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MEND, Atlas Cove and leading from the rear

By Tony Uranta
“We wouldn’t be true friends with someone who we didn’t think was a true friend to us  -  and someone with many true friends is far more formidable than someone with many fair-weather allies.” —  Eliezer Yudowsky


Dear Governor Fashola,
When in September 2007, American lawyer and geopolitical analyst, Jonathan Strong, in calling for a radical restructuring of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) warned that the western war machine born during the cold war required “allies who are willing to act preemptively and swiftly to confront threats”, he emphasised the need to “also put other ‘fair weather’ allies, who are less than cooperative, on notice that their voice will not be heard, or can at least be ignored, if obstruction is chosen over cooperation.”

One is reminded of this in the light of the recent unfortunate MEND attack on the federal government’s Atlas Cove Jetty and the many outcries by Lagosians who (rightly so) are worried about what the sudden shifting of the theatre of attrition from within the Niger Delta’s boundaries.

These outcries, as normal as they may appear, remind many of the Yoruba adage that say “esu ma semi, omo elomiran ni ko se”; which could transliterate in this context as “we all support MEND’s struggle for fiscal federalism for all of us, provided we do not have to pay any price the Niger Delta is paying.”

Nobody faults Your Excellency’s chagrin at the Atlas Cove Jetty “affront” and the resultant strong call on the Niger Delta armed groups not to bring “war” into your area of security -jurisdiction. As Chief Security Officer of Lagos State (though this is a mere empty appellation without the concomitant executive powers that you would have in a true federation!) you probably did not see how else you could justify the oath you took to serve the people of Lagos aright.

This missive may not have been necessary.

But many progressive political players and analysts, from all over our nation_space and abroad, have however wondered at the mileage hoped to be gained by the many other traditional, government-driven and socio-cultural groups that have since been belligerently beating drums of potential ethnic war between the Ijaw/Niger Deltans and their Yoruba/South Western brothers who have hitherto lived for decades not only in peace and harmony, but have been (together) the prime apostles of the need to restructure this contraption known as Nigeria. Could it be true as many have posited that there are cabals in Lagos which have diesel-millionaires funding the cries for “reprisals” against Ijaw/Niger Deltans?

Thank God for the quick intervention of progressive “factions” and leaders of Afenifere (the umbrella body that speaks for ALL Yoruba/South_Westerners) and Oodua Peoples Congress (the OPC is the “military” wing of ALL Yorubas) who have come out to state solidarity with MEND and declared that MEND’s attack of the Atlas Cove Jetty is was not targeted against the Yoruba/South-West…and went on to nip a potentially_explosive ethnicity-based incident in the Badagry sector of Lagos State this week!

The puzzle of why certain groups and persons have began to inflexibly threaten MEND with reprisals from Lagosians/the South-West becomes seemingly more complex because MEND has exhaustively explained severally that the Atlas Cove Jetty attack had nothing to do with the geographical location or demographic realities of what it accurately defined as a federal government owned installation.

MEND explained that it targeted the Atlas Cove Jetty because it fell within the purview of the “oil war” it has long declared against the Federal Government of Nigeria and the oil multinationals, in its bid to gain justice for the demonised Niger Deltans and regain true federalism for the whole nation. MEND said all such oil installations and facilities, wherever they may be in Nigeria, are “legitimate targets”.

Finally, MEND say it regretted any civilian deaths caused, and commiserated with the government and good people of Lagos State on their unfortunate losses.

Apart from MEND, many other Ijaw/Niger Delta groups (including the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy—UNDEDSS—the aggregation of all Niger Delta ethnic nationalities and civil society) were also quick to express empathy with Lagosians and meet with leaders of thought of the South-West to soothe ruffled feathers.

Still the drumbeats of “war” have not ceased. The question has been raised by reasonable observers of this quirky trend of threats by groups and leaders of the South-West: “Exactly what shape would these threatened reprisals take?”
Will the South_West mobilize against an amorphous organisation as MEND?

As boxing great Mohammed Ali succinctly put it, “your hands can’t hit what your eyes don’t see!” Or are Lagosians going to witness pogroms….introducing the lynchings and rapings that are more synonymous with the North against their innocent Ijaw/Niger Delta neighbours who have co-existed with all tribes up to date, a la Nazi Germany against the Jews?

Would this not result in a “free-for-all” that would end with, at best, a State of Emergency being declared in Lagos; and Lagos having a military force of occupation repressing the easy-going people of Eko as is the case now in the Niger Delta…or, at worst, would this not speed up the US-predicted failure of the Nigerian state?

Can both Lagos and the Niger Delta not avoid this? Can both not work together for the common good of all Nigerians? Is there cabal interested in there being no peace?

Since both the South-West and the Niger Delta seem to the same thing ultimately: to end the corruption that has plagued our nation, to restore justice and equity in all of Nigeria, and to rejuvenate the vision of holistic federalism of our founding fathers, as enshrined in the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions, why do both not realise that in the making of omelettes eggs must be broken? Or are some people suggesting that only Niger Delta eggs be broken…as always?! Or must the Niger Delta lead the necessary struggle for change, whilst the rest of Nigeria leads from the rear?

Leading from the rear is a pejorative term that applies to leaders who lack the strength to be ahead of followers. Its origins probably lie with the military, where the leader (often aged generals) sits behind the lines and makes decisions without being in the midst of the battle.

Leading from the rear often results in the leader being out of touch with the realities of the context, and out of touch with the needs of the situations and followers. In this case it means “monkey go work, for baboon to chop”. Well, the Niger Delta “monkeys” don wear suit now…enough is enough!

MEND has said it is not repentant of its “oil war” and has called on the world to implore President Umoru Yar’Adua to stop posturing and embrace the positive 60-days ceasefire  MEND is holding out; vowing that should the federal government not do so (or should the JTF attack any of MEND’s positions) it will unleash more plagues in its “oil war”/Hurricane Moses arsenal that will compel this nation to come out of its pseudo-comfort-zone and expedite the birth of justice-for-all in a fiscally-federal Nigeria.

Can MEND force the hand of government? This writer is a pacifist who knows next nothing about war. Maybe an answer lies in the conclusion of a very recent US Government Report which says “The militants cannot defeat the JTF militarily, but the JTF cannot prevent the militants from engaging in economic sabotage.” Shalom. Egberi fa.


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