Uduaghan: the Road to Peace?
28 Apr 2007
Author: Oma Djebah
Last month, when major international stakeholders, including the United States, representatives of the federal government, international development agencies, multinational and blue chip oil companies, diplomats gathered in Washington DC under the auspices of the US forum to brainstorm on a lasting solution to the lingering conflicts in Nigeria's oil rich Niger Delta, one thing became evident: the Nigerian government is losing about N134bn monthly (about $ 1 billion US dollars) as a result the on-going conflict in the constituent states of the Niger Delta, which has also triggered other global components with significant implications for external resource and investment inflows. That was the main content of the Washington forum deliberations. And the lingering question has been; with this situation report from Washington, where do we go from here in the task of providing a pragmatic and realistic roadmap to peace in the crisis-prone Niger Delta states?
That is in terms of the individual states of the region like Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ondo, Imo and Cross River defining their signpost to peace and working in harmony and alignment with the federal government's Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to leapfrog the states into haven of peace and security.
One man may have gotten it right in terms of the composition of his high-profile Transition Committee, which he inaugurated on Monday. And he has also shown and demonstrated his deep understanding of the interplay of all these factors, forces and the overall governance matrix. He is the governor-elect of Delta state, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. Uduaghan, 53, a medical doctor by training and profession, a peace builder and an experienced public sector player is the immediate past Secretary to the State Government in Delta state government (SSG). Uduaghan is the first governor-elect in Nigeria to constitute a transition committee that would provide a framework for his administration. Widely travelled, Uduaghan's rich worldview has also been brought to play in the entire composition matrix. In addition, Uduaghan's Deputy (the Deputy Governor-elect) Professor Amos Utuama, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and the immediate past Attorney General of the state is also a technocrat who understands the workings of the terrain.
The Uduaghan's Transition Committee is headed by no less a person than General Alex Ogomudia, former Chief of Defence Staff, with a mandate to provide a framework for the incoming administration, especially in the three-pronged areas of peace and security, human capital development and physical infrastructure. The Committee, which is made up of notable Deltans who have distinguished themselves in their various endeavours, according to analysts, is an indication of Uduaghan's seriousness and determination to fast-track the pace development and build on existing foundations.
Amongst those in the 34-man Panel are Prof. (Mrs.) Grace Alele-Williams, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin and first female Vice Chancellor of a university in West Africa, Chief James Erhuero (Vice Chairman), former Secretary to the Government of Delta State and member of the Presidential Committee on the Niger Delta, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa (Secretary of the Committee), former governorship aspirant and a past commissioner in Delta state, Gen Cletus Emein (rtd), former military governor of Niger State, Gen Dominic Oneya (rtd), ace sports administrator and former military governor of Kano and Benue States, respectively, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, former minister of Information, Chief John Edozien, Chairman of the Nigeria Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC), Chief Emmanuel Ogidi, Delta State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof (Mrs) Otete-Okobiah, a university don and Chief Charles Obule, a former governorship aspirant and businessman. Others are Barrister Thelma Osamor, Dr Roland Eyime, Chief Godson Echejile, Mr. William Kpere-Daibo, Prof. Benjamin Okabah, Mr. George Timinimi, His Royal Highnes Onajite Igere Adjara 11, Ovie of Ogor, Queen Victoria Ikenchuku, Ojeba of Agbor, Mr. Oma Djebah, Mr. George Orogun, Dr Emmanuel Mafiana, Dr Wilson Omene, Dr Adogbeji Ideh, Surv. Paul Osaji, Dr Tabs Tabowei, Engr John Tom-Onah, Dr Robert Ejifoma, Mr Kingsley Akeni, Barrister Prosper Esegbue, Chief Patrick Okitiakpe, Chief Lucky Oghene-Omoru, Mr. Abel Edijala and Rev Godspower Agbuduta.
While inaugurating the Transition Committee, the Governor-elect charged members to take on varied issues, including evaluation of on-going initiatives, peace and security, strategies and deliverables, political and administrative structure, surveillance issues, good governance, social and ethical transformation, independence of the judiciary and private-public sector partnership. The committee is also expected to formulate governmental and policy framework as well as enunciate institutional and sectoral modules that would further position Delta in the new millennium. And thus, build on the legacies of Governor James Ibori, the Delta state governor. Clearly, Uduaghan's deep understanding of the issues of peace building and the imperatives of that module as valuable instrument for putting off the fire and flames of crisis in the creeks of the Niger Delta, has manifested itself in his well defined three-pronged agenda of peace and security, human capital development and physical infrastructural development.
He said: "It is our hope that some of the schisms, distrust and disagreements still existing in some parts of the state would be further reduced, and if possible, completely eliminated at the end of my tenure as governor of Delta. Indeed, you may wish to know that we are conscious of the challenge of ruling a multi-ethnic state like Delta, and we are determined to make sure that in the end, our administration would be remembered for uniting the people of the state." So, how do we drive the peace building process and create development modules that would fast track the pace of development? Is it all that easy? Certainly not.
This is because the task of peace building in the region is fraught with multifarious challenges, and has the potential to de-capacitate any a leader that is not grounded in the fundamental tenets of peace building. In fact, research conducted by the US based Forum House, a few years ago, clearly indicated that more than anything else, there has been a seeming gulf between the people and the government, occasioned by prolonged years of military rule, which undermined, weakened and in some cases, destroyed all the major institutions of government like the periodic town hall meetings between political office holders and their representatives, the regular interface between public sector and civil society and the media and the democratization of the governance process. All these accelerated the intensity of bottled up tension and emotions, over time, which are currently being vented by restive youths of the Niger Delta.
Understandably, it is in a bid to address this frontally, that Uduaghan has come up with a multi-stakeholder perspective that appears to go beyond the traditional and narrow compass of basic policies and practices. A 34-man transition Committee made up of people from varied, diverse and multidisciplinary backgrounds is certainly a pointer to the fact that the medical doctor and technocrat turned politician is committed to finding solutions to existing challenges and building on present foundations in fostering peace, security and integration.
Now, one quick way forward, which the Delta State Governor-elect clearly articulated in his policy programme document entitled Towards a Greater Delta is his desire to integrate as well as domesticate peace-building modules that have worked excellently well in other parts of the world like the US, Britain, Australia, South Africa and the Scandinavia countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
Perhaps, to jump-start this would entail, a closer collaboration and deeper understanding between Delta and the multi-dimensional global community, especially the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the international community and multinational oil companies. To help realise this vision, Uduaghan has made it clear that he would enable and enhance the capacity and capability of the public service personnel while at the same time opening up the public policy process for effective private sector participation and collaboration. This is well spelt out in the terms of reference of the Ogomudia-led Transition Committee. It is not therefore surprising that the Uduaghan model has expectedly received wide acclaim with the result that expectations are high amongst the citizenry on service delivery when his administration kicks off May 29, this year.