My Niger-Delta: A Marshall or Master plan?

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

There is almost nothing anybody can do now about the imbalance that all the years of oil exploration and exploitation has exacted on the ecosystem of the Niger Delta and on her peoples. I shouldn’t begin to bore you with all those big grammar that should describe the sorry situation on ground. The only surviving paw-paw tree behind our house in the village just withered and died, just like that. Many do not realize that this is a symptom of the oil suffusion that has taken place over the years. But if you really want to know something of what is on ground, there’s no need for you to visit the Delta: all you may do is listen to the news in all the translations of all the languages in Nigeria: not a day goes by without a mention of the activities of the young people of the Delta, who are fed up with their lot and take hostages for a ransom. Indeed, to be very honest with you, that’s one reason I did not encourage you to go there on a fact-finding mission.

Another way you may want to find out what debilitation years of oil exploration and exploitation has exacted on us is to look into your encyclopedia or any historical document on the effects that the World War II had on Europe – the economy virtually collapsed because what industry (that of coal and agriculture) that that economy relied upon ground to a halt. But the situation, as you know, in the Niger-Delta is far worse. I say this with a sense of responsibility and with the support of a fair knowledge of what led the Truman government to introduce the European Recovery Program otherwise known as ‘the Marshal Plan’.

The basis for Truman’s Marshall Plan was not altruism or a commitment to rebuild Europe from the rubble she became after World War II. The basis was mostly a self interest encoded in the Truman Doctrine, and that is what we are trying to establish here: that we are certain that the Federal government’s so-called Master Plan for the Niger Delta may not be different from Truman’s both in theory and in application. Hear: all that the Truman Doctrine stood for was a government policy of checkmating whatever influence the Soviet Union wanted to exert anywhere in the world and to enhance the volume of trade between Europe and the US. Therefore, when the World War II ended there was a fear that the Russians would begin the reconstruction of Europe and exercise a measure of economic and military influence in the European nations they were going to rebuild, the Americans invested $13billion. Take notice that 70% of all that money was spent on goods from the US and the UK got the lion share, followed by France, Italy and lastly Germany. It was mostly an in-house spending spree because the Economic Cooperation Administration doled out the money while the Organization for Economic Cooperation spent it. But the most important thing about the spending spree was that all the money that got spent was spent on the purposes for which they were disbursed.

We cannot say the same thing for the proposed Master Plan just announced. My reason is that we have never really have any reason to trust the intentions of any of the people who put these schemes there and the people put there to execute these plans on behalf of the Niger Delta. From the days of Albert Horsefall to the days of Chief Opia in what was the Niger Delta Commission, the Niger Delta has always been ripped off. These Commissions were nothing more than the conduit pipes with which billions of dollars were siphoned. It is in the light of this that we have suggested elsewhere that instead of taking foreigners hostages for the problems we have in the Niger Delta, we should focus more on those who have used these Commissions to enrich themselves. Ironically, it was in the regime of the famous Abacha and supervised by another equally severe a personality in Buhari that the proceeds from crude oil exploration were somewhat spread out a bit evenly across board. But even at that, the Niger Delta did not get the attention we deserved.

Therefore, if we were to conduct a comparative analysis between Truman’s Marshall Plan with the so-called Master Plan of the Federal government for the Niger Delta, what we would find out is that even though the Marshall thing had an ulterior motive, it was a motive well executed. With the present Master or servant plan, we also know there is an ulterior motive. Now, what is it? Would this be another NDDC where billions of dollars are voted for projects that exist only on the pages of newspapers?

Most of the plans that Nigeria’s leaders had put on ground before they leave office have never stood the test of time. They look like plans that have been planned to fail. Consider IBB’s Better Life, DFRRI, his political parties, SDP and NRC; consider Abacha’s Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), his Vision 2010 and Health-for-all-by-the-Year 2000 slogan etcetera. Because a lot of these programs lack an enduring political flavour they wither and die. The sad thing in all of this is that those who had spent monies from the Niger Delta in these wishy-washy schemes never come to give an account of their failures. This is why we wonder how Chief Obasanjo is going to go about executing his belated Master Plan for the Niger Delta. Already, the whole thing is based on a very unsteady premise that the PDP must capture the centre. But what if that does not happen?

We said at the beginning of this essay that there is nothing anybody could do now about the imbalance in the ecosystem of the Niger Delta. When we were saying that, we had at the back of our minds that those who contrived the Master plan have an ulterior motive like those who contrived the Marshall Plan for Europe. My friends believe that the ulterior motive of that Master Plan is to continue to make servants of us all in the Niger Delta. Whether or not we in the Niger Delta would allow these other people to continue to use all manner of rhetorical subterfuge to hoodwink us is another matter entirely.

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