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NIGER DELTA: Those Who Dare Are Winning!

“Those Who Dare, Win!” … British S.A.S. Motto

By Tony Uranta
Dear President Yar’Adua,

We join millions of Nigerians in hailing your courageous and peace-encouraging decision to meet, last Saturday, with the MEND-appointed Aaron Team led by Admiral Okhai Mike Akhigbe, and comprising distinguished Nigerians like Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, retired military strategist, General Luke Kakadu Aprezi and Architect Denzil Amagbe Kentebe.

You dared to go against the grain…and that, daring, may be the quality that we all must imbibe, if we wish to bring about positive change to our nation, Nigeria. It is those who dare that win.

The Biblical Prophet Moses dared; and won freedom for his people who had been sheepish slaves to the oppressive Egyptians for over four hundred years. Today’s Israel dared to unilaterally declare itself into existence, in the face of the world’s apathy to the Jews’ centuries-long sufferings. Barack Obama dared to run for President of the USA, so today an black man with brethren still living in an Africa where democracy is mocked at, lives in the White House.

The agitated youth of the Niger Delta dared, and today they are central to Nigeria’s national issues, and even global energy and financial crises! Now, you have dared to do the best thing, for the common good of all Nigerians, by meeting with the MEND-appointed Aaron Team. We wish we could have been witnesses to the interface between Your Excellency and this group of negotiators.

If this writer were to have his way, the Aaron Team’s opening address to Your Excellency would have gone thus: “Mr. President, we are here as representatives of the Niger Delta peoples [accompanied by Professor Wole Soyinka, whom the region accepts as a credible national Observer] to commence dialogue with Your Excellency, with a view to arriving at a viable and acceptable Roadmap towards attaining a true, sustainable peace in the Niger Delta, founded on respect, justice, equity, and fast-tracked development.

“Whilst we support Mr. President’s bold Amnesty initiative, which has opened the gates of this nation to peace and increased revenues, we make bold to contend that Mr. President needs to boldly and creatively expedite positive action in the following areas if we are to move positively forward:

Mr. President should ensure that the Amnesty process is formally legislated into our laws, by presenting an Amnesty Executive Bill to the National Assembly to this effect, before end-November, 2009.

This is necessary, because we have had antecedents of such noble processes being truncated even by the same administration that proclaimed them [cf. President Obasanjo’s arrest and detention of Alhaji Asari Dokubo, after he had been putatively granted amnesty by the same President Obasanjo]. This will allay the armed youths’ fears that their pardon may be reversed in future;

Mr. President should, before end-November, 2009,introduce an Executive Bill to the National Assembly seeking for legislation reviewing the Derivation Principle in Revenue Allocation up to a minimum of 25% in the first instance, and allowing for gradation to, at least, 50% by 2015.

This would resolve the most basic cause for agitation in the Niger Delta, and galvanise all the component parts of the country to better exploit the teeming opportunities now neglected because of the lazy rent-collector mentality that keeps us a mono-economy.

Mr. President should order the withdrawal [back into permanent barracks; off the streets of Niger Delta cities, towns and villages] of all soldiers serving with the Joint Task Force, before end-November, 2009. Civil security personnel (police, civil defence, SSS et al) should be better empowered and deployed to replace the JTF soldiers. This action will help to remove the existing perception by the peoples of the region, that the Federal Government sees them as a conquered people, to be subject to the oppression of an “occupation force”.

Mr. President should publish, before end-December 2009, The White Paper on the Report of the Ledum Mitee-headed Technical Committee on the Niger Delta; which Report was formally submitted to Mr. President nearly a year ago, on December 1, 2008.

This White Paper, which should address urgent issues of justice, equity and development, is vital to lasting peace in the region both because it would perceived as the administration’s holistic Niger Delta Restoration Roadmap/Agenda for the region, and because all stakeholders [armed and other youths, elders and leaders, women, foreign governments et al] have repeatedly made the publication of this White Paper a central condition for true and sustainable peace and harmony in the region;

Mr. President should, before end-December, 2009, [possibly, through the medium of a Niger Delta Town Hall Meeting, that could be held in Warri, Yenagoa or Port-Harcourt] address the nation and publicly announce the White Paper publication and the Amnesty Executive Bill presentation to the National Assembly.

This will afford Mr. President an opportunity to unfold a credible and viable Post-Amnesty Programme and lead the nation into 2010, ready to combat the evils of political malpractices and electioneering violence that have bedeviled the entire nation, with especially murderous destructiveness in the Niger Delta; and

Finally, Mr. President should exhibit sincere political will and courage and convene, before December, 2010, a National Conference of all the ethnic and regional components of this potentially-great nation, with a view to returning us to the true federalist state we are meant to be.

“Thank you, for granting us this audience, Your Excellency.”
Yes, the Aaron Team would thus have dared to speak truth to power; in the hope that you, Mr. President, would further dare to do what is right and best for the common good of all Nigerians and Niger Deltans. Egberi fa. Shalom.

“The people who are trying to make this world worse are not taking a day off ….how can I?  Light up the darkness!”— Bob Marley
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