By Atu Ikot
The sing-song by stakeholders in the Niger Delta that external forces are behind the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers is no breaking news. The only difference is that it is now being said by stakeholders who may themselves have been shortchanged within the racket.
This has always been the bane of the Niger Delta people and the development of that area. Selfish and vested considerations have often been the central theme behind the largely pretentious agitations that routinely rock the region.
The immediate past President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Udengs Eradiri, was quoted recently as saying: “I believe and I know that all these Avengers’ stuff and threats are external. Their thinking is that money will come out of it through negotiation. Even the government knows about it. It is all about destabilising things and stealing money from the system.”
He claims the government knows about this, and it might well be; which might also be reason why government reacts the way it does whenever they rear their ugly heads; an action which some, particularly the sponsors and beneficiaries of those disruptive activities, would mischievously interpret as being against the Niger Delta people.
Eradiri should know! Only that he is coming out behind time, after an impression had already been created and monumental damage done to both the social life of the people of the area and the economy of the country by the amorphous group. Same with the group that goes by the name Concerned Niger Delta Leaders (CNDL) and a splinter group which claims to be the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA).
These groups cannot claim ignorance of the motive behind the emergence of the Niger Delta Avengers whose existence was planned shortly before the 2015 presidential election. The sanctimonious posture being adopted by them now is likely to be a fallout of dissentions in the chop-clean-mouth enclave.
The struggle for power and control of resources by vested interests has always been at the core of the agitation and the bane of progress in the region. Negotiation and focused groups never endure because some persons would always feel shortchanged and therefore become tools in the hands of those ever ready to cause disruptions in the system for their selfish ends.
Eradiri made reference to that when he tried to justify why the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF), which was set up to be the contact group between the Federal Government and the people, “is no longer relevant”.
The issue has to do more with “seeking audience”, “owning power”, “seeking to overthrow others” and “selfish gains”. These are the issues, much more than the overall development interest of the people.
The people seem to be more excited about activism than face reality. Reality is that they need development that can get the region out of its present state of despoilment and squalor; as well as a mentality that keeps them out of being enslaved and ensnared to oil heritage. They need the necessary structures and capacities that will drive development in the region.
They need more strategic thinking than crude bravado in pursuing their goals as a people and as a region. Unfortunately, such noble developmental attributes cannot be found in the camp of the Avengers or within the army of unfocused militant groups scattered around the region. The truth is: corporate development is not in the interest of the sponsors of such groups because they belong to the divide-and-rule regime. To remain relevant they must create situations that will sustain their interests.
Destroying oil installations and creating revenue squeeze in the system is like cutting one’s nose to spite his face. Perpetrators think they are hurting the Federal Government, to see what they are going to use to run the system; but it is a reality that while the national economy shrinks as a result of such disruptive activities, the first casualties are usually the Niger Delta states.
Apart from Rivers State that could boast of some trickling of internally generated revenue (IGR) outside oil activities, no other state in the region can breathe conveniently the moment oil revenues dip.
The Federal Government has made commitments to the development of the region. This would not be the first time such commitments would be made; but the realization of such commitments even with the best of intentions would largely depend on the level of revenue available to the government and the determination of the people to corporately hold the government to its promises.
Cracks within the walls of the region would definitely attract lizards and destroying facilities that would have produced revenue for infrastructure development can never be in the interest of the region, no matter how justified.
That some stakeholders are beginning to see that often times the disruptive activities are fueled by people who just want to disrupt things and make money from it, is a new beginning. The truth is gradually coming out!
- Ikot, a commentator on national issues, is based in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.