigilance by all patriotic and well meaning Nigerians. Silence will not be an option this time around.
The contributor, Dr_ Uche Diala is a public_ affairs commentator