With John Owubokiri
THE oil politics ofÂ Â Â NigeriaÂ is as aggravating as it is comical. The Babangida government magnanimously gave back 4% of revenue accruing to oil sales and in the present 1999 Constitution the figure was increased to 13%.
Ladies and gentlemen, is it not an incongruity to the property belonging to people and give them a share that you theÂ usurperÂ is comfortable with? Let us look at it differently. The national government of any country is the representation of all the interests in the polity. They are brought together to manage the aspects of that nationâ€™s life that exist at the will of the people they represent. Is it just or right for these legatees to assume rights not granted by the legators or to exercise authorities not invested by the people.
The situation in the Niger- Delta requires men of candour to speak out against the seizure and communalisation of a peopleâ€™s heritage without any discussions with them, against the militant monster that has been incubated and birthed by this unfortunate situation. If Nigerians seek communism, let the people discuss it and communalise the aspects of their existence they can sacrifice for the general good.
This is the whole essence of statehood that the men and women who constitute the society agree to rules common to all of them. The key word is â€œagreeâ€ not accept or tolerate or endure. If the Nigerian State discussed with the people of the Delta and they became convinced that their resources should serve the developmental needs of all, then perhaps they would procure commitments on modes of exploiting the resources that will conduce to life and living in the Delta.
And now although we do not stand in judgment against those who are avowed to emancipating the Niger-Delta by violent means, we make bold to state that violence is an ineffectual means of protest. That is the moral of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jnr. Dr Kingâ€™s civil rights movement did not have any chance of success in a military show down with the American authorities just as much as Mohandas Gandhi had no chance of succeeding against the British in Pre-Independence India. Both men relied on moral persuasion, the full exploitation of the bully pulpits their personalities won for them; they employed non-violent resistance and won for themselves friends and sympathisers in the camps of the enemy.
Nelson Mandelaâ€™s ANC did not win any wars against the Apartheid regime; neither did Gerry Adamsâ€™ IRA get concessions from the British by their battle prowess. This is the lesson of history, contemporary history, that all dissent must be settled by men and women sitting together to agree and disagree to agree.
We must, however, send out a clear and unequivocal message that KIDNAPPING is not a tool of negotiation or communication; it is not a means of protest but a barbarism to be condemned by all, especially the people of the Niger-Delta whose lives have been discounted on account of it. We must also boldly say to the managers of the Nigerian State that there are issues to be settled in relation to the Niger-Delta, the issues which have given rise to militancy and kidnapping. Once these issues are removed, there will not be platforms to launch the evils of militancy and kidnapping. It is my firm belief that if the people are given back what belonged to them originally, there would no longer be a ground for protest and excusing criminality; since the environment would no longer be chaotic as to conceal kidnapping. I do not and will not subscribe to special designs, master plans or marshal plans or special ministries to develop the Niger-Delta. They all sooner become parts of the problem. The people can develop themselves. It is an unnecessary arrogance to attempt to develop a people with their own resources.
May God Bless the King Memorial Foundation!
May God bless Nigeria!
(This piece was culled from a lecture delivered at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, Lagos last month, in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King at an anual Kingâ€™s lecture organised by the Martin Luther King Foundation.