By Donu Kogbara
ON Monday, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) operatives planted three car bombs in and around the Delta State Government House compound in Warriâ€¦the venue of a post-amnesty dialogue that had been initiated by this newspaper and was being supported by Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the Delta State Governor.
A couple of hours before these explosive devices were detonated via remote control, a written alert was issued by MEND spokesman, Jomo Gbomo, who advised motorists to avoid the area, urged the authorities to evacuate a nearby primary school and told the Vanguard â€œjamboreeâ€ organisers and participants to â€œignore this warning at their perilâ€.
Jomo Gbomo indicated that MENDâ€™s main reason for launching this attack was its belief that it had become necessary to show Uduaghan – who recently dismissed it as a â€œmedia creationâ€ – that MEND â€œexists outside cyberspaceâ€ and is still a force to be reckoned with.
Jomo Gbomo also, in his statement, angrily accused South-South governors of being â€œshameless, visionless stoogesâ€, alleged that most oil blocks are owned by Northernersâ€¦and complained about the fact that most Niger Deltans can barely survive.
Gbomo went on to pour scorn on â€œthe deceit of endless conferences and dialoguesâ€ like the Vanguard event, adding that: â€œIt is common knowledge that no Southerner can lay claim to an inch of land in the North, so why should we continue to talk as the occupation of our land and theft of our resources by the oil companies and Northern Nigeria persists?â€
TheÂ bottom line is (I paraphrase) that MEND regards Vanguardâ€™s management and many of the Niger Deltaâ€™s leaders as cynical, greedy, egotistical traitors who prefer meaningless talking shops to decisive action and are colluding with oil companies and Northerners to perpetuate a status quo that is seriously undermining their constituents.
Frankly, I totally agree with most of Gbomoâ€™s comments.
I feel so strongly about the shabby treatment that Niger Deltans have received that Iâ€™ve been gradually radicalized; and I frequently express the view that we should break away from the rest of the country and form our very own Niger Delta Republic.
Last year, I resigned from the Presidential Oil/Gas Sector Reform Implementation Committee (OGIC) for various reasons, including a conviction that Niger Deltans were not being sufficiently respected or empowered within the context of the petroleum industry.
Youâ€™d think that Niger Deltan VIPs would share my concerns, but I usually get an annoyingly lukewarm reaction when I try to explain my worries about issues such as NNPCâ€™s employment policy, which is heavily biased towards Northern interests at the moment.
It is obvious that our VIPs simply donâ€™t care enough about burning issues that would, if their hearts were in the right place, give them sleepless nights and inspire them to furiously and publicly warn our oppressors to quit insulting our intelligence and depriving us economically. And I think it is fair to say that the selfishness, short-sightedness and undutiful laziness of our so-called political representatives is utterly disgraceful.
Having said all this, I CANNOT approve of MENDâ€™s willingness to risk the lives of innocent folks in its own backyard.
As far as I know, though several bystanders were injured by the bombs and though several vehicles were destroyed, nobody actually died last Monday. But this absence of fatalities was just a stroke of luck. And I wonder how Jomo Gbomo and his cronies would have excused themselves – or felt – if some or all of those blameless little primary school pupils had been blown to smithereens. Was MEND established to expose our children to danger?
MEND has also lavished injustice on Vanguard. I can understand anyone who is sick and tired of conferences and dialogues. But Sam Amuka, our proprietor, is a gentle soul and highly principled native of a core Niger Delta State who does not deserve to be vilified for organising a forum at which ideas about our collective future can be discussed.
Was MEND established to insult bookish Niger Deltan gentlemen of Amukaâ€™s ilk and age?
Finally, letâ€™s look at the bigger picture. For the first time since Independence, the Niger Delta has produced an Acting President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
Dr Jonathan comes from Ogbia, the Bayelsan Local Government Area from which the first barrel of oil was exported in l958. Dr Jonathan is eminently entitled to sit in the driving seat of a nation that is largely dependent on oil revenue.
Dr Jonathan has been subjected to all kinds of terrible stresses since he was selected as Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s running mate in 2006. Dr Jonathan has responded to these pressures with dignity and wisdom. Dr Jonathan is our brother. And we owe him maximum support.
Can MEND not be patient and give Dr Jonathan enough time in which to perform and deliver the dividends that Niger Deltans are praying for? Was MEND established to humiliate the only Niger Deltan who has risen to the top of the pyramid? Does MEND want to give the world the impression that Dr Jonathan cannot control his militant brethren? Does MEND want Dr Jonathanâ€™s enemies to laugh at him and declare him a failure?
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