WHICH ever way you look at it, the root cause of the whole Niger Delta crisis is injustice. The truth will always come to light. The conspiracies of the old colonial masters, in tandem with the different international oil companies,IOCs, Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Total, Agip, etc and the activities of our dictatorial and uncaring federal government caused this situation we found ourselves, in not heeding to appeals for the basic rights of the minority oil producing nations,they have caused the manifestations of violent rebellions from the people. Isaac Boro started it in the ’60s and Ken Saro wiwa amplified it in the ’90s.
Both of them were eliminated by the authorities in power and the result of those actions is what we are experiencing today.
What is wrong in making the oil communities part owners of the companies operating in their land? I mean giving the villages five, ten or whatever percentage of the business ownership, which will in turn give them a sense of belonging. There is a list making the round in the Internet now, detailing names of different owners of the oil blocs in the country.
There are no names from oil producing communities. How did these people become owners of oil blocs that belong to the people?
If you ask me, this is the beginning of institutional corruption in the land, where thosee in government allocate what belongs to the people to their friends and cronies under various guises, without regard for the real owners of the resources. By so doing, the foundation for deep rooted distrust has been laid and under such atmosphere you cannot guarantee peace. I believe that our anti corruption battle should focus on this area.
It is unfortunate that this government has mis-managed the Niger Delta crisis, the way former president Goodluck Jonathan did with the Boko Haram and Chibok girls affairs when it started. You must find out what is in the people’s mind. Are they genuine grievances? If yes, how do we ameliorate them?
It is true that a few people took advantage of the last government to engage in corrupt activities but it will be wrong to punish the whole people because of the activities of a few and deny them of projects that have already been allocated to them, for example; the dis continuation/suspension of the maritime university project.
As it is with the Hausa/Fulani dissidents in the north, so it is with the Ijaws of the Niger Delta. They can lay down their lives for causes that they believe is their right and they can also be very friendly people, that is, if they see you as a sincere friend. It is left for the government to choose the path it wants to take. If it wants to violently suppress the people to submission, which will only postpone the duel to another date , as have been the practice, or, negotiate a peaceful and mutually beneficial way out of it.
The Ijaws are not the only tribe in the Niger Delta region that are suffering from the oppression and degradation of their lands; we have the very peaceful Efiks, Ibibios, Itsekiris, Urhobos, kwales, Isokos, Edo ethnic groups and others. The question we should ask is: these other tribes that have been sympathetic to the cause of various government positions, what have they gained from their peaceful stance?
Dr. Jonathan who is a son of the soil did nothing to satisfy the yearning of the Niger Delta people; because of his desire to remain in power, he pandered to the wishes of the northern hawks – imagine the amount of money he placed in Sambo Dasuki’s hands. Inspite of this , he did not please anyone. It is important for us to note however, that Jonathan could not have done any other way because those who put him in power wanted it so, but when he chose to exhibit some measures of independence we all witnessed what happened, the rebellion in the PDP party led by Olusegun Obasanjo started.
Jonathan had no structure to contain the opposition that he was faced with. The same way he faltered with issues concerning other Niger Delta ethnic groups like the Ogidigben project. But not for procrastination and indecision on his part, the project would have been on now. All Niger Delta ethnic groups would have benefited from it but he chose the path of his Ijaw brothers.
I will not encourage other Niger Delta ethnic groups to leave the Ijaws to the struggle alone, instead there should be dialogue with all the ethnic groups involved on the proper way to make the federal government see the urgent need to address the degradation, despoilation and sufferings that have befallen the land.
Let nobody compare the Niger Delta struggle to the Boko Haram. These are the owners of the resources and they are not targeting human beings.
They are only telling the world that they are the ones responsible for the economic survival of this nation and that owners of resources must benefit from it. In fact, they must be the first partakers, if one person or two display criminal tendencies, they can be dealt with by first convincing the people about the rightness of government actions and not make it seem like government is engaged in persecution and victimisation.
As long as over 90 percent of the country’s income is determined by the oil activities from the Niger Delta region, government must find ways to ameliorate their situation. By this I mean, laying solid foundations for peace. If you make them part owners of the oil exploring companies, they will not be disposed towards destroying their own property. The era of divide and rule is over.
The people are now more conscious of what belongs to them, their rights, you must avail them of it. Some say they are destroying their own environment and I say, an environment that has been destroyed long ago by rusty over aged pipelines! What difference does it make. After the war they will start rebuilding as is being done now in the north east.
The struggle of the Niger Delta is a struggle for the soul of Nigeria. One would have tended to wave it away as a “bad belle” action because their brother is no more there but when you look deep into the fundamentals, you will discover that the present government has not managed the situation very well.
The people of the Niger Delta are a very wonderful people, receptive and hospitable – check out Warri, Calabar, Uyo, Port Harcourt, Yenogoa and others – but they can fight for their rights.
The Federal government must institute a very experienced, focused, diplomatic and considerate team now, to look into their affairs and bring this struggle to an end once and for all. No palliative will work.
By Sunny Ikhioya