One of the governors spent so much of the people’s money on political patronage he became known as Donate-tus. Instead of refurbishing the Governor’s Mansion that had served previous administrations so well, he built a new mansion and furnished it like a palace meant for the richest of kings. Still with the people’s money, he bought two airplanes for his presidential campaign, and crisscrossed the country doling out the people’s money to whoever would support his ambition. For much of his administration, many parts of the state he ruled were ungovernable, and many of the islands in the riverine areas of the state flowed with rivers of blood. The state capital was a constant battle zone, and people were gunned down with impunity in broad daylight. He was a zero-sum politician, and used armed intimidation, ballot stuffing, and numbers cooking to ensure landslide victories of over ninety percent for himself and for his party. Every public institution in the state collapsed. Today, with the people’s money, he has begun to beatify himself through agents placed at strategic forums, all in the belief that we the people are now sunbathing on the banks of Lethe.
Mr. Prime Minister, President Barack Obama gave one of the most significant speeches on Africa and to African politicians during his visit to Ghana, but if Africa must pull itself out of the misery inflicted by the ruling elite on their own, forcing the people to wallow in lack of opportunity, disease, and all the existential woes that befall a hapless people, then Mr. Prime Minister, you and others in the developed world who have the power and the various instruments of justice to bring such leaders to book should do so. Today, one of the finest men that the country has ever produced, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, wanders the earth like a fugitive, cut off from his fatherland, cut off from his family, cut off from his friends, cut off from his associates, a target of assassins, and the hapless victim of a few powerful men that seek to strip him of every honor and of everything that he has worked for in life. That is what happens to those who stand up to the corrupt and powerful in my dear country, Mr. Prime Minister. I know it so well because my late father, Mr. Justice Melford Dokubo Goodhead, was similarly destroyed, his reputation thrown to the dogs, the unvarnished name he had fought for throughout his professional career flushed into the sewer. Mr. Prime Minister, it is time that the world stands up to these men and tells them: Enough is enough!
Mr. Prime Minister, in an earlier write-up, I suggested that technology and people of honorable repute, of which Mr. Ribadu is certainly one of the finest, be recruited to fight the scourge of corruption. Let me give a refined version of the earlier suggestion here. Every month, public officials should be made to publish in print and electronic media all the revenue they received and the sources, and the projects on which they spent them. Furthermore, in every state there should the Inspector of Public Finances. The person who occupies this office should come from a pool of people of very sound reputation that the people themselves put forward as candidates. One person shall be chosen for the office. None of the candidates should be allowed to canvass for votes. Any candidate who canvasses for votes should be disqualified from the election. The publicly owned media should give each candidate equal exposure. On election, the person shall fully devote himself/herself to the monitoring of the way public funds are spent, and should repeatedly publish his/her findings. The public should be encouraged to send information about any financial impropriety to the office of the inspector, and where the inspector thinks there is enough evidence for prosecution, he/she should do so. Mr. Prime Minister, of course, this model could be modified to suit local conditions. Mr. Prime Minister, it seems to me that the G-7, international lending and AID institutions and other donors and credit dispensers should insist that there are highly effective anti-corruption officers that will monitor how the money they lend and give as aid are spent in states that receive their money.
Finally, Mr. Prime Minister, let me address the issue that agitates the minds of many: the MEND’s insurrection, and President Umaru Yar’Adua’s amnesty offer, which he will withdraw from the table after sixty days. The militants have stated that they will not drop their arms until they are very certain that the problems against which they are fighting are resolved in an internationally brokered peace conference, or in the alternative the president takes measures beyond the offer of amnesty to unambiguously demonstrate that the problems will be resolved. Beyond the creation of a Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs and an offer of financial rehabilitation to the militants, the president has not said or demonstrated how he would resolve problems such as gas flaring, oil spillage, replacement of old and worn-out pipes, participation of oil-bearing communities in the oil and gas sector, or even the implementation of the report of the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta. Thus, arguing that past governments had made promises that they failed to fulfill, the militants have said that they will not stop the insurrection.
Meanwhile, Mr. Prime Minister, time is ticking down, and aware of incidents like Lt. Col. Okuntinmo’s campaign in Ogoni land, the Umuechem Massacre, the Odi Massacre, the Odioma Massacre, and many others, men and women of goodwill, whether they are indigenes or non-indigenes of the Niger Delta, are deeply worried. The Nigerian military has shown that it can work for the people, including the people of the Niger Delta, as they demonstrated in dislodging armed gangs who were preying on their people from some of the riverine areas of the Niger Delta, but it has also demonstrated as recently as its campaign in the towns of Gbaramatu Kingdom, which it has turned into ghost towns by forbidding the people to return to their homes in spite of mounting appeals to it to consider the heavy toll its action is taking on the refugees, that any campaign it carries out in the Niger Delta, after the expiration of the sixty days, will result in massive bloodshed, heavy collateral damage, and the massive displacement of people. Mr. Prime Minister, also to be considered in this atmosphere of impending doom is the chilling statement of one Mr. Bala Na’Allah, a national house of assembly man, that it is better for the Nigerian military to wipe out the about 20-or-so million people in the Niger Delta than for the entire country to die of economic strangulation from the activities of the militants. Mr. Prime Minister, the impending military campaign in the Niger Delta is therefore not going to be child’s play, and it will be an eternal blot on the conscience of the world if the world stands idly by and the Nigerian military moves in to inflict heavy carnage on the Niger Delta.
Mr. Prime Minister, when Hitler murdered six million Jews, the world said, Never Again! When the massacres of Bosnia-Herzegovina happened, the world said, Never Again! When over one million Tutsis died in the hands of their Hutu countrymen, the world said, Most certainly, this will never happen again! Then came the genocide in the Sudan. Mr. Prime Minister, the world cannot wait until it is too late to act, just so that it can have the opportunity to say, one more time, Never Again! The people of the Niger Delta, particularly those that live in its far-flung and obscure villages, have borne a long train of abuses that should never have been condoned by the world, and should certainly not be condoned in the 21st century. To be ethnic minorities and so to not have numbers in a place of overwhelming numbers should never be a crime. It is time for the world to stand up and stop the long train of abuses in the Niger Delta. Waiting until the foul deed is done to say, Never Again! may assuage the conscience of the
world, but in the Niger Delta any words of empathy uttered after the fact will ring hollow.
Mr. Prime Minister, I will be the first to admit, that compared to previous rulers of Nigeria, President Yar’Adua has shown great restraint in his dealings in the Niger Delta. Indeed, he receives justified praise for the blanket amnesty he issued to all fighters, whether they be the original McCoy, the Patrick Henrys and Isaac Boros, or common criminals who have visited nothing but pain, misery, and death on their own people, because in dire states of anomie such as the one in which we find ourselves in the Niger Delta, such is the price society must sometimes pay for peace and regeneration. Neither am I too surprised by the president’s action, because he was a disciple of the great Malam Aminu Kano, a man who was widely revered in his day as the champion of the poor, the powerless, and the oppressed. But Mr. Prime Minister, the fate of Mr. Ribadu, as true a patriot as one can find anywhere and certainly one of our brightest stars, and the Nigeria military’s continued prevention of innocent villagers from returning to their villages and towns in Gbaramatu tells me that the president is also a politician, and that when push comes to shove, the words of the great Aminu Kano, that towering champion of the poor and oppressed, may not gain as much favor with him as the words of the Bala Na’Allahs, who are urging him to kill, kill, kill until he has exterminated the 20-or-so million Niger Deltans.
Mr. Prime Minister, what should you do to help? What should the world do to help? First, Mr. Prime Minister, the impending military campaign by the Nigerian military is a totally avoidable one, and the problems can be easily resolved. The problems fall under two categories. One category requires the presence of the chief executives of the oil companies at the table. The other category does not, as the problems under them like the creation of additional states for the Ijaw are purely internal.
Mr. Prime Minister, regarding the resolution of the problems in the first category, I suggested to President Yar’Adua in an open letter to him that since he has stated through his Foreign Minister, Chief Ojo Madueke, that he is opposed to international mediators, he should at least bring in the chief executives of the oil companies, such as Mr. Tillerson, to discuss issues such as the replacement of rusty and worn-out pipes, the stoppage of gas flaring, the reduction of oil spills, and the more efficient management of ones that occur, the participation of oil-bearing communities in the oil and gas sector, etc. with him, representatives of the Niger Delta, including those of MEND, and the National Assembly. Some of the issues in the first category will involve constitutional changes, and those can be taken care of alongside the purely internal ones, such as the creation of additional states, which also involve constitutional changes. Already, both arms of the National Assembly have set up Constitution Review Committees (CRCs), and the one for the Senate under the Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, has already begun work. Thus, matters like the practice of fiscal federalism, which will involve issues such as the upward review of derivation revenue allocation to 25 percent, affirmative action for oil-bearing communities in aspects of the oil and gas sector such as oil lifting, which does not require any especial skills, as the militants have demonstrated, in the absence of full resource control, can be included in the new constitution. The same goes for the setting aside of 50 percent derivation revenue by state governments for the development of oil-bearing communities.
Mr. Prime Minister, the impending military campaign and the state of anomie in the Niger Delta are therefore totally avoidable, if you and other leaders of goodwill will step up their diplomatic work and help solve the Niger Delta Problem once and for all. The solutions are within easy reach. Mr. Prime Minister, as you pause to reflect on this letter, please remember the words of the late Winston Churchill: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” I quote that in a minor key.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for giving me your time. I and other men and women of goodwill, who are deeply concerned about the state of the Niger Delta, hope and pray that you and other leaders of the world, who are truly concerned about Africa and about the plight of the poor and powerless will remember the words of the great Churchill and act accordingly.
cc: Mr. Barack Obama, President the United States of America
cc: Mr. Umaru Yar’Adua, President Federal Republic of Nigeria
cc: Dr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General United Nations
cc: Mr. Muammar el-Qaddafi, President of Libya and Chairman African Union
cc: Dr. Jose Manuel Barroso, President European Commission
cc: Dr. Robert Zoellick, President World Bank
cc: Mr. Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO Exxon Mobil
cc: Mr. David J. O’Reilly, Chairman and CEO Chevron Corporation