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Niger Delta:The Gbaramatu crisis

By Henry Ayanruoh

AS I listened to news from different Nigeria television stations and read national newspapers of Nigerians expressing their concern about the Gbaramatu crisis amidst the mortar burst and whining bullets, it dawned on me that when pressed with the demands of inner truth men do not easily assume the task of opposing government policies just as the human spirit does not move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and his surroundings.

Then came the response from the House of Representatives where noble and sublime decisions are expected to come from so that 20 million Nigerians from the Niger Delta can see it as a beacon of hope, especially to those who had dared  only to dream of justice.

As I read the defense of these wonderful men and women who bear the appellation I so much cherish on why the bombardment should go on, I imagined how intelligent some of them are when members of their communities are still impoverished aliens in an affluent society.

The failure of the House of Representatives to call for a restraint is like denying the Niger Deltans the right to vote. The denial of this sacred demand is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our own democratic tradition; for failing to speak when it is expected to speak and act when it is expected to act reinforces injustice to my people.

Injustice will then be seen by us as an evil not to be corrected even partially but an institution to be defended. For failing to address issues brought before it, is like noticing the beauty of the rain but failing to see that it has enriched the soil.

From the time of the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914, Nigerians have been living on ‘Regional Preservation” till date and this funny enough is the first law of life, the law of self-preservation.

But this is a false assumption. Great men of old were able to show that the preservation of others is the first law of life precisely, because we cannot preserve self without being concerned about preserving others.

The Nigeria nation is so structured that things go awry if men are not diligent in their cultivation of the other – regarding dimension. The Niger Delta cannot reach fulfillment without the North. In the same vein, the North cannot be self without other selves. Self concern without other self is like a tributary that has no outward flow to the ocean.

What we need in the country today is a mental and spiritual re-evaluation, a change of focus and that is what the re-branding project of the Honourable Minister of Information, should be preaching without which she is going to make a mockery of the Nigeria state because we will not have the will, the courage and the insight to deal with matters that affect great nations and their people.

How else can you explain the situation where an honourable member is asking for the death of over 20 million Nigerians because he is not from the South-South.

It is impossible for Nigerians to grasp the depths and dimensions of the Niger Delta problem without understanding what it means for the aspirations and appetites of a people to have been whetted by the promise of hope from the multinational oil companies and their own government and in the process they got their self-image awakened. One cannot hope to keep a people locked out of earthly kingdom of wealth, happiness, and health.

Either they share in the blessings of their land or they organise to breakdown and over throw structures and governments which stand in the way of their goals.

Nigerians and Nigeria must agree to develop the region with humility and penitence and a sober reflection that things must not always be their way; they must have patience when it comes to us. They must be willing to understand why some of the freedom fighters have to pass through aggression or extremism that has formed our history.

It all started when they realised that it is not only poverty that torments them but the fact of poverty amid plenty.  It is a misery generated by the gulf between the affluence they have seen and the deprivation they experience in their everyday life.

They lived in the ghetto and have seen the problem of poverty and despair graphically illustrated.  The phone rings daily with countless stories of man’s inhumanity to man, and they found themselves struggling constantly against depression and hopelessness which the heart of our society pump into the spiritual blood stream of their lives.

Their television sets bombard them day by day with the opulence of the larger society that is not as endowed in terms of oil and gas.  From behind the ghetto walls they see glistering towers of glass and steel springing up almost overnight. If these freedom fighters are Nigerian children today, then this violence, this negative anger is not congenital.

It is a response to the feeling that a real solution is hopelessly distant because of the inconsistencies, resistance and faintheartedness of those in power.

It is not enough for the Federal Government to say stop the violence and embrace amnesty but it is necessary for the government to love peace and sacrifice for it. Somehow the Federal Government must transform the dynamics of the proliferation of arms between the JTF and the freedom fighters due to the crisis in the region which in actual sense no one can win, to a creative contest which will harness the negative genius of the youths for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality not only for the region but the nation at large.

If the Federal Government has the will and determination to mount such a peace offensive as the JTF is carrying out the war offensive, the President will unlock the hitherto tightly sealed doors of hope into the dark chambers of pessimism.

This is the main reason why the youths are scared because amnesty without a genuine democratic programme of development for the Niger Delta people will in the final analysis reduce the prosperity of all Nigerians. When men and government work devotedly for the good of others they achieve their own enrichment in the process.

The time has come for an all out war against under-development of the region because it is wholly unnecessary.

THE  crude oil is there or let us assume  they have the resources and the scientific know-how to extract it and to provide the region with development and the basic necessity of life.

The land is tillable; we have an amazing knowledge of farming and poultry. In this country there is no deficit in human resources, the deficit is human will.

The solution to the Niger Delta struggle will have to be found in the massive industrialisation of the area and in the statesmanship of President Umaru Yar Adua who, in concert with progressive Nigerian forces, recognise that fair and peaceful solutions are the concern of all of humanity.

Neither military measures nor a stubborn refusal by the youths to dialogue can provide a permanent solution. The use of force in the Niger Delta struggle will only bring temporary peace and this is what the Delta State Governor Dr. Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan, is trying to avoid being a member of the Delta Waterways Security Committee and judging from his three point agenda his goal is permanent peace.

Those who don’t understand the peace process initiated by the governor will want to criticise him but they are very wrong. I am aware of the fact that there are those who would contend that we live in the most ghastly period of our history.

They would argue that we are retrogressing instead of progressing. But far from representing retrogression and tragic meaninglessness, the present tensions represent the necessary pains that accompany the birth of anything new.

So the tensions which we are witnessing in the creeks today are indicative of the fact that a new development order is being born and the old order of violence is passing away.

The action of the governor concerning the peace process is already bringing an end to bitterness, while ushering in a contagious spirit of warmth and friendliness.

The youths in Delta State now seem to display a new sense of belonging. And they are aware of the conflict and the resulting tension but they act as if they expect the future to include a better Nigeria to live in.

Violence has achieved its purpose; it has drawn both national and international attention to the gulf that separates promise and fulfillment in our region. It has produced a definite character development for our region among Nigerians.

People are now willing to tell the truth about the attitude of the Federal Government and other Nigerians to the development of the region. In time past they used deception as a technique for appeasing and soothing the Federal Government.

At each stage of the struggle we should question the effectiveness and even the manliness of the means we are using.  This is the time to disown the use of violence in our struggle and to conduct it on a high plane of dignity and discipline.

The Federal Government should stop the bombardment of the region because an internal war between the JTF and militants or freedom fighters God forbid, would leave only a smoldering ashes as a mute testimony of a government and a people whose folly led to their ultimate death.

The Federal government should start implementing a genuine concerted and democratic program of development in the area to discourage the youths from flirting unhesitatingly with violence so that they don’t transform this earthly habitat into an inferno.

Mr. Ayanruoh, a member  Delta Waterways Security Committee, writes from Delta State.

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