The politics being played with the Niger-Delta area of Nigeria is both mind-boggling and disturbing. It is mind-boggling because this is the fowl that lays the golden egg. On the other hand, it is disturbing because the tranquility, peace and democratic stability of Nigeria lend its ears towards this area. It is therefore a case of the proverbial insect perching on the scrotum, to kill it is a risk and to allow it mess on the scrotum poses another big risk. However, something must be done.
From personal experience garnered during my seven to eight years sojourn in Warri, I got a glimpse and grasp of what the ire was all about. To add, my brief (not that brief though) stay in Port-Harcourt during the heydays of School of Basic Studies (a.k.a. S.B.S.) equipped me with a little understanding of the situation. The difference being that during my stay in Port-Harcourt it was as a young dude who wanted to dazzle Port-Harcourt babes and show-off to my mates and friends that I was at the prestigious S.B.S. (I didn’t achieve anything unfortunately). I had another opportunity of doing my National Youth Service at Nigerian Ports Authority (Training Department under the supervision of one Mr. Victor Iso, God bless him).
In Warri, I went as a matured mind having secured in my backpack a masters degree in Applied Linguistics and International Relations, respectively. I also added a woman to these laurels. Thank God. If not I would have been swallowed by all those sweet sharks on the banks of the Warri Rivers.
Coming back home, the oil-rich Niger- Delta should be (and I hope it will be) like Abuja city. I don’t want to exaggerate but be moderate about it. Ordinarily, Niger-Delta should be like Washington D.C. But what I experienced was squalor, suffering, shrink and sorry spectacles. I managed to live there though I blended quickly (as a gee).
I saw shrines (live) along major roads. I jumped over ponds and pot-holes on major roads. I almost got my mattress burnt with candle (not cigarette stubs) because of no light situation. I dodged bullets from youths at night shifts, looking for their daily bread. I frequently sent my work clothes to a nearby seamstress because of the rickety taxis I boarded. I saw mothers clutching their morsel-filled-nostril children matching to markets to pick up crumbs or leftovers. I saw men rinsing their mouth with freshly brewed local gin and waking neighbors up with their slurs and snores. I saw and I saw.
I saw most of these scenes on Airport Road, Okere Road/Market, Okumagba Avenue, Enerhen Road, and Effurun Roundabout (and more) all in Warri. I saw most of these things along Woji Road, Rumuola Junction, Rumuokurushi, Shell I/A (etc) all in Port-Harcourt. I saw all these and more along, Sapele Road, Asaba Road, Agbarho Road, Ughelli Road, Patani Road, Yenegoa Road, Mbiama Road, Elele Junction etc.
Poverty dotted their walkways. Sickness waved welcome to visitors. Death was in-wait on the freeways/highways. Darkness woke them up all the time.
The Niger-Delta I saw had young, vibrant, educated, ready-to-learn men and women. The Niger-Delta I lived in had prospect. The Niger-Delta I met needed help. But no one came.
The 21st century Niger-Delta that greeted me lacked all good things of life. Yet we have Shell, Chevron, Texaco, Mobil, Schlumberger, BJ Services, Halliburton (meanwhile Halliburton is moving its’ corporate headquarters from Houston, U.S.A. to Dubai, U.A.E. What is that move for? This is the way they abandon and will continue to abandon our country after tax evasions if nothing is done now). We parade all these oil giants yet we have nothing. Yet we have a government of the people, for the people and by the people. So what is their excuse for abandoning this group of Nigerians? Politics. Politics and nothing else. Profit. Profits and nothing more.
Politics has played out again in their appointing one of them as a vice-presidential candidate to the ruling party in Nigeria. Politics made them to kill Ken-Saro Wiwa. Politics made them to incarcerate Asari Dokubo. For politics, they wasted Pa Alfred Rewane. Isaac Boro died mysteriously during the Nigerian Civil War. Where is Obi Wali? Politics made the oil companies to divide and rule the area. Politics made the oil companies to constantly grease the elders’ palms. Politics made the oil companies to set confusion all over the place. Politics made the oil companies to kill flora and fauna. Politics made the oil companies dump toxics and radiation shields all over the place in the name of drilling. The above names were and are the big guns. What about the small fry’s and paupers? What about the creek children of Ugborodo? What about the waterside women of Borokiri? What about the eclipsed Eket men? The mangrove swamps disappeared too. For certain, Shakespeare was right for saying “no comets are seen when beggars die”.
Now they are deploying gun boats and war ships on the Niger-Deltans. They want to level it so that no dissenting voices are heard. They want to do an Odi repeat. They want to face them like they faced the Biafrans. They want to destroy the defenseless. They want to wipe out generations of people. They want to castrate their manhood and hang it on the fireplace.
I saw a militarized society.
Have you paused and wondered and asked: where does the Niger-Delta arms come from? Who gives these unemployed, unhappy Urhobo youths AK-47 and mortars to eliminate his in-laws the Itshekiris? Where does the intelligent Itshekiri group get their machine guns (superior to the ones Nigeria military uses, I’m not kidding)? The indefatigable, inexorable Ijaw neighbors armed to the teeth with their weapons of mass destruction (charms and amulets included); what was their source/s?
My prayer is this: one day the scale will fall off the eyes of these used youths. And when it does the elders will flee naked.
During those days of ethnic cleansing (yes it was) in the Niger-Delta, a mortar fell into my neighbors parlor, shook and shattered everything within fifty meters range including our own rented building. Thank God my friend was at loggerheads with his wife at that time and they had all gone their separate ways. Our building was marked Urhobo-man house for fear of being burnt (some others where marked Igbo-man house). But it was actually threatened to be reduced to ashes. I had to call my landlord (he married an Itshekiri lady) who flew in from Port-Harcourt that same day to come and save his property. He came, did his home work and found out that it was a desperate tenant connived with the Ijaw boys to come and extort money from him by threatening to burn down his house (true life story).
But the situation was indeed a sorry spectacle. It’s not worth reliving.
Each street was spy soaked and army infested. We actually lived with and in fear. We didn’t know where the flying objects (bullets) will come from. Of course when the bullets depart its chambers and rains down, it cannot distinguish between a visitor and an aborigine. It does not smell Ijaw skin or Itshekiri blood. It knows no bounds.
We lived in war!
And now they want to revisit the Niger-Delta with mayhem. The problem is clear. These people are poor. These people lack basic amenities. These people have friends in Abuja. These people have eyes and they see and ears to hear. When you drive pass them with your custom-built Hummer or Escalade along with your convoy, they are struck with a feeling that it’s their wealth you stole. When they see you throw money around, they feel it’s their resource you stole. And their feelings are real. It is irrational to rob Peter and pay Paul. There is no justification for keeping the Niger-Deltans in perpetual penury. There is no rationale behind the games the Federal Government of Nigeria play with these oil companies. There is no cogent reason behind what oil companies do with the so-called leaders and elders of the Niger-Deltans. There is no explanation enough for oil companies to have ghost wo
rkers in their payroll. And there is no explication for oil workers to hire expatriates who back home are truck drivers and crane operators as workshop and base managers whereas you have bright and basking young graduates from not only the Niger-Delta but from Nigeria who can fill in that position. No explication or reasoning will qualify the reason behind the exportation of tremendous dollars back to the home office/s of these oil companies, strangulating the cow that produced the milk. How can you explain that?
The propaganda that the Niger-Delta boys are all miscreants and misfits and uneducated is false. It is a big lie! The government and their fellow looters (oil companies) of our resources should find a better lie to tell. I had friends who read Engineering (all sorts), Computer Science, Mathematics, English, Banking, Law, and Architecture etc but are still dependent on their folks or running around the hallways of these oil companies for elusive Fifteen Thousand Naira contract/supply (please take out two minutes of your time and read Jeff Koinange’s “Big guns, big oil collide in Nigeria published on February 10, 2007 at cnn.com). I had friends who were ready to do cleaning jobs with their degrees hidden inside their back pocket. Yes, I had these friends and they are all from the Niger-Delta. Ask Jeff if he saw schools, hospitals, clinics, pipe-borne water, and electricity on his uncertain visit t the “boys” in the creek. Uncertain because he wasn’t sure of making it back to C.N.N. newsroom to file in his report.
Governor James Onanefe Ibori (Odidigborigbo), the current governor of Delta State, Nigeria, has shown us that government can do something if she wants to. Before I left Warri, the governor has dualized and put street lights on Airport Road, Warri, face-lifted dilapidating schools, restored sanity and discipline in the education ministry (through the hard work of the lady education commissioner), built stadium, secured peace, maintained and upgraded the general hospitals, brought back trust to the Igbo’s doing business in Warri and environ, built bridges in the riverside areas which enhanced movement and connectivity from one hinterland to another and upland. The governor has diplomatically stabilized the area to the best of his knowledge, ability, strength and resources. Speaking of resources, some might say the governor is getting the largest federal allocation so he should do more. But have you asked yourself the consequences of him putting all that federal allocation in his private coffers. If the governor decides to do so, as most governors are doing, what will you do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m not the governors’ apologist. But my point is this, if the federal government can do one-fourth of what James Ibori is doing in Delta State the Niger Delta will one day look like Abuja of Babangida time. I know not many people will agree with my argument. But if you don’t like my line of thought will you prefer the gun-boats and war ships stationed in the Niger Delta to secure American interest against ours? Do you want the government to wipe out the defenseless and de-humanized people of the Niger Delta?
If you and your government wipe away these bright and promising roses and irokos, men and women, young and old, defenseless but relentless with your poisonous artillery, what will you replace them with?
If we have this overloaded military might why unleash it on your own brothers and sisters and on your own shores? Why didn’t we pose this imperialist impression against Cameroon during Bakassi brouhaha?
It is high time justice and equity is meted out to the Niger-Deltans. It is high time our government address this problem with a more pragmatic, and brotherly approach. It is high time our government and the elders stop collecting lump-sums from the oil companies and rather tell the oil companies to do the right thing. And it is high time oil companies’ stop out-sourcing and repatriating about eighty percent of their proceeds to vaults at home. Oil companies should not give us the crap of cost of producing oil wells and importation of tools etc. We have heard enough of that. Do the right thing!