Vanguard (Lagos)

25 January 2013

Nigeria: People in Glass Houses...

LAST week, Elder Godsday Orubebe, the "Honourable" Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, decided to launch an attack on Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi - who heads the Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF) as well as Rivers State.

Orubebe accused Amaechi of performing dismally and disrespecting President Goodluck Jonathan. Amaechi gave as good as he got, lavishing contempt on Orubebe and robustly defending himself against the latter's allegations.

Every single onlooker I've spoken to so far has echoed my view that Amaechi conclusively won this hot-hot-hot war of words. And I am, on reflection, extremely surprised that Orubebe took the risk of provoking Amaechi, who is much stronger than he is, in terms of track record, personality and image.

Talk about trying to punch above your weight! And failing woefully.

Amaechi has never been a shrinking violet and is famed for his rottweiller bluntness. And there's no point getting into a fight with him if you lack his talent for effective verbal aggro and have more Achilles heels than he does!

Amaechi isn't perfect (which human being is?), but he has quite a few fans; and nobody can deny that he has built several roads, schools and health centres.

Orubebe, on the other hand, has achieved little or nothing for the neglected oil-producing communities he is supposed to be representing; and he's immensely unpopular, even within his own Ijaw heartland, that his continued presence in the Cabinet is undermining the President's reputation.

In a nutshell, if Orubebe possesses any professional strengths, they aren't showing up on my radar screen at the moment; and he'd be well-advised to humbly remember the saying that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

I really don't know what his problem is because he is not an illiterate and it isn't THAT difficult to notch up a clutch of significant triumphs when you have billions of naira at your disposal. And it's OUR money, not his. So can he please leave Amaechi alone and concentrate on doing a better job on his own turf?

And just in case you think I am disparaging Orubebe for sychophantic reasons - that is, purely because he was rude about my Governor - here is what I said about him on this very same page on l3th July 2011, long before he laid into Amaechi.

A reappointed disappointment!

GODSDAY Orubebe, the recently reappointed Niger Delta Minister, has, on the few occasions when I have bumped into him, struck me as a genuinely genial fellow who wishes nobody harm and certainly isn't short of brain cells.

But I'm not happy about the lacklustre manner in which he has handled his portfolio.

The creation of the Niger Delta Ministry was a political response to the longstanding bitterness of the neglected natives of oil-producing areas.

We were in Crisis mode. Our youths were running amok and had become laws unto themselves...dangerous militants who defied all forms of authority because they had no jobs or faith in their futures...and did not see why they should listen to elders who couldn't save them or a System that had betrayed them.

Our communities had been subjected to environmental outrages like constant gas-flaring. Our waterways had been totally messed up by toxic oil spills that destroyed the fish we had traditionally depended upon for survival. We had been exploited and marginalised for decades. And we wanted justice.

Goodluck Jonathan's near-miraculous elevation to the Presidency was thrilling, but not enough to satisfy all of our yearnings. One tree does not make a forest.

The Niger Delta Ministry is supposed to at least partly solve the chronic socio-economic problems of the zone from which both Jonathan and Orubebe hail.

But even though Orubebe has been sitting on this hot seat for quite a while, I'm not seeing the dynamic developments that I expected from him. And, much to my amazement and annoyance, Jonathan does not appear to be particularly concerned about Orubebe's blatant failure to initiate significant changes.

Sure, most of the militants have now been sweet-talked into laying down their arms. But at what price? The biggest "boys" who once terrorised the creeks are now fat cats who cosily cruise around various urban centres in top-of-the-range jeeps that were funded by the substantial government patronage they enjoy.

But for how long can we sustain a status quo that boils down to a possibly superficial and temporary peace that is based on crude bribery? Should we not, instead, be establishing a progressive and productive policy-and-implementation agenda that will deliver widespread prosperity and REAL long-term stability?

What are Orubebe and Jonathan planning to do about the still-suffering brothers and sisters these militants left behind in their impoverished riverine villages? I eagerly await some acceptable answers to these burning questions.

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