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The Niger Delta Question

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Author: Okah Ewah Edede
Posted to the web: 5/27/2010 1:06:28 PM

DIVERGENT PERSPECTIVES ON THE NIGER-DELTA QUESTION: A DIALECTICAL HOLISTIC APPROACHSYNOPTIC PREAMBLE:This work is a condensed compilation of manifold views on the hydra mutation known as Niger Delta insurgency. This scholarly disputation was articulated into a single whole after the ventilation of ideas and views with variant interests who have a stake in the Niger Delta. The writer was able to collate opinions which culminated into this work after series of interactive sessions with youths of the Niger Delta. Diverse persons have their own perceptions and notion on the Niger Delta issue. Some have iconoclastic convictions; others have Jihadic conception; another set have anarchistic objectives, while a different group holds armistice impressions.Yet, one thing was common amongst the contrasting school of thoughts: that for any meaningful resolution of the conflict to be efficient, the government has to create a forum where they can ventilate ideas and exchange views with the youths of the region, and not the spurious and suspect stakeholders meeting which the government holds with shysters, charlatan and other politicians and elders of suspect pedigrees who parade themselves as the leaders of the Niger Delta, but, in truth, have lost their respect before the youths because of the devils advocate roles they play in perpetuating the conflict on one end and giving the federal government false impression on the realities of the region.Numerous youths, both male and female, were spoken to by this writer to sieve and sift in a semantic colander their express gesticulations. Niger delta youths like: captain Bright Ejionwor, Mr. Chiorlu Chiorlu, Mr. Humphery Igwe, Mr. Tony Akpan, Mr. Victor Okpakor, Mr. George Jaja, Mr. Gogo Sam Jaja, Mr. Soboma Briggs, Mr. Austin Baridon, Mr. Ejiro Uruh, Mr. Michael Etiemudoh, Mr. Preye Appa, Mr. Amanda Ebhonielen, Mrs. Nnendia Owhondah, Mrs. Sharoh Omonigo, Mr. Christian Agala, Mr. Charles Olor, Mr. James Okoro, Mr. Tony Agumaugu, Mr. Innocent Oge, Mrs. Anita Bembaka, Mrs. Boma Bob-manue, Mr. Innocent Oriji, Mr. Clever Aminigo, Mr. Enyindah Abel and a host of others.This writer cannot claim to represent the complete thoughts and perspectives of all the Niger Delta stakeholders. Yet, with the mandated authority of having spoken to various Niger Delta youths and having witnessed personally the metamorphosis of violence, armed struggle and the other mutations of the Niger Delta quest, this writer can say with confidence that the views and perspective documented here are the true progressive reflections of the youths of the Niger Delta who happens to be at the vanguard of the Niger Delta question.It is believed that the sincere application of the recommendations expressed herein will lead to a long term resolution of the Niger Delta impasse. This writer posits that the short term option of paying the militants after each hostage taking is ironic, because by so doing the federal government is invariably arming the militants with needed funds to acquire more arms and other deadly weapons. On a final note, this work reveals the true genesis of the problem. This Niger Delta struggle for emancipation has been an aged long struggle, but the recent recourse to hostage taking and destruction of oil installations, is a much recent and contemporary occurrence. This event happened as a mutation of the 1999 and 2003 elections: these elections served as the precursor of armed and violent struggle in the Niger Delta.By Okah Ewah Ededemr.okahewahedede@yahoo.comNIGER DELTA IN PERSPECTIVE: A TERRIBLE BEAUTYLush vegetations crown the land and serene creeks, inlets, rivulets, tributaries, runnels and watercourse crisscrosses through her like plaited patterns on a maidenâ's head. The Niger and the Benue rivers merge into one and undulate into her bowel. In the Niger deltas bowel lays a deposit of thick black fluid which the world treasures like diamond and guzzles like sweetened water. Her terrain and lush mangroves are her beauty; her creeks, treasures and buried essence are terrible.This terrible beauty is a swampy mass of about 70,000 square kilometers inhabited by approximately six million aborigines unevenly spread amidst twelve ethnic nationalities spanning and accommodating eight hundred communities. The folks traversing this treacherously sublime landscape, in past were, mostly peace loving peasants farmers and fishmen. These rustic countrymen made their daily living from the swampy labyrinth of wicket creeks and land, using the proceeding of their toil to feed and shelter their wards. From their meager income, they also appeased a pantheon of irascible gods.Then wealth was discovered underneath their sod and the people of the Niger Delta heaved a sign of relief – the believed their lives will take a turn for the better. But this wasn’t the case, instead, their lives traversed into acute poverty, despondency, privation, penury and Byzantine terror. The wealth beneath them was used to play a trick on them and this made their earthly experience to take a turn for the worst. Life lost its meaning and the youths stared into a bleak future as divergent interests’ scrambles and lust for the wealth under their land.The lure for the Niger Delta is the lust of greed which spans decades. The restive spirit of the Niger Delta is a quest for survival and emancipation. The creeks of the Niger Delta grease the wheels of the Nigerian economy. Yet the very people who put food on the table of others are left to scavenge like hyenas in abject privation, penury and melancholic despondency. They are made to behold the grandeur splendours of cities like Minna, Abuja, Jos, Kano, Kaduna and other cities – splendours built with the wealth under their soil – yet, the creeks – their terrain – is the epitome of nonpareil stone age. These make them to bleed in their hearts.After the toils and sweat of their parents in educating them, the youths of the Niger Delta have nothing to show for all the sacrifices their progenitors made in other to see them through school. It was time to reciprocate to the aged for giving them, against all odds and hopes, a standard education. But alas, there was no job for them. The conglomerates in their domain refuse to employ them. The worst of it all is that the youths could no longer resort to farming nor fishing as their forebears did. The exploration of crude oil has damaged the once virgin and pristine beauty of Mother Nature and so, they just couldn’t engage in the basic occupation of their ancestors. The youths walked about with sunken eyes.The battle for the redress of this perennial injustice is as long as independent Nigeria. The guilt and parallel between the yore era and the contemporary epoch of Niger Delta restiveness is the AK47. The likes of Adaka Boro, Dennis Feberesima, Ken Saro wiwa and the not too distant Daddy Ken of Odi were that they never had nor intended to use the lethal vibrations of the AK47, GPMGs and other light weapons of limited destruction. Yet, the federal might of the imposing Nigerian Army was slammed hard against them. They were imprisoned, hanged and their villages were destroyed by an imposing Nigerian Army who turned into an Army of occupation invading their relative tranquility, the younger ones learnt an acid lesson from the mistakes of the federal government and the assumed mistakes of their predecessors in ethnic struggle.A SEETHING CAULDRON OF IRONIESElections played a major role in the impasse of proliferated violence which we witness in the Niger Delta today. During the 2003 elections, silhouette and Mephistophelian politicians armed the volatile youths of the Niger Delta, and their restive fury knew no bound. At long last, the politics of AK47 has empowered them and now the aged quest for survival took on a sinister dimension. In all fairness, the politicians later tried to starve the youths of funds, after is dawned on them that they had created a ghoulish monster, but this nostrum by the politicians is impotent because, with the arms they gave to the restive youths, the youths retorted to oil gardening (bunkering) and hostage taking in the quest to continue lubricating their business of hostility and emancipation. Today, the youths of the Niger Delta are the guerilla rebels of Nigeria.The 2003 elections armed jobless and educated youths of the Niger Delta with Kalashnikovs. The politics of AK47 gave birth to the economics of blazing Kalashnikovs. With the newly acquired AK47s, the Niger Delta youths took to the creeks to engage their tormentors in a macabre dance of fury and molten leads. But, we must ask; who are these perceived tormentor? In the warped philosophy and ideologies of these mis-educated Niger Delta youths, the federal government, its apparatus and the expatriates (the conglomerates) are their tormentors. This perspective is not entirely true, but the federal government, its agencies and the multinationals are not doing enough to redress and correct these views and belief.The ethnocentric politics of supremacy and the holocaust syndrome of wanting to subjugate and destroy those of other tribe has blinded the sapient leaders of the North from seeing the panacea to this imbroglio: resource control; the fifty percent derivation option that was in existence during the era of regional government; and massive construction of infrastructure and provision of employment and other social security policies and programmes. I said the North because it is a public secret that the federal governmentâ's combative stance against fiscal federalism, resource control or the fifty percent derivation option, is due principally to its quest to protect and pacify the tender feelings of the North. But, if I must ask, what about the tender feelings of the Niger Delta, won’t it be pacified? If only the North will support the other regions of the country to give the South-south people any of these options, the restive youths of the Niger Delta will then stop harassing the whole of Nigeria and the international community. Rather, they will turn their seething anger against their own ethnic elders if they fail to develop the creeks with the resources at their control.The Niger Delta as a whole is one warring region. This has nothing to do with Asari Dokubo or MEND or the Izzon nation. From Choba to Rumekpe, the restive spirit boils; from Amasoma to Ogoniland, the youths Clutches AK47s; from Jones creek to Odidi, the economics of AK47 reigns supreme; from Egbema to Ogbakiri, the youthâ's relishes the macab dance of spitting lead; from Abonnema to Buguma, the politics of AK47 arms the youths. Wherever you go in the Niger Delta region, you will encounter belligerent militants who are easily excited into violence by hideous politicians and elders, because of the anger and hunger growing in their psyche.No matter what actions the central government takes, if it fails to address the inherent injustice being melted out on the people of the Niger delta, it will always boomerang and plunge the region into greater anarchy. The Niger Delta is a seething cauldron of ironies: no matter how bestial the government treat them, the youths always retaliate with their own fiendish brutality and insanity; no matter how many expatriates are kidnapped and taken hostage, the west will always hunger and lust for the oil beneath their sod. This situation is a no win scenario. The Niger Delta: a land of terrible beauty – the land of the Izzons.A CRADLE OF VIOLENCEHunger, anger and perennial injustice made a peaceful black nation (the Izzons) to go berserk and start abducting expatriates. Humanity was stupefied and stunned by this twist of events. What could possibly have turned a passive people into the bedrock advocate of violence and mayhem? It must be noted that crushing melancholy, disorientation, poverty and joblessness, necessitated by the insincerity of both the federal government, the various Niger Delta state governments, the local governments, the community leaders, the chiefs and elders and the multinational companies, transformed the feeble people who inhabits the beautiful creeks of the Niger Delta into a cradleThe incessant hostage taking is not actually a means to force the powerful Oligarchy to see the wisdom in giving them a paltry fifty percent derivation of their wealth, neither is it meant to make the federal government grant them resources control (this can be achieved through vigorous dialogue), but rather, it is geared toward collecting a part of the national cake from the federal government. The proceeding of this money is not used in alleviating the plague and plight of the people, rather, they militants use it to enrich themselves and buy more arms. The various elders and youth leaders who pose as negotiators during each interlude of hostage histrionic are fully involved in the sham and part-take of the money gotten from each kidnapping.The development of violence in the creeks of the Niger Delta is a mirror of the nurturing of anarchy elsewhere. The whole thing started as a genuine, real, bona fide and veritable agitation by intellectuals for the redress of age long prejudice, inequality and inequity. But the federal government made the mistake of hounding, harassing and persecuting these penslinging freedom fighters. The decimation of the ranks of the intellectual agitators for Niger Delta emancipation created a void that was later filled by the Izzon cultists. Before 1999, the business of freedom fighting and territorial emancipation was the prerogative of the intellectuals. The battles were fought in the realms of inks, prints and in the world of spicy speeches. Then, the quest for a fair deal by the creek dwellers was a quest battled in conferences, forums and lectures amidst lengthy ties, two piece suits, briefcases, stacks of paper and pens. At that time, the AK47 was a police instrument of tyranny and oppression.Then came 1999, and disoriented and mis-directed campus cultists proliferated the formation of duplicate cults in the streets and villages of the Niger Delta and jobless miscreants (so labeled by the government) became members of elite clandestine gangs affiliated to tertiary cults. This grotesque mutation made the doomsday politicians very happy: they now had an army whom they can recruit and arm with AK47s for political wars. The post 1999 era saw little violence because the mutation of violence was still at its embryo stage. Soon, both the silhouette politicians and the creek cultists will assume awesome personalities and mentality of total, aggregate, absolute and gross anarchists.Then 2003 elections came and both the incumbents and the hopefuls went psychotic and non compos mentis. The politicians wanted to be in power at all cost and so they called into active service their cult mercenaries armed with AK47s and other light weapons. Street cults like “Degbam” and “Dewell” became political samurais; Icelandos and Greenlanders became renegade gunmen; Vikings, Black Axe, Ku Klux Klan (KKK), Buccaneers and the supreme mafia confraternity, all became demented political militias. This is the precursor to arm restively – the era of the Kalashnikovs has arrived and docile cultists became freedom fighters.The elections of 2003 came and passed, and cultists had a filed day. After the elections, with many AK47s and other dangerous guns at their disposal, the cultists turned on themselves and engaged themselves in a ‘no retreat, no surrender’ battle of supremacy: this was the continuation of aged long acrimony between the various cults. This battle wasn’t limited to the streets, villages and the creeks of the Niger Delta. It was vast, spanning Enugu state, Ebonyi state, Anambra state, Plateau state, Imo state, Edo state, Delta state Akwa Ibom state, Cross Rivers state, Bayelsa state and Rivers state. In the littoral states, these battles were fought mainly between the street and creek cults, which saw Ateke Tom (the leader of the ICE landos) fighting Asari Dokubo (the head of a cult coalition) and the late Julius (head of the Greenlanders) in the mother of a cult battles. Their contest turned the streets and creeks of Rivers state and Bayelsa state into cemeteries. While in the in-land states, the battles were between the campus progenitors which turned the Nigerian tertiary campuses into Sudan, Angola and the Middle East. Cultists and quasi-cultists fought themselves with the ammunitions politicians bought for them, men slept with one eyes open and enriched the pockets of coffin makers.Then the likes of Asari Dokubo and Ateke Tom were declared wanted by the same politicians who armed them and this forced them into the deep creeks were they readjusted their strategy and turned themselves into freedom fighters of the Niger Delta cause. They took the initiative from the realms of pen and paper into the dimension of AK47, because as freedom fighters they were harboured and accepted by their people and even the international community. If they had continued as cultists, they would have been labeled terrorists and undesirables.Mercantile cultists of the Niger Delta are today the emancipators of the region. The Nigerian state and the Northern bloc should be held responsible for allowing this scenario to materialize. If only the government had been more reasonable and sympathetic to the Niger Delta question, criminal minded cultists wouldn’t have transformed themselves into liberators – they would have been chilling in some Slimy dungeons somewhere.THE PANCEA AND THE LONG TERM REMEDYItâ's no longer advisable and sapient to treat the Niger delta militants as cultists and criminals. They have already assumed the clout of Freedom fighters and have gained respectability and sympathy both within and amongst the international community. Even the local and foreign media now see them in the light of liberators. The only way to tackle this impasse now is through dialogue and action (not military action). The short term cures of paying for the release of hostages only arm the militants and provide them with ready fund.The Nigerian state should start by abrogating certain obsolete laws which it uses in perpetuating marginal and structural inequality against the people of the South-south. These laws are:1. The land proclamation ordinance (No 8) of 19002. The land and native ordinance 19143. The crown land Amendment ordinance4. The Native Rights ordinance (1925 amendment)5. The public land acquisition ordinances6. The mineral oil ordinance of 31 December, 19147. The mineral ordinance, 19468. The petroleum Decree (No 51) 19699. The petroleum production and distribution decree, 197510. The draconian land use Act, 1978a. These obsolete and colonial laws should be reviewed. They no longer conform to present realities and so should be reviewed. The federal government should also go back to the fifty percent derivation agreement they had with the regions. This is more in tune with the tenets of federalism which Nigeria proclaims to be practicing.b. The federal government should also set up a commission mandated to monitor the execution of projects in Niger Delta area and the other Niger Delta commissions.c. The federal government should start the massive rehabilitation of roads, hospitals and schools in the region.d. A policy of massive developmental drive in the creeks and villages of the Niger Delta should be pursued vigorously. The Niger Delta creeks have the potentials of becoming great tourist centre and attractions, if developed – the creeks could serve as recreational.e. The building of a megacity in the creeks of the littoral states.f. A vigorous educational putsch in the Niger Delta region to educate them. Only an enlightened man will understand the developmental polices of the government toward the Niger Delta region.g. A mass employment policy and scheme to actively engage the youths in meaningful ventures – this will starve the militant groups of needed manpower and recruits.h. The establishment of scholarship and other programmes to help the people of the Niger Delta. Government should ensure to monitor their application to avoid hijack.i. A policy of openness so that the people will know the amount of money and projects disbursed to the area: this will ensure that if the various politicians, statesmen, leaders and elders from the area fail to utilize the funds or execute the projects meant for the area, the people will know and will hold them accountable for their plightsThe federal government needs to apply openness, wisdom and fairness in handling the Niger Delta question – this is the only way by which meaningful and long lasting resolution of the conflict can be achieved. The government should know that where equity, wisdom and fairness is lacking, there can be no justice and peace.On a final note, the government should invite the various youth groups in the region and listen to their complaints. This parley should not involve the politicians and the ethnic elders who are the major cause of the present imbroglio because of their deep seethed insincerity.Written by Okah Ewah Edede 08063172003 (Executive Assistant to the President, South-South Youths Assembly)

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