The Nigerian state is struggling to survive the realities of a failing economy. The Niger Delta, Nigeria’s oil hub and the region that accounts for 99% of Nigeria’s crude oil, will continue to be shortchanged.
Time has, therefore, come, for Governors and political leaders in the Niger Delta to put aside politics, not just political differences, and begin to work for the people whose mandate they currently enjoy.
Each state of the Niger Delta must be encouraged to identify and recognize its strengths and then be persuaded to deploy that strength to the regional development value chain.
Governors and leaders of the Niger Delta must step out from that cocoon of traditional governance and move into a new level of leadership where they will come together, pool resources together and then create and innovate together.
Time has come to move from looking forward to monthly allocations to investing in the human resources capital required to generate creativity, innovation, and transformation.
There must be a renewed resolve by Governors and leaders of the Niger Delta to ensure that millions of jobs are created each year across the various states of the Niger Delta so that the millions of unemployed hands in the Niger Delta will be put to productive use.
For more than 16 years, Governors of the Niger Delta have continued to spend trillions of Naira on the provision of basic infrastructure to their people.
Too many times, there is little to show on how all these trillions have translated to empowerment and wealth creation for the ordinary man who calls the Niger Delta home.
Public works projects are supposed to stimulate the generate economy and at worst case, provide even short-term employment opportunities for our people. We do not see that happen across the states of the Niger Delta.
Job creation, Increased Opportunities for Human Achievement, Empowerment and Wealth Creation should be the new battle cry.
Maybe this is the time to revive the BRACED commission and leverage the strength of each state to drive regional unity, peace, progress and development.
Look at Cross River State for example. For more then ten years, it has established itself as the leading center of tourism and agriculture.
From Cocoa to Banana, Plantain, Cassava, Oranges, pineapples, palm oil and many others, Cross River State undeniably remains the leader in agricultural production in the Niger Delta.
Nothing stops the other states of the Niger Delta from investing in the cultivation and processing of food and tree crops that Cross River State is so rich in.
In like manner, the various states of the Niger Delta should partner with the River State Government to coercing the Federal Government into adopting ONNE port as the leading port in the South South and Niger Delta while Calabar port be designated as the leading port for Agricultural Produce and others.
For years, the Cross Rivers State Government have been looking for investors to buy into Tinapa, the ingenious multi-billion naira resort and tourist facility put together by Donald Duke, a former Governor of Cross River State.
Tinapa can be adopted by Niger Delta States as a Regional Regional Facility, funded and patronized by all the various state governments who have chosen to purchase a share in its ownership.
The Calabar Carnival can also be adopted as a Regional Carnival.
All the various states of the Niger Delta should form a quorum and a movement to ensure that the Onne Port in Rivers State is adopted as a Regional Port supposed by Calabar Ports, which could be designated as a Regional Port for agricultural produce and products.
There is nothing wrong in the Akwa Ibom State Government deciding to invest in the building of a Five-Star Hotel (Hilton, Intercontinental, Meridien, etc) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Each year, Governors of the Niger Delta spend hundreds of millions of naira travelling around the world claiming to be in search of investors. Very few results have ever been recorded.
The truth is that the biggest investors are themselves. All they need to do is deepen the resolve to serve their people and challenge limits of innovation and creativity.
In 2016, a creative partnership between the Lagos State Government and Kebbi State resulted in what became nationally known as LaKe (Lagos-Kebbi) Rice. By recognizing their position ad strength on the Rice value chain, the Governors of Lagos and Kebbi States were able to create a partnership to drive innovation in the production, marketing and supply of Rice.
With its huge revenues and a large population with a high demand for rice but availability of land suitable for the cultivation of rice, Lagos State found a partner in Kebbi State where there are large population of rice farms and experienced rice farmers.
Such mutually beneficial synergies could be replicated by states in the Niger Delta and even the South South.
There must be strong effort by Governors and leaders of the Niger Delta to pull resources together and make themselves more attractive to leading international companies and investors.
Methinks that with the trillions of naira that Niger Delta and South South states have spent on the purchase of Honda and Toyota vehicles as official cars for the hundreds of thousands of government officials and appointees that have passed through our political space in the past eighteen (18) years, those car manufacturers should have had very strong manufacturing and assembling presence in the Niger Delta especially in the BRACED states.
It is time for our leaders to begin to think out of the box.
Kerley is the programme coordinator of the Niger Delta Enterprise Initiative