The first time Prof. Daniel Pondei the acting M.D. of the NDDC was invited by the House Committee on NDDC, he sauntered in confidently with his boys in tow and stated clearly to the committee that he was “not comfortable with the chairman of this committee presiding over a matter of which he is an accused party” because the NDDC had on various occasions “accused the honourable Olubumi Tunji Ojo of different crimes against the NDDC and its people.”
His first act then was to rise up and walk out on the committee. He implied with all his professorial guts that his commission would not bow to a committee headed by somebody it had a case with. The professor was not ready to be questioned by the honourable members of the National Assembly. He seemed to suggest that he was too big a fish to be caught in the net of some riffraff.
Apparently, he forgot that great pride goes before a great fall and that the evils that men do live with them. Our professor friend forgot his numbers and lost touch with all the books he has read when the so-called “riffraff ” started throwing questions at him. Indeed, one of the things that qualify Pondei as a professor is that he possesses a wealth of knowledge in so many spheres. As a multi-faceted man, Prof Daniel Pondei is a skilled actor who can match the very best in Nollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood. And what good is a talent if we cannot use it when it is needed most? So, with dilating eyes the acting M.D. carved a niche for himself in the acting industry.
Many questions have been boggling my mind. Has Pondei been acting all his life? Did he also enact a drama when he defended his PhD thesis? Was he rushed in an ambulance while fielding questions on the topic he had spent three years or more of his life researching? Was he involved in examination malpractice as an undergraduate and was he wont to faint whenever an invigilator was about to issue him an examination malpractice form? No doubt, fainting in that manner on national television must have been a result of constant practice. He deserves an award.
I imagine this man seated so professorially at a defence panel throwing questions at students who have come to prove that they are worthy of their degrees. I imagine this teacher awarding Es and Fs to students who have failed to answer his questions satisfactorily. I imagine this devourer of books in his academic gown on a podium standing before his fellow academics and declaring how much he has read. I imagine this fellow “worthy in character” signing papers in a manner that depicts he lacks character.
Pondei was actually found worthy in character and in learning not only by the University of Lagos but also by the University of Nottingham. We would point fingers at UNILAG had this medical actor not been knowledgehungry enough to fly across the ocean to feed on books in Nottingham. What has Pondei been teaching his students all these years? What morals has he instilled in his children, the future leaders under his care? One might conclude that Pondei is a disgrace to the Niger Delta people, having failed woefully when he had the chance to rescue the Niger Delta from the predators that are plunging the region into eternal abyss. Needless to say, the man is a specialist in virology. It is no easy feat to bag a PhD in medical microbiology and then proceed to become a head of department, an acting dean of a faculty and a provost of the college of Health Sciences, Niger Delta University. When his colleagues in the department of virology in other parts of the world were busy in laboratories trying to rescue the world from COVID-19, our specialist of virology denounced his calling in virology and instead, chose to sign humongous amounts of money as palliative measures for himself and those who call him “Boss” at the NDDC against the same virus he should be fighting.
What a funny country we live in! When he was busy signing contracts and moving about with security details at his back, left, right and centre, he did not faint. Now that it is time to account for those approvals, he is fainting. Whom does he think he is deceiving, this professor of “theatrical virology”? Of course, we cannot feign blindness to his claim that the chairman of the House Committee on NDDC, Olubumi Ojo, has some cockroach in his cupboard neither can we exonerate the Minister of Niger Delta, Godswill Akpabio, of the many allegations on his desk. However, it is so painful when reality knocks at the door and gives us a glimpse of what we should expect from this probe. Like other cases of corruption we have witnessed in the past, this probe might end with the protagonists, Prof. Pondei and his acolytes, laughing and singing praise songs about their dexterity at deception and making the rest of us look like a bundle of fools for daring to hope that something good will come out of Nazareth.
Furthermore, it is so painful that the average Niger Deltan feels that his problem is the northern cabal who will not leave our oil alone forgetting that we have the likes of the acting M.D. and the minister of Niger Delta in our midst. We tend to forget that we have devourers in our barn, that the pest that eats kola-nut lies inside of it. It is true that Niger Delta leaders are only interested in their pockets but it is also true that there are external cabals working tirelessly to drain the region. This probe paints a picture of a Niger Delta working against itself but a more scrupulous view will reveal that both the M.D. and the minister are mere pencils in the hands of their creators.
More so, it is painful indeed that the water with which our M.D. and our minister flush their toilets is purer by far than what many Niger Deltans are drinking daily. That we have been raped by the same people that should protect us against rape is stating the obvious. On the pretext of protecting us, our leaders are blatantly killing us. Now, each time I remember the fainting professor, I feel like fainting a thousand times not out of laughter, but out of sheer disbelief of how low a man of such repute would stoop in order to evade justice.
The billions that my ears heard almost turned me a deaf and dumb. In truth, before listening to, watching or reading a corruption case in Nigeria, it is important to get an ambulance ready with a driver on the wheel just in case of any emergency. Figures can make you deaf, dumb, mad or even send you to coma if you do not have the heart for it. Is Nigeria a country where unethical acts are far more rewarding than the ethical?
Jonathan, a teacher of English Language and Literature, wrote from Port Harcourt.