KADUNAâ€”Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State has praised President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua for his â€œextraordinary vision in providing the Niger Delta and the whole of Nigeria with the gift of compassion, tolerance, dialogue, and peaceful co-existenceâ€.
The governor made the commendation Tuesday at Arewa House, Kaduna, in a keynote address he delivered at a crowded post-amnesty summit organised by Centre for Alternative Policy Perspectives and Strategy (CAPPS), with support from the Bayelsa State government.
Chief Sylva charged the summiteers, comprising a quality audience of key leaders of thought from the North and the South-South, to support the president in his determination to bring realistic change to the country.
Said he: â€œI cannot help but call for continuity. Continuity of vision. Continuity of purpose. All I call for now is continuity and sustenance of this policy thrust. It is the best way to guarantee the success of the Post-Amnesty goalsâ€.
According to Sylva, the conflict in the Niger Delta over the ownership, control, and distribution of the regionâ€™s oil resources is not an abnormality. In his view, conflict over resources is a normal feature of pluralist societies, such as Nigeria. â€œIt is the management of such perennial conflicts that matters, that is, the ability of people to balance multiple interests and expectations, and to negotiate around the real, potential and even illusionary distances that divide one unity from
another,â€ Sylva submitted.
He pointed out that in a diverse society like Nigeria, â€œEach group here has a point to make, a case to state and a possibility to yearn for.Â The greatness of the Nigerian project derives from the totality of these points, these cases and their possibilities.â€
Sylva identified â€œreal and perceived marginalisationâ€ as the underlying factor in the Niger Delta conflict, saying, â€œThe federal governmentâ€™s amnesty programme should not be construed as an event.â€ Rather he, said,
â€œThe amnesty programme is an integral part of a broad and comprehensive conflict mitigation and development programme that Mr. President has enunciated. It entails both disarmament and demobilisation of ex-militants, sustained demilitarisation of the entire region, as well as
the camping of ex-militants, the building of their capacity and their re-integration into society through sustainable means of livelihood.
â€œThe multiplier effects of this process include the all-round empowerment of the individual, poverty reduction, wealth creation and enhancement of human security. Ultimately, the Amnesty Programme encompasses environmental renewal, accelerated infrastructural development, social and economic transformation and community ownership of key development initiatives capable of creating a new consciousness conducive to sustainable peace and social stability.â€
He advocated a paradigm shift in the militaryâ€™s rules of engagement in the Niger Delta, saying the armed forces should, in the post-amnesty era, engage in wide-ranging support activities like â€œemergency rescue and disaster management, construction of bridges and special access roads,
medical services and other support operations to civilian developmental projects.â€
He said the amnesty policy of President Yarâ€™Adua was â€œa solid opportunityâ€ for the country to deepen the â€œagenda of good governance, democratic sustenance, rule of law, proceduralism and peaceful resolution of conflicts.â€
He said the Niger Delta is a microcosm of the larger Nigerian society, which manifests the countryâ€™s transitional features more than any other geopolitical zone.
President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua, Special Guest of Honour at the occasion, made the point that the success of the amnesty programme places Nigeria as a peaceful state in the comity of nation-states. Represented by Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Uffott Ekaette, the president explained that he has met with all the Niger Delta governors with a view to putting in place a workable programme of rehabilitation and reintegration of the ex-militants. He emphasised that the Niger Delta occupies a strategic place in the quest to make Nigeria one of the 20 most developed countries by 2020.