By Mazi Onyedikachi Odom
While we were at Federal Government College, Port Harcourt in those days, little did we know we will be engaged at this level in our old age and at close quarters. Because of our relationship then, and the fact that your dear wife Unoma comes from my town, I usually address you as in-law.
I turned down your invitation to come to Abuja to see you in March because I am unhappy that the things I warned you about are coming to pass. I remember trying to talk you out of encouraging that boy to write against the Judges who sat on your Petition after you lost your bid to return to the Senate. I had even advised you to jettison the idea of going to Court. It was strategic, I thought. To allow you room for soul searching; if you were loved and celebrated as Governor from 2007 to 2015, what happened only 4 years after that you could not win elections in your backyard? It worried me.
The Tribunal experience and the blackmail against the Justices of the Court of Appeal are both negatives that could have been avoided.
Ette, I am tired of raising the red flags for you. When my attention was drawn to a published letter by one Dr. Iniobong Ekong of University of Uyo addressed to your former Deputy, immediate past MD of NDDC and Governorship Candidate of the APC in Akwa Ibom State, Obong Nsima Ekere, I laughed and immediately remembered the small table in one of your sitting rooms in Asokoro where the Tribunal Judges’ blackmail was served!
In-law, you have nothing to fear about Nsima Ekere. On the other hand, Nsima Ekere has everything to dread about you. In all your encounters with Mr. Ekere, you have been unkind to him. As Deputy Governor, you plotted his impeachment until he resigned barely two years into government which he heavily funded. Now as supervising Minister of an establishment he once headed, you have commissioned a witch-hunt and christened it forensic audit. Of course, I remember our discussion on this strategy some months ago. I told you it would back fire. In your usual manner, you brushed me aside.
In-law, the idea of probing Mr. Ekere as the first Managing Director of NDDC in this administration is a miscalculation. It is akin to probing President Buhari while still in office. But you seem to misunderstand President Buhari’s body language. You are carried away by his silence and seeming inaction. You will get all approvals you need. Every letter will be signed but know that the reports of discrete investigations against you while in office as Governor and now as Minister are also before Mr. President. That’s a Fulani man for you. Sir, Oshiomhole has not forgotten your role in the botched attempt to remove him from office as APC National Chairman. DSP Omo-Agege is looking at you with corner eye. The Senate President is miffed that you rubbished the NDDC Board he hurriedly screened and approved for inauguration. The Speaker of House of Representatives is not happy that you deceived him and blackmailed his Committee Chairman on NDDC. By now you should see the action of the National Assembly for what it is – a tacit consent of Mr. President to probe you, shikena!
My own in-law, so you see the gimmick of accusing the National Assembly for performing a simple oversight function is weak and tantamount to hiding behind a wretched finger. Nigerians have started losing faith in your capacity because of your meddlesomeness in the NDDC. The National Assembly has a Committee that oversees Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The fact that you are the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs (MNDA) does not preclude the NASS from carrying out its constitutional duties. After all, this is about probe too. The forensic audit you have ordered by all intents and purposes is an indirect probe of Buhari administration’s appointees and the APC-led federal government. Some argue that the blood of PDP still runs through your veins hence your abrasive stance towards the APC and its growth in Akwa Ibom State. Why are you afraid of being probed by the National Assembly of which you were a principal officer? A clear conscience, they say fears no accusation.
Since your appointment last year as Minister, the MNDA has not done anything to show the Niger Delta region that it is serious about revamping the fortunes of the region. All your memos to Mr. President are stories of alleged fraud, looting, forensic probe, Interim Management Committee and NDDC Board.
Incidentally, like most humans, your greatest motivation is money – however it comes. The old saying admonishes that he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. From your fragile glass house, you have hurled pebbles and attracted missiles. My fear is that you are on a path to self-destruct. The path of perdition to you seems laced with gold. I wish my sister could raise a finger of caution. No. She’s engrossed with her new found passion for sheltering widows. She is the quintessential Eka esit mbom. But you need a great dose of mbom too.
In-law, recent events suggest that you have forgotten the discussion we had the last time you visited Port Harcourt on your way from the Bayelsa Gubernatorial campaigns. I had told you it was untidy to get involved with verified contractors and Commission staff. I advised that there were smarter ways of raising money. You mentioned that you needed the funds for the rerun elections. Now see the documents flying everywhere? From my findings, the senior staff of the Commission you have forced out are not the ones betraying you. The huge trails of cash lodgments and withdrawals traced to your life-long aide and nephew Emmanuel Inyangetor, for instance has given you out as untrustworthy and corrupt. If you could hardly afford election funds, how come your aide has suddenly matured to Billionaire status soon afterwards? Your brother has suddenly escaped austerity and bought for himself a choice property at Guzape in Asokoro. Just like that?
In-law, like the saying goes, you ought to have looked before you leapt. He who goes to equity must go with clean hands. When you mentioned that a serving Senator had hundreds of files pending for payments for unexecuted contracts, I tried to dissuade you but in your usual style you were adamant. Till date, you have been unable to substantiate the allegations against the Senator. Senator Peter Nwaoboshi even threw an open challenge which you could not accept.
In-law, the National Assembly is probing the humongous and scary withdrawals the Interim Management Committee (IMC) has made in a few weeks under your watch, rather than explain and give reasons, I have been informed that you are gathering documents of the last administration to defend yourself at Senate. Ette, the people will laugh at us. They will laugh you to scorn. The Deputy Senate President will rip you apart. Remember he is a Lawyer!
The NDDC over the years has been a cash cow. It has served and serviced politicians. It has been used to quell insurrection and suppress restiveness in the region. It is difficult for you to shut all doors and open a small window large enough for yourself alone.
You still remember that when you indicated interest to become Minority Leader of the Senate, you had no money? It was Barr. Bassey Dan Abia who served under you as Attorney General whom you nominated as Managing Director at the time that provided the N500, 000, 000. 00 which was delivered to you by Effiong Aqua who was Special Assistant on Finance at the NDDC then. That money helped a great deal. Where do you think the money came from? Are you going to probe Barr. Bassey Dan Abia too?
Part of the reason for the fight you are seeing is that your forensic audit is selective. As Governor of Akwa Ibom State you nominated several appointees at the NDDC. You cornered several unexecuted jobs which were paid for. Your bother Nkereuwem Akpabio was Special Assistant in charge of Projects at the Commission. Are you probing the Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan’s regimes too?
The PDP Governors you have run to for assistance are happy to see you frustrated. You messed them up when you had the opportunity. You were ruthless. Now, to court their support, you have hurriedly set up a Palliatives Committee after spending according to records N270m in the name of NDDC/COVID assistance. The Committee as I have been told by our mutual friend (High Chief) in Delta State is to send heavy palliatives to PDP controlled States in the region to buy their support. The idea of visiting the President which you desperately suggested has been ruled out because of COVID -19 and physical distancing regulations. The PDP Governors will demand and collect but cannot defend you.
My dear in-law, choose your fights carefully. Nsima Ekere is not your problem, rather you have harassed him enough. Be careful so that what befell the man who chased a hapless chicken relentlessly does not befall you.
* Odom, a public affairs commentator, sent this from Abuja