Events in, and the news coming out of Nigeria indicate two things and two things only: (1) President Obasanjo is making a mockery of our collective intelligence, our institutions and our collective destiny; and (2) the low-intensity conflict currently underway in the Niger Delta is likely to engulf the country, or at the very least, weaken the economic and political life of the country. Taken together therefore, these two events — Obasanjo’s shenanigans and the indifference and duplicity of the Nigerian State towards the grievances of the Niger Delta — may cause the country to implode. Or explode.
The actions and pronouncements of President Olusegun Obasanjo, more so in the last two years, have generally revolved around three themes: (1) theft and abuse of power; (2) the deliberate weakening and bastardization of state institutions; and (3) God-complex and the truncation of the peoples will. So far, all indices points to a man who does not care about the wellbeing of Nigerians, or about what the vast majority of Nigerians think of him. Left alone, and without legal or extralegal sanctions, he will continue to stunt our collective growth or encourage the disintegration of our country.
Evidence of his high-crime and misdemeanors are sewn all over the Nigerians landscape for all to see: alone or in concert with his deputy, friends and proxies, he has engaged in abuse of power and the misappropriation of state treasury. While no one has caught him red-handed (with his fingers in the nation’s cookie jar), his deputy, Vice-President Abubakar Atiku has, on numerous occasions, accused his boss of greed, grand theft and egregious mismanagement of state resources. Directly and indirectly, Atiku has averred that only a handful of rogues are bigger, and more adept at thievery, than Obasanjo.
And when the president himself is not at it, his friends and family and colleagues and party members are gluttonously feasting in our financial and political vault, helping themselves to the nation’s resources. At other times, he encourages his overseas partners and cronies to milk the nation’s resources. For instance, what does Andrew Young and the Sullivan Enterprise want in Nigeria? How useful are they to our national interests, and how are they compensated? What role do they and others like them play in the private and public life of Obasanjo? Here we have people and organizations that are almost irrelevant in their local community playing decisive role in a far away land.
Politically, we have a president who takes pleasure in mooning and booing the judiciary. He encourages his Attorney General to thumb his nose at the judicial branch of government if and when judicial findings and pronouncements goes against his wishes. From one federating state to another, he encourages hooliganism, and also encouraged the illegal sacking of state governors. Obasanjo’s thumb prints and shadow are clearly visible in the entanglements that almost tore apart Anambra, Oyo and other states. To go against the wishes of the president is to incur the wrath of a seething and vengeful god.
The story of Obasanjo is a story of expediency, power politics, highhandedness and Schadenfreude. His plans for Nigeria are already in place. He couldn’t force his Third Term Agenda on Nigerians, hence his desire to rule by proxy. No one who knows him believe he can or will conduct a free-fair election. But of course, to give a semblance of democracy and legitimacy, a few parliamentary seats and Statehouses will be allotted to the opposition party. But by and large, the PDP, under the guidance of Obasanjo, will return to Aso Rock. Sadly, the consequence of his imminent action may be mass dissatisfaction (leading to some sort of revolt by the people or an organized body).
President Olusegun Obasanjo — more than any other head of government in colonial or post-colonial Nigeria — suffers from messianic complex. He acts and talks as though he is greater than God; as though he can command rain and thunder; as though he can move mountains and part oceans. But he is wrong. He is wrong! When the sun sets on him — or when he is facing his creator — the judgment will be swift and severe: he was not useful to himself or useful to his country. This man, this president, this accidental military general had the chance to be on the right side of history and posterity; but he blew it. Why? How does a man with this level of experience, resources and initial goodwill and prayers, got it all wrong? How? What went wrong with his mind and his intellect?
Low-Intensity Conflict in the Niger Delta…
Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC), like Terrorism, lacks precise definition. Conceptually however, it is characterized by the use of deadly force, terrorism, political crimes, insurgency and counter-insurgency, guerilla activities, kidnappings, and assassination undertaken by government and private individuals. Definitional difficulty aside, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff defines LIC as:
… a political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states. It frequently involves protracted struggles of competing principles and ideologies. Low-intensity conflict ranges from subversion from to the use of the armed forces. It is waged by a combination of means, employing political, economic, informational, and military instruments. Low-intensity conflicts are often localized, generally in the Third World, but contain regional and global security implications (Army Field Manual 100-20).
Low-Intensity Conflict was very common in the Third World, in the 1960s through the 80s. It happened in places like Namibia, Nicaragua, Angola, Peru, Indonesia, The Philippines, Mozambique, Iran, Chile and pre-911 Afghanistan. Today — whether it is acknowledge or not — it is happening in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. And unless certain conditions are met, i.e., a fundamental shift in the attitude of local-hegemons (the government, the oil companies and major ethnic groups in the country), the conflict is likely to widen — threatening the already fragile foundation on which the country rests.
Not too long ago, Chief Benjamin Akinyemi Akinyele posited that, “It seems to me that the further away you are from where the resources of this country are produced, the better you profit from it. The people who are nearer, who are proximate to the source of the resource are poor…I shuddered to see the depravity of the people in the oil producing areas.” He was right. He is right! The amount of mystery, deprivation, and abject poverty in that region of the country is mind boggling. The unbridled callousness on the part of the government is to say the least, a cardinal sin!
Instead of genuinely addressing the pain and grievances of the oil-producing states, the federal government, in concert with the oil companies and their patrons, has for decades been playing one political trick after another. In very recent years, the government thought it wise to use force, or the threat of force, to quell the demonstration taking place in the aggrieved communities. In some cases, local leaders were jailed, forced into exile or killed.
Taking their cue from the government, oil companies engaged in blackmail, protracted court cases, or in the politics of divide-and-conquer. Socially, neither the government nor the oil companies paid significant and lasting attention to environmental degradation and the attendant health problems facing the indigenes. Economically, issues of poverty and unemployment have, for the most part, been ignored. How could a region that contributes more than 75% of government revenue be this impoverished, damaged, wasted and beaten? $400-500 billion dollars later, the region is still a colossal mess.
In spite of all the aforesaid, here comes President Obasanjo playing tricks (agai
n) on the intelligence of the people. Somehow, he thinks that bringing in an Ijawman to the presidency will placate the citizens of the Niger Delta — especially the very vocal Ijaw group. True, full political participation is part of the overall demands; however, the fundamental problems still need to be solved or mitigated: infrastructural development, unacceptable revenue allocation formula; environmental degradation; poverty and unemployment and lack of basic human needs; poor and inadequate laws governing the commercial activities of oil companies; the injurious land use decree, etc, etc.
Governor Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, when compared to his colleagues in the PDP, is well-qualified; and in fact, more qualified than most. It is heart-warming that he was selected; but his selection is not good enough. Furthermore, his selection should not be seen as a favor to the Niger Delta or as a bargaining tool to quell the agitation and the rightful activities of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). MEND’s activities do not in any way negate the political and economic struggle of the region.
We have a president who, along with a select few, is sharing, stealing and mismanaging the nation’s resources. Additionally, the president has a penchant for disregarding the check-and-balance provision of the Nigerian constitution. When he is not running circles around the other arms of government, he is busy spiting in the face of judges. In order to prolong the indignity and injustice he has perpetrated on the country, he is scheming to continue governance by proxy. And instead of finding a lasting solution to the Niger Delta crisis, he devised ways to appease the Niger Deltans. Justice and transparency is what is required, not impulsive appeasement.
Should the president succeed, the consequences will be calamitous. Nigerians will be left with a landscape were blood and guts are spilled; and where the majority of the people shed their inhibition and aversion towards high-stake criminality. The last vestiges of humanity will be lost. Almost five decades after political independence, Nigerians still remember the “mistake of 1914.” The actions and pronouncements of Obasanjo will simply open a wound that has not properly healed — all because one man has decided to put his greed, criminal intention and aspirations before the welfare of his nation?
This coming anarchy and a widening low-intensity conflict can be avoided if Olusegun Obasanjo and the ruling class put aside their narrow self-interest, and instead embrace justice, fairness and constitutionalism.