Letter To Dennis Otuaro, New Administrator Of Presidential Amnesty Programme

By  Jerome-Mario Utomi
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Dennis Otuaro (Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme)

Going by torrents of positive reactions and optimistic commentaries that trailed your recent appointment as the Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme(PAP), it is evident that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, spoke the minds of Niger Deltans by providing answer to protracted demand as head of PAP, a development-minded fellow who understands the yearnings of the people, respected by the people and lives around the creeks.

Again, aside from the above defining requirements, if someone unfamiliar with the region and its dynamics is asked to evaluate these commentaries that flows from your appointment, such a fellow may hastily and peripherally conclude that the orchestrated reaction was elicited by your intimidating academic feat which include but not limited to; possession of a Doctorate Degree (PhD) in Comparative Politics and Development Studies from the University of Benin, which he pursued from 2016-2019. Master of Public Administration and another MSc in International Relations from the same university, earned in 2008-2009 and 2007-2008, respectively-as well as a Bachelor of Science in Political Science Education from Delta State University, obtained from 2001 to 2005, among others.

However, a more critical appraisal of your endeavors further signposts that your influence goes beyond academic achievements to include the fact that during the height of the crisis in the region, you were reportedly in the Creeks, advocating for a better deal for the people and possessed a rich and comprehensive understanding of the Niger Delta Region.

The tone of congratulatory messages by different groups further gives credence to this assertion.

Beginning with a statement by the Ijaw Youth Council IYC, Western Zone, which spans Delta, Edo and Ondo States, it applauded President Tinubu for the appointment which it described as “a breath of fresh air”, noting that President Bola Tinubu took a “bold step” in appointing Dr. Dennis Otuaro as the Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP). The statement which was signed by Dr. Doubra Okotete and Omoghomi Olu-Derimon, Chairman and Secretary respectively, the group said the appointment has brought great relief to Niger Deltans, Otuaro being the first Delta Ijaw to be appointed into the PAP office’.

In a similar vein, the youths in Arogbo Ijaw ethnic nationality in ondo state, under the banner of the apex youth council observed that the appointment serves at the pleasure of the youths in the region, as Mr. President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has promptly replaced the former interim Administrator of the programme, who had been due for substitution regarding some anomalies in the office.

Expressing confidence that the new PAP coordinator, who is a product of the Niger Delta struggle, will move the programme forward, the IYC assured of its readiness to work with him so as to address the problems bedeviling the region.

The above comments signify two things; one, your appointment has again shown clearly that ordinary calculation can be upturned by extra-ordinary personalities. Secondly, the ancient argument of whether circumstance or personality shapes events is settled in favour of the latter.

Also working in your favour in my view is the established familiarity with the oil-rich Niger Delta Region and profound commitment to improving the region and the lives of its people which has not only made you a key figure but a man with grand vision for the region.

Beyond these acclamations, this piece however, believed and still believes that if truly a people-purposed leadership is what you seek, if accelerated economy of Niger Delta youths is your goal, if promoting peace, supporting skill developments among youths of the region are your dreams and forms your objectives, then, you need to study history, study the actions of your predecessors, to see how they conducted themselves and to discover the reasons for their victories or their defeats so that you can avoid the later and imitate the former.

Regardless of what others may say, leadership knowledge is gained by probing the past and using the knowledge derived to tackle the present. Or, analyzing the present and using the information gained to predict the future.

Notably, flagrant disregard of public opinions, ignoring advice/admonitions from stakeholders and groups, paying no attention to political and socioeconomic concerns expressed by the people are but some vivid examples that set the stage for failures in the past. It is equally painfully true that PAP has witnessed protracted leadership that ‘enjoyed’ penchant for ignoring advice, warning signals, and inability to read the political handwriting on the wall.

Also prominent among the reasons for the past failures was barefaced illusion on the part of some leaders that they were more patriotic than the other stakeholders and disproportionate view of appointment as a personal right. This baffling disposition, more often than not prepares the ground for exercising power and responsibility, not as a trust for public good but as an opportunity for private gains and therefore, must be avoided by your administration to record resounding success.

Acting as a boost to the above fuelling failures is the excruciating poverty and starvation in the region which drives more people into the ranks of the beggars, whose desperate struggle for bread renders them insensitive to all feelings of decency and self-respect and in some cases makes many to applaud and endorse policies harmful to their interests.

Without a shadow of the doubt, it is a fact that youths in Delta, Edo and Ondo States and more acknowledge you as an astute administrator and resource manager who fits the bill, it is also a statement of fact that others described your appointment a round peg in a round hole of which the entire Niger Delta youths are happy with the development.

The above declarations and endorsements notwithstanding, the appointment in the objective view of this piece could be likened to the proverbial new invention which usually comes with both opportunities and challenges.

Essentially, it is an open secret that the Niger Delta region is big geographical location with complex challenges. Also troubling which you are aware is that expectation from your new office is always at an all-time high. This point partially explains why you must accord the office the needed attention that it deserves.

Also unique is the hidden consciousness that these expectations are coming from teaming supporters with varying shades of interest.

Take as an illustration, a group recently wrote; we are sending our voices and still congratulating you strongly from Canada and the United Kingdom. All and some of us also from the Philippines, We strongly believe to work with you in any positive platform to ensure that your office meaningfully train students on the most viable career paths and to develop education that encompasses skills, academics and entrepreneurship development.

In your own time, we want Niger Delta to feel the positive impact of education. We will give our best support to feed your office with positive information’s from the diaspora. Honestly people like us will strongly work with you. Once more congratulations. They concluded.

Another group has this to say; ‘you should see this as a call to serve and avoid the obvious mistakes of his predecessors, as well as avoid the pitfalls, distractions and the trappings of office and concentrate on delivering on the mandate of the programme for the benefit of those it is intended for. We are ready to work with the new coordinator in order to achieve the desired result, knowing he has the capacity to deliver’’.

Yet from another group; “Our advice to him is to remain focus and avoid name droppers who don’t mean well for the region and his immediate focus should be on key areas capable of restoring the beneficiaries’ confidence that the programme is meant for them. Finally, it is pertinent to drop a reminder that the amnesty programme is key to maintaining peace in the region and as such, must see his appointment as a call to contribute to achieving such peace,”.

For me, these are objective admonitions.
Therefore, as you settle down to serve the people of Niger Delta region and Nigeria as a whole, one point you must not fail to remember is that the entire Niger Deltans are solidly behind you. But in the interim, more reforms need to be made and more policies need to be put in place to assist complete the sustainable settlement of the targeted beneficiaries of the programme.

Congratulations Sir.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via;[email protected]/08032725374.