It is a common knowledge that after an intense and rigorous selection process largely driven by technology, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has awarded scholarship to 200 successful candidates from the region to pursue Master’s Degrees overseas, a programme, which of course is an important component of the agency’s human capital development that seeks to use education to change the fortunes of the region.

While the entire process may have climaxed with presentation of letters by Mr. Chiedu Ebie, NDDC board Chairman, to the prospective scholars at a pre-departure and award ceremony held recently in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, what is, however, newsy going by the process and outcome fairness that characterized the entire exercise, is that the pre-condition for sustainable development now exists in NDDC just as it takes good people to have good agencies of government.

Adding context to the discourse, the NDDC Foreign Postgraduate Scholarship programme started in 2010, designed to produce top level professionals with technical knowledge, capacity and expertise to compete in oil and gas industry, as well as other sectors. So far, the NDDC has sponsored 2,708 scholars at both Masters and Ph.D levels since the inception of the programme.

Aside from the high level transparency which branded the process, and made it possible for most of the beneficiaries to be those that never knew anyone from the NDDC or anyone that works there, this unique outcome and other positive vibes recently coming out from the agency have significantly made Deltans to hastily but rightly conclude that NDDC has finally got a board with the understanding that it is their duty to serve our communities and embrace its aspirations, both now and in the future, by assuring the people economic growth, education, health, security, stability, comfort, leisure opportunities and freedom in ways that will allow for the most conducive atmosphere to achieve the targets that will guarantee our welfare and a bright future.

Worthy of commendation is the declaration by the board that the Commission is promising Ph.D scholarship for any of these 200 recipients who gets Distinction.

The above declaration becomes even more appreciated when one remembers the time-honoured aphorism that considers education as the bedrock of development; that with sound manpower, a country is as good as made – as they will turn out all rounded development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and projects.

It also points to the fact that the selection process was not a tea party but made possible by a united board and determined group of leaders backed by practical and hardworking people who trusted them, was the new awareness that in the year under review (2023), over 20,000 applications were received out of which 5,000 were selected for a Computer Based Test conducted. The number was further trimmed down to 1,500 who were orally interviewed by panels of academia.

Now, here comes a striking discovery about the agency that other agencies of government must in my view, have to be nimble in adapting and adopting.

“Most of these people never knew anyone from the NDDC or anyone that works here, they applied by themselves, they created their platforms. Some of them, not these ones but some people did upload fake documents. Out of those 20,000 we pruned it down to 5,000 that wrote the CBTs and were given their scores immediately.”

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Qualifying as impressive and exemplary was the board’s statement that the NDDC is leaving nothing to chance in ensuring that this scholarship programme meets its set objective of increasing human capital development in the Niger Delta. Part of such steps, the agency added, includes adequate provision for fees and stipends.

“It is not the intention of the board and management of NDDC to send you abroad and keep you stranded. We will try our best to see that whenever it is time to pay your fees we will do that”.

As this piece therefore celebrate this latest feat and authentic leadership by the NDDC, two other silent but salient points and of course a very strong lesson for other governmental agencies and Nigerians must allow go with political winds are: one, the rancor-free relationship between the board and the management of the agency.

The second point has to do with the humility of, and unflinching believe in productive collaboration by the Governing Board Chairman Mr Chiedu Ebie.

This assertion was predicated on his (Ebie) recent praise of the NDDC Managing Director and the management of NDDC for sustaining and ensuring that the scholarship was as transparent as possible and merit-based.

This should be emulated by boards of other government agencies.

Most importantly, as a nation, those in positions of authority must recognize that the development of this God given country is a shared responsibility and therefore, must learn to acknowledge as well as give honour to whom honour is due!

Utomi is the programme coordinator (media and public policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos