Niger Delta: Things Are Falling Aground!

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

Indeed, many questions have been raise why the state governors of these states have somehow not been pressured by their youth considering the amount of money that have been devoted to the Niger Delta since 1999. While it will be unfair to cherry pick Niger Deltans for their ignorant electorate, since Nigeria in general have a fair share of thieving public officers doing so with impunity, it does raise some legitimate questions. While the rest of Nigeria is struggling to dislodge the impostors in Abuja come 2007, the lords of the Delta are hobnobbing with him scheming of ways to remain in office beyond their constitutional two terms. Not a serious voice of opposition has been raised in the Delta against a man that has been a total disaster to their area. A man with a record of genocide killing their children in Odi and accommodating the foot-dragging of oil companies to eliminate gas flaring is today holding clandestine meetings with their governors and plotting a comeback. It is a shame and the Niger delta militias must face up to reality – target the ignoble ones among you.

It is very true that the sufferings of today, is a direct result of mixed opportunities, greed and corruption. In order to develop the Niger Delta area and put paid to the strife that has dominated the area for the past couple of decades the rest of Nigeria must be willing to partner with honest people from this area. There are three categories of such partners in the Niger Delta with varying degree of credibility. First, we have the rogue elites. This group of people somehow saw the light of education early and has exploited their people for the sole purpose of personal aggrandizement; with popular last names like Okrika, Clark, Okumagba, Diette-Spiff, Edewor, Odili, Ibori, Ibru etc. They have their children in citadels of learning abroad and their favorite past time is hooking their children up for marriage i.e. elitist “incestuous” relationships to continue the royal bloodline. They have built mansions in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja. These people lack any credibility to bring about true development in the Niger Delta. All they seek is their stomach.

The next group of people is what I refer to as the “better people”. These are the professionals and academia. Saro Wiwa and Mittey represented this set of people but were rebuffed by our own federal government. They are grassroots individuals that are even more concerned about the environmental destruction going on in their surrounding than having a giant share of the oil loot. All they want is to be left in peace. But when government had a chance to negotiate with them, what did “we” do? We killed them. And now, Nigeria has to deal with the last and most dangerous group i.e. the armed militia. The armed militias are by no means your run on the mill illiterate armed robbers. Most of them are well schooled but also localized armed gangs that derive maximum economic benefits (indeed, criminal) from an atmospheres of chaos and crisis. That is why the end to this crisis is not in their favor and nothing will bring them to the negotiating table no matter how hard we try. It is a very dangerous trend, and piecemeal approaches will not do.

Talking of piece meal approach, it was indeed very laughable to see the launch of the so called Coastal States development plan. What a waste! Who were the partners the government is seeking out this time? The same set of thieves. These individuals includes Niger Delta governors that have been pillaging their people for the past 7 years, gleaming faced armed robbers calling themselves traditional rulers and gluttony “leaders of thought” and their foreign counterparts i.e. oil multinationals. It was a disaster to say the least, and it appears as if the head of Mr. President is a very hard stone and that no amount of water we pour on it will ever seep through. Why go back to the same failed solution? Have we learnt nothing from the failure of OMPADEC, PTF (even though it was really meant to develop the North?), and NDDC? Is it not apparent that throwing more dollars at the situation is not the answer? Did you not see the dollar signs in the eyes of the traditional rulers and elites thinking of their cuts of the $160 billion that will be spent in the next ten years under the President’s development plan? Was it not obvious that none of the people putting together the “coastalplan” knows what it means to sleep in a stilt house full of mosquito, go to bed hungry and wake up with a “oyinbo” man driving S Class Mercedes Benz guarded by policemen drive right past your village square? Which kind of plan is this? Why has Mr. President chosen to partner again with thieves?

I submit that the people of Niger Delta don’t need any government intervention. In fact, what they need is less government. They are tired of being told what to do from the center and just want to be left in peace. They are capable of writing their own plans, spending their money and determining their own destiny. What they want is devolution of power and resources to their locality and a right to self determination. They don’t need lectures from the majority ethnic groups on what culture is about? They don’t require epistles from government functionaries on the importance of preserving graveyard peace? They are about action. The solution to the Niger Delta problem involves tackling the underlying injustice that precipitates the agitation going on there. The truth is that oil is never found in convenient places. From the stormy sea of the North Brent to the Freezing cold of Alaska and the hot desert of Arabia even to the arid land of East Texas and the frozen Tundra of Siberia as well as the misty mangrove swamp of Vietnam, Cambodia and Niger Delta; and there is a reason why it is so. May be the reason, is that God knowing the unique challenges of these environments have decided to put these resources there so it can be used to develop them while fueling the engine of growth that drives prosperity in the rest of the world. All I know is that at the end, freedom shall prevail of tyranny and self determination shall prevail over oppression. Insha Allah.

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