This is a story of exceptional courage in governance and an indication that there are indeed some individuals whose commitment to the Nigerian cause is unflinching.
This is also a story of a woman who has dared to do what most men would shy away from with their tails in between their legs for the race is not for the faint-hearted, but for those with courage and a commitment to doing the right thing at all times.
The revelation of the rot in the Niger-Delta Development Commission came to Nigerians as a rude shock. The country was astonished by the level of decadence that has characterised its operations since the year 2000 with the mission of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable development of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful.
The fact remains that the NDDC has not delivered on its mandate. At best, it has been a lack-luster performance, with very little to show for the humongous resources that have accrued to it over the past 19 years. Pervasive corruption, flagrant abuse of due process, abandoned projects, poor quality project delivery, and many other despicable acts were the order of the day. While the majority of the people reeled in abject poverty, some highly placed smile to the bank and oppress the people with their ill-gotten wealth.
It was indeed an eyesore so much so that but for the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari through the appointment of Dr. Joi Nunieh as the acting managing director of the interim management committee of the agency, I must admit that this was indeed the game-changer and an indication that indeed there would be light the end of the tunnel for the people of the Niger-Delta region.
The strategic importance of the NDDC in facilitating the development of the Niger-Delta region cannot be overemphasised. It is instructive to state that for change to happen there must be those that are willing to take the bull by the horns at great discomfort. And this is what Dr. Joi Nunieh has done since she assumed leadership of the NDDC.
These heroic acts of hers did not come with its attendant consequences because those have benefited from the heist would ordinarily not go down without a good fight. This much they have been doing in an attempt to take their pound of flesh from her for daring to reposition the agency for greater efficiency.
If not for anything, I salute her courage in the efforts she has put in so far despite the avalanche of attacks that have come her way. In a country like Nigeria, there are a few people that would carry on like Dr. Joi Nunieh. And this lends credence to the famous saying that what a man can do a woman can do better and is doing better.
I can count the number of people that would be this brave even in the face of a threat to life. Instead of trembling, she is in a hurry to achieve results like some others in this present administration that have indeed proved their mettle in governance. This is indeed phenomenal and worthy of emulation by those holding positions of authorities.
How the NDDC disintegrated to this despicable level is a topic for discussion another day because of the various developmental challenges facing the region. It was expected that the NDDC vehicle would have been used to change the fortunes of the region favorably. But ironically, the reverse has been the case. This is quite sad. I recall that I stated in one of my writings that for meaningful development to come to the Niger-Delta region, its leaders must put the interest of the people at heart.
I say this for the fact that perpetrators of the rot in the agency are those that claim to be the political and traditional leaders of the region that are quick to grace the pages of newspapers on how the federal government is neglecting the region. At the same time, they are busy depriving the people of their commonwealth.
There is also an interesting revelation that indeed, these individuals have willing collaborators within the agency that are also beneficiaries of the rot in the system. This fact is also corroborated by the level of insider abuse that has characterized the operations of the agency. This fact even makes the job of repositioning the agency more daunting for Dr. Joi Nunieh.
I have nothing but admiration for her because of her determination to rewrite the history of the Niger-Delta region for good. The case of Dr. Joi Nunieh reminds me of Claudia Escobar, who grew up in Guatemala; Claudia Escobar learned early on what it’s like to live in a country marked by corruption and impunity. To make a difference and fight injustice, she became a magistrate at the Court of Appeals. But when she decided to speak up publicly against illegal interferences in the judiciary, her life changed dramatically. Escobar became the lead whistleblower in a case of grand corruption that implicated many high-ranking political officials, including Guatemala’s vice-president and the former president of Congress.
In her words, she stated that “Of course, I was afraid of the consequences. Immediately after I denounced this wrongdoing, the president, the vice president, and the congressman that I denounced started a campaign to intimidate and discredit me professionally.”
This is the case of Dr. Joi Nunieh that has found herself in waters filled with sharks that are lurking around with their mouths wide open, waiting to devour her by launching scathing campaigns against her person all in a bid to discredit her before the eyes of the general public.
My consolation is the fact the Nigerians and indeed discerning people of the Niger-Delta region would rise in her defense in completing what she has started in the NDDC. I have no doubt whatsoever as regards this because if we must make progress as a country, we must learn to put round pegs in round holes. This is also on the heels of her track record that dates back to her struggles for the emancipation of the Ogoni people with the late Ken Saro Wiwa.
To say she is fearless is an understatement. She is indeed an amazon whose impact would be felt across the board in the Niger-Delta region in the fullness of time. Those that think they can intimidate her should have a rethink as the more they attack her, the stronger she gets.
Her commitment to sanitising the NDDC is fierce. This much she has exhibited so far since she assumed leadership of the NDDC. We must admit that it indeed takes much courage to effect a change in a system that has been heavily compromised over the years. I salute her courage in this regard and can only join millions of Nigerians in wishing her well in the task ahead.
In my opinion, what the country owes her is nothing but 100% support in the discharge of her duties. I know for sure that more campaigns would be launched against her all in a bid to demoralize and weaken her resolve to do the right thing in the NDDC. It is indeed my earnest prayer that she does not lose focus on this tedious task. This can only happen if the leadership of the country does not give her the needed support for no man is an island.
Dr. Joi Nunieh has displayed an infectious commitment that should elicit ovation from all and sundry for daring to take the bulls by the horns. If the majority of public office holders can be like her, then we can be sure of sustainable growth and development in the country. I salute her courage and encourage her to continue to weather the storm because it is not yet Uhuru. This is indeed an act of exceptional courage in governance.
*Agada, a strategic communication expert, wrote this piece from Abuja.