By Bisi Lawrence
This country is going through a lot of stress at the moment. The proliferation of militant groups into which the tide of brigands has been flowing is gradually becoming a fixed feature on the terrain of our lives. It has removed a lot from our individual safety as well as the general security of many communities all over the country. When the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta erupted a few years back, it seemed to have a steady vision —the empowerment of the people of that area. It also had a cause.
The grievance was, and is still, perceptible: the source of the nation’s wealth had nothing to show for the exploitation of the resources which left the people impoverished, while citizens of other regions benefited from the wealth thus produced. The insistence of the people thus negatively affected was left unaddressed chiefly because those in power were in the majority, and were also from the profitably affected areas. It took the episodes of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Adaka Boro to direct the sufferings and resentments of the people towards a violent resolution.
However, a solution was devised which kept things quiet through a programme to uplift the plight of the people. But even from the outset, it never looked like a measure that would be adequate over time. All the same, it seemed to achieve a remarkable level of acceptance, because those who were at the helm of the agitation proved to be genuine patriots. One other achievement the agitation gained was that it left open the apparent opportunity for lose uprising. The creeks of the delta form a perfect territory for guerrilla warfare as demonstrated by MENDS. The Niger Delta is now developing into a theatre of uprisings and, even, counter-uprisings.
The Niger Delta Avengers rose out of nowhere with mayhem as their main purpose. They set out to blackmail and alarm the nation with a swathe of destruction against our oil installations. And they have been getting away with it. It would appear that Mend has climbed to the pedestal of an elder “statesman” who could advise but do little besides. The intelligence making the rounds is that the man known by several names but mostly as TOMPOLO is the motive spirit behind the avengers, and he is in no position to publicly deny it. He is a fugitive from the close investigation of the security forces who have been looking for him up and down his native abode, in which they are least likely to find someone who has become something of a folk-hero.
But there seems to be a mushroom development of so-called militant groups with the Niger Delta violent pattern as their model. There is present danger that a fierce confrontation may arise among them if some of the excesses of their activities are not curbed. A cause for disagreement is extant in the territory covered by some of the groups who romp through some areas without the support, and to the dismay of the indigenes. If any of these differences should flare into open clashes, Nigeria would have her cup of woes filled to the brim.
To the North-East is the still smouldering challenge of the Boko Haram onslaught which we have been winning, and winning, without a clear-cut victory which will be proclaimed in the return of the young girls carted away from their school dormitories in Chibok. To the South-west has erupted serial attacks and pillage by so-called militants. This was sequel to the kidnapping also of other schoolgirls in the South-west who were fortunately rescued. In the South has been an outbreak of rampant kidnapping. Everywhere there is the threat of pillaging and murderous so-called “herdsman”. Our sense of security is shrivelled in the uncertainty of not knowing what, and where, next.
It may not be a propose at this juncture to look in the direction of our social services and our economy which, according to the Minister of Information, has slipped from the grip of government. That will soon sort itself out—it always does. But, because all this confusion has to be confronted and gentled into acceptable terms, we have to turn to men and women of wisdom and experience, men and women who know and love this country, and have a stake in its progress. We must call them out and implore them to save this nation.
We can no longer depend on the flaming intellect of youth which has now been diverted to the acquisition of worldly possessions, and freely activated by wild ambitions, through the example of the immediate generation before them. The present actors on the stage of our national life are too absorbed in political interests to seriously engage in patriotic considerations.
Men and women of wisdom and experience, man and women who know and love this country, and have a stake in its progress—where are they? Where is this nation today when the man who describes himself as the foremost opposition leader, then sends messages of intervention for his welfare to foreign organizations? Where are we heading when the integrity of our National Assembly continues to be daily diminished by “distinguished” men who refuse to submit to the demands of honour?
Who will save us from the storm of circumstances that threatens our peaceful existence as a nation?
This column has not been known to be a supporter of the idea of the National Conference, the report and recommendations of which have not found favour with the Buhari administration. But one thing is clear— we cannot easily assemble the maturity and wisdom of the majority of the components of that assemblage now. It would be a masterpiece of statesmanship if they could once again—at least about a score of them—be invited to assist, at least, in reconciling the warring elements of the National Assembly and the Presidency and, by the same measure, smoothen out the wrinkles on the face of the party in power; to recommend measures to quieten the rage in the Delta; to grant satisfaction to the genuine militants and dismiss the criminals who are out for booty in chaos.
The winners in all these battles and skirmishes may be left with nothing more than a pyrrhic victory, while Nigeria disappears