By Donu Kogbara
LAST week, I expressed the opinion that President Yarâ€™Adua deservesÂ two hearty cheersâ€¦One â€œfor possessing the humility and foresight to meet with Niger Deltan militant leaders and offer them an Amnesty deal in a bid to secure peace in a region that was becoming increasingly uncontrollable.â€
And the second â€œfor recognising the need for justice to be done and promising to infrastructurally develop oil-producing areas and economically empower oil-producing communities.â€
I then said that the President would only earn a third hearty cheer (from me at least) if he ensured that the above initiatives were effectively handled.
Much to my amazement, my views were echoed by only ONE of the Vanguard readers who reacted to last weekâ€™s Sweet And Sour! And since I am trying to democratise this column â€“ and turn it into an interactive forum – by including readersâ€™ responses in it as often as possible, I am reproducing his letter below.
From: BEN UDECHUKWU firstname.lastname@example.org , Aba.
I want to join you in congratulating the President for having the courage to take on the Niger Delta challenge. Armed struggle is so counterproductive. So let us pray that the benefits envisaged begin to play out within the shortest possible time.
Let me observe that there are â€˜Niger Deltaâ€™ replicas across the countryâ€¦and urge the President to expedite actions in those other areas and not wait until they carry arms. There are, for example, tiny oil producing communities in Imo State that are in dire need of government intervention. The roads have become death traps and require comprehensive attention. There is also an urgent need to tackle issues relating to the welfare of Polytechnic lecturers before they go on strike.
We should only add more cheers for the President when more proactive decisions are taken and when the country has been truly freed from constant harrassment.
As Iâ€™ve said, Benâ€™s was not a typical response. Most readers who contacted me insisted that my two hearty cheers for Mr. President were misguided and/or premature.
The following missives are representative of the majority view:
From: adeseila adegboyega henry, Benin, <email@example.com>
Regarding your publication on Friday 23/10/09, I feel that there should be no kudos yet for Mr. President until we see total peace in the Niger Delta. It is the end – rather than the beginning – of the Amnesty that matters. Let us wait and see whether the political elite will make it work.
Remember Obasanjoâ€™s power projects (16billiondollars)!
From (text): A gentleman who didnâ€™t give me permission to publish his number:
Are Amnesty and dialogue real solutions for an oil-rich region when various summits have all called for massive development of the region? I am disappointed with your hearty cheers to Mr. President, who knows what the region needs but is using diversionary policies to keep development in abeyance.
What is wrong with your sense of judgement? Should the hearty cheers not have been given only when the region has been developed? What is happening to the electoral reforms the very same Mr. President promised us? Wake up!
With all due respect to the above critics â€“ and to t he many friends of mine whoÂ suspect the Presidentâ€™s motives and, also, to the anti-Donu elements who have accused me of supporting the President only because I am, allegedly, in cahoots with a corrupt Establishment from which I, allegedly, gain massive benefits! – I think that too many Nigerians have become too cynical and too pessimistic.
Sure, cynicism and pessimism are understandable, given the many broken promises and never-ending traumas that have been inflicted on this nation by the thieving and incompetent leaders who have dominated our existences since Independence.
But wouldnâ€™t it be fairer if habitual cynics and pessimists could sometimes graciously accept the possibility that some members of the ruling class have good intentions and will eventually deliver impressive results if they are given enough time in which to solve problems that are both deep-seated and longstanding?
Contrary to what some folks think, I am not a sychophantic Establishmentarian by nature. I have always possessed a rebellious streak. I have told Vanguard readers, more than once, that I would have enthusiastically embraced gun-toting Niger Delta militancy if I had been born male and in different social circumstances.
And I must confess that I was tearful and angry, not elated, when Yarâ€™Adua took over the reins of power because I felt that it was the height of injustice for yet another Northerner to run the show when we had never had a South-South Head-Of-State. And I regularly and openly cursedÂ the PDP for marginalising the suffering minorities whose territories provide this country with most of its wealth.
But there are times when a change of heart appears to be appropriate. And I cannot vouch for Yarâ€™Adua on every issue, but my instincts (which are usually pretty sound) keep loudly assuring me that he can be trusted on this occasion.
Let me remind everyone who reckons that there should be no cheers at all for Mr. President at this stage a) that his endorsement of the idea that oil-producing communities should receive a l0 percent equity stake is revolutionary by Nigerian standards, b) that there is no evidence to suggest that he is being insincere,
c) that every journey of a thousand miles begins with one tiny step and d) that it is extremely unreasonable to accuse a man of crimes that he hasnâ€™t committed!
Radical new measures like the 10 percent equity thing cannot be actualised overnight. Development projects that will cost billions will take months to plan.
So why churlishly conclude that Yarâ€™Adua is already reneging on a pledge that cannot be honoured immediately? Itâ€™s as if some folks will only be satisfied if he hands over oodles of hard cash in bulging Ghana-must-go bags tomorrow morning!
My advice is that we should give him a chance to prove that not all Nigerian grandees are crooks and that he is capable of pleasantly surprising skeptics.
Responses to: firstname.lastname@example.org or to 0802 747 6458 (texts only).