Why Niger Deltans must continue to fight

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

Theory and practice are two arrows in an archer’s quiver. Notice that whenever an archer takes aim at a target, he involuntarily reaches behind to his quiver and pulls out any of the arrows. In most cases, he hardly cares which of the theory or practice arrows he pulls out, probably because both arrows are sturdy and straight and usually cut through gravity with the same efficacy and strength. To a seasoned marksman, pulling out the other arrow would not be because he missed with the first shot, but that he wants to take aim again to finish the quarry off.

But this archery will be careful to take a little peek backwards before pulling out a particular arrow, the theory arrow. We should be careful to do this because of the need to establish some sort of semblance of balance and poise needed to take aim accurately. So, let us reach out to the mobius leitmotif in an award-winning book, The Fortunes of Wangrin, as our theory arrow. Hampate Ba’s The Fortunes of Wangrin, was a book written in Mali in 1973 lampooning the French colonial policies of Assimilation and much later of Association. The protagonist, a victim of colonialism, rose to become an enfant-terrible to the French colonial government. But to his Mandingo compatriots, he was a local Robin Hood, playing the colonial administration against itself and gaining comparative advantage for himself and for his people. He had many reasons for doing some of the nasty things he did to outwit the French. According to Wangrin, there can never be any established moral precepts until the dust of a nation’s history has settled.

It will be in the interest of this archer to finish off the wounded and charging bull with another theory arrow. The year is 1952. The country is Kenya, Obama’s ancestral homestead. Long before that time, the Kikuyu who were the major Kenyan tribe had complained that the British were using them as slaves to work lands that belonged to their ancestors. Agitations fell on deaf ears. Pleas from the Kikuyu that they wanted to have greater participation in the affairs of their land were ignored. The following year, a guerilla army known as the Mau-Mau Emergency began an onslaught on the British authority. It was only after 11,000 Mau-Mau had died, 100 Europeans and 2000 pro-British Africans had also been killed that the British decided to offer Kenya Independence. The significant thing about this story is that in fictionalizing this incident in his book, The Trial of Dedan Kimathi, Ngugi Wa Thiongo made it clear that even though there is no liberty without law and order, there can be no order and law without liberty.

These are inalienable truths. Nobody will give you what rightly belongs to you if you don’t fight for it. Now then, let us apply the practice arrow to the situation in the Niger Delta, shall we? The outcry that greeted the attacks by these ‘militants’, particularly on the Atlas Cove, a federal government facility in Lagos, several months ago was loud. Nearly everybody said that the body that attacked that oil facility flew off its spindle and lost both its brief and public sympathy. They also said that since the problem is a Niger Delta problem, MEND should focus more on attacking the Niger Delta and leave the rest of Nigeria alone. Well, those who responded to these suggestions have already said that the Niger Delta problem is a Nigerian problem, and this is not an attempt to reiterate that sentiment.

Conflicts take place all over the world because you and I want to control the things that generate money and wealth. Now, since we cannot have everything we want, and get everything we have, states put institutions in place to ensure a reasonable distribution of the commonwealth to all. We all know that in Nigeria, this has never been so. And just the same way that the Mau-Mau and the Irish Republican Army, IRA, fought for what is their birthright, Nigerians in the Niger Delta are not doing anything different from the Mau-Mau or the IRA. The way they are today, Niger Deltans are the most traumatized and marginalized people in the world right now. Everybody exploits them. Their own people exploit them. Their governors also are at a crossroad whether to feather their own nests, the nest of their political parties or to join the fray. So at that point, there is nothing wrong in adopting guerilla tactics or the scotched earth policy that great generals like Napoleon Bonaparte adopted in the prosecution of their wars. Like Wangrin, the people of the Niger Delta must realize that in seeking a resolution to the conundrum of the Niger Delta, self interest must be the determining factor. What must be done must be done. Guerilla warfare is not the same thing that took place between the US and Saddam Hussein. It is deeper and much more complicated than that. You hit hard and run. You take the fight to the ‘enemy’. Ruse and subterfuge rule. You don’t operate a standing army. That is why there can be no established codes of warfare, particularly when you are fighting a standing army like the Nigerian army which boasts that it is paid, trained and equipped to kill.

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