The Niger Delta: The Gradual Decline of a Struggle

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

“By our actions and pronouncements, we have given our enemies ‘the tools with which to destroy us.’ We have surrendered our inalienable rights.”

According to Mr. Piriye Kiyaramo (Special Media Assistant to Opusiri): “Not less than 38 persons from Gbauraun Kingdom in Bayelsa State have been feared dead, following an alleged invasion by soldiers attached to the Joint Military Task Force, code named “Operation Restore Hope” on November 16, 2007 at about 5 am. Men of the military task force allegedly unleashed terror on the unsuspecting people of Gbanraun Community by shooting sporadically, leaving over 10,000 people displaced with more than 200 houses destroyed after the military operation.”

This report, if true, is harrowing; it is heart wrenching. Unhappily such destruction, maiming, and killings have become a way of life in the Niger Delta — particularly in the Ijaw communities. Such attacks — against innocent women, men and children — are so commonplace that most Nigerians don’t even pay attention to them anymore, and in fact the international community has become habituated to such crimes and iniquities. At home and abroad, people have tuned such crimes off of their psyche; such dastardly acts no longer prick the conscience of the nation, or of the world.

In view of all the attacks and destructions on the Ijaw nation, I wonder what the response would be if attacks and destructions are also visited on Abuja by the Ijaw? Considering all the killings (by the government) that are taking place in Ijaw land, what if the Ijaw retaliated by killing government officials in Abuja? The logic here is simple: government kills Ijaw people; Ijaw people kill government agents. Government destroy Ijaw land, Ijaw people also destroy Abuja. If you make life miserable for the Ijaw, the Ijaw ought to make life miserable for the government. You screw me I screw you, where is the crime?

In any case, this “equivalent retaliation” (or what is commonly referred to as tit-for-tat), is not the primary focus of this essay. I shall return to that in the not too distant future, in another essay. Here and now, I am more concerned about the degeneration of the Niger Delta struggle. Before then, the federal government must know that it does not have a monopoly of violence, or of savagery. For some silly reasons, Nigeria keeps tempting fate; they keep tempting the Ijaw nation. How unwise!

Recent events in the Niger Delta have become a source of shame and embarrassment for the vast majority of Nigerians who call the Niger Delta home. Indeed these ignominious and callous acts and pronouncements have become a cause of concern for all those who believed in the original struggle for justice, inclusion, accountability and fairness in development and the distribution of resources. A noble cause is now degenerating.

Oh what a shame! Is this what the Niger Delta struggle has turned into? A struggle for economic transparency and political inclusion is fast becoming a fight between multiple egos and power centers. A struggle for justice and fairness is fast becoming a struggle for money and personal aggrandizement. A struggle for the exploited is gradually becoming a struggle that oppresses and annihilates critics and rivals; and in the process oppresses and asphyxiates the subjugated.

The Niger Delta is today known for senseless kidnappings and kidnapping for money, cult activities, turf wars, and proxy wars. A struggle that once touched the heart and soul of the international community is now repulsive to the global community. Oh, what a shame. Not too long ago the momentum and the sympathy were clearly on the side of the oppressed and marginalized people of the Delta; but no more! The wind is now blowing in a different direction. A why not?

Why shouldn’t it? Today, a once noble and pious struggle is now turning into wanton and senseless kidnappings, unwanted and unwarranted destruction of private and public homes. When did the treachery and duplicity begin? When and how did we end up here? When did we start loosing focus? When did we lose our heart and soul? When did the struggle turned into patricide, parricide, sororicide and matricide?

We now not only kidnap infants and toddlers, we kidnap our mothers and fathers; we kidnap septuagenarians and octogenarians. We kidnap pregnant women. We kidnap the innocents. All for what? Money? Is the Niger Delta struggle now about money? A just cause has now become a pecuniary cause? Is that it? Is that why we have been fighting the hegemonic alliance?

This is what we have now become? Is this what the struggle is morphing into? If it is, it is the beginning of a sorry decline and self immolation. Oh what a shame! Our actions and pronouncements shames and disgraces all the men and women of the Niger Delta who started this noble and saintly struggle; it shames all the men and women who sacrificed so much for such a gallant cause.

But more than that, the current stage and course of the struggle desecrates the shining and enviable names of all those who gave their lives to the original struggle. Our actions brings shame and dishonor to all those who died fighting for a righteous cause.

The Niger Delta struggle was never a one-man-show. It was never about ego and empty minds. It was never about shallow men and women with shallow intellect. It was never about revenge and kidnapping and murder and rape and wanton destruction of lives and properties. It was never about betrayals and cult activities. It was never about trading ones soul for financial gains. But sadly and regretfully, that is what the Niger Delta struggle has now become. A lost cause!

By our actions and pronouncements, we have given our enemies “the tools with which to destroy us.” We have surrendered our inalienable rights. We have made it possible for history to condemn us. We have made it possible for posterity to spit on our collective grave. Even shady empires don’t decline this fast; but decline and fall we are declining and falling. Oh men and women of the Niger Delta: is this our identity, is this our destiny — a destiny where formerly incorruptible activists are now worth two for a dollar. Some freedom fighters have now become toothless lions. Some chiefs have become thieves. Some supposed championed of the people have now become Judases. Waoh!

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