By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
IT took the WALL STREET JOURNAL, WSJ, last week, to lift the lid on the murky world of payments which the Nigerian government makes to Niger Delta warlords.
The report, appropriately titled, “NIGERIA’S FORMER OIL BANDITS NOW COLLECT GOVERNMENT CASH”, tell the tale of how lumpen criminals took up arms against the Nigerian state and successfully went for the economy’s jugular and came close to bleeding it to death.
A weak and near-prostate state, rolled over by corruption sued for peace, using an amnesty programme that worked so remarkably well, since oil production went back to ‘normal’.
The price paid for normalcy, was the huge transfer of funds to the former warlords; these include Asari Dokubo who “once stalked the mangrove-choked creeks of the Niger Delta, a leaf stuck to his forehead for good luck, as a crew that he ran bled oil from pipelines and sold it to smugglers”.
By 2011, NNPC “began paying him $9 million a year”. It was, therefore, no surprise, with hindsight, that Dokubo became a rabid defender of the Jonathan administration, hurling abuses and threats of war at imaginary ‘Northern’ enemies of the regime that pays him so much from the nation’s coffers.
These payments for the crime of treason do not stop with Dokubo. Two others, ‘Generals’ Boyloaf and Ateke Tom collect $3.8 million annually, while the most important amongst the Niger Delta warlords, Government ‘Tompolo’ Ekpemupolo, in the words of WSJ “maintains a $22.9 million a year contract…” with the Jonathan administration.
As the WSJ report noted, “the gilded pacification campaign…has sent young men in Nigeria’s turbulent delta a different message; that militancy promises more rewards than risks”.
And if anyone doubted that, the fact that oil theft has reached over 150 thousand barrels per day now, only confirms the worst case. Those who indulge WSJ’s bandits probably have ‘good intentions’ but as we all know, the road to hell has often been paved with such good intentions!
Nigeria has deteriorated so badly, especially since the mid-1980s, as a combination of the corruption of military dictatorship and the economic doctrines they imposed unleashed the worst excesses of criminality in our society.
Many individuals and groups correctly saw that the state itself has morphed into an instrument aiding the perpetration of crime in the hands of criminal elite groups.
These individuals and groups also began anti-state acts of criminality, which grew in increasing sophistication.
In the Niger Delta, with a history of neglect and the combustible but lucrative mix of oil, criminals and bandits could exploit genuine grievances about the state of neglect to organise very successful activities that nearly paralysed the Nigerian state.
Two groups of criminals: those that control the levers of state power and needing to oil those levers with oil money and their criminal allies and adversaries (the relationship continuously evolves depending on circumstance) who burst pipelines to steal oil, with ‘leaf stuck on…forehead for good luck’, actually represent all that is wrong with our country today.
Both groups live on unearned money taken at the expense of the genuine needs of the Nigerian people. The two groups of bandits also do a serious damage to the ethical basis of our society; they subvert hard work, as the basis of advancement in society.
It is not surprising that those who consciously chose to commit treasonable crimes against Nigeria’s economic wellbeing get paid millions of dollars annually as a pension for their lives of crime. These funds are taken directly from the NNPC.
But if we feel angry about that fact, in which way is the absurdity of the situation any different or less annoying, than the fact that since 1999 especially, we have had high positions in government occupied by fraudsters, certificate forgers and barefaced thieves?
Haven’t our legislative houses become redoubts for armed robbers, drug barons, thieves and certificate forgers? What is the quality of a lot of the people we have recruited as local government councilors and chairmen; or state governors?
In a sense, we could extend the absurdity of the situation, by saying that the Niger Delta bandit ‘Generals’ receiving millions of dollars as payment for their treasonable acts even ‘worked harder’, endangering their lives in the creeks, than those who sit comfortably inside air-conditioned government houses, legislative chambers or offices just to fleece all of us!
But beyond such absurdity, is the fact that between the two groups of bandits is a country left prostrate and citizens in dire straits, while they steal resources that should be taking the country away from chronic underdevelopment. The ethos of hardwork has suffered almost irreparably in our country, with young and old alike, looking for miracles to short circuit genuine effort.
I recall two similar tales of search for wealth without hardwork; that about the rainbow that appears after rainfall as a huge serpent; the dung would turn to gold if one somehow, could collectit. And the other was the migrant goblin with a mat and his eternal cry; snatch the mat and you would become rich!
In secondary school, I once saw the futility of such an effort to snatch the goblin’s mat by a fellow student. But the ease with which the Niger Delta bandit ‘Generals’ are collecting millions of dollars from state coffers as reward for treason and the related manner our thieving elite loots the country, one would be right to conclude that there is reward afterall, in spending time looking for the gold pot at the rainbow’s end or looking for mats to snatch from goblins.
But in truth, no nation can prosper by appeasement of its bandits; neither bandits in the creeks nor those in airconditioned offices. If we do not re-instate the ethos of hardwork and honest labour as well as recruit responsible leadership to lead the process of development, we will literally kill our country!
Cynthia on our hearts
WHEN the story of the tragic killing of the beautiful Cynthia Osokogu broke last week, it got a deserved place on the front page of practically every Nigerian newspaper. The sheer tragedy of the killing of a 24-year-old, with a whole lifetime ahead of her, was so heart-rendering in the first place. But as the story unfolded, there were many related issues which made it so compelling and sad. How did she become so trusting of people she hardly knew beyond the virtual, make believe world of FACEBOOK? Why did she accept a flight ticket, was received at the airport by the crooks, accommodated in an hotel and the tragic sequence of sedation, chaining, raping and tragic killing?
I ask those questions as a parent of young girls too and these questions must trouble every parent about the way our children socialize in the context of the milieu that post-modern capitalism has fostered around the world. In the advanced capitalist countries, there is a deep-seated alienation and atomization of the individual. The eternal invention of gadgets and make belief, help to make the individual a consenting part of the process of capitalist exploitation. Freedom has turned into an illusion and the citizen has morphed into just a consumer; he/she hasn’t the luxury of a pause as he is inundated with credit, with goods, with services and ever more spaces of delusion and fantasy to keep abreast with. These societies use these enveloping world of fantasy as escapes for the atomized individuals, but often even these do not last. There are regular orgies of violence; individuals go loony and sometimes carry out incredible crimes.
There are incestuous relationships; ever more sickening acts of sexual violence or attraction to exotic religious experiences.
But the state is very strong and the hegemony of the ruling classes is upheld. Individuals are not allowed to be more powerful than their society; and even the scions of ruling families will be sharply reprimanded or punished for the sake of the survival of their hegemony.
Our post-colonial, neo-colonial society carries the baggage of underdevelopment, not just of its productive forces but a troubled mélange of traditional norms and an eclectic expression of modernity.
For the young people growing up in our society, they were born within the context of the violence and corruption associated with military dictatorship; they have also come to adulthood within the irresponsibility associated with civilian rule in the past 13 years.
There are very few positive role models for a lot of the young people growing up in our society today and since the Nigerian mutant strain of capitalism does not valorize hard work, young people attracted to the glittering world of capitalist consumerism, also want a bite of the cherry, any which way.
So while the ruling elite loots the state, these young criminals carry out scams on the internet; rob or as we saw with Cynthia’s tragic fate, set up young ladies for fleecing after drugging and raping them.
I honestly do not think we can understand Cynthia’s tragic fate and the boom in sexual crimes, cultism in schools, the expansive use of drugs and the associated violent crimes among young people, without placing them in the necessary sociological context.
So when universities deny that the individuals arrested for the tragic killing of the young girl, are their students, they miss the point.
The criminal actions of those individuals do not only indict whichever institutions they attend alone, they indict our society in general; the break down of the family structure by the rapacity of our version of capitalism, where parents are unable to provide for children who now fend for themselves using the proceeds of crime and prostitution; the privatization of the state as vehicles for an elaborate process of corrupt enrichment by a ruling elite with the consequent institution of an uncaring ethos of individualism where it has become legitimate to prey on the neighbour.
These take place against the background of the worldwide dominance of post-modern capitalism and its consumerist appeals to people, especially the young. Our society is indicted that we have produced the types with the criminal mind to do all they did to such a promising young lady.
And because we are parents, or have sisters and friends, who we don’t want such to happen to, we need to be more responsible parents, citizens and leaders for the sake of those we love. We should give our hearts to Cynthia and the family of General Osokogu in this trying time for them, with hope that we will learn and teach lessons to all those we love.