Positive Letters

June 12, 2009

Yar’Adua’s Amnesty, Unfulfilled Promises and Henry Okah

By Tony Uranta
“If government officials shy away from the analogy of history of the problem of the Niger Delta, then we will not be able to solve it. There has been injustice.

There has been a deliberate attempt by the government of Nigeria to impoverish and take away the resources of the people that God has blessed and put in a very difficult terrain”…Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi

Dear President Obama,
We Nigerians feel slighted by your considering Ghana more worthy of your recognition and presence than our great nation Nigeria, especially in a season when our beloved President Umoru Yar’Adua has been doing everything possible to show that our multi-ethnic mono-economy is undergoing positive, even if not too plausible, change.

This is an epochal transitional period in Nigeria’s history that is witnessing a General Sarkin Bello’s Afghanistan-style “surge” in the Niger Delta that is being termed “genocidal”, a Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (clearly a man with a mind of his own!) taking over the affairs of the Central Bank, an Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman’s “unbundling” of the state-owned oil-and-gas conglomerate NNPC (some say inequitably!), and a “not-so-clear” declaration by the Planning Minister, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, that the documents articulating President Yar’Adua’s Seven Point Agenda, National Development Plan and Vision 20-20-20, which the administration had been talking about since May 2007, will be not be released before October 2009.

You should, maybe, discountenance “unpatriotic” cynics, like Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (the cerebral former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory), who have dared to wonder aloud: “What has guided state policy since May 2007, and what would guide policy from now till October 2009!” if Mallam Shamsudeen Usman is to be taken seriously regarding the absence of such fundamental documents to date.

We also do hope that you have not been influenced by analysts who constantly wish to remind us of our President’s socialist antecedents. He is a full-fledged member (nay, The Leader!) of Africa’s most populous political party, the PDP…and nobody can accuse this aggregation of power in Nigeria of being socialist or communist in policies or programmes (or of having much of any ideology, for that matter!)…even though many “sour-grapes” nay-sayers have tried to suggest that the alleged lackluster style of governance of this administration has been partly due to the alleged inherent contradictions in the President’s socialistic mindset and his party’s rabid crushingly-corrupt norms.

You definitely must ignore the claims by some “bad-belle” people that this Prince of Katsina is unduly favouring the Northern Hausa/Fulani ethnic group(s), and thus alienating the Southern Yorubas, Igbos and Niger Deltans; especially, they reckon, now that the last mentioned conglomeration of ethnic groups, viz. the “Niger Deltans”, appear have been doomed to be relocated to the Sahara Desert or to suffer Nazi-style extermination (a la “Final Solution”!), according to Alhaji Umaru Dikko (one-time mega-Minister of the corrupt 2nd Republic) and Mallam Bala Ibn N’Allah (a member of the largely self-serving current Federal House of Representatives).

Allow me at this point, please, Mr. President Obama to quote extensively from that spoil-sport of a Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (who was a key player in the selection of President Yar’Adua in 2007): “I will compare Yar’Adua’s promises and commitments upon his swearing-in, with actual outcomes achieved.

I will review his political, economic and foreign policy vision, policies and actions to establish how transformational he has been.

“The Inaugural Speech that President Umaru Yar’Adua gave was inspiring and raised the nation’s hope and expectations. He admitted the flaws in the Elections that brought him to power and promised to set up a panel to study what happened so Nigeria can reform its electoral system.

“He promised a generational shift that will herald new governance from those born after Independence. He outlined what he referred to as four areas of “national consensus” – deepening democracy and the rule of law, a private sector driven economy, zero tolerance for corruption, and restructuring government for efficiency.

“Yar’Adua undertook to rebuild infrastructure and human capital, accelerate economic reforms and address the Niger Delta issue. He pledged to create more jobs, lower interest rates, reduce inflation and maintain the stability of the exchange rate.

He promised to make rail development a reality and achieve dramatic improvements in electricity supply.

“He said he was committed to being a ‘servant-leader’ who will be a listener and a doer – who will tackle poverty and protect lives and property of all citizens. This speech will be the benchmark for evaluating Yar’Adua’s performance in office now, and forever.”

If President Yar’Adua has failed to deliver on any of his promises, we do not believe it has been for want of good intentions. Rather, regrettably, Yar’Adua seems to have a short memory-span, that’s all! And nowhere has this amnesiac quality been of greater disservice to both him and the Nigerian people he swore to serve, than in the Niger Delta!

The Niger Deltans have had to bear the brunt of policy reversals and Presidential promises-overturns that have seen, for example, Yar’Adua promise, in October 2007, to pay over N440billions of funds statutorily owed the grossly-impoverished region (through much-maligned NDDC) that provides over 95% of Nigeria’s wealth, only to renege on this vow in the first quarter of 2008…and worsen matters by declaring that the funds (a peoples’ commonwealth…already grossly undervalued!) had “expired”!!!

It is the Niger Delta that has continued to suffer the environmental and health madness of oil companies flaring over 99% of associated gas (as compared to .06% in the USA!) even though a court of competent jurisdiction has ruled gas flaring illegal since end-2008…and all the Yar’Adua administration has done is slap the wrists of the culprit oil majors by levying a laughable fine on them for disobeying the law in a land where the President has declared that strict compliance with the “rule of law” will be his administration’s prime legacy.

And, to add insult to injury, not a dime of the fines-revenues goes to the Niger Delta or the despoliated communities and poisoned peoples primarily affected by this flagrant breach of the laws of the land.

Skeptics of the Nigerian administration’s style have sometimes posited that maybe if the Niger Delta could adopt some Northerners (or change names en-masse) things would be different and there would be peace and progress in this region which is key to Nigeria’s development in more ways than one.

They have gone so far as to advise that alleged founders/leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta should take on names like Musa or Shehu or Uthman, since it would appear that bearers of such names are favoured in Nigeria…which is more than we can say for a “conditionally-free-on-bail” Asari Dokubo who still lives with “Sword-of-Damocles-like” charges of treason hovering over his head; or a Henry Okah, who is still held in an undisclosed underground cell, refused full access to vital medical attention for a reportedly life-threatening ailment and denied his constitutional right to free, fair, transparent trial for allegedly spurious charges of treason…whereas past treason trials (including that of President Yar’Adua’s brother, the respected General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua) have always been open…even under un-democratic military regimes.

One wonders if the current carnage in the Niger Delta which many have termed genocidal (to the extent that SIXTEEN foreign pressure groups are petitioning the International Court of Justice in the Hague to charge President Yar’Adua of “crimes against humanity” in Gbaramatu kingdom of Delta State) could not have been avoided if President Yar’Adua were perceived by Niger Deltans as being sincere in his offer of amnesty?

Which is why we cannot see why it has not occurred to the President and his advisers to prove sincerity by simply granting the amnesty to Asari Dokubo and Henry Okah (never mind that Asari, maybe rightly, keeps asserting that he is no militant and needs no “amnesty”!).

What better and more transparent way to say to armed discontents “Come out of the creeks, surrender your arms, and be reintegrated back into society” than by granting amnesty to their leaders who are “free” or in your gulag?! This is not rocket science, for crying out loud!

These men and women have a right to distrust you. You are the stronger party…with all of the power of the state at your disposal. You should not need to prove that you are stronger. Do the right thing, for once….

Why has our dear President, despite his avid love of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, not realised that “once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; thrice is enemy action”, as Goldfinger told Bond, and so recognise that the more-than-thrice-betrayed (by him!) Niger Deltans need more than mere promises (“talk is cheap”!) to believe in him and his administration?

Why can he not proffer the minimum simple proof of sincerity the “militants” keep asking for, and grant amnesty to Okah and Dokubo?

Afterall, has the high-level precedence not been set by his predecessor, General (President) Olusegun Obasanjo, being pardoned (“granted amnesty”) after being SENTENCED to death on charges of treason?!

Abeg, enough of the double-standards…let’s put a definitive end to the Niger Delta debacle.

Yar’Adua, show your sincerity and political will by letting amnesty cover all…JTF and “militants” alike. Egberi fa. Shalom.