Fresh wounds in the
South and the Presidency
Niger Delta vs The Rest Of Nigeria
Why Niger Delta deserves 50 per cent derivation, by
neo-colonialism and the Nigerian state
NIGERIA, ROMANCING WITH SELF-DESTRUCTION
DEPRIVED MINORITIES AND NATIONHOOD
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Dokubo-Asari is facing trial in Abuja. Kenule
Saro-Wiwa before him was murdered by the military junta of General Sani Abacha,
and Issac Adaka Boro was conscripted into the Nigerian Army and died in strange
circumstances after he demanded a nation for his people who faced poverty and
deprivation. The minorities have rights too, but the Nigerian government
(running a monolithic economy) has never cared to respect these rights even as
oil exploration and gas export is on steady increase bringing in more than $150
million (20,250,000,000 Naira) a day from crude oil sale. Despite this huge
income from oil the minorities have absolutely nothing to show for the oil
wealth as they wallow in poverty, have a higher than normal unemployment rate,
and lack the very basic necessities of life.
There has been no plan by the national
government to support and fund water transportation, the development of road
networks, rural electrification, and health services. Even as gas is flared with
reckless abandon, the federal government and the oil companies could not trap
the gas and use it to generate electricity for the people of the Delta, and
introduce some medium and small enterprises to employ these people. Rather all
the billions of dollars from oil and gas profits are moved overseas by Shell,
Chevron, Agip, Mobil, Texaco, Elf and the other foreign oil-greedy companies,
and the rest go to Abuja with substantial (over 50%) going to Northern Nigerian
States that contribute less than 10% to the national treasury. It is just not
right and makes nonsense of the basic tenets of fairness and decency. For so
long the rights of the minorities as outlined by the United Nations in several
of its declarations, particularly the declaration of the rights of the
minorities are disregarded and ignored by the Nigerian Government. This is why
there is unrest, restlessness and agitation from the Niger Delta. The youths of
the Niger Delta need jobs, they need to be meaningfully and profitably engaged.
The General Assembly of the United Nations (UN)
on December 18, 1992 adopted resolution 47/135, the Declaration on the Rights of
Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/d_minori.htm),
partly with the goal to eliminate all forms of intolerance and discrimination.
Inspired by article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights concerning the rights of persons belonging to ethnic, religious and
linguistic minorities, it was with the view to promote the survival and
involvement of minorities in the nations they belong to where they are likely to
be crushed, denied, deprived, displaced and eliminated. A total of nine articles
were declared and approved as central to the protection and survival of small
groups, nations and minorities, but articles 3 to 7 speak to the problems in
Nigeria so clearly. Though long articles 3 to 7 are reproduced below:
- Persons belonging to
minorities may exercise their rights, including those set forth in the present
Declaration, individually as well as in community with other members of their
group, without any discrimination.
- No disadvantage shall result
for any person belonging to a minority as the consequence of the exercise or
non-exercise of the rights set forth in the present
- States shall take measures
where required to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise fully
and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any
discrimination and in full equality before the law.
- States shall take measures to
create favourable conditions to enable persons belonging to minorities to
express their characteristics and to develop their culture, language, religion,
traditions and customs, except where specific practices are in violation of
national law and contrary to international standards.
- States should take appropriate
measures so that, wherever possible, persons belonging to minorities may have
adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in
their mother tongue.
- States should, where
appropriate, take measures in the field of education, in order to encourage
knowledge of the history, traditions, language and culture of the minorities
existing within their territory. Persons belonging to minorities should have
adequate opportunities to gain knowledge of the society as a whole.
- States should consider
appropriate measures so that persons belonging to minorities may participate
fully in the economic progress and development in their
- National policies and
programmes shall be planned and implemented with due regard for the legitimate
interests of persons belonging to minorities.
- Programmes of cooperation and
assistance among States should be planned and implemented with due regard for
the legitimate interests of persons belonging to minorities.
States should cooperate on
questions relating to persons belonging to minorities, inter alia, exchanging
information and experiences, in order to promote mutual understanding and
States should cooperate in
order to promote respect for the rights set forth in the present
Article 4 (5) is actually where the problem in
Nigeria calls for urgent attention. The minorities in the Niger Delta and the
resource bedrock/cornerstone of the Nigerian nation have not been given any room
to participate or allowed any involvement in the economic progress and wealth
that their rich soil provide; they have been turned into mere on-lookers in the
oil and gas activities and the huge businesses and opportunities that comes with
it. This is criminal and unacceptable in a nation where the "legitimate
interests of persons belonging to minorities" have not been addressed through
adequate policies and programmes as required by article 5 (2) of this
resolution. The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights to Organize
Convention (No. 87) concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the
Rights to Organize (adopted on July 9, 1948) is at the heart of the trial of
Dokubo-Asari, being made to look like a common criminal by the Nigerian
Open agitations are of right, democratic and
clear expressions of choice - the freedom to choose should and can be taken for
granted, and a people or a race, a nation or a state should be free to go it
alone. A nation can be born by a people who feel the strong and urgent need,
possess the determination and the united front, and common will to go it alone;
to take their own future in their own hands and to elect to separate from a
brutish, bigger unit. It is in fact undemocratic to force, subdue, crush or deny
a people the freedom to choose, the freewill to elect who to live with and who
to deal with. All around the world in the last two decades new nations have been
created from huge states and various nationalities have gone their way. The most
wonderful and best example of this was the break up of the former Czechoslovak
Federation. The Federation broke up through peaceful negotiations. As pointed
out by Jon Elster, there was no threat of violence and there was no violence of
any sort! Nigerian leaders must learn from this. The Czechoslovak Federation was
founded in 1918 and it split into two in 1993. Like Nigeria after the
amalgamation by Lord Lugard for reason of economic exploitation and convenience,
Czechoslovakia was equally an artificial creation which strewed together the
Bohemians and the Moravians. It should be noted that it was democratic and
legislative steps that helped propel Czechoslovakia into an easy separation and
On July 1, 1867, four provinces including
Quebec came together in a confederation to create the nation of Canada. Other
provinces and territories later joined the federation. For decades the
confederation held firm together and the nation grew very prosperous and
powerful, becoming one of the eight richest nations in the world with a size ten
times that of Nigeria and a population of about 31 million. The first sign of
separatist feelings came in the early 1960s when Rene Levesque formed a
separatist, Quebec political party, the Parti Quebecois. Levesque encouraged
Quebecers to vote on separation and there have been two referenda since then,
both approved and organized by the Government of Canada. The first referendum
was in 1980 when 59.5 per cent of Quebec voters objected to sovereignty and the
second in 1995 when 50.58% said no to separation. It was actually a narrow
escape for Canada and a much painful feeling for those who have been dreaming to
have a Quebec nation. The question put to the people of Quebec during the
referendum in 1995 was:
"Do you agree that
Quebec should become sovereign after having made a formal offer to Canada for a
new economic and political partnership within the scope of the bill respecting
the future of Quebec and of the agreement signed on June 12, 1995, Yes or
The Federalists led by the Prime Minister of
Canada, Mr. Jean Chretien and his party chief in Quebec, Mr. Daniel Johnson
campaigned vigorously in Quebec while the separatists led by Mr. Jacques
Parizeau who was then the Premier of Quebec and leader of Parti Quebecois,
Lucien Bouchard, a chieftain of Parti Quebecois and Mario Dumont, the leader of
Action Democratique went all over Quebec asking their people to vote for the
creation of a sovereign Quebec. It was a fierce campaign and there were fears
that Canada will be divided even as the whole world witnessed democracy in
action. It should be noted that the government of Canada introduced the Clarity
Act on December 13, 1999 which now outline the rules of separation, in view of
the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Succession Reference. I
feel strongly that interested parties and leaders of Nigeria's government and
the Minster of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo in particular who is prosecuting
Dokubo-Asari, should visit http://lois.justice.gc.ca/en/c-31.8/text.html
to read the Clarity Act.
Said to have conspired with some faceless and
unnamed accomplices at Samsy Hotel, Benin City, Edo State to wage war against
President Olusegun Obasanjo's government, Dokubo-Asari is made to look like a
coup plotter of some sort. I do not see how agitation for fairness, equity and
separation for the Niger Delta can be interpreted or equated with a coup plot.
We just don't address issues and rather seek the easy way out. Millions of
Nigerians are not happy in the rickety federation that we belong to. The only
people eager to see the nation kept together are those milking it and taking the
loot; it pays them, the rich and powerful, the politically powerful, the
legislooters, the Ghana-must-go governors and local government chairmen and
councilors, the businessmen moving crude oil and those prospecting for crude oil
and gas. It pays these few people but it pains the masses, the majority of
Nigerians in the South West, the South-South, the East and maybe the North too.
It hurts the sensibilities of the fair-minded to see so much deprivation and
poverty among the minorities while a section of the nation that has nothing to
offer actually enjoy so much development in terms of road network, electricity,
infrastructures and also take the lion share of the nation's budget.
It is strange that the powers that be in
Nigeria will make strangers of the landowners, the minorities of the Niger Delta
in particular, the Ijaws, Ikweres, Ogonis, and others; turn them into beggars in
their own land, drive them away from the land and dot the place with pipelines,
oil wells and oil rigs. Then the rest of the land is polluted, made inhabitable,
the soil ruined to a level where fishing and farming becomes impossible. With
the means of livelihood of these people taken away from them and no compensation
coming their way, poverty sets in and idleness becomes a way of life. When they
ask for reparation and compensation they get sudden visits from soldiers plucked
from the far North to deal ruthlessly with the 'trouble makers' (as was in Odi
and Ogoni land) who are branded subversive elements, and treasonable felony
charges are thrown at them to prevent others from standing up to demand justice.
For how long will these powerful people who only want to control the oil and gas
and who are not even decent and human enough to acknowledge that these
minorities must be given something back, must be allowed to eat, drink and live,
must be availed small mercies of infrastructures and opportunities, some
meaningful derivation funds to reward them for the land they have provided and
In 45 years, the Nigerian government has made
life impossible for the minorities and during the same period force has been
elevated as the wonder answer to these problems. Isaac Adaka Boro and Kenule
Saro-Wiwa were crushed by military governments, but today it is a civilian
government that is using the same method used and abused by military
dictatorships to address the problem of the minorities and the Niger Delta. But
this problem will not go away; it will magnify and blow out of proportion one
day; it will blow up in the face of some people and become too big and too
dangerous to control. Many of our people discuss the creation of nation-states
from Nigeria in the secrets of their rooms, beer parlours and peppersoup joints.
People talk about it freely at home and abroad in secret, and they sure have
some wonderful views about how they want the nation to be divided! There have
been talks about the creation of Odua, Biafra, Middle Belt, Ijaw nations and
many others. Nigerians talk about which ethnic nationality will join together
with another and which ones will not want to have anything to do with a major
These are open talks and these are talks we
must do more of; not run away from them. We must embrace these talks as a
reality of life with the realization of the fact that the former Soviet Union
and Yugoslavia are now divided into several nations and the Balkan has witnessed
several divisions in recent memory. Those who think things will go on like this
are just kidding themselves and living in dreamland. The idea that some
nationalities will be baking the national cake while a few others sits down and
consumes the most, pushing crumbs to the others will end, and it will end sooner
than imagined. It will be sensible for this government to find an easy way out
to free Dokubo-Asari and do the right thing for and to the minorities. The
government must make the oil companies recruit more people from their areas of
operation rather than bringing in unqualified people from their home countries
to take jobs Nigerians can do. The multinational oil companies must put back
substantial part of the wealth they make from the oil region to create small and
medium size industries, employ indigenes and build infrastructures in the Niger
Delta. Texas in the United States and Alberta in Canada are rich and well
developed today because of their oil resources, but the same is not true for
Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Ondo, and other oil producing states of Nigeria. The
Federal Government is heavily culpable in this regard by design, omission and
poor policy initiatives. The wonder that is Abuja today is from this monolithic
oil wealth and you wonder why this wealth has not been extended to the Delta
Region, at least some reasonable part of it.
Copyright by Nigeriaworld.com
Fresh wounds in the Niger Delta
By Reuben Abati
THE current crisis in the Niger Delta in form of the transformation of
that region into a mini-Iraq with aggrieved citizens taking oil workers
hostage, and demanding ransom as if they were disciples of Osama Bin Laden
is the inevitable outcome of the failure of the Nigerian state and the
professional political class to address the politics of oil. It can only
get worse and it will. It would appear that the youths of the Niger Delta
have finally discovered how best to treat and beat the Nigerian state.
In the past week, they have kidnapped four oil workers: a Briton, a Honduran,
an American, and a Bulgarian. They have seized two vessels, and attacked
three flow stations. They are threatening to move from one oil major to
the other. They call themselves Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger
Each time radical militants of the Niger Delta seize oil flow stations,
kidnap oil workers and inflict punishment on Nigerian security forces,
the international price of crude oil shoots up. The daily production output
of the oil companies in the Delta drops, and so Nigeria loses revenue.
Oil theft is made easier, and perhaps more important for the purpose of
the militias, the international community focuses afresh on the problems
of the Niger Delta. Their action is dramatic. The effect is even more so.
Shell which depends on the Niger Delta for ten per cent of its global oil
production, as well as the other oil majors are already used to crises
of this nature. There can be no doubt that they consider violent attacks
on their processes and installations, part of the price to be paid for
doing business in Nigeria. Shell has evacuated over 300 of its staff. Chevron
has suspended some of its operations. But they will return either as partners
of the Nigerian state or of the commanders of the Niger Delta, depending
on how the coming showdown is resolved.
The main challenge lies in how
six, seven years into civilian democracy, the
Nigerian government has not been able to make any progress in the Niger
Delta. The situation in that region worsened during military rule especially
under General Sani Abacha who unleashed a regime of terror and repression
on the people, killing Ken Saro-Wiwa, the MOSOP activist and eight others.
Abacha turned the people against one another and sacked communities. There
was some respite under General Abdusalami Abubakar whose main contribution
was to organise fresh elections and hand over to civilians. But with the
return to civilian rule in 1999, it was expected that there would be ample
opportunities for addressing the injustice, the abuse of human rights,
the repression and the exploitation which had driven the people of the
Niger Delta to the wall. Unfortunately, the response of the Obasanjo administration
has been characterised by a disconnect between form and substance.
Take the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) set up by Obasanjo administration
in 1999 to replace the ineffective Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development
Commission (1992). This is the ad-hoc structure which is supposed to facilitate
development in the Niger Delta by identifying and addressing the urgent
needs of the people as a complement to the efforts of the state governments
and the Corporate Social Responsibility contributions of the oil majors.
There is a lot that the NDDC has been able to achieve: schools that have
been built, bridges and other social infrastructure, chairs that have been
taken to schools, new access roads, but all these do not amount to much.
Years of neglect, inequity and deep-seated contempt make whatever is done
for the people of the Niger Delta appear too little too late, and coming
from the same Obasanjo that has not shown much sympathy, mere sop.
Besides, the NDDC is grossly under-funded. It is saddled with an assignment
that covers about nine states, over 300 communities, each with its own
peculiar and costly needs, lack of adequate funding limits its capacity.
And because its commissioners are political appointees representing different
states and interests, NDDC is further hobbled by the placement of politics
before the development agenda. The oil companies are not helping to fund
the NDDC adequately since in any case they have their own community development
projects or so they claim. The state governments are of no help either.
In the last six years, states of the Niger Delta have received more money
than at any other time in Nigerian history, but this has not translated
into any concrete difference. The youths of the Delta are aware of the
existence of the NDDC, but when they see a road there or a school there,
and they place that beside the amount of oil that has been taken from the
Delta since 1956, they are not impressed. They want more. When they are
snubbed or asked to go and ask their state Governors for greater accountability,
they get angry.
Take also the government's peace-making strategies: Each time the people
revolted either as aggrieved farmers or housewives, both the oil companies
and government were wont to negotiate with and make peace with the local
elite in the persons of traditional rulers, or youth leaders for whom something
is packaged either in form of contracts or cash inducements. Thus, a self-seeking
kleptocratic elite has since emerged in the Niger Delta which does not
in any way represent the interests of the people. It is even a cheated
The angry youths who have since formed themselves into formidable militias
have exposed the limitations of that rent-collecting elite and its manipulation
by the state. The other year, one traditional ruler was chased out of town
by aggrieved youths who accused him of stealing money meant for the community.
Youth leaders have also been sanctioned in many communities. Unlike the
rent-collectors, the angry youths of the militias see themselves as revolutionaries.
They are the ones now dictating the pace of the politics of the mangrove
forest. No one should be surprised that there is no Niger Delta elite who
can confidently condemn what these angry youths are doing. Such a leader
may find it difficult to return home. So, in that sense, the strategy by
the Nigerian state of using selected Niger Delta leaders against the people
A third grand strategy against the Niger Delta has been the use of violence,
and the harassment of the rebels. The scope of repression in the Niger
Delta is enormous. Even in ordinarily peaceful circumstances, soldiers
are stationed in the region. Ordinary persons going about their businesses
are searched. In their own environment, the people are subjected to constant
harassment by agents of the state. Human rights abuse in terms of the despoliation
of the environment, killings and the pauperisation of the people over the
years have combined to create in the average Niger Deltan a feeling of
discomfort and resentment towards Nigeria. Between 1996 and 2000 for example,
more than five military Task Forces were set up to keep the people of the
Niger Delta in check. These include the Rivers State Internal Security
Task Force, Operation Salvage, Operation Flush, Operation Storm, Operation
Sweep, and Operation Restore Hope. What the militias of the Niger Delta
have now advertised is the limits of the use of repression as a tool of
state engineering. The militias in the current confrontation are obviously
as equipped if not better equipped than the Nigerian army. They are turning
their guns and rockets on Nigerian soldiers.
They are mowing down these soldiers and collecting oil company workers
as hostages. They are speaking up for all marginalised minorities who are
not recognised in Section 55 of the Constitution. They have even given
an ultimatum. They want their leader, Asari Dokubo released or by February
1, they would hit at the soft underbelly of the Nigerian state and halt
all oil exploration activities in the Niger Delta. If President Obasanjo
had thought that by arresting and charging Asari Dokubo to court, the militias
of the Niger Delta would be cowed, he is now mistaken. The Niger Delta
militias are waging a kind of Holy War against Nigeria. It is a war of
nerves. It is a costly war. For every Asari Dokubo that is arrested, there
are many more in the creeks who are willing to take up arms. When Asari
Dokubo is taken to court, he wears an Isaac Adaka Boro T-shirt. He abuses
the judge that is hearing his case. His T-shirt is a symbolic statement.
His attack on the judge is an attack on the Nigerian state. So what would
the President do? Will he declare war against the Niger Delta? Or a state
of emergency? Or will he eat the humble pie?
Now we know: no one has a monopoly of madness. This is the answer to the
crazy failure of the Nigerian state to give the people of the Niger Delta
an opportunity to articulate and canvass their aspirations. Under civilian
rule, the psychological assault has been particularly intense. At the National
Conference, delegates from the South -South had to stage a walk-out because
the North bluntly refused to entertain their demand for resource control.
The 19 states of the North even went to court to challenge the derivation
formula. South-South leaders are insisting that the President of Nigeria
must come from the South-South in 2007, the Northern elite have more or
less told them to shut up.
When the people of the Niger Delta further remind the Nigerian state of
their contributions to the Nigerian economy through their ownership of
crude oil, which accounts for 90 per cent of national revenue, they are
told that the oil belongs to the North. This was mouthed by Northern leaders
at the National Conference but it is given an intellectual coverage in
a booklet by Yusufu Bala Usman and Alkasum Abba: The Misrepresentation
of Nigeria: The Facts and the Figures (May 2000) under what the authors
call "the geological and hydrological realities of Nigeria" and
"the formation of the Niger Delta". The young men in the creeks
hear all these, and they are convinced that the only language that Nigeria
can understand is that of violence.
Where now are those loud mouths, those arm-chair geologists who always
claim that the oil in the delta is no more than sedimentary deposits flowing
from the North to the South. Where are those oligarchs who push the view
that the Presidency is too good for the South-South? The Niger Delta is
the most vulnerable part of the Nigerian fabric. The present drift requires
more creative thinking on the part of the state. Who are the sponsors of
the militias in the Delta? How did they manage to smuggle their sophisticated
arms into the country? Do they keep any bank accounts? If so, who is their
banker? Are there fifth columnists involved? Is the conflict stage-managed?
President Obasanjo in six years has succeeded in offending so many stakeholders,
should any one or group feel determined enough to ambush and sabotage his
government, the easiest battlefield is the Niger Delta where the hunted
is now the hunter. If anyone wants to disrupt Nigeria and make it ungovernable,
all he needs to do is to rent the militias in the Niger Delta and stop
the oil pipelines from flowing. Armed robbers, saboteurs and professional
terrorists can also take advantage of the situation. By refusing to allow
dialogue on the issues of resource allocation and power sharing, the Nigerian
state has created war within its own borders. Until the Niger Delta question
is resolved, Nigeria sits on a carton of explosives and turns its face
Copyright by Author/Guardian
Delta deserves 50 per cent derivation, by Adegbite
By Charles Coffie-Gyamfi
DISTURBED by current developments in the country,
which he insists is heating the body polity and thereby threatening the
stability of the nation, Dr. Lateef Adegbite, secretary general of the Supreme
Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) has warned the government against forcing
third term on the citizenry.
In an interview with The Guardian in his
Abeokuta residence the constitutional lawyer also backed the 50 per cent
derivation crusade of the Niger-Delta.
Speaking on the alleged third term agenda regional agitation for power,
Niger-Delta crisis and religious riots in some parts of the country over a
cartoon published by a Denmark Newspaper on Prophet Mohammed, he warned that
care should be taken so that the country is not plunged into civil war.
Asked if it was in order to amend the constitution to extend the tenure of
President Olusegun Obasanjo by another term, he said: "The constitution does not
say it cannot be reviewed anytime. Everybody knows that this constitution is not
the people's constitution so it certainly needs amendment. But the amendment
must be genuinely done through the proper procedure.
"Concerning the alleged third term agenda, if the review is to indicate that
office holders should be eligible for re-election, then there is nothing wrong
with it but the elections must be seen to be free and fair to enable the
electorate reject or confirm them.
But I must explain that the President has not told us that he wants third
term, so the issue so far remains hypothetical.
"However in case the President is considering having a third term as being
speculated, then he should weigh the pros and cons and make his position known
as soon as possible if only to calm the polity.
On the Niger-Delta problem, he said "the people of the Niger-Delta are being
cheated and the NDDC (Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is not doing
enough. The government should sit down and dialogue with the people in the area
to reach a compromise, that is the only way-out of the problem. The solution to
the problem is both political and constitutional. Constitutionally we should go
back to the pre-military formula of sharing oil revenue."
He expressed the view that 50 per cent of the oil revenue in the area should
be given to the people there as against the present 13 per cent.
"But it should be gradual, may be from 13 the present percent to 25 percent,
to 40 percent until it gets to 50 percent. And this can be achieved by
increasing it every two or three years" he suggested.
He continued: "We must solve this (Niger-Delta issue) not only nationally but
also internationally by referring to international standards. The agitation by
the Niger-Delta people now is for attention and correction. But if the attention
is not given or the correction made, it would lead to a struggle for
self-determination, resulting to full-blown resistance and before we know it, we
are plunged into civil war. The Federal Government should engage in meaningful
dialogue with the affected people."
Condemning the hostage taking by the militants in the area, Adegbite urged
the militants to eschew violence because "the action is counter-productive."
"The Federal government should be careful in handling the issue. It is better
the government uses diplomacy and political tact to get the hostages released.
Whatever agreement is reached between the two parties (government and
militants), must be implemented after the hostages' release to avoid recurrence.
"It is not enough for Nigeria to be leading negotiations in Sudan, Darfur
Cote'de Ivoire and Liberia and fail to use negotiation in solving our own
problems," Adegbite added.
According to him, every negotiation must involve the leaders in the area
because "we should know that the militants are not on their own they are being
supported by their leaders. One major issue about the crisis in the Niger-Delta
area is resource control but unfortunately it is still hanging after the
National Political Reform Conference and this needs urgent re-visitation."
On regional agitation for power, Adegbite said the struggle is heating up the
polity and urged that merit should be the criteria. "We must select our leader
purely on merit, no matter where he comes from. Let us see all of us as
Nigerians, no matter where one comes from, if we do this such agitation would
On the Religious riots, the NSCIA scribe said: "What is happening is
embarrassing and disturbing to us the Muslim leaders. Islam is clear that no
believer should attack an innocent soul. What happened in Denmark has nothing to
do with us in Nigeria and therefore such needless destruction of lives and
properties must ceased immediately. We Muslims must try to keep to the tenets of
the Islamic religion.
"We as religious leaders also should go back to the drawing board to educate
our members to eschew violence in what ever form as a way of expressing our
displeasure on any issue. We can do this through lectures, seminars and sermons.
The authorities should do everything to fish out those behind the riots and
punish them. It appears as if there are other motives behind these riots. It
could be political or economical but that is no excuse for anyone to kill his
fellow human being.
neo-colonialism and the Nigerian state
February 03, 2006 Personal View
“The country of every
man is that one where he lives best.”
THE captors of just released four
hostages in the Niger-Delta have opened a new vista in government and
activists/militants relationship in the country. Patrick Landry of United
States, Harry Ebanka of Honduras, Nigel Watson-Clark of Britain and, Molko
Nichev of Bulgaria, all workers of an American firm, Tidewater contracted by
Shell Petroleum Development Company( SPDC), were for 19 days held hostage by
Ijaw militant youths.
It is a good thing that lives of these foreign
nationals were saved from the noose of the Movement for Emancipation of
Niger-Delta( MEND), that claimed responsibility for the kidnap. This was
achieved through intense negotiation between a panel set-up by the government
However, dangerous dimensions were being introduced into the
matter by the State. President Olusegun Obasanjo in Switzerland described the
Ijaw militants as terrorists. The government has also promised to get them
tracked down for punishment.
Ordinarily, whoever commits an offence
deserves to be punished by the State. For every offence commitment, the Penal
and Criminal codes have specified sanctions and the offence of abduction
committed by the militants in this regard is no exception. Nonetheless, the
State does not negotiate with criminals. No country does. Hostage taking has
political colouration. This brings out the peculiarity of the case under focus.
But this is not enough reason for the President to refer to them as
Terrorism is a neo-colonial concept aimed at further
subjugating developing countries to the lordship of the developed countries. The
developed countries comprising United States of America and Britain now use the
concept as a ploy for forcing less powerful countries to obey their dictates or
as an excuse to invade such countries. The search for terrorists was used as
excuse for invasion of Afghanistan by the United States after the 9/11 incident.
The search for weapons of mass destruction used by terrorists was given as
excuse for the invasion of the sovereign state of Iraq under Saddam Hussein
inspite of world condemnation of the act.
Countries of the world are now
scared stiff whenever the United States or Britain accuses them of harbouring
terrorists in their territory. Terrorism in today’s world is defined from the
microcosym of what these two countries think it to be. It was for neo-colonial
convenience that the President described those whose region’s deplorable
conditions have turned them into militants as terrorists. Shall we then fold our
arms and allow the goose that lays Nigeria’s golden eggs to be appellated as
havens of terrorists?
It is obvious that government’s intervention
agencies like the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission(OMPADEC),
Niger Delta Development Commission ( NDDC), due to under-funding and distorted
focus could not address the menacing poverty and environmental degradation
ravaging the region. The oil companies too have failed to duly respect the
Memorandum of Understanding ( MOU), signed with communities where they operate.
One should not forget that most of these oil multinational companies are from
United States, Britain and France. So, whoever or whatever group or community is
out to fight for justice that could impede the operations of these oil companies
easily becomes a terrorist in their view and that of the national government
This is the dilemma of the Nigerian government that has
elevated terrorism into state weapon against citizens fighting for protection
and guarantee of their welfare and interests to satisfy neo-colonial
There are dangers inherent in this development as the 2007
elections, third term agenda and protests against inhuman economic reform
policies in the country gather momentum. I foresee a situation where members of
the opposition against the hidden agenda of the Presidency would be branded
terrorists by the Nigerian State. The country is almost getting to that stage.
As commendable as the present effort at ridding the nation of financial
corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is, many
discernible eyes are already getting fiery and frightening traces of
witch-hunting in its activities. The New International Webster’s Comprehensive
Dictionary, 2003 edition defines terrorism as “a system of government that seeks
to rule by intimidation.” In Nigeria today, EFCC with all sense of modesty has
been turned into an instrument of intimidation. In its pursuit of a just cause,
most times, its timing, modus or conclusion gives room for
Beyond financial intimidation, the next stage might be
political victimisation and intimidation of those likely to constitute strong
opposition to deleterious official intents. It won’t be surprising to see Prof.
Wole Soyinka, Abubakar Umar, Anthony Enahoro and other activists branded
terrorists by the Presidency as 2007 elections draw closer.
politicians too might soon be branded terrorists by the government with their
opposition to the heinous political plan of this administration.. Bola Tinubu in
Lagos, Segun Osoba (former governor of Ogun), Orji Kalu in Abia, Boni Haruna in
Adamawa and their likes whose principled opposition to official irredentism
could lead to their being accused of terrorist activities. Some governors who
are afraid of being so tagged have been whipped to line.
Whether in the
Niger-Delta or in the South-South, whether in the South-West or South-East. Be
it in the North Central, East or West, the elevation of terrorism into state
policy as required by neo-colonial powers should be vehemently condemned by well
meaning Nigerians. It is a big disappointment for the President to brand his
citizens “Terrorists” in their own land. I wonder the defence the President will
proffer when neo-colonial powers wake up one day to tag Nigeria a terrorists
haven. His declarations of today will be used as evidence of facts
NIGERIA, ROMANCING WITH
Greek mythology says that "Whom the gods
would destroy, they first make mad"
The entity called Nigeria is MAD and
on a high profile romance with self-destruction. A country that would destroy
its environment to sell off its precious, depletable natural resources so that
its future generation would be destitute is really MAD. Like a drunk driver in a
temporal euphoric ecstacy of invincibility and arrogance, she speeds at 100
miles per hour without a care, on a romantic collision with her destiny,
self-immolation. Yes! Sell off the damn oil and gas as quickly as possible,
forget the future generation and enslave the noise-making owners of the
resources with lethal military power.
It now appears that Nigerians
learned nothing from the Biafra-Nigerian conflict. The romantic course of
nihilism begins in the creeks of the Niger Delta with the military occupation
and subjugation of Niger Deltans by Nigerian security forces encompassing the
Army, Navy and Airforce.
The questions any reasonable person would ask
1. Where is Nigeria heading?
2. Why is Nigeria rapidly
selling off its precious, depletable oil and gas meant for its own present and
future use? India and China and numerous other countries are buying up Nigerian
oil blocks to obtain the oil for their further industrialization and
diversification into alternative energy sources. What is Nigeria doing with its
oil, besides sharing the proceeds amongst the States or maybe
3. If Nigeria with significant amount of oil and enormous
amount of gas cannot generate enough electricity to industrialize for more than
forty years, how can she industrialize in the foreseeable future when these
energy sources are exhausted?
4. Does Nigeria have a roadmap for the next
50 years and in fact, the next 20 years beside sending an Armada of security
forces to intimidate or even detroy Niger Deltans in order to sell their oil and
gas to foreigners?
5. Are foreigners in Nigeria more important than
Nigerians on Nigerian soil to warrant the most recent massive deployment of
troops in the Niger Delta, endangering the lives of hundreds of thousands of
Niger Deltans? If so, how many Niger Deltan lives are equivalent to the lives of
one American, one Briton, one Bulgarian and one Honduran?
20 Niger Deltans?
50 Niger Deltans?
100 Niger Deltans?
6. Is the Niger Delta a conquered territory?
the Niger Delta a foreign country?
8. Is the Niger Delta at war with the
rest of Nigeria? If not, why are the Nigerian security forces not occupying and
militarizing Ogun, Osun and Oyo or alternatively, Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto but
mainly Baylesa, Delta and Rivers?
Even the blind can see beyond the
When Nigeria orders 15 more armed naval boats to terrorize or
destroy Niger Deltans in the name of security, instead of using the $15 million
(cost of the boats) to build Schools, Power Plants or even establish Fish Farms
to hire the teeming unemployed youths, her romantic interlude with
self-destruction has just intensified and right on the money.
Nigerian society values oil more than the blood of its Niger Delta citizens, she
is romancing with self-immolation.
When one generation's greed,
selfishness and material comfort threatens the well-being of later generations,
the romance with self-annihilation is accelerating.
When a nation loses
its soul, its conscience and its compassion for the down and out, the romantic
pact with destruction is sealed with uncanny precision and
When a ruling clique imposes a constitution of the few
corrupt and privileged elite, by the few corrupt and privileged elite for the
masses, the romantic macabre dance is in full swing.
When a corrupt and
crooked ruling elite protects itself through a constituionally fraudulent
immunity clause, the romantic death knell is boldly spelled out in its own
When those who hold Power over others define justice in ways that
serve their interests only, the romantic fatalism is well assured.
Political Office Holders fraudulently impose themselves on the masses through
massive vote rigging, the diabolical romance with nihilistic forces has taken
When the Powerful manipulate externals, so that the most
aggressive, crooked and cunning get the rewards and avoid the punishments, the
romance of death is just around the corner.
When Bini, Hausa-Fulani,
Igbo, Ijaw, Isoko, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Yoruba and all the other ethnic Nigerian
Youths are forced to roam the streets for survival, the romantic intercourse has
borne the fruits of violence, crimminality, thuggery and anarchy.
these hungery, angry and futureless teeming unemployed youths begin to question
their very existence and through reflection realize the fraud being perpetrated
on them by the perpetually self-recycling ruling Cabal, the romantic fireworks
of destruction will unfold and continue to gather momentum.
society openly operates on naked injustice, unbridled unfairness, gross
inequity, outright cruelty and insipid hatred for the resource owners and
downtrodden masses, the romance is elevated to a passionately violent
Violence begets violence and a society reaps whatever it sows.
Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. These statements have stood
the test of time and will continue to stand the test of time because they are
Kudos to the ruling Nigerian Cabal for their lethal use of
State violence to oppress the hapless, hopeless, helpless and penniless Niger
Deltans who are just unlucky to be sitting on one of the largest oil and gas
reserves in the world or at least in Africa. It is a crime to be lucky, if you
are a Niger Deltan. Yes, if you are a Niger Deltan, do not complain or you are a
crimminal. Yes, if you are a Niger Deltan, do not protect yourself from
environmental pollution or you are a noise-making lazy bum and trouble maker?
Yes, if you are a Niger Deltan, do not fight for your rights or you are a
militant. Yes, if you are a Niger Deltan, do not fight for your very existence
as a human being or you are an insurgent. Yes, if you are a Niger Deltan do not
defend yourself against the oppressive and atrocious Nigerian security forces or
you are a terrorist. Yes, if and if and if.......
If the gloomy eyes of
the hungry child scavenging for food in the slums of the Niger delta do not grab
If the sorrow of the homeless family in the Niger Delta
does not grab your attention:
If the cries of the unemployed woman in the
Niger Delta who turns to prostitution to survive do not grab your
If the final tears of the young Niger Delta mother dying
during delivery or childbirth because there are no hospitals for caesarian
operation do not grab your attention:
If the suffering and hopelessness
of the abandoned man in the Niger Delta dying of AIDS do not grab your
If the excruciating pain of the 7-year old Niger Delta girl
dying of Leukemia resulting from oil and gas pollution does not grab your
If the palpitating whimper of the 9-month old Niger Delta
child dying of brain tumor resulting from oil and gas carcinogens does not grab
If the wailing middle-aged Niger Deltan, dying from
asthmatic complications due to the gas flare does not grab your
If the massive pollution of the rivers, fauna and soil of the
Niger Delta does not grab your
If the eyesore of Bundu
Waterside in the Niger delta, unfit for even pigs to live does not grab your
If the collapsing and roofless schools, and deskless
classrooms in the Niger Delta do not grab your attention:
If the constant
gas flare poisoning the atmosphere of the Niger Delta does not grab
Then, extreme violence, the vigilante of the
Let the ruling Cabal in Nigeria keep elevating the
rythmic romantic macbre dance of fatalism to a higher masochistic crescendo. Let
Nigeria keep romancing with Self-Destruction. It's just a matter of time before
the vicious cycle of man's inhumanity to man gathers sufficient momentum to
But there is another path. The question is, will the
ruling Cabal and the few privileged and corrupt elite who thrive under the
present chaotic atmosphere choose this path? This path starts with:
Convening or supporting a national conference of all ethnic Nationalities in
Nigeria to decide their future and the way forward.
2. Creating for once,
a people's constitution.......a living constitution of the people, by the people
for the people and ratified through a national plebiscite.
starting points will lay the foundation for a virile, progressive and dynamic
Alternatively, the Powers that be can continue on the present
course and it will just be a matter of time before events unfold. Just a matter
of time before the cataclysmic implosion of Nigeria reverbrates throughout the
world to prove to mankind once more that the downtrodden who are violently
oppressed, suppressed, enslaved and disenfranchised will eventually respond in
kind by paying the ULTIMATE PRICE but with such ferocity and viciousness that
humanity will hold its breath. For the down and out at the bottom have nothing
else to lose. In fact, displaying a sardonic glee of utmost satisfaction, they
would go down with their kicking and screaming OPULENT oppressors, carrying the
rest of Nigeria along.
Only time will tell how Nigeria romances with her
Article contributed by Bright Harry from Silicon Valley in
IJAWS, NIGER DELTA VS THE REST
“The wind of change has started blowing in the Niger Delta” – Rowland Ekperi,
President IPA- Ijaw People’s Association of Great Britain and
Ireland and Ambassador plenipotentiary of Ijaws in the Diaspora.
Foaming at the corner tips of his mouth like somebody suffering from a
fit of bad lies- erstwhile General and military dictator- current despot
of Nigeria- Olusegun Matthew Aremu Obasanjo, speaking to members of his
hurriedly put together “Niger Delta committee of stake holders” read
out a speech laced with unbridled pathos and new found concern for Ijaws
and Niger Delta, read this…
The President said and quote “ I have discovered certain things, some of
them really heartbreaking. I have discovered the collapse of communities,
community values and ethos, communal life and spirit, I have discovered
multiplicity of militia groups. I have discovered painfully, violence being
extolled to the level of economic interest. I have also painfully discovered
a situation where leaders have not been able to lead for whatever reasons.
Where followers have wrecked the function of leadership from leaders. Where
leaders have been made impotent and where immaturity has been enthroned
with a lot buck-passing. We are here to move forward ”
One is obliged to see through this sudden and cultivated concern to a people
and region that has long suffered untold hardships- paradoxically for the
wealth they have wholly helped in creating for Nigeria- as nothing short
of playing to his selected gallery of yeah Sayers and a cosmetic dressing
for international consumption- the real stakeholders are far away in the
swamps of the Niger Delta in their disembowelled communities. See the names
of those in Obasanjo’s committee led by rtd AVM Larry Koinyan, this is
like a who is who in the grand circle of Ijaw subverts- Rear Admirals Porbeni
and Victor Ombu, AVM Ombu, AIG Sawyer, Generals. Maxwell Appah, John Ebi
Yeri, S.W. Diriya, Olotu Maxwell Appah. Colonels Timidi Boroni, M.F.Komonibo,
P.A. Larry, F.E.Lelei, P.A.Okubotin, L. Berezi, G.P.Okila, M.W.Itonyo,
Sam Inokoha and Major Oputa. DCP’s Awotua Efebo, Nibo Komonibo, Johnbull
Kontigo, Cecilia Olisa, Joan Alek, CP’s Dennis Ikoli, Kent Ikio and Goodluck
Major, Navy Capt. Walter Feghabo and G.Capt. P.T Atin. Why these retired
Military and Police personnel? The majority of them disconnected to their
People and communities, some would need a radar navigator to locate their
community and pass through an initiation ritual to establish their purported
pedigree of Ijawness- they are as distant to the problems of the Ijaws
and Niger Delta as the President himself.
What good will this ilk do this President? Unless he has ulterior motives
of logistic reasons for integrating these willing ex-service men to prepare
a systematic military solution or brutal onslaught on their kinsmen. Could
this President listen once and for all- these are no stakeholders or leaders
of their communities, some of them are the same Persons who have scuttled
entreaties and provisions made for the Ijaws. Before the mark we could
all discern the meaning of this ill-conceived divisionary ploy- what E.K
Clark has long termed a jamboree- a plan to deny the real stakeholders
and their communities any chance for effective change.
If there is one factor capable of making mince of Obasanjo’s third
term ambition, it’s the Niger Delta uprisings, he will not conceive to
institute a constructive committee that will usher in a new dawn in the
Niger Delta- for it will change the political grip of the already
falling arrangements of the old order and empower a new breed of activist
politicians that will route out his structures in the Niger Delta, the
Niger Delta if not handled sincerely- goodbye third term.
The demands and position of the Ijaw militias, activists, leaders and People
couldn’t be louder and articulate than in this moment- has as been often
stated publicly by spokespersons. The Obasanjo Government should explore
these real channels of Niger Delta advocacy, not some misguided felons
who runs the seats of power for contracts and are perpetually inclined
to nod the positions of Abuja.
Chief E.K Clark, the father of the Ijawnation has refused to be part of
what he has termed a jamboree- it’s a rope he has walked before, he knows
the thin lines and trappings, he understands the marks, it’s like walking
a political minefield, he has chosen the part of meaningful dialogue, political
maturity and brinksmanship. INC-Prof. Kimse Okoko, youth organisations
and leaders, MEND, IRA, IYC, NDPVF has stood by Chief Clark- The Ijaw community
en masse stand by you all- we stand shoulder to shoulder- our resolves
is unbent. Our will power to define and chart our destiny does not rest
with the latitude of this President or others but in our vision and strength.
Oronto Douglas paper- “A Guide To A Politically mediated Settlement” should
be seen as highlighting some of the previously put forward panacea and
reinforcing the position of the Ijaws and Niger Delta communities- other
than this, his paper without consultations with Chief Clark, Prof. Okoko,
MEND, Ijaw NGO’s, youth groups and their leaders, would be seen as an undercurrent
slapping the shores of Abuja for recognition and political grandstanding
to the collective interest of the Ijaws- the need for a consultative forum
of our leaders and activist is underscored in this defining moments in
the history of the Ijawnation, unilateralism would not be encouraged, the
positions of individual and groups without the fiat of the consultative
forum would be discarded
When Rowland Ekperi aptly and amply coined the above phrase, little did
he or most of us knew then what was to be the domino effect it would have
on Ijawland, the Niger Delta, and entire Nigerian landscape- the region
has since developed a new political awareness, a new class of restive youths,
well articulate in their demands and forever established to re-arrange
the old house order- we are still at the incipient stages of this new consciousness,
the full import of Ekperi’s well thought out diction is yet to manifest-
words could be powerful and applicable eternally.
The Niger Delta, home to Nigeria fourth largest tribe- the Ijaws, 14 million
and still counting- is the host community of oil exploration and exploitation,
responsible for 95% of Nigeria’s foreign earnings and GDP respectively,
but unfortunately this region and people have been systematically excluded
from the dividends of the oil wealth.
In the last ten years this has led to hostility between host communities-oil
Conglomerates- and Federal Authorities, sometimes escalating to downright
serious arms confrontations with the magnitudes of civil war proportions.
The summary trial and execution of Ken Saro Wiwa by the Abacha military
junta regime, for the first time brought out an unbridled outrage of the
People of this region and somewhat measured response by the West. Then
there were the massacres of Odi and Odi Ama respectively, pogroms at other
communities- all carried out on the orders of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
Thought at that time to be an intimidating action directed at the people
to cow and subjugate them to docility while they are further subjected
to vulnerability and exploitation. But history itself has thought us differently,
not too long ago there was Isaac Adaka Boro- freedom fighter and resource
control champion- then there was Kenule Saro Wiwa -enter Mujaheed Asare
Dokubo and other splinter militant groups.
What has these strong arms tactics thought us in dealing with indigenous
People who call for social justice and a more equitable remunerations of
natural resources found beneath their very soil? It is evidently
clear that the application of violence in dealing with People who call
for peaceful and constructive changes for a better society for all is like
creating and breeding a monster with all the combustible element of explosion
for a later day revolution.
Crisis unending has since engulfed the Niger Delta, it has now assumed
international proportions. Kidnapping of foreign hostages is an added dimension
to this already volatile region. Splinter militant groups before unknown
has since given a new definition to the struggle for equitable oil resource
distribution, we are all now faced with an Herculean task of finding workable
ideas and solutions to the Niger Delta quagmire.
What does it take a nation to right the unforgivable wrongs done a People
and region?- genuine disposition to reconciliation, even as I hate the
word, release Asare Dokubo and other political prisoners from the Niger
Delta, a demonstrative will by the Nigerian Government to listen, concede
and implement the fair and legitimate demands of the Ijaws and Niger Deltans.
For a President like Obasanjo- who thinks he is on a messianic mission
to rule Nigeria, a man with a monumental taste for empire building, a man
who loves to display a false sense of international diplomatic grandeur
and importance, a man that could not be taken for his words- ironically
he is finding himself in a pit of cynicism in which he as always held others,
who can trust this man to be sincere to the Ijaws and Niger Delta People?
should give the Ijaws and Niger Delta People their fair chance in the
stake of the Nation. The Niger Delta quagmire could as well be Obasanjo’s
and Nigeria’ cul-de-sac.
|Ijaws won't attend
stakeholders meeting in Abuja
The Ijaw in Niger
Delta will not honour the proposed all-stakeholders meeting being planned by the
federal government in Abuja. The meeting of all Niger Delta stake-holders which
would hold on April 5, 2006 according to the federal government would enable all
the parties including to critically look at the Niger Delta Problem and proffer
solution on how to end the restiveness in the region.
leader and former Information Minister, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark said on
Wednesday at his country home in Kiagbodo, Burutu local council, Delta State,
that the Ijaws in Delta State and in other Niger Delta states would boycott the
meeting. Clark told journalists that all Ijaw leaders in the Niger Delta had
been directed not to honour the meeting. Clark said that Ijaws were learning
from past experiences. He said Abdulsalam set up a committee headed by Maj. Gen.
Popoola to look into the problems of the Niger Delta but the comprehensive
report submitted by the committee was never implemented due to the divergent
views and demands by the various groups in the Niger Delta.
that Abdulsalam promised to spend N15 billion between April-May 29, 1999 in the
Niger Delta before leaving office but no one knows the whereabouts of the N15
billion till date. Adding that the decision to establish a federal university in
the riverine Ijaw areas and to step down the national grid from Owerri to
Yenagoa in Bayelsa state never materialised.
Describing the proposed
meeting in Abuja as another gimmick to doge the pertinent issues raised by the
Ijaws of Niger Delta Clark said the decision by the federal government to call
the "jamboree meeting or conference" came to the Ijaw as a shock. Another reason
why the Ijaw would not honour the conference, according to Clark, "is that each
governor has been directed to nominate five representatives to attend the
proposed conference in Abuja.
He argued that most of the governors might
nominate people from the state who have no stake in the present crisis due to
the heterogeneous nature of the states. Clark therefore urged President Olusegun
Obasanjo to open dialogue with the ijaw leaders and youths to find a lasting
solution to the Ijaw problem in the Niger Delta
|South South and the Presidency
The struggle for the post of the President of
Nigeria by 2007, now effectively vacant, has begun with the North and the South
South as front-runners both in terms of their insistence and the articulation of
their preferences in the public domain. The South West is automatically out of
the race having spent the last seven years in office (?). Some other
geo-political zones, particularly the Middle Belt, are not as enthusiastic. The
South East makes some occasional noise about its interest in the Presidency, but
Ndigbo is disunited, and this is its biggest problem, its leaders sound
ambivalent, those who have expressed interest in the Presidency from that zone
have too many internal enemies who are determined to stop any other Igbo man
Beyond this internal division, the North has never hidden the fact that it is
opposed to the idea of an Igbo Presidency; it is an option that the North never
considers. Other ethnic groups have also never really forgiven Igbos for the
civil war. But whenever it is eventually the turn of Igbos to be President,
Nigeria would have become a far more politically enlightened country; the ghosts
of the past would necessarily have been laid to rest. But that is a subject for
another day, lest some ethnic wrestlers misinterpret my true position in the
What is indicated in the present circumstance, however, are the same old
issues about power rotation, power shift, and the need to run this country in a
manner that every stakeholder will feel a sense of belonging. It is now
incontestable that one possible way to ensure national unity in this country is
to allow power to rotate among the various stakeholders, including the smallest
groups. Ethnicity is an eternal albatross that Nigeria must carry like the load
of Sisyphus. Section 55 of the 1999 Constitution which recognises only three
major ethnic groups: Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa, makes other Nigerians look like
passengers in the Nigerian arrangement.
In the past decades, the marginalised, minority groups, owing to the spread
of Western education among them and their awareness of international human
rights, have very radical in responding to all images of internal colonialism.
They are opposed to internal colonialism, especially the type that is endorsed
by Section 55 of the Constitution and which is given full effect in governmental
operations. They want this displaced in order for us all, as individuals and
citizens to have a proper country, and build a nation. The minorities began
their struggle long before now, and that is the import of the Willinks
Commission and successive protests by that region (Adaka Boro, MOSOP and Ken
Saro Wiwa, Niger Delta Volunteer Peoples Force, MEND etc) , but it seems certain
that the future of Nigeria is tied to the resolution of the anxieties of the
minorities. When one minority in a particular geo-political zone is offered a
sense of belonging, other minorities, who indeed collectively represent the
majority in Nigeria, would have been granted a sense of possibility. Human
beings are driven by a sense of possibility. They are driven to desperation by a
sense of denial and closure.
Am I speaking in parables? No, and I guess the thing to do is to immediately
contextualise the present struggle for power. The North wants power desperately.
It is already fighting as if its life depends on it. Power is the oxygen that
keeps the North alive. For 35 years, the North held on to power at the centre,
and ruled Nigeria as if it belonged to one particular group. That is the Fulani,
for it would be wrong to assume that power in the hands of the North we knew
meant the Hausa (who are not even accepted as an ethnic group by the Fulani) or
any of the other marginalised groups in the North who must be subservient to the
Fulani to gain any form of attention. The Fulani are in more than twelve
countries in Africa as a nomadic group and wherever they are either as
majorities or minorities, their acute interest in power is a permanent aspect of
the power equation. In more than seven years in power in Nigeria, they have been
shut out of the corridors of power, and access to the control of Nigeria's
Obasanjo who suffered immensely in the hands of his Fulani successors in
power has not been very kind to the general Fulani group since he came to power
in 1999. One of them jailed and humiliated him. Obasanjo has also further
displaced the Fulani hegemony. He destroyed the LPO system which sustained that
hegemony; he offered positions to children of the North but he refused to put
them in charge of the economy. The economy, he handed over to Ndigbo, thus
creating an ironic balance. The North's bid for power in 2007 is in part a
response to this withdrawal factor; this marginalisation of the North by the
To worsen matters, he who used to be their man and candidate has refused to
be manipulated by them. He has for the most part ran his own show in the last
seven years, the defects of that show are singularly traceable to his own
limitations, already well-defined elsewhere. In addition, the average Nigerian
continues to nurse a deep-seated grudge against the North and its principal
icons. Thirty-five years of Northern domination of political power brought few
advantages to the North, if anything, it further divided the North. Is there any
guarantee that the return of power to the North would create a different
situation? This is the basic issue that the Northern elite must worry about even
as they search for a candidate that would represent the interests of a
non-existent monolithic North.
But where do we stand in relation to this as Nigerians, as ordinary Nigerians
who are not looking for power on an ethnic basis but who are just interested in
being citizens of a country that works? It is not difficult to know what
ordinary Nigerians want. They want a country that is properly managed. They want
a country where the human being can feel a sense of humanity. They want leaders
who are motivated by a sense of the common good and an interest in history. They
want a united country where a Yoruba man can woo a pretty Ijaw woman and not
feel that he is doing something strange. They want to live like the people of
London and New York where even the poorest of the poor do not have to worry
about those details that give ordinary Nigerians the greatest anxiety. They want
to live like human beings, and this includes those rude Nigerians who abuse
others on the internet with their terrible, ill-mannered prose. Ordinarily, it
should not matter where a leader comes from as long as he is a leader, but
nations are not the same and societies must manage their own circumstances.
By far, the South South seems to have prepared a more reasoned claim to the
Presidency through both advocacy and militancy. The latter method represented by
the likes of MEND and its band of hijackers and the Asari Dokubo group on the
other end of the scale may have attracted much criticism but no one can claim
not to know what the South South wants. This remains clear even if some of the
elites from that region nearly diluted that message with their open, may be
insincere declaration of support for the Third Term agenda. They have however
since recovered their voice, heard loudest during the National Conference and
almost simultaneously through such groups as the South South Peoples Assembly,
with their articulation of the compulsory need for a South South President in
2007. The South South probably has the largest collection of advocacy groups
seeking justice and equity for the people of that region and the power question
is right at the centre of that agitation. Nigeria's refusal to listen to the
complaints of the South South and by extension the cries of the minorities is
largely responsible for the instability in the country. There is no other place
like the Niger Delta in the world. At the moment, the South South's search for
power at the centre can be linked to ethnic power politics, and it actually
looks like a credible entry point into resolving the national question. But
perhaps not exactly as the South South elite is currently phrasing it.
It seems to me that the South South search for power is predicated on the
woolly assumption that once a man from that region becomes President, the fears
of the people of the Niger Delta and their neighbours would be addressed
automatically. Our experience with political power in Nigeria has shown that
ethnic anxieties are not necessarily addressed by the kinsman in power. It is
possible to have a South South man in power and he could prove to be an enemy of
South South interests and a good promoter of his own selfish ambitions. It is
true that if the South South were to win the Presidency in 2007, it would be a
great revolutionary development indeed.
But the South South must never be under the illusion that the North would
willingly grant it that opportunity simply because there is violence in the
Niger Delta. South South leaders must take their search for power beyond the
level of rhetoric. They must organise, organise and organise. They must also
reach out to other Nigerian constituencies, groups and stakeholders. A minority
South South President will be kept in power not by MEND and the Asari Dokubo
group or Egbesu boys but the consensus of other stakeholders. Such insular and
regional methods adopted by the ethnic militants in the South South can only in
the long run prove to be politically counter-productive.
The other challenge before the South South is to identify the right and
proper candidate, and build a consensus around that candidate. The SSPA after
its last meeting in Port Harcourt had said that its plan is to appeal to every
political party to choose a South South Presidential candidate. That kind of
wild goose chase makes no sense to me. To gain power the South South must
operate as a united front if it is serious about its ambitions. But having won
power, it would then face the bigger task of ensuring that the man who gets to
power on the South South platform will be not just a nationalist, but a
nationalist with "a local base".
For sure, a South South Presidency will be resisted by the North which claims
a superiority of numbers, and has shown a tested capacity for power politics.
Strategists of the South South Presidency must begin to worry about how to sell
their candidate(s) to the average man in the North who may have been tutored to
believe that the presence of a South South President in Abuja could mean a
reversal of all inherited advantages. Can the South South find a bridge-builder,
someone with the political savvy and maturity to navigate Nigeria's troubled
waters, a man or woman that can be trusted with Nigeria? If such candidates
exist, the South South must move beyond media posturing and sentiments and name
such persons without any further delay...