If this column were a human, the subject matter of this piece would have remained one of the most painful issues that ever came its way. This is courtesy of the recent development whereby President Muhamadu Buhari reportedly approved the suspension from office of his Special Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), Professor Charles Dokubo. According to media reports the President acted on the recommendations of a Committee set up by the National Security Adviser Major General Mohamed Babagana Monguno (rtd), to suspend the PAP boss. The confirmation of this development came in a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina, which cited the reason for the action as the series of petitions against Dokubo, bordering on alleged official corruption and administrative issues. Going further, Adesina stated that the President had also approved the appointment of a Caretaker Committee to address among other things the allegations and petitions levelled against Dokubo.
The pain of this column hinges on the fact that the hopes and dreams it shared with millions of Niger Delta indigenes and their sympathisers across the world, at the advent of Charles Dokubo as the PAP boss, may have come to an unedifying, premature end. Writing on the appointment of Charles Dokubo on April 15 2018, this column PENPOINT had in its characteristic forthright, detached and impersonal manner, welcomed him with the article ‘Niger Delta Amnesty Programme: Time For Game Change’. The article had commended President Buhari for bringing the professor from the academia where he was supposedly a scholar on conflict resolution and related matters. Since the amnesty programme had the future of the ex-agitators as its primary focus, Dokubo was seen by many as a square peg in a square hole.
Beyond this column, his advent enjoyed commendations from a plethora of other stake holders in the affairs of the Niger Delta region. In no small measure did his tenure build expectation that a new dispensation in the leadership of the programme would be imbued with a dose of critically needed academic puritanism. With his sack now there is unmistakably a flow of mixed feelings which include those of sadness at his exit. However if there is any cause for weeping, such should be more for the Niger Delta region itself.
The Presidential Amnesty Programme was started in 2009 under the administration of late President Umaru Yar Adua, with its pioneer boss as Major General Godwin Abbe (rtd), who was succeeded in turns by Timi Alaibe a banker and politician, Kingsley Kuku a politician before Brigadier – General Paul Boroh (rtd), who was followed by Professor Charles Dokubo.
Given that Dokubo’s immediate past two predecessors (Kuku and Boroh) suffered from controversial exit circumstances, Dokubo’s suspension and investigation has largely established a semblance of incompatibility between this all important programme, and its leadership style of sole garrison commander, which the government has been foisting on it since inception. Given the misfortune of his immediate past two predecessors in unedifying circumstances, can it also be said that his tenure failed to manifest the expected game change in the affairs of the region?
Now that he has come, served and been eased out of office in equally unedifying circumstances, there is a temptation to judge him based on the presumption that the Presidency has cited yet to be proven allegations and petitions against him. However such presumptuous and therefore jaundiced pontifications on his guilt or otherwise at this stage, should remain mere hasty conclusions that may not enjoy the credit of infallibility as truth; at least until such are proven by the Caretaker Committee set up by the Presidency as credible, and so in the eyes of the country’s laws.
However, of more significance is the dispensation which the sack of Professor Charles Dokubo, has launched in the region which inevitably comprises a fresh scramble for a new leadership for the PAP. Once more the region has been thrown into avoidable jostle for power over who heads the agency and defines its future. The playout of this dispensation remains a sordid drama which in one vein pitches some communities in the region against each other over who produces the next head of the agency leaving the region fortunate if it ends well. In the other vein it also accentuates the vassal status of the region as one whose destiny is determined by factors and forces outside its immediate boundaries. This is the real face of the dilemma of the Niger Delta region which its leadership community have characteristically are yet to come to terms with. This is also why the region and its friends need to weep.
Even the present efforts at interventionist initiatives by the federal government through the PAP and the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) are nothing beyond surrogate outfits by the government which are established with the intention of serving as palliatives to pacify the more active voices of protest in the region. They fall far short of the requirements for determinants of true and meaningful political and economic development of the region. Given the context of the circumstances that birthed their establishment, questions have been lingering over their utility in resolving the problems of the region and defining for it a deserving future as a self-reliant and viable political and economic zone. While it may sound outlandish to refer to them as failed entities, due to their undeniably abysmal performance in deploying the humongous resources availed them, it is also difficult to see them in a different light.
For instance, as at the last count the NDDC is undergoing a Presidency authorised forensic audit exercise to ascertain the good, bad and ugly turns in the fortunes of the resources availed it since its inception in 2001. Meanwhile even the forensic audit exercise itself is haunted by circumstances that already compromise its integrity. The happenings in that institution even with the troubled presidential audit, have hardly changed its character to anything different from a pay-master to friends of power – located this time, in the creeks. The grapevine is suffused with tales that the forensic exercise may have been compromised to serve as the clearing house for contractors who find themselves in the good books of the powers that be. Payments to the anointed ones are still ongoing even without proper verification of jobs done.
For clarification, it can be stated without equivocation that when the forensic audit was first announced, many communities across the Niger Delta region who were designated to benefit from projects by the NDDC, and which were not properly executed by the contractors, had hoped that they would get justice. However, this is yet to be seen as happening, with disappointment and despair spreading that some erring contractors will escape with their sins. This is so much for the interventionist exercises in the region!
Coming back to the Charles Dokubo affair, the appointment of a Caretaker Committee to probe the man’s tenure has attracted the attention of several stakeholders in the region; many of whom have placed the blame not only the man but also on the governance structure of the agency from inception which the man inherited.
In the prevailing circumstances, there is a question of whether the government will see in it the best opportunity for adopting a more sustainable leadership style for the PAP? This is a question that only the government can and should address. That is if its intentions for the region shall not remain suspect.
And just in case such happens, then the sack of Professor Charles Dokubo as boss of the PAP, would have served a better purpose.