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ORUBEBE AND THE NIGER DELTA MINISTRY: WHAT IS THE REPORT CARD?

Last week, President Goodluck Jonathan sacked some five ministers, one of them being Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe, who was in charge of the Ministry of Niger Delta.
 
 
The official reason given for the action is that those affected were interested in pursuing political adventure.
Perhaps to quickly confirm the statement of the federal government, Mr Orubebe did not allow that week to finish before organizing a “welcome” rally in Asaba, the Delta State capital. Orubebe is an Ijaw man from Delta State.
 
 
Long before he was relieved of his office, there have been rumours of his gubernatorial ambition. It is believed that he had been trying to build a political structure to power his ambition.
 
 
Many also believe that Orubebe’s eye on the governorship race constituted a lot of distraction for him. Those who so believe, argue that his poor performance in office was because he was suffused with the plans and workings of his gubernatorial ambition to the detriment of his mandate to develop and grow the region.
 
 
Yet another group believes that Orubebe’s dismal record in office is essentially a matter of capacity deficit, and not because of his ambition.
 
 
I am tempted to associate my belief with the former group.
Many had clapped and danced when the late President Musa Yar’adua created the Ministry of the Niger Delta on September 10, 2008. The belief at the time was that, in no time, the region which had serially suffered criminal neglect from past governments will begin to sing a new song, given that an entire ministry was now to drive its development index.
 
 
At the time, the substantive minister was Chief Ufot Ekaette, while Orubebe was the Minister of state in the ministry. Nineteen months after, Orubebe was appointed the substantive minister on April 6 2010, after Yar’adua’s death. From that time till last week, Orubebe had headed the ministry.
 
 
That means that he was in office as Minister of the Niger Delta for nearly  four years.
And the question being asked is what added value did Orubebe bring to the life of Niger Delta people? Did he perform? Did he not perform?
 
 
Those who believe he performed below expectation are quick to citing the infamous  enigmatic (?) East-West road, which had been in the works for decades.
 
 
With the creation of the Niger Delta ministry and the appointment of a Niger Delta son to drive it, the great expectation was that, at least, the road will be completed in record time. But the reverse has been the case. Although some appreciable work had been done on the stretch of the road, it remains uncompleted, as it has recorded several fatal accidents essentially because of its bad state. The groaning on the road has continued non-stop.
 
 
But rather than concentrate on the East- West road, Orubebe seemed more interested, at the time, in circumscribing the Coastal road project into his ministry, even though a parastatal of the ministry, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), had handled the preliminary works on the project before he was made minister.
 
 
From the time of his appointment as substantive minister, Orubebe had fully operated the budget of the ministry for three years (2011-2013). What did the budgetary provisions in those years translate to for the people of the region?
 
 
In 2009, the ministry got N51 billion, and in 2010, got N86.2 billion and N55.2billion in 2011 while in 2012 got 59.7billion. Last year, the ministry got N63.4 Billion. Where have all the money gone?
I am aware that as Tony Anenih would say, “money approved is not money released”
 
 
It is instructive that in no year did the ministry record more than 38 percent performance.
Even then, the 38 percent or less performance, is largely on bureaucratic inanities like entertainment and travels, Maintenance of office furniture, research and development, security etc.
 
 
On one occasion, its project on shoreline protection was recorded against an upland community (Eleme in Rivers State) that had no shoreline let alone protecting it.
 
 
A few skill acquisition centres were however established (largely in Ijaw-speaking areas), but offered not more than shallow “computer training programmes’, just like run-of-the-mill Business Centres.
 
 
In all, life in the Niger Delta remains short, brutish and nasty as access to basic provisions like road, health centres, water, electricity are largely unavailable as they had been before the ministry was created. Not much has changed.
 
 
It will therefore be interesting to see and hear the content of Orubebe’s credentials that will boost his campaign when the time comes.
 
But if the above are not disenabling enough for his gubernatorial ambition, Orubebe has also failed to manage his political nuances with appropriate tact.
 
 
By his unbridled acts, he has even helped to make more enemies for President Goodluck Jonathan. Recall that he orchestrated the feud between President Jonathan and Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, over comments on the East-West road.
 
 
Orubebe  has burnt several bridges. As Special Adviser to former Governor James Ibori, it was thug of war, such that his appointment in 2007 by the federal authorities was opposed by the Delta State government, until some appeasements were made.
 
 
Not long ago, Orubebe fell out also with the old patriarch of Ijaw politics, Chief E.K Clarke. He had dragged the old man into the open arena for a duel. But Orubebe it was that got a bloodied nose, as the Delta state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) soon suspended him from the party.
 
Be sure I do not mean that nobody can disagree with E.K Clarke without paying a price; afterall, he is not God.
 
 
But if all that matter little, the decision of Orubebe to run for the governorship also cracks common sense. Here is a man from Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State; an Ijaw man, and so from Delta South senatorial district, the same senatorial zone that produced the incumbent governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who by next year, would have spent eight years in office as governor.
It is preposterous to assume that the political fate of the state will be conscripted by yet another man from the same senatorial zone as the incumbent.
 
Delta central had produced Governor Ibori, Delta South had produced Governor Uduaghan. Delta North has not produced any governor in 23 years. Will it therefore be fair in Orubebe’s thinking for Deltans to allow him become governor in 2015? It is not likely.
Perhaps, all he wants is to be named as being among the also-rans.
 
 
And that explains why he has upped the ante of his activities, one of which is the publication of attempt to revive the Sapele Gulf club.
But Gulf Club or no gulf club, it is fairly safe to say that Orubebe’s ambition may only get hosted in the sky, as the smoke of a burnt offering.

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