Re: NEDC and six months limbo

I read last Friday, November 1st, on the pages of Daily Trust, an article written by one Usman Mu’azu, titled ‘NEDC and six months limbo’. The write-up, while obviously written by an educated person, certainly seemed like it wasn’t written by a Nigerian, or an enlightened one for that matter. After correctly describing the North East Development Commission as the only federal government agency saddled with the sole responsibility of initiating and executing developmental and infrastructural projects, the writer proceeded to mention now-defunct agencies which in the past carried out similar roles, like the TY Danjuma-led Presidential Initiative on the North-East (PINE), which was domiciled in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, responsible for such interventions before they were scrapped and directed to collapse into the newly-established NEDC, to be chaired by retired General Paul Tarfa. However, my grouse with the article, is multi-pronged.

The first is, how can you accuse a body like the NEDC of “slowness”? The work it carries out is of great import and touches upon the lives of many millions of Nigerians, much like painstakingly done surgery. So, would any right thinking person tell a surgeon to hurry up? I don’t think so. I remember reading about the NEDC when it first became public news, and I remember thinking to myself that I hope this time it won’t be about optics and drama on the pages of newspapers, but rather, a period of action, results and hard work which will bring betterment to the people of the North East. And don’t forget, this is the same NEDC that was inaugurated in March 2019, and which had zero access to funds of any kind in October of 2019, if newspaper reports are anything to go by. How, then, can anyone ask such an organisation to “hurry up”?

Another point to ponder is that some people might have a personal agenda to distract the NEDC for personal gain. I repeat: Allow the organisation breathing space to do their work! Also, don’t forget the ‘Nigerian factor’ which the NEDC most likely has to deal with, with all sorts of vested interests coming in from all quarters, causing mass distraction. If anything should be advised, it should be for the NEDC to be strong, keep its head high, its eyes on the prize, and to soldier on to achieving its target, which includes conducting a comprehensive survey of all states in the zone to determine the reconstruction and rehabilitation needs of all the socio-economic sectors of the zone and develop an intervention masterplan based on the outcome of the assessments. That’s a herculean task, if you ask me. If you allow me to speak, I would say the NEDC has started on very solid footing, and nothing like what similar bodies have done in the past. Yes, in the kitty of the commission today, there reportedly is a total sum of 35 billion naira. But does that mean a spending spree, devoid of calculation and focus, be embarked upon? I mean, personally, I would rather have well-planned, well-executed long-term development than rushed, short-term things. Which certainly rings true for any well-meaning and right-thinking Nigerian.

As for Mu’azu’s urge for the NEDC to hit the ground running, has he paused to ponder that maybe because the organisation is tasked with a monumental brief, they do not want to make the same mistakes committed by others in the recent past? Besides, that certainly does not mean the NEDC has not designed a clear-cut roadmap that will form the basis for the much-needed intervention in the devastated region. Furthermore, the number of times a board sits does not translate into success of its duties. As I go further, I honestly hope the writer isn’t directed by mischief, to distract the people of the NEDC from their assignment. I wonder about that, because Mr. Mu’azu makes spurious allegations on the person of – and goes as far as mentioning the name of – the NEDC’s Managing Director, Mohammed Goni Alkali, of acting contrary to the provisions of the law that sets up the commission. This, to be honest, signals more than any other thing in the write-up, a red flag.

Maybe Mu’azu is merely stating his opinion, maybe it is something else. But what is clear is that the facts are wrong or shaky at best. I mentioned earlier my interest in the work of the NEDC, due to its importance, so I read avidly anything I see about it. What I have seen from some quarters is a clear, marked attempt to cause confusion – and ultimately distract – the body from carrying out its responsibilities. Part of my confidence in the uprightness of the board, is the leadership of General Tarfa, who everyone with even a casual knowledge of Nigerian history will know is as straight an arrow as one could possibly find in our nation. The other board member, too, are sterling individuals who were obviously carefully selected, and who would certainly not engage in anything untoward to damage their hard-earned reputations. Treading carefully will certainly benefit the NEDC, as much as possible, so as to insulate the organisation from political interferences.

In closing, I will mention what I see when I see the NEDC. I see an organisation created out of sheer necessity, one tasked with handling a massively important task of rebuilding not only the infrastructure of the North East, but the spirit and hope of the people of the region, who have been ravaged by the menace of Boko Haram’s insurgency. Instead of poking a stick at it, I believe all well-meaning Nigerians should instead rally round it, as a body and an idea, to make sure it succeeds, as when it does, Nigeria as a whole will be the celebrant. And the best way to do that is to actually make an effort to find out what they have done so far, rather than embarking on blind accusations.

Babangida, a schoolteacher, wrote in from Maiduguri.

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