Nigeria Matters

An Open Letter to the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)

Part Three

So was Ken Saro-Wiwa. Saro-Wiwa literally turned himself into a sacrificial lamb for his people. He loved to say that the Ogoni people were no more than half a million and that even if the Ogoni wanted to, they could not take on the military might of the rest of the nation. It made sense therefore for the Ogoni to engage in non-violent activism. In doing so, Saro-Wiwa tried to shield his people from the onslaught of the federal military. He reasoned that the military dictators would come after him, but he was willing to bear whatever they threw at him. He would take it for his people. He reasoned that so long as his people did not engage in acts of violence against the state, the state will have no moral grounds to engage in acts of violence against his people. Yes, he was wrong that the state will not engage in acts of violence against his people if they did not engage in violent protest, but, at least, apart from the mob violence against the Ogoni Four, the Ogoni did not fall under the terror of their own children. Their villages and towns were not made unlivable as a result of the terror of their own children. Such is the mettle of leaders who put the interests of the people before their own.

Brothers, you will hear the separatist rhetoric of people whose idea of humanity does no go beyond the interests of their immediate clans, tribes, and ethnic groups. To these people, as long as their ethnic groups prospered, the rest of humanity could go where it pleases. Such diasporas have done incalculable harm to multi-ethnic nation-building not only in Africa but elsewhere. For many years the Tamil diaspora in the West used their wealth to support the Tamil rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, even as the majority Sinhalese government offered concession after concession to create a better society for the minority Tamils. They wanted their own nation. The irony in all of this is that many of these contributors lived in the United States, a multi-ethnic nation and the world’s most successful country, where they have had no problem living with people from other ethnicities.

Brothers, so it is with a significant portion of the Ijaw diaspora in the West. They want an Ijaw nation for the Ijaw, and like Prabhakaran’s supporters, they are ready to turn a blind eye to any atrocity perpetrated by any one who wields a gun and calls himself a freedom fighter, after all, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn would put it, it is ultimately for the good of the nation. I will take these people seriously when they leave the comfort that living in a multi-ethnic United States affords them, and relocates to one of those islands where groups like Okoloma Ipangi hold sway. I will take them seriously after they have borne the rape, and murder, and violence of Okoloma Ipangi.

Brothers, armed militancy can only take us so far. No less a person than our own WS (the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka) came to the Niger Delta and advised us that it was time to drop armed militancy and turn to intellectual militancy. Armed militancy may have won us some concessions from the central government, but when everywhere we look, our villages and towns have turned into ghost towns, our people carry scars inflicted by their own sons, and some of our largest villagers and towns are only livable because the JTF is there to take on disturbers of the peace, it is obvious that whatever the benefits of armed militancy may be, it has run its course. Aside from the harm that it has caused to our own people, a generation of opportunities is fast slipping away from us. We need to build on the concessions that we have won from the central government, even as we continue to fight for a more equitable society through intellectual militancy.

What are some of these concessions? We already have thirteen per cent of oil revenue as set aside as derivation revenue for the oil-producing states in addition to federal allocations to the states. Furthermore, the NDDC Act stipulates that the federal government and the oil companies send a stipulated amount of their revenues to the NDDC for the development of the Niger Delta. A federal ministry has been created for the sole purpose of the development of the Niger Delta. However, by far the most important concession of all was when President Yar’Adua voiced, I think, through his media assistant, that he was open to ceding some of the federal government shares in the oil companies to oil producing communities. How much? We do not know yet. But this is a very significant concession that we could urge President Yar’Adua to implement as quickly as possible.

Brothers, of course, some of you will say that President Yar’Adua continues to hold back a certain percentage of the federal government’s contribution to the NDDC every month, thereby making nonsense of the NDDC Act. It is true. It is also true that we can continue to put non-violent pressure on the president until he stops the practice. And, brothers, some of you will point out that the president continues to withhold over four hundred billion naira of money meant for the NDDC, and claims that it has expired, even though he has released all the money that his predecessor illegally withheld from Lagos State, and today, thanks in part to those funds, Governor Babatunde Fashola is recreating Lagos in salutary ways that many Nigerians had thought impossible. Yes, we can non-violently fight for those funds, if necessary through international channels to show that we are not troublemakers, until the president releases them. And for such a project, I am more than willing to offer my services.

Brothers, we must also realize that we have come a very long way from the time when the central government took away 50 percent revenue derivation from us, and gave us only 1.5 percent, and that while full resource control is the stated goal of many of you, a concession such as the allocation of federal-government-owned shares in oil companies to oil-producing communities will be a very important milestone in the history of our nation and the quest for resource control. And if other oil-producing states follow the example of the governor of Delta State to establish a commission to use fifty percent of the 13 percent derivation revenue to develop the oil-producing communities, we will have several streams of development revenue: local government; state; NDDC; Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs; shares in oil companies operating in our communities; derivation revenue. If astutely managed, these streams of development revenue will ensure the rapid development of the Niger Delta. If they are corruptly managed and used as sources of patronage, nothing will change in the Niger Delta, and that will be the case even if we have full resource control. The quest for full resource control, then, need not be a distraction to our full exploitation of these revenue streams for the development of the Niger Delta.

Brothers, as a great lover of Nigeria and Africa, and as one who believes in the development of the rest of the country and Africa, I must not fail to offer the advise that as we fight for our interests, we must not also lose sight of the fact that we are our brothers’ keepers, and that if the tables were to be turned, and we should find ourselves in the position of the non-oil producing sections of the country, we would find it obscenely vulgar that those sections of the country decided to keep all the oil revenue to themselves. It is, of course, true that very few of us hold this position, but it is also true that while the ideal would be for the other sections of the country to develop their non-oil sectors and make their contributions to the nation’s coffers, it is hardly worth stating that they need revenue to develop those sectors.

Of course, we as a country have engaged in the sorry practice of abandoning viable sectors such as agriculture, gold, tin, bitumen, and rubber to concentrate solely on the oil industry, putting all kinds of p

ressures on the environment, on the oil-producing communities, as well as keeping our economy in a state of infancy, a mono-product economy, after forty-nine years of independence. And we need to do very serious soul-searching in order to avoid the disaster that would befall us when the new race to space, the search for a viable alternative to fossil-based fuel, yields results. Nonetheless, brothers, the sad truth is that until there are other available revenue streams, the oil-producing sections of the country must continue to act as their brothers’ keepers. The development of the rest of the country is in our own interest, just as the development of Nigeria is in the interest of a highly underdeveloped Africa.

2 Comments

  1. I have taken my time to read the whole of your ACADEMIC article. However, unlike you, I will be less academic – but be PRAGMATIC instead in my comment. Your article makes for a good reading, but you failed to provide a concrete solution to the suffering of your/our people in the N.D.

    You quoted Martin Luther King in your article, but, for the sake of objectivity and balance of opinions, I expected you to mention as well Malcom-X and James Baldwin, whose approach to resolving the black predicament in the U.S. was totally different from that of King. If you don’t mind, I will like to recommend to you for reading Malcom_X speeches and one of James Baldwin’s books, “The Fire Next Time.” You will also find the book of the Pultzer prize winner Taylor Branch “Parting the Water” a sort of biography of King and the history of the civil rights movement, interesting to read. The BITTER TRUTH i s that if there was no Malcom-X, blacks would still continued to be lynched and suppressed till today. Thanks to Malcom-X’s approach of “AN EYE FOR AN EYE” the civil rights movement was able to achieve remarkable result that was elusive to the blacks for centuries. The bitter truth is that the non-violence approach – praying and singing in churches and ‘turning the other cheek’ – was not very effective in liberating the blacks. But Malcom-X and James Baldwin’s position that ‘if the life and properties of a white man was not threathened’ by blacks, he would not lift a finger to correct injustice. Non-violence is the dream of the white man.

    Another very important thing that you failed to take into consideration is the fact that the predicament of the blacks in America could just not be compared ON A ONE TO ONE UNIT with what is happening in the N.D. As a matter of fact, based on my own analysis, the foundation of most of the problems in the whole of Africa was laid by the British and French through the creation of ARTIFICIAL countries that put people with completely different culture, religion, tradition and values in the same country. Nigeria is a typical example. Unlike practically all of European countries that are HOMOGENOUS in nature, most African countries are heterogenous which leads to a situation whereby each ethnic group regards political power as a powerful not only to defend its own (selfish) interests – sometimes at the expense of others – but as well suppress and exploit the resources of others.

    As far as I am concerned, NIGERIA was formed by the british to serve its own SELFISH INTERESTS. Europeans don’t need developed Africa because the moment we have competent leaders we will NEVER allow them to continue exploiting us. They need our resources for free to develop their own economies. Like you, I am a product of one of the Federal govt. Colleges. But, unlike you, I am not emotional in my analysis and recommendations. The issue of the N.D. is more than just allocating more resources to the N.D. It’s also about the LOOPSIDED terms of the oil agreements and political structure of Nigeria.

    If Yaradua and the nort are sincere in resolving the N.D. crises, all they need to do is convey a SNC – and not manipulate the people by creating a special ministry.

    Going back to Malcom-X and Baldwin, I am more than convinced that MEND is justified to take up arms against the evil northern led nigerian government. I am not talking about those criminal elements who are terrorising their own people. Both military power or force combined with psychological war fare should be used to free the N.D. from bondage. I am more than convinced that the Ijaws alone, with a population of 14 million, if better organized can defeat the northern led army. It’s TOO EARLY to ask them to lay down their arms now. This is just the beginning of the beginning.

    The north are not only parasites, liability and burden on the south, they are equally a CLOG IN THE WHEEL OF PROGRESS. The solution is to GET RID OF THEM NOW!

    In my series “How the N.D. can get their freedom: The action plan!’ I intend to provide information as regards to the tactics and strategies that the N.D. can use to defeat the northern led Nigerian army and get their freedom. Please take your time and read my articles, available on this site, and send them to as many people as possible.

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  2. A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH AND AN EYE FOR AN EYE. THE INEVITABLE DISINTEGRATION OF NIGERIA CAN NOT BE STOPPED BY THE EVIL YARADUA’S (NORTHERN) ARMY.

    As a result of the unwarranted bombings of the N.D. by Yaradua’s soldiers. My recommendation is that the militants should try as much as possible to NEUTRALISE Yaradua, the Minister of Justice, Minister of Defence, Minister of Internal Affairs, Head of JTF, Security adviser to Yaradua, Chief of army staff, Chief of Naval and Air Force and other key northern civilians/military officers including NNPC top officials and their relatives. Dimeji Bankole, who believes that the genocide in the N.D. is a PEACE KEEPING OPERATION, and members of his family, should be added to the list too. The war should be taken to the north. LET THEM FEEL YOUR PAIN TOO. A tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye should be the guiding principle of the Niger Deltans! I will write more on this in coming parts of my series “How the N.D. can get their freedom: The action plan!” especially what I mean by “taking the war to the north.”

    I also want to suggest that Yaradua’s picture with the words “WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE FOR GENOCIDE IN THE NIGER DELTA!” written underneath should be published in Nigerian newspapers. His pictures should also be distributed to the indigenes of the N.D. on the streets in the N.D., Lagos, Katsina and Abuja; with the same words “WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE FOR GENOCIDE IN THE NIGER DELTA!” written underneath . There can be no better time to break up Nigeria and finally get rid of those UNGRATEFUL PARASITES than now! IF WE BLOW THIS OPPORTUNITY, WE MIGHT NEVER HAVE ANOTHER ONE FOR A VERY LONG TIME COME!

    MY POSITION IS THAT MEND SHOULD NOT GIVE UP AND FIGHT TO THE END. AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED, THE MILITANTS ARE JUSTIFIED IN THEIR ACTION. THE ISSUE OF THE N.D. INDEPENDENCE SHOULD BE SOLVED ONCE AND FOR ALL NOW! THE GUERILLA WAR AGAINST JTF AND THE ENTIRE YARADUA CONTROLLED ARMY IN NIGERIA MUST BEGIN NOW. THE PATH TO VICTORY IS NOT ROSY, OFCOURSE. BUT, I AM MORE THAN CONFUSED THAT MEND’S COURSE IS NOT ONLY A JUST ONE, BUT WITH GOOD PLANNING, FOCUS, DISCIPLINE AND PERESEVERANCE, THEY CAN DEFEAT THE NIGERIAN ARMY AND FREE THE N.D. FROM INTERNAL COLONIALISM AND SLAVERY THAT THE INDIGENES OF THE N.D. HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO BY THE DESCENDANTS OF USMAN DAN FODIO.

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