It is a pedestrian information that as part of effort by the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government to achieve innovation driven development of Niger Delta region, the Barrister Chiedu Ebie-led governing board and management of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), at a well attended 2024 strategic retreat, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, signed a performance bond. The bond, which was diligently conducted by Hon. Engineer Abubakar Momoh, Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, was reportedly in line with the ‘’Renewed Hope Agenda” of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Expectedly, the development elicited reactions from stakeholders and the general public.

While some believe that the performance bond is an innovation map that will reawaken among members of the board and management leadership tradition of debating the wisest decisions, policies and actions through exchange of information in order to arrive at what is worth doing, others are of the view that it will guarantee a well understood strategic approach to producing human leadership faithful to law as well as provide a valuable source of insight to thoughtful corporate governance that will drastically translate ideas to initiatives, reduce to the barest minimum the possibility of mistakes and promote both efficiency and competencies.

To the rest, the bond is a development that one cannot make the point too strongly. It could be likened to the start of a new venture, where the only thing you know about your initial strategy is that it’s probably part right and part wrong. If you go full speed in your first direction, you will compromise your ability to figure out which part is wrong-and do pay a high price when you eventually do figure it out. But, if you invest in stages, spending small time on the assumptions that your strategy will need adjustments, you will find it much easier to adapt quickly and reach a winning outcome’.

Essentially, whereas there are grains of truth in all of these expressions, the existence of the bond in view, can only but assist the board and management counter conflicts by constantly reinforcing relationship of mutual respects, set a foundational step of building an effective dedicated team and pay attention to other forces that frequently shape organizational behaviors and incentives.

For me, it is ‘neat and proper’ to state that the task of environmental and infrastructural rejuvenation of Niger Delta region is not a simple one. Like every structured assignment, it requires; defining what the job requires, identifying and locating the needed inputs, preparing the component and physical environment, executing the task, monitoring the result and the environment and making modifications.

This fact notwithstanding, the assignment is pretty straight forward as the board is visibly led by a technocrat and reformer eminently backed by a management that is deeply detailed about Niger Delta narratives.

In fact, it will not be characterized as groundless to argue that before the coming of the bond, the innovation catalysts that made up the Commission’s board and management, going by their scorecards, were already capped with burning development desire and interest for the region.

Aside from the awareness that the job of developing the region does not require high complexity, the above assertion is further predicated on the fact that the present board and management as constituted are astute men with clear leadership vision, smart and people centered- goals.

Without doubt, it is possible for many to turn blind eyes to this fact, but I do fervently believe and will fervently continue to believe that NDDC under the present board and management is not interested in, or ready to associate with shoddy infrastructural projects and cosmetic human capital development programmes. Going by their actions and inactions demonstrated so far, they represent a bunch that is hungry to deliver projects that are enduring and anchored on the practice of systemic innovation.

Take, as an illustration, speaking recently at the commissioning of a road project in Abia State, Victor Antani, Executive Director, Projects, frowned at the old practice of using substandard materials for project execution, calling on the contractors in the Niger Delta to step up their games as the Commission is no longer interested in contractors that will come and pour stones on red soil and walk away, and still demand their money. “We are interested in road projects that will last for between 20-30 years,” he said.

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For the purpose of this discussion, it is important to underline that Antani was not alone in this line of belief but only echoed the board/Management’s collective decision to be effective via introduction of history making innovations to the region.

The Commission’s Managing Director, Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, captured this fact perfectly at a recent event where he similarly underlined that the agency had put in place solid building blocks culminating in the engagement of KPMG to design for the Commission a corporate governance system which would lay down the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). SOPs, he added, would ensure that the activities of the Commission were internally regulated to boost the confidence of stakeholders and development partners to do business with the Commission, he said.

Speaking from the public analyst’s point of view, it is obvious in my views that before the advent of the bond, the Ebie led board and management had significantly overcame difficulties of enthroning new order within the Commission, made mutual respect among stakeholders possible, answered some important questions about the region development and transformed vision into realities.

Considering the above vibes and positive achievements, the questions that are as important as the piece itself are; is there a need, relevance or desire for the performance bond? Will it change the leadership/management control system or selectively increase or decrease capacity? Will it make the work process easy, limit or increase active projects by the Commission?

Before, during and after evaluation of the above questions, what this piece thinks is that the coming of the bond will further spur the board /management to get more committed to the NDDC mission, develop good chemistry with the Agency’s core values, bring about sustainable experience in growing the agency, enhance strategic planning opportunities, propel leadership capacity among members as well as enhance commitment to corporate social responsibilities.

In a similar vein, it will act as compass to knowing what result the people would like and appreciate, seeing and appreciating the potential in every member, promote feeling of a sense of shared purpose and engagement between the board/management and the Commission’s multifaceted stakeholders.

Indeed, Niger Deltans with critical minds have seen and appreciate that Ebie led board and management have repositioned the NDDC and deployed tested tools of transparency and accountability to fuel development in the region and wins back the confidence of the disillusioned people of the region and get maximum support to push development projects.

However, even as this feat is celebrated, this piece holds the opinion that making the achievement sustainable will among other demands require the Commission’s leadership consideration of innovation from both conceptual and perceptual points of view. What this entails is that innovation requires hard, focused purposeful work.

This is important because from what leadership/management experts are saying, if diligence, persistence and commitment are lacking, talent, ingenuity and knowledge are of no avail.

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