By Bisi LAWRENCE
President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua cannot be under the delusion that all is well in the Niger Delta, in the sense that the recent amnesty, following the surrender of arms by the militants, is the harbinger of peace in that difficult area. Of course, it definitely points the way, but it has no loud announcement to make yet about our arrival.
He has been rather upbeat about it all as he very well might be, because it appears a great step forward. But we still have the tremendous task of rehabilitating the militants who have stepped in from the cold, and that should be reflected a bit more in his attitude.
We still have a long way to go; so long it may even be farther than from where we are coming.
There are on the one side, the expectations of these men and women who really have no other place to go except backwards, and that would be a tragedy of a colossal nature.
We cannot casually rule out that doleful possibility which could be a reaction to promises, on the other side, which may remain unfulfilled. We therefore ought to match these two elements carefully at this time, to define more clearly where the plus and the minus lie.
On the whole, it might all come down to a conflict of sincerity, And the sincerity must be matched by visible and palpable action.
The former administrators of this area do not seem to have acted sincerely in the delivery of the benefits which should have accrued from the funds provided for the development of the peoplesâ€™ welfare. The deplorable conditions under which they live boggle the mind, what with the grants and revenues that are known to have been supplied.
This is not to pass a judgment on the adequacy of the grants but on the manner in which they seem to have been utilized. Modest or insufficient as they might have been, there would seem to be too little on the ground to show for what an honest and responsible deployment of the funds should have provided.
While the Federal Government may not escape entirely from the responsibility of the neglect ofÂ the area, one way or another, it is indisputable that a large proportion of the ire ofÂ the people, which led to the insurgent conflict in the area, could be appropriately directed at the administrators of the region.
No wonder it is public knowledge that a former governor of one of the states may not pay a visit to any public place there in the foreseeable future.
That is actually to what we should now direct our minds – tomorrow. What happened in the past is gone but may still be relevant in providing lessons like, for instance, the importance ofÂ timing. That must be made the basis of the efforts that are now being made to rehabilitate the former belligerent activists.
The plans for the re-integration of these unfortunate Nigerians into the community they love so much that they were willing to lay down their lives for its future, which many of their comrades really did, still are yet to be announced in detail. Since these plans must be formulated before their actuation, they should take the minimum time possible.
Not many aspects ofÂ the desired plan to ameliorate the lives of the people are in any way obscure. What has been happening is really on all fours with the life and death of people like Isaac Adaka Boro, Ken Saro-Wiwa and others. This is the time to put an end this dynasty of disaster.
The Minister ofÂ Defence, General Godwin Abbe is expected to give more than a mere indication of how the returning militants would be involved in the post-amnesty programme.
He promised that the government would provide assistance to make life comfortable for them as they re-join the flow of normal life in the country. The acquisition of skills or education and employment are expected to be part ofÂ the planning that this endeavour would establish.
What is more – in fact, what must be uppermost in the minds of these Nigerians – is the promise of the government, through General Abbe, to henceforth make the presence of oil noticeable as a blessing in the lives of the people.
Some of the former militants have themselves indicated that they would feel very much at home to be integrated into the security outfits on the ground. This would save time and put the young men on familiar terrain immediately. It would also assure others of the sincerity of government.
Others have still suggested a â€œMarshall Planâ€ in line with the programme of economic recovery introduced to Europe after World War II by the United States. It would, in one way or the other, have to make an appearance in the over-all development of the region.
But it can only be successfully built on extant infrastructure, and demands a larger time-frame than what is now required in the Niger-Delta. But there is no doubt that it would have to form a part of the development at a subsequent stage in the rehabilitation programme.
We must also address the groups may still not have a good grip on the amnesty proposals and its spirit. They should be brought into the salvation of their own situation.
An appreciably rapid resolution of the difficulties that lie in the way of rehabilitation now may help in that effort. That is also why time is of the essence.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is not one of those former state governors uncomfortable about where his shadow falls in his home State. He remains relevant in several ways, even against the almost impeccable performance of his successor in office.
His recent involvement in the public hearings of the electoral reforms is an aspect ofÂ his public appearances I find heart-warming. Chief Bola Tinubu spoke favourably about the election process generally known as the Option A4 system.
The system was used in the election usually described as â€œthe freest and fairestâ€ ever held in this country. That was the one that threw M.K.O. Abiola in their faces, and Nigeria into trouble.
It is so simple that it is â€œrig-proofâ€. After ensuring that you were duly registered at your polling station, you joined the queue for the candidate ofÂ your choice and were counted.
This was done for each candidate in the open, and each figure was forwarded to the appropriate ward centre for coalition. Further coalition was done at the State level or national level, as the case may be. The result was an â€œopen secretâ€ even before the votes were finally officially announced. Absolutely un-riggableâ€!
This system is so suited to the Nigerian situation that a prolonged discussion of it appears unthinkable. And yet several reasonable men have been known to oppose it in preference to more sophisticated ones which were, all the same, exposed to the manipulations of dishonest people.
To his dismay, the late Bola Ige, erstwhile Governor of Oyo State, was a victim in that position. He felt nothing could touch his candidacy for re-election, and so was not particularly in favour of Option A 4. At the end of the day (if you will pardon that hackneyed phrase) even his Iwo constituency turned into this air right under his gaze.
He could hardly believe it, based on the stronghold he had always considered that constituency to be for him. God rest Uncle Bola. He was always judging others by his own lofty standards.
But Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu goes â€œsafety first.â€ If we could elect people of our own choice through the casting of legitimate votes, more than ninety percent of our electoral ills would be wiped away. That is why the former Lagos State Governor has maintained his support for Option A 4 all these years resolutely, consistently. And we support him.
Tsk, tsk, tsk -Â in Edo state?
One cannot argue about the law against someone as erudite as Dr. Osagie Obayuwana is on â€œlegalisticâ€ issues. It is very clear that he can hardly be faulted on legal matters either. That is why he is the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Edo State.
He recently had Dr. Samson Isibor arrested by the police for making some statement that he found unpleasant and untrue about the State Government. He deposed that Dr. Isiborâ€™s statement was â€œlibelous in civil law and amounts to criminal defamationâ€.
Dr. Isibor, according to the scholarly Attorneys General ofÂ Edo State had â€œno right to say that members of the State exco are cultists and that they are responsible far the spate of kidnapping in Edo State.â€
Tsk, tsk, tsk! Dr. Isibor indeedÂ had no right to say such a thing especially, as Dr. Obayuwana maintains, since it is not true. But was it really enough to bring all the force of the law on the man?
Alter all, Dr. Isibor is the Edo Slate Chairman of the Coalition of Registered Political Parties.
And the Attorney General went on to describe him – in fact, disparage his stature – as someone â€œwhose antecedents no one knows.â€ Could anyone with such a flimsy background be in that position in the Stateâ€™s political arena?
We believe that Edo State is more enlightened than that. We are disturbed that a State in which Comrade Adams Oshomhole is the Governor is not more tolerant than that. We are not impressed.
Someone who should have been high-tailing it to the Inspector-General of Police for redress over â€œcriminal defamationâ€; is Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Minister ofÂ Finance.
A Senate report recently linked her with the illegal authorization of payments and release of funds for contracts above provisions in the Appropriation Act.
The lady daintily observed that she was not in the position to have committed such an act, and pointed out that she painstakingly published every payment that was made through her office when she was a cabinet officer.
IfÂ that kind of statement had been made about some people, especially high and mighty Attorneys General, they would probably have ordered out the fire brigade. Long live our democracy.