By OluÂ Oma-Williams
WHEN the Vanguard media parley abruptly adjourned because of inhospitable bomblast by â€œMENDâ€ at the venue in Warri (Tuesday March 16, 2010), participants returned home threatened and dejected. Today, I congratulate the efforts of the organisers and all out there, and urge them not to be cowed but continue in their zest to secure full and prompt implementation of the post-amnesty programme.
The theme of that parley â€œRestoring Hope in Niger Deltaâ€ is apt, complicated and deep-seated than ordinarily meets the eyes. And considering the calibre of invitees, MEND should not only apologise but positively facilitate fora to sustain the momentum for challenging government on implementation. I am sure MEND understands the current pressures on resources when businesses are doing everything possible to hold down expenditures and increase income.
Had the group only to deal with the national psychoses and militancy induced by benign neglect of successive governments, solutions would have been easily arrived at for restitution through the Ministry of Niger Delta – the lead rehabilitation project authority; and simple restoration of opportunity, freedom and justice, to say the least. There were enough men and women of goodwill in the parley team to advocate prompt action with correct inspiration and support both materially and spiritually. Yet the situation continues to remain far more difficult than any casual analyses would make it seem.
The psychological pains transcend all previous efforts on Niger Delta issue inherent in the soul of the region; and continue to condition the minds of people. The on-going delay is a major difficulty which will not easily give way to bureaucratic plans or even spiritual endeavours of stakeholders. Yet, implementation of post-amnesty is so acutely important; the perils of non-accomplishment threaten the peace that is necessary to indicate changes in our national attitude which carry a menace to our hard-earned â€œdemocracyâ€.
First, the amnesty granted by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua moved the horizon of the polity to infinity; thus, dimly as yet ineffectual, we hailed the amnesty concept as dividend of democracy. Thinkers mobilised singularly and collectively in different groups, including Vanguard media. All initiated dialogues as a guarantee of the future because only when people can think in wider terms will the real fusion of all stakeholders become possible in human consciousness to solve the Niger Delta issue.
Then, we stood at the threshold of the effects of the ill-health of the President. Now we stand in the depths of a lull in implementation, handicapped by constitutional imbroglio and an Acting President. It is unnecessary to recount the drama.
The soul of the Niger Delta remains potent in its effects, but the new government should introduce policies and adopt attitudes which can significantly drive the implementation environment. Again, no thanks to â€œMENDâ€ for refusing the parley a chance to exert positive influence on our drive for performance.
But such is the dilemma that the validity of public opinion in establishing representative opinion poses to our continuing reputation for par excellence. The whole world applauded the amnesty; yet it seems self-interest and selfishness have emerged as the weakness of the bureaucratic stakeholders. Otherwise, is it too impossible for all stakeholders and the Ministry of Niger Delta to band together even in the absence of a sick president to prevent a lull in implementation? Rather, power politics, the usual lack of political will, hatred, fear and refusal to take amnesty seriously forge a lull.
With a new Federal Executive Council, it is now time to start an intensive rehabilitation of the region. It is hard to admit that neither the Federal / state governments have clean hands and that all are guilty of greed, of division, of pride and subjudice as well as superior tribal cleavages. What is needed is wholesome consciousness, motivated by the ideals of a general good of the nation, one in which higher values than individuals and state gains are emphasised. The process should offer the children of the golden goose training in right national citizenship on the one hand and upon the other, in the responsibility for national citizens.
Or is this too idealistic a picture? No, I donâ€™t think so because where there is no vision, the people perish. The lead project authorityÂ in their acceptance to develop model satellite towns should be responsive for all essential infrastructures – roads, transport, communication, power, etc and above all capacity building strategies to enhance sustenance, and stabilisation in the new towns.
Under guidance, the productivity of local citizens should increase with consequential beneficial effects on their standard of living. A significant development should be visualised to assure greater and greater importance during this rehabilitation, is for government (Federal and state) to fully fulfill their catalyst function to help the region attain self-reliance; and make its own contribution to national economic growth.
Unless we veer away from the past attitude which have not only fostered the sense of separateness but has often led to the exploitation of the smaller groups by the majority and wrecking the economic life of this nation, danger looms over Nigeria. The voices of the old order and the demands of the reactionary elements reverberate all over the country.
Our claim for implementation of post- amnesty programme is real,Â we are tired in the region and action is needed to ensure a rapid return to normalcy and those who profess the new vision should act with wisdom and promptness. Given the rightÂ implementation, the region can develop right habits as easily as they were led into militancy and separate thinking.
Failure breeds distrust. After the militancy and amnesty comes the test of the words as â€œNo Victor, No Vanquishedâ€. Our governments should now demonstrate the lessons learnt and allow power to flow into the hands of the oppressed out of the hands of the so called ruling class and unaclaimed aristocracy.
Dr. Oma- Williams, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.