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Niger Delta and the Clapperton Accord

By David Ifode

Robert  K.  Greenleaf in his book, The Servant as a Leader says: “Foresight is the ‘Lead’ that the leader has. Once he loses this lead and events start to force his hand, he is a leader in name only.

He is not leading; he is reacting to immediate event and he probably will not long be a leader. Such loss of leadership he says stems from a failure to foresee what reasonably could have been foreseen and from failure to act on that knowledge while the leader has freedom to act”.

The term “Servant Leader” was used by President Umaru Yar’ Adua and some governors of the Niger-Delta region as a major point of campaign before the 2007 general elections and inaugural speeches on assumption of office. Ironically, all the talk about “Servant Leader” may have been deliberately or unconsciously forgotten considering how events have turned out against the people of the region.

That “Servant Leader’ issue created good political sloganeering; fair enough. But for political or economic dividends to the people of the region and the nation at large, it is a failure.  Recent events in the region which confirm Robert K. Greenleaf’s statement above would equally justify the later.

When the Federal Government ordered the Joint Task Force (JTF), to fish out so-called “militants” in the Niger Delta region,  quite a number of people, led by Chief Edwin Clark, who understand how the leadership of the nation works, called for a stop to the carnage.

In a front page Comment of May 21, 2009, the Vanguard alerted the world to the carnage as it said:  “Headlines do not bear the full tales of the misery unleashed on the Niger-Delta, an area that is the epitome of the national neglect that our leaders unconscionably visit on Nigerians…Doubtlessly, the Niger Delta would remain contentious for a long time”.

With temporary understanding, the destructive offensive launched by the JTF on the so called “militants” may soon come to an end. But how long before the over three decades battle resurfaces can only be determined by the sincerity of the leadership of the country. From the latest actions of the leadership of the country, it is difficult to believe that this will (battle to come to an end) happen very soon.

Specifically, references can be made to the “amnesty” to Niger Delta “militants”, a probably deliberate prelude to subsequent media reports that the Federal Government had reversed the upgrade of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, Warri to a University and the stout defense of the N14 billion budget for the construction of the Kaduna Petroleum College.

More offending to the people of the Niger Delta region is the arrogant stand of Dr. Rilwalnu Lukman, Minister for Petroleum who said that “those who do not want the project to be sited in the North should have a re-think as there is nothing they can do to change government’s decision”.

We are beginning to entrench a system where when the North or South is in leadership at the federal level it must reverse all the other party did while in government. Six years from now, if the PDP is still in power and wins, a Southerner would be in power, which means that the nation should expect another turn of reversals. But what bearing does all this have for the future of the country, especially with what looks like foul events unfolding at this time.

The truth remains that there have been precious moments the Federal Government and Niger Delta agitators embraced themselves for peace. But the Federal Government always failed to keep its own promises.

With the recent statements from Dr. Rilwanu Lukman, who belongs to the old order, the brief period of relative hope on the Niger Delta crisis, flown by the on-going amnesty announced by the government is in danger of flickering out.   Often, the two sides’ positions have become dangerously entrenched.

This is one of the reasons why the Niger Delta conflict grinds on remorselessly from decade to decade. During eruption of conflicts or violence, the mantra of governors, ministers, legislators, traditional rulers, industrialists, journalists, editorialists, religious leaders, tribal leaders and diplomats amongst others, cry for the need for caution on both sides. Many of them have over time selfishly worked to create stupendous wealth for themselves, their families and friends.

It is difficult to put all blames on the agitators in the region who have long come to realise that the federal government will always fail to meet its promise to the people of the Niger Delta.

Mr. Ifode, a commentator on national issues, writes from Lagos.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.