FORMER journalist cum development activist, Mr. Emeka Nwankpa, is the Chief Media Strategist of the Concerned Professionals’ Congress (CPC), an advocacy group with a focus on the promotion of good governance within a democratic Nigeria. In this interview, Nwankpa speaks on issues arising from the ongoing agitation in the Niger Delta among others. Excerpts:
By Rufus Ike
The country is apparently moving from crisis to crisis. How did we get there?
There is no way you can have a country made up of over 250 ethnic nationalities of different beliefs, backgrounds and preferences without crisis. A nation with over 170 million people of over 200 languages, different history, cultures, traditions and faiths is a humongous lot. So between and among people, there will be disagreement from time to time. You see one altercation, crisis or another, either intra-ethnic or inter-ethnic. It is normal. But what has made societies grow and progress meaningfully is the measure of tolerance and understanding they displayed.
But how does the current situation in Niger Delta fit into the scenario which you have just painted?
In the case of the Niger Delta, it did not just start today even as the agitations appear to be spiralling out of control. For me, it is the associated violence and wanton killings and destruction of national assets that I find vexatious and disturbing. We may have grievances but that does not mean we should start blowing up national assets.
The Nigerian people do not deserve what they are getting in the hands of the agitators and that is why we have reasons to believe that there is more to these avengers masquerading as vanguard of the Niger Delta people’s agitation.
We wonder why a group of self-serving people will deliberately hurt the Niger Delta people by the oil pipelines bombings. Are they not further polluting the already-polluted region?
Security and intelligence
If we try to dig deeper, we may discover that there’s more to these attacks. We may begin to see the politics of it. We stand to be corrected. There’s more to it than meets the eye but that is for the security and intelligence people to get the facts and move in the direction of the facts. We cannot continue like this.
So what are you insinuating? Do you mean some politicians may be collaborating with the militants?
I have not said so, it is just my hunch. There are people who think the agitators have good grounds to make demands, they may have a point. But there’s also the majority opinion that wilful blowing up of oil pipelines is a criminality which does not form part of a genuine and credible agitation. Try to examine some of the demands of the Avengers, are they different from what we have always had before? The pattern has not changed only that the characters have changed. Events appear to have moved beyond that now but it is food for thought.
It is good that the government seized the initiative of the dialogue option, bowing to public opinion.
It is laudable but some still argue that the situation should not have been allowed to go this bad. Well, we think that no time is too late to change direction as long as it is the right direction. It is the end that justifies the means. It explains why more militant groups in the region are buying into the dialogue process. At least, efforts are paying off. I am talking about the NSA-led Federal Government’s dialogue committee where Petroleum Minister of State, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu has been displaying his excellent grasp of the politics and dynamics of the oil sector.
So you believe that the dialogue option is a winnable policy?
Absolutely. It is a masterstroke. Dialogue is strength. It is a win-win option and we commend the government for this. I believe that this tool of diplomacy and dialogue speaks volumes about the capacity of the government as far as this issue is concerned. We commend the leadership of the Nigerian military for standing down their force.
But some say that government should not negotiate with criminals?
Yes, that argument once held water but with the presidential declaration of a ceasefire to allow for dialogue, it has become irrelevant, impotent and inactive in the light of current realities on the ground. We believe that the dialogue team will be frank, sincere, holistic and dispassionate in its assignment.
Do you foresee an early end to this restless ghost of militancy in the Niger Delta region?
Absolutely. As a nation, we need to appraise the whole picture without leaving out anything. Now we have an emergency on our hands so all hands must be on deck. It’s delicate and dicey. You need tact, patience and level-headedness to lead the fly away and save the balls otherwise the result is cataclysmic.
In answering your question therefore, I foresee a productive end to this resurgent militancy in the region. There is a consensus that time has come for the people of the region to begin to see positive changes. We are at the threshold of that change.