The Niger Delta: The Impending Military Assault

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Alea iacta est: The die is cast. The assault on the Niger Delta is about to begin.”

Beginning in 1999 when the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime came into being, there were ample opportunities to solve some of the most pressing problems that have confronted the country since 1914, when a parchment of differences were put together to form a single political entity. At the very least, Obasanjo could have made genuine attempts at solving those that have confronted the country since 1960. But he didn’t. He was in power for eight years during which time he legalized corruption, mediocrity and inanity. He was succeeded by Umaru Musa Yar’Adua — a president who relies primarily on the military and the hawks around him to do his biddings.

President Yar’Adua’s greatest challenges seem to be his deteriorating health, how to rein in his greedy associates, how to rule the country, and how to approach the Niger Delta tragedy. And a tragedy it is. Insofar as the Niger Delta is concerned, the President’s approach has been to listen to the dictates of the military and the Arewa Consultative Forum: annihilate trouble-makers and restless communities in the region. The goal of his government is not to arrest and prosecute, but to invade, destroy and kill. This mild-mannered and self-effacing man has turned out to be more brutal that General Obasanjo. And so, Alea iacta est: The die is cast. The assault and annihilation of the Niger Delta is about to begin.

Daniel Volman, the Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC, is reporting that the Yar’adua government “is set to launch a full-scale offensive in the Niger Delta when a ceasefire declared by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) ends on 15 Sep 2009. And this time, Nigerian military forces will be using special warships, helicopter gunships and troop transports, and unmanned drone intelligence planes and ships sold to Nigeria by Israeli, Malaysian, Singaporean, Dutch, and Russian companies.”

Mr. Volman went to say that “Israeli and Russian instructors have been providing specialized training to Nigerian Navy and Air Forces sailors and pilots in how to operate the ships and helicopters over the past few months, and some of these instructors may help operate them during the offensive.” As disquieting as this report may sound, Niger Deltans — especially the Ijaw ethnic nationality — have been expecting such a move for quite some time now. Indeed, how to deal a knock-out blow to the Ijaw have been on the government’s agenda since the escalation of hostilities in 2001, and the formation of MEND in 2005. They have waited and waited and waited. The time seems to have come.

Historically, citizens of the Niger Delta have been a thorn on the flesh of pre and post-colonial Nigerian governments. Not a people to suffer injustice in silence, they have a history of political activism that dates back to the 18th century, at least. Rulers who opposed the shenanigan and the inhumane behavior of European powers were dethroned, killed, or sent abroad to die. Indeed, European powers made sure that the region was thoroughly destabilized by engaging in and introducing ethnic politics, malevolent survival strategies, and divide-and-rule politics. In the intervening years, successive Nigerian governments, military and/or civilian, have continued such practices.

Depending on the context, there is the geographical Niger Delta, the political Niger Delta and the economic Niger Delta. In general, however, when people speak of the Niger Delta they are basically referring to the vast expanse of land and waterways that houses virtually all of the oil and gas that supports the domestic and global economy. In this case, the Ijaw land. For more than 200 years, the Ijaw Nation has cemented its place in the international political economic system.

For instance, the Ijaw territory was the center of commerce — renown for its trade in ivory, palm oil, and other natural resources. It was also a center of the African Atlantic slave trade. And for a period in its history, it had an independent diplomatic relations with European powers. Then and now, especially since the last forty-five yeas, how to subjugate and control the Ijaw has been a preoccupation, an obsession even, on the part of the Nigerian government.

Why would a people who have always fought for their inalienable rights suddenly acquiesce to the shenanigans, the duplicity, and the brutality of the Yar’Adua’s regime? Other than a handful of hungry elites and misled commoners, no one, in my view, is going to succumb to Yar’Adua’s threat and actual use of force. President Yar’Adua, the Arewa Consultative Forum, and their band of fellow travelers may, in the end, find themselves in the deepest end of the river, without a life jacket. They should know, or should have known that this is a conflict that can never be solved by military force.

Indeed, no amount of military brutality can solve a problem that otherwise calls for political settlement. However, if and when this or any other government takes to the sea, air and land to invade, to bomb and to forcibly impose its iniquitous will on the Ijaw and on the people of the larger Niger Delta, my guess is that there may be no known bystanders left; no known moderating voices left; and there may be no one left calling for One Nigeria in the region. It most likely will be the beginning of the end for Nigeria.

As it is, there is a growing voice within the region calling for secession. A military invasion culminating in deaths and destruction, therefore, will only embolden the secessionist movement.

Consider this: would the Yoruba have stood askance if pre and post colonial governments had misappropriated their cocoa farm? Would the Hausa/Fulani have looked the other way if government had exercised undue control over their groundnut pyramids? As for the Igbo, they never would have appreciated it if government had taken over their natural resources in an unfair manner. Awolowo and Ojukwu fought for fairness. Ahmadu Bello and Balewa, too, would never have subscribed to anything that was not in the interest of the Northern interest.

But today, some Nigerians, for the most part, think the Ijaw and other oil-producing communities should just be quiet even in the face of economic injustice, resource theft, environmental degradation, and political exclusion.

A military invasion of the Niger Delta, and especially of Ijaw land, will have several consequences: thousands of innocent men, women and children will die; thousands more will be maimed and displaced; and the region’s environmental problems will be exacerbated. We already have a region — especially the Riverrine area — that is vastly underdeveloped, with much of it looking like 18th century Louisiana. These are the same areas the Yar’Adua government wants to bomb? I wonder if he knows what the Stone Age era looks like. The pain will deepen, the anger will deepen; and vengeance shall not be the Lord’s alone.

The Ijaw and others will most likely extract their pound of flesh. And in this regard, not a single federal infrastructure will be safe; not a single oil pipeline will be safe; and not a single military and or intelligence officer in the region may ever be safe. What’s more, the theater of operation may be expanded to include Abuja and all federal infrastructures in Lagos and elsewhere. It will be tit-for-tat: equivalent retaliation. Of course, Yar’Adua knows when the bombings will begin, but he may never know when it will end. If he opens this can of worms,

he may not be the one to close it.

No one disputes the fact that a very small faction of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) may have gone roguish. No one disputes the fact that a very small section of other justice-seeking groups within the region may have sold out or gone wayward. Still, that does not justify the planned and actual invasion of the region. What reasonable government and what sane President, bombs his own country simply because he is in search of a few criminals? What sane government spends billions of dollars on the acquisition of military hardware for the sole purpose of destroying his people and his country, when such an amount could have been used for the development of the same region? What doesn’t this President understand about nation-building?

In recent years, at least, six factors have helped to give rise to militancy, and these are: (1) the gross underdevelopment of the region; (2) the sickening environmental condition of the region; (3) the unfair manner in which revenues from oil are allocated, plus the exploitive derivation formula; (4) the unconscionable state of poverty; and (5) the political marginalization of the people; and (6) the socially irresponsible manner in which multinational oil companies operate. But beyond the militancy engendering factors, there are other national problems which deserve urgent attention of which only a Sovereign National Conference can help mitigate and or solve.

And until the aforementioned conditions are properly tackled, no amount of military force will bring about sustainable peace. Whatever peace and security that seem evident the day after the bombing stops, shall be untenable. It will be the worst type of peace ever witnessed in the history of Nigeria. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua…what will history say about him? The man who hastened the disintegration process?

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1 comment September 17, 2009 - 2:43 am






Thank for your post. Nothing but the bitter truth. The hens have finally come home to roast. I have kept on telling those who have ears to hear in my series ‘One Nigeria: to be or not to be’ and ‘How the Niger Deltans can get their freedom: the action plan!’ that ‘Nigeria is still a colony of Britain; and the N.D. and the whole south are a colony of the north. When oil was discovered in Oliobiri in 1956, all the British did was to set up an indirect administrative system which will allow them to have eternal and free access to our mineral resources and control the entire economy. Nigeria is a sovereign country only on paper. Defacto, we are still a colony. Yaradua is being consulted by the British, Americans, other western countries and Arewa. He is carrying out their recommendations.

It’s very naive of us to think that any northerner, be he Yaradua, Buhari or even Ribadu will take any action against the interest of the north. They are going to take care of their selfish interests 100 times before thinking about Nigeria’s interests – if at all. A northerner will always be a northerner – come what may. We need to get this into our brains once and for all. Yaradua, has finally removed the “I love Nigeria and the N.D.” mask he was wearing when he became president and shown his true ugly face. If you could all recall, one of the major promises made by this Katsina man was to convoke a SNC. Instead of a SNC which the whole country was expecting, the N.D. would get bombs. NIGERIA WE HAIL THEE!!! ONE NIGERIA!!! NIGERIA FOREVER!!!

There has never been One Nigeria, there is no One Nigeria now and there will NEVER be One Nigeria. The so called One Nigeria project is nothing but a big fraud to deprive bonafide owners the right to the use of their land, mineral and human resources first and foremost for their own development. As far as the borth remains part of Nigeria, WE WILL REMAIN A COLONY OF BRITAIN AND THE WEST AND WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO PUT ALL OUR MINERAL AND HUMAN RESOURCES TO THE BEST USE. These people will continue not only to sabotage our efforts to enhance our resources for our development, but will always sell our interests to the west in order to maintain their grip on power. It’s very sad and unfortunate that Obasanjo had all the opportunities in the world to resolve this problem for good, but blew the chance. Perhaps he thought that he would be in power forever and naively believed that he was building One Nigeria.

Ny advise for the militants and the indigenes now is that they must NOT under any circumstances panic nor allow themselves to be intimidated in any way – especially by the news of the planned military raid in conjuction with foreign soldiers. I know that it is not easy. However, it is at this very particular period that they need to demonstrate their STRONG WILL and PERSEVERANCE. Remember that you are FREEDOM FIGHTERS and nobody gives freedom to you on a platter of gold. The struggle has just entered another phase. What is most important now is to hold on. The Ijaws alone with a population of 14 million, if well organized, can launch a gorilla war against the Nigerian military – both in the N.D. and in the north. The Israelis, Russians, Americans, British can not guaratee the safety of many installations in the north, neither can they guarantee the safety of Yaradua, Sanusi, Rilwan Lukman, Babangida, Danjuma, Umaru Dikko, Waziri, Atiku, head of JTF, ministers of defense, internal affairs and the entire members of their families. The militants can turn the N.D. to the mass graves of Nigerian soldiers. America, with all its shooting power lost in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan – to mention but just a few. Rading the N.D. is one thing, it’s another thing entirely to control the region, guarantee the safety of the oil wells, pipes, the Nigerian soldiers and foreign oil workers in the region. Infact, I am happy that Yaradua is planning a raid. It will only harden the people and make the hreak up of Nigeria IRREVERSIBLE AND FASTER. The militants who foolishly accepted amnesty will eventually realise that they were tricked. But by then, it will be too late and cold for comfort.

And the Russians too are not invincible. They were disgraced out of Afghanistan by the Talibans. Gorbachev was forced to accept defeat abd withraw the tired and morally weakened soviet army from Kabul. The Russians are still leaking their wounds from the two civil wars against the Chechnyans. The Chechnyans, who are less than 2 millions – bent on breaking away from Russia, inflicted a heavy and serious damage on the Russian army. Tens of thousands of Russian mothers, up till today, are still searching for the bodies of their sons, sent to Chechnya to fight, to bury. Russia has taken over their oil wells just like the north and western countries took over the oil and gas in the south. At the time of writing these lines, Russian soldiers are still killed in the Caucasses. The Caucassians from Chechnya to Dagestan have declared a ‘holy war’ on Russia. The brace Chechians took on the Russian army for 12 years. Russia was able to suppress the Chechnyans to some extent because they used FORBIDDEN military weapons against their own citizens. Thousands of Russian soldiers have lost their lives in the Chechnya war – and they are still being killed today. The Chechyans showed how to effectively fight a super power like Russia.

Russia is holding on to the Caucases because of its oil. But, the Hausas are not Russians. Are they ready to put up with high casualities in the name of keeping Nigeria one? Are they ready to hold on to the N.D. at any cost. If Yaradua thinks that the best solution to the N.D. crises is calling Russians to man or operate the helicopters, boats and other military equipments that will be used to blow up Nigerians – that he took an oath to defend – because they turned down his ill conceived amnesty, we will all live to see. A military intervention will finally convince those who have been sitting on the fence or naively believe that Yaradua and the north are sincere and committed to solving the N.D. crises peacefully to wake up from their slumber.

And the Palestines have prooved over and over to Israel too that they are not invincinble despite all their sophisticated military equipments and America’s money. The Israelis are now negotiating DIRECTLY with the Palestines!!! They (Israelis) are TIRED of fighting!!!

The Serbians headed by Melosovich tried in vain to keep Yugoslavia from breaking up, despite his military prowess and support by the Russians.

By the grace of God, history will repeat itself in Nigeria – just at it did in the forner Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia respectively. We will all live to witness this historical event. I am more than convinced that saviour of the black race and southern Nigeria lies in breakimg up that country. The north is a clog in the wheel of progress.

As I have already said before, the north is very vulnerable and they are neither Russians nor Israelis. All the militants need to do is to explore these vulnerabilities, increase DRASTICALLY the DIRECT COST (human and economic) of the north holding on to the N.D. This is the key to breaking these people. So far, there has never been any direct cost of the crises in the N.D. to the north. I am going to write more on this in coming parts of my series. Meanwhile, my advise to MEND now is to quickly reaccess to what extent accepting the amnesty by some of their members weakened them militaryly, and reorganise themselves so as to refill the gap created within their ranks. This may need some upgrading which may include recruting even more militants and training them to operate AK 47 effectively.

Finally, for those who are running over themselves after Obama was elected as the first black President, can you see the reality now?



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