By Okey Ndiribe, Asst. Political Editor
Professor Okey Ibeanu, who teaches political science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was a resource person to the Niger Delta Technical Committee headed by the leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, Mr. LedumÂ Mitee. He recentlyÂ spoke to Vanguard in a telephone interview.
What is your assessment of the Federal Governmentâ€™sÂ implementation of the amnesty programme for the militants of the Niger Delta?
I think the amnesty programme is almost dead on arrival, so to speak. It is most unfortunate. I think it has to do with the political uncertainty in the country. Remember this is a process driven by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua. Therefore, given the present uncertainty, much has not been achieved. So far,Â I think there was an attempt to camp some of the former militants and to start the process of enumeration and needs. I think all that has practically been halted because of the uncertainty in the land. I hope that the process can be re-started as soon as possible.
Can you say the framework and design of the programme can lead to sustainable peace and developmentÂ in the Niger Delta?
I have my reservations,Â but in line with the position ofÂ many civil society activists,Â my position is thatÂ it is important to have movement in the process;Â we are not insisting that we must have a perfect process before we can start. We hope that as the process moves down the line, it can be fine-tuned.
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed about the process; the first is the transparency of the process. There is also the issue ofÂ participation,Â especially community participation. There seems to be a separation ofÂ the placeÂ of militants from the complaints of the communities. There seems to be a mind-set that once you address the problem of the militants then you have solved the whole problem. But, the whole process should be about transparency, participation andÂ bench-marking.
Some of the questions that need to be answered include: What do we expect from the Federal Government at what point?Â What are the goals of the process to show what is going on? We hope that as the process proceeds, we can address these problems more seriously.
Now that we have Acting President Goodluck Jonathan at the helms of affairs, can we say that the future of Niger Delta looks brighter?
I think it would be unfortunate and in fact dangerous to attach the fate of the Niger Delta to the position occupied by just one individual. I think that is not a good way to go. The important thing is to have the institutions and necessary structures so that irrespective of who is President or Acting President, these institutions and structures can function.Â But if it is tied to an individualâ€™s office or position,Â then it becomes ephemeralÂ and hence can break down at any point. I donâ€™t want to be drawn into theÂ questionÂ of whether we have an acting president or substantive president.
WouldÂ you sayÂ the long absence ofÂ President Yarâ€™Adua affected the implementation of the amnesty programme?
Certainly, it did. That is the point I was making about having a robust programme andÂ robust institutions to implement them by having the right structures. We didnâ€™t have all these; and so because it was driven by the President, his long absence affected the process. I donâ€™t think that is good enough.
Is there anything that could be done at this stage to redirect the programme so that it can lead to sustainable peace and development in the Niger Delta?
What the Federal Government can do is to embark on an evaluation of the process so far andÂ this doesnâ€™t have to be afterÂ another lengthyÂ consultation. For the process to be evaluated, one or two experts can handleÂ the exercise then build into it all these concerns that I have talked about; that is transparency, community participation and bench-marking. It is not a question of dismantling what we have but strengthening it.