Niger Delta Governors: Where Have All Our Money Gone?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

This is a follow-up to my spring 2007 essay, Niger Delta Governors: Where is our Money? In the intervening months, nothing has changed — at least not in a meaningful or significant manner. The President then was Olusegun Obasanjo. Today, he lives almost in isolation and has become the punching bag for almost everybody — even for fair weather friends, the ex-this and ex-that and all kinds of pretenders and wannabes.

The nation now has a new man at the helm of affairs accompanied by a new set of Ministers, Governors and handlers. It is possible to do a critical analysis of these men and women — especially the Governors — but today, we shall limit ourselves only to the new breed of Governors in the Niger Delta region. The Niger Delta, we already know, is the nation’s breadbasket. But because of the nature of the Nigerian economy (structurally unbalanced and as a Rentier state), many have argued that without the Delta the country will be on her knees, gasping for air. But that is neither here nor there.

The Delta is an integral part of the Nigerian Nation and so the oil and gas and all other resources — wherever they may be situated in the country — belong to all Nigerians. The Constitution confirms this. Just so we don’t forget: at the heart of the current conflict are (1) the total lack of development and the absence of federal presence in the region; (2) how to equitably divide the monetary gains; (3) the ecological and environmental disasters; (4) the political and economic marginalization of the indigenous groups; and (5) the overall injustice that has come to characterize the region.

A decade or so earlier, if these problems had been solved or at least if they had been genuinely addressed, what is today referred to as the Niger Delta Crisis — a crisis that is accompanied by Low Intensity Conflict, out-of-control oil bunkering, commercialization of crimes, ethnoregional commotion and various other sociopolitical imbalances — would have been almost non-existent. Today, it is difficult to imagine the region returning to its once immaculate condition. The Delta will never again be the same again. The genie is out of the glass. There is blood everything and on everybody’s hand.

Most people, including the militants, the activists, the NGOs and private citizens and others directs their anger and venomous arrows at the Federal Government and the Oil conglomerates. Rightly and justifiably so! A more critical analysis of the region’s palaver will also take into account the country’s historical heritage, the anarchical nature of the international political and security system. And more. What is often left out of the debate is the duplicitous and leecherous role of the elites and State Governments in the region.

Somehow — somehow — the elites and the State Governments in this region have managed to stay below the blame-radar. It is as if this group of leeches does not exist; it is as if they are blameless; it is as if they are not part of the problem. But they are! Simply put: the various governments and many sections of the Niger Delta elites are also to be blamed for the neglect, exploitation, and underdevelopment of the region and its people. The Militants, the activists and the everyday persons must take note of this uncontestable fact. They must act on this, take note of internal parasites.

As a Nigerian and as a Niger Deltan, I say to my people — the militants, the activists, the everyday persons and to all justice-seeking groups — the time has long gone for us to hold our various governments and elites responsible for some of the atrocities and injustices in our region. Without exception, every Niger Delta Governor from 1999 to 2007 was criminal and delinquent: James Ibori; Peter Odili; Orji Kalu, Alamieyeseigha and Goodluck Jonathan; Donald Duke; Victor Attah; Lucky Igbinedion; Segun Agagu; and Achike Udenwa.

Today, their proxies have followed suit. In the one year since coming to power, billions and billions of Naira have been allocated, yet, there is nothing on the ground, nothing that positively impacts the lives of the people in terms of real development (basic need, humanitarian development or the fundamentals of development) save for iconic and various other meaningless projects. Where is our money? Where have all the Niger Delta money gone? What follows is a snapshot of allocated and collected amount since June 2007:

My ancestral home is in Bayelsa: home to some of the brightest and revered Nigerians i.e. Isaac Boro, Alfred Diete Spiff, Ebiegberi Alagoa and many others. With such a pool of great minds, how Bayelsa State came to be ruled by a succession of the third-rate is mind boggling. In the absence of the first-rate, we have the pretenders, the dream peddlers, voodoo-merchants, the sadists and the intellectually impaired.

All those who call Bayelsa home know that there is water every where, but the people have no access to clean potable water. In a literate and globalizing world, the State has no modern libraries, no clinics and laboratories and no well equipped hospitals. Most of the government primary and secondary schools are worse than colonial era shacks. And the Niger Delta University, build within the last ten years, is an eyesore.

In a world where women’s constitutional rights are being upheld and celebrated, the State has one of the highest rates of female dropouts due to pregnancy and other social ills. In a world where the young and the agile are aiming for higher standard of living, the vast majority of the young and the agile in the State are either unemployed, underemployed or unemployable. And because the private sector is almost non-existent, most people rely on the State for employment and patronage.

In exchange for government handouts, a sizeable number of the people have been cultured to forgo their human rights; therefore, dissent is highly frowned upon and discouraged. We have two men to blame for the aforesaid reality: Alamieyeseigha and Goodluck Jonathan. Sadly, Timipre Sylva is about to join their rank.

Let me say it again: The Federal Government and the Oil Companies share some of the blame for the economic, political and environmental problems that has befallen the region. No doubt about that! But the time is here for the people of the Niger Delta to hold their leaders accountable for the theft and mismanagement that are commonplace. I also think that the people of the region share in the blame for tolerating and encouraging third rate leaders: men and women who should be anything but Governors, Ministers, Commissioners and Local Government Chairs.

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