- Post 09 January 2008
- Last Updated on 23 April 2008
- By Hakeem Babalola
I have deliberately avoided the Niger Delta issue until now when God spoke to me. Ha...ha...ha. He spoke to me like Nigerian politicians always claimed He spoke to them."Freedom and eloquence," He commands. "Ye shall abide. Quench not your thirst with oil nor blood. Be humans and avoid behaving like animals. Do something...do something urgent...do it to alleviate the unnecessary sufferings of a people".
The Niger delta issue, methinks, is enough to make or mar Nigeria. Neither will manifest though. And the solution will remain haunting elusive until genuine fighters are born or send down from heaven. I sense what we have been having is sheer academic and military rigmaroles. Every approach has further infused nothing but complicated and confusing approach. How could anyone treat an issue bigger than issue itself with laughter, scepticism, and a glaring dishonest. The Government’s fundamental disinterest in Niger Delta is beguiling and harmful. It is, to say the least, an insidious pleasures!
When a social issue such as that of the Niger Delta is being politicized like other touching issues in our daily life, then we are bound for criss-crossing along the path of self-destruction. Most of the characters in this episode are too playful to eventually come up with everlasting solution. It seems to me that they are purposely using the Niger Delta problems to unfold a certain innate ambition. They croak like a bullfrog in the distance. They are dazzlingly skilled in any field that would further bring woes to Niger Deltans.
And the men and women of the soil in the region are not helping the matter. One of the crusaders recently said: "I will do many many bad bad things in River States if dem no pay me". Such statement to me, means the end of a struggle. It empowers the exploitation spirit of the government in the sense that, we might have all seen why these crusaders are now uncrusading.
Or do you think I am exaggerating the situation? Or do you think I am being deliberately mischievous? Am I making mountains out of molehill? Do you think that the Niger Delta is a none issue? What exactly do you think is the greatest problem confronting this region? Can we describe the Niger Delta as a crusade hijacked? Perhaps you should follow me down the path where oil and blood flow in the same direction; where they have been singing solution on a bloody oil sea since the birth of God’s son.
From Isaac Boro to Alhaji Dokubo-Asari, solving the Niger Delta problem has been like a palpable tumour. They always come about as a revolutionary only to be consumed by their own ego, a soul unprepared for such daring task. They always chew fight-to-finish only to be subdued by a mere invitation from those who seem to know the tune – of crushing a crusade. Take arms if you want a share of the oil... Sing a song of oppression as you carry the masses along. But as they say, you can’t fool all the people all the time.
Isaac Jasper Boro set the precedent when he fought on the side of the federal troops. It could be recalled that Boro was he who shortly after the January 1966 coup declared the first Republic within Nigeria called the Niger Delta Republic. Even though the revolution lasted for only twelve days, Boro fought for the cause he had once bitterly opposed, that is the preservation of Nigeria. And this is where the trouble will always lie. And this is one of the reasons the Niger Delta struggle will always be in vain. I shall soon shed not crocodile tears.
Why did Isaac Boro fight on the side of Nigeria if he had already declared the Niger Delta Republic? He should have known better. He should have known that eni ti o le eku meji yoo pofo (he who runs after two mice will definitely lose both). Indecisive thinking like this has been the vehicle by which successive Nigerian governments are happy to ride in order to arrive at their own destination. I supposed declaring a nation means a point of no return. It is non negotiable, for I expect the secessionists to have given their crusade a deep thought, and which in fact should be the last resort. In my opinion, anything other than fight to finish will easily portray the fighters as opportunists.
When Mujahid Dokubo-Asari continued the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) in 2004, he warmed himself into the hearts of many people who had thought the timing was right. The NDPVF frequently demanded a greater share of the oil wealth from both the state and federal government and occasionally supported independence for the Delta region. Dokubo-Asari, who is viewed by many locals as a sort of folk hero, maintained his revolutionary vow until the federal government bought him with an invitation to Aso Rock.
Look at what is happening now. It seems to me that the struggle is dying down. I violently believe the struggle is beyond people like Dokubo-Asari. He is even lucky he has not been killed like his mentor, Isaac Boro. As far as revolution is concerned, it is better to think before taking arms than after taking arms. Die fighting or die everyday as you live after being bought to abandon your struggle. Let the revolutionaries deliberate before taking any step towards the struggle. Let them be very careful. Let them not deviate from the initial inner believe.
Otherwise there is danger. There is danger if revolutionaries are after all, opportunists. There is danger if they surreptitiously exhibit "fighting to get my own share of the national pot". There is danger because the tactics or appeasement being employed by the federal government is for the revolutionaries to abandon their struggle. It is a welcome development for the Nigerian government if the so-called revolutionaries are trapped in the web of their own trap.
With these types of people claiming to be fighting for the liberation of Niger Deltans, I am afraid the solution may never come. I am afraid the battle may have been lost without critical observation. Jonathan Goodluck recently said the greatest problem facing the Niger delta is unemployment and not lack of infrastructural development. He passionately believe that if the youths were employed, they would not be involved in hostage taking, militancy and pipeline vandalism.
Although I disagree with Goodluck, because I think the greatest problem facing the Niger Delta is much more than youths’ unemployment, yet youths’ unemployment cannot be overlooked. But what exactly is preventing Goodluck and his ilk from providing employment in order to eradicate militancy, vandalism and or hostage taking? People like Goodluck must stop such rhetoric, for it is nothing but masking vicious exploitation.
It is clear to me that the Governors around the Niger Delta have done little to advance the cause of alleviating the sufferings of their people. Do they even know the problems facing the region? Unless they want to politicize the problems, I think it is obvious enough for any reasonable fellow to see. They include government neglect, high unemployment, pervasive poverty, underdevelopment and endemic conflict, which have culminated in frustrations, violent agitation and proliferation.
If I may ask, where is the 3.5 trillion Naira that went to the region? Since oil was discovered four decades ago, the region has become the bread winner of the nation, yet it remains the sick man of the same nation. The Niger Delta covers about 70,000 square km and comprises of nine out of the 36 states making up the Federal Republic of Nigeria which includes Abia, Akwa Ibiom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and River States. The estimated population is about 26 million, consisting of over forty different ethnic groups, speaking 250 different languages.
For example, the Ijaws had been promised several times by the Nigerian governments, but once peace was restored, the promises were forgotten. In 1978 General Olusegun Obasanjo, then Nigeria’s military ruler, issued a decree giving the federal government exclusive rights to underground and offshore resources on condition it then allowed the rest of the country to benefit from them through a complex redistribution arrangement which is one of the most original features of Nigerian federalism.
But the egalitarian aims of this system were never fully realised. Ken Saro-Wiwa, a vociferous critics of the Nigerian government, said that it was "like stealing a shirt and giving the owner one button back..."
He was later killed by Sani Abacha in a most cruel way. I think successive governments have been playing hanky-panky towards the realisation of a policy that would liberate the Niger Delta people. Otherwise what is the aftermath of Obasanjo’s master plan inaugurated in March 2007?
Consequently, the Niger Delta people directly or indirectly have been in the forefront of cheating and deceiving themselves. How could they have given Alams, a former governor, who had once proclaimed that it was impossible to be a governor without enriching himself, a hero welcome? The people of this region need to digest Isaac Adaka Jasper Boro’s warning long time ago. The Ijaw man had said when he formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force:
"Today is a great day, not only in your lives, but also in the history of the Niger Delta. Perhaps it will be the greatest day for a very long time. This is not because we are going to bring heaven down, but because we are going to demonstrate to the world what and how we feel about oppression. Before today, we were branded robbers, bandits, terrorists or gangsters but after today, we shall be heroes of our land.
"For this reason, and for the good name of the Ijaws, do not commit atrocities such as rape, looting or robbery. Whatever people say, we must maintain our integrity. Moreover, you know it is against Ijaw tradition to mess about with women during war. You have been purified these many days. Be assured that if you do not get yourselves defiled within the period of battle, you shall return home safe even if we fail".
That was in 1966. Today, it seems Niger Deltans have seemingly forgotten this precious warning which supposed to have been their guide as they march a people from oppression and judicial killing. Until Niger Deltans adjust their focus, until they meditate and digest Isaac Boro’s warning, and until they abide by this warning, I am afraid they may continue fighting in vain.