We Dare To Be Different.
The Port Harcourt Crisis: A Product of an Imposed Political Fraud by the PDP
By Priye S. Torulagha
Although many Nigerians do not seem to recognize the relationship between the violent crisis in Port Harcourt and the democratic fraud instituted by members of the oligarchy, there is no doubt that Port Harcourt is a symptom of a much larger political problem in the country. Another way to look at the crisis is to say that the Port Harcourt crisis is the beginning of the unraveling of the political fraud that was imposed on Nigeria since May 29, 1999.
The following postulations are made in order to unravel the core of the Port Harcourt crisis: (1) There is a relationship between the Port Harcourt crisis and the national political fraud imposed on the Nigerian people, (2) the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is responsible for planning, creating, germinating, and perpetuating cultism and political thuggery, not only in Rivers State but throughout Nigeria, (3) the PDP Board of Trustees, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Governor Dr. Peter Odili and current Governor Sir Celestine Omehia of Rivers State, etc. are some of the backers of the cults or political armed groups in Rivers State, (4) the security forces ( Police, Army, Navy, and the State Security Service) are active participants in perpetuating the Port Harcourt crisis, (5) the storm troopers or cults were responsible for putting Nigeria’s political office holders in power in 2003 and 2007, and (6) the current crackdown will not solve the problem of cultism in Port Harcourt.
1. There is a relationship between the Port Harcourt crisis and the National Political Fraud imposed on the Nigerian People
It appears that many Nigerians are assuming that the Port Harcourt crisis is merely a Niger Delta issue because the region is prone to conflict. This assumption could have been influenced by the growing stereotypical view that Niger Delta people are greedy and perpetual troublemakers, hence, looking for cheap ways to make money without actually working to earn it.
The truth is that the crisis is a product of the national political situation in which a group of self-appointed Nigerians decided to impose themselves upon the Nigerian people. To do so, they pretended to be democrats and used the system to enhance themselves by creating a political environment that destabilizes the entire country. They threatened political candidates and other Nigerians who do not approve their methods, massively rigged elections, forced voters not to vote, compelled the police and other state security agencies to look the other way and even helped them to carry out their plans. It should be recalled that when PDP assumed power in 1999, political area boys began to rear their heads, starting from Lagos, as political storm troopers. As the Lagos situation got stabilized, the incidents of area boys and cults began to crop up in Oyo, Plateau and other states. Then Anambra became the epicenter of the effort to impose political leaders, resulting in violence. In fact, even a coup was attempted in Anambra to try to force a governor that was installed by a powerful individual in the PDP to vacate the gubernatorial throne. Despite the overt violation of the law, former President Obasanjo did not do anything. The police did not arrest anybody for staging an abortive coup and disturbing the public peace. The Army did not go out in full force to forestall the coup and arrest the coup plotters. Instead, the major sponsor of the coup, Chief Chris Uba, was rewarded by the PDP for his services to the party. It is not surprising that the police, army, and the SSS did not go after anybody for staging a coup, yet, the police and the SSS constantly harassed Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) even though the leader and the group had promised to achieve political demands within the framework of the legal system. Thus, the issue of cults, political thugs, armed militias, hired hands etc. started becoming a problem in every part of the country. In other words, the Port Harcourt crisis is a microcosm of the national political situation
The fact that the Port Harcourt crisis is a product of the national political situation should not be taken lightly, considering the fact that up till today, the Nigerian Police Force and other investigatory agencies have not successfully prosecuted and convicted anyone for the murder of prominent Nigerians. It should be noted that after each murder, the police would publicly parade some suspects on television as the main culprits and then disengage from the case. This meant that the assassinations were carried out through the sanctions of some highly connected individuals, thereby, compelling the police not to rock the political hands that feed them.
In Port Harcourt, the situation became explosive due to the fact that the Niger Delta is in an angry mood over the issue of resource control. Moreover, there are well established armed groups that are fighting for resource control. Therefore, if the Port Harcourt situation is not well handled, it could degenerate into a national crisis due to the relationship between the PH crisis and the national political situation, emanating from imposed political leadership and the massive corruption that the imposed system generates throughout the country.
2. The PDP is responsible for planning, creating, germinating, and perpetuating cultism and political thuggery, not only in Rivers State but throughout Nigeria
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo ascended the political throne as the head of a democratic government on May 1999, Nigerians jubilated and hailed the occasion as the end of a military dictatorship and the beginning of a civilian driven democratic system where peoples’ votes determine who becomes a political leader. As a result, Nigerians failed to pay attention to the process which enabled Chief/Gen. Obasanjo to become the president. In short, former President Obasanjo was handpicked by the country’s oligarchs and imposed on the Nigerian people. Thus, the democratic process was not allowed to run its course or germinate. As a result, military dictatorship was immediately replaced by the “Dictatorship of the Oligarchy”. In particular, the military institution, as a ruling entity, was replaced by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) syndicate.
The PDP tested power and loved the result, consequently, decided to make it impossible for any opposition political party to challenge its hegemonic power over the nation. To perpetuate itself as the ruling political party, the PDP appeared to have borrowed ideas from the Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico (IRP) and the National Socialist Party in Germany. It should be noted that the IRP dominated Mexican politics for almost eighty years. It did so by rigging votes, intimidating candidates, and imposing its candidates on the people. The opposition never had a chance in Mexico until the late 1990s. Similarly, opposition political parties in Germany did not have a chance against the Nazi party in the 1930s and early 1940s.
One way in which the PDP perpetuated itself was by recruiting youths to become political storm troopers. Some people refer to the storm troopers as “cultists” or “area boys” or “political thugs” or “bad boys” or “killers” or “militias”. “Storm troopers” are used here to refer to the groups which work for politicians due to the resemblance of PDP tactics with those of the National Socialist Party of Germany (Nazi) before and during the Second World War. It should be recalled that the National Socialist Party and Adolf Hitler used the pretext of democracy to get into power. After getting into power, they recruited youths and former soldiers who fought during the 1st. World War and encouraged them to use violence to silent the opposition. These gangs were referred to as “Storm Troopers”. The Storm Troopers eventually became the members of the SS and the Gestapo. The SS and the Gestapo made sure that everyone conformed to the masterplan advanced by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. As can be seen, the PDP came into power under the guise of democracy, then, recruited storm troopers to protect its interest and make it impossible for the opposition to compete. Similarly, the PDP imposed political candidates on the Nigerian people without allowing them to vote to determine who should rule over them.
The primary function of the storm troopers, as envisaged by the godfathers of the PDP in the early 2000s was to protect the political interest of the members of the PDP at the national, regional and state levels. The storm troopers were encouraged and allowed to use intimidation and violence, just as their Nazi counterparts, to prevent Nigerians from truly exercising their democratic rights. Thus, the political storm troopers made sure that political opponents could not campaign and or win elections in the country while PDP reigns. They made sure that voters could not vote. They made sure that ballot materials could not reach their destinations. They made sure that election officials did not reach their polling stations. They stocked ballot boxes with pre-made ballots that overwhelmingly favored the PDP. It is not surprising that the PDP presidents and their governors supposedly won electoral victories with large margins, even in districts where the number of registered voters were actually less than the numbers who were reported to have voted in 2003 and 2007, especially, in Rivers State. The storm troopers, indeed, executed their duties magnificently, hence, no elections were held in the true sense of the word in 2003 and 2007 in many parts of the country.
Some of the opposition political parties and candidates tried to imitate the PDP by adopting similar tactics through creating and sponsoring their own storm troopers to counter the PDP. However, they could not match the PDP proficiency in executing its deadly SS and Gestapo-like schemes. They could nt because the PDP used the resources of the state, including the police, army, and the SSS t consolidate its strangleholed on the nation. Consequently, opposition political parties and candidates could not compete at all with the Almighty PDP during the 2003 and 2007 elections. This is why only very few opposition candidates have been able to win elections as governors, senators, representatives, and local government chairpersons. Some of the opposition parties crumbled and the oligarchs among their members quickly joined the PDP.
The exception between PDP tactics and those of the Nazi Party is that the Nazi Party centralized its management of the storm troopers by turning them into government organizations while the PDP failed to centralize its management of its storm troopers. This allowed individual politicians within the party to create and manage various groups of storm troopers. By allowing individual politicians to create and manage their own gangs of political intimidators, the PDP and the Federal Government let loose a political virus. The virus became malignant as the political and financial stakes got so high, thereby, forcing politicians to adopt a do or die attitude toward being in power. Political and financial stakes became so high because the acquisition of immense wealth through embezzlement depended largely upon being in political power, whether as a president or a governor or a senator or a representative or a local government chair person or a speaker of the house or a chair of a legislative committee or a minister or a director of a government agency. The conditions and reasons described above still prevail today.
In Nigeria, under the PDP system, as borrowed from the military regimes, the acquisition of wealth is directly connected to being in power. Therefore, making it as a governor or a senator or a representative or a minister or a government director etc. is critical to being rich. Since almost every politician has a band of political assistants and storm troopers, the financial fate of these workers are tied to the success of the political boss. If a particular politician successfully makes it by occupying a political office, it means that the person’s assistants too will smile to the bank one way or another. Similarly, the storm troopers who worked for the politician too would be enriched in terms of political power and money. On the other hand, if a particular politician fails to occupy a political office or become an influential government official, it means that the politician’s assistants and storm troopers too would not make it financially and politically since assess public money depends on being in power.
Thus, unlike the Nazi system, the PDP system breeds uncontrollable rivalry among politicians within the same party. When ever there is a political opening, three or more politicians within the party compete to occupy the position. For instance, if four people compete for the position of governorship within the PDP in a state, it means that at least four storm trooper groups would be involved in the rivalry, with each group trying to force its political boss to the throne. The rivalry leads to threats, intimidations, and violence. Thus, in every state in Nigeria, there is a cult or an armed group which is associated with a particular politician. In Rivers State, the cults control the legislative districts, in proportion to the political representatives who rule over the legislative districts. This means that every legislative district in Rivers State is predominated by one or two cult groups or political storm troopers.
Although, hidden under the rubric of democracy, the present political system in the country is not a democracy but an oligarchy. Oligarchy is a political system in which a small group of people govern the state, quite often, for their self-interest. Oligarchs generally do not care about the welfare of the citizens. As can be seen, those who have governed Nigeria since the inception of civilian rule in 1999 have not cared whatsoever about the plight of the Nigerian people. They have principally been driven by the need to enrich themselves, no matter the circumstances. As a result, it is not unusual for entire state and local government budgets to be converted into personal ownership by those who occupy political offices. Generally, since 1999, the governors have acted as if they have a constitutional right to own the wealth belonging to their states. Similarly, local government chairpersons too have acted as if monies allocated for their local districts are merely a political gift to them. The members of both National and State Assemblies too have acted as if they are entitled to the national wealth of the country. In fact, nothing has changed in the legislative branches of the national and state governments, even with coming of President Yar’Adua. As a result, in keeping with the notorious reputations of previous Speakers of the National Assembly, the current Speaker of Nigeria’s National Assembly, ……Eteh is already mired in corruption and irresponsible financial behavior. Similarly, in keeping with its notorious reputation for corruption, the PDP is doing everything possible to protect the speaker. Why would the Speaker of the National Assembly care about ordinary Nigerians or show some degree of sensitivity to ethics when she is protected by the oligarchic PDP and she acts like an oligarch in the true sense of the word?
3. The PDP Board of Trustees, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Governor Dr. Peter Odili and current Governor Celestine Omehia of Rivers State, etc. are the backers of the cults or political armed groups in Rivers State
Although, there is no concreted documentary evidence to show convincingly that the PDP is the sponsor of the Port Harcourt crisis, nevertheless, it is inferable that the PDP Board of Trustees, both in the past and now, former President Obasanjo, former Governor Dr. Peter Odili, and current Governor Sir Celestine Omehia, former Speaker Rotimi Amaechi etc. contributed immensely to the crisis because they backed the efforts of the cults in various ways to impose themselves on power and perpetuate the PDP control of Rivers State. The actions and inactions of the PDP and its national and state leaders are excellent indicators of the supposition that the Port Harcourt crisis is sponsored. The following actions and inactions reveal a lot:
a. Nationally, in both 2003 and 2007, the PDP hand-picked candidates to become elected public officials without subjecting them to the mandate of the Nigerian voters. In particular, due to the increase in the Federation Account of the oil producing states, the PDP made sure that politicians from other political parties did not have any chance of serving as governors in those states. Even within the PDP, candidates selected to serve as governors in the oil-producing states were expected to receive the mandate of the members of the inner core of the PDP because the party wanted to use the wealth of these states to oil its political machines throughout the nation. This is why in both 2003 and 2007, Timi Alaibe was discouraged to run against the PDP preferred Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha and Chief Timipre Sylva-Sam in Bayelsa State. Similarly, no one was allowed to challenge Dr. Peter Odili in Rivers State, Chief James Ibori in Delta State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion in Edo State, Chief Attah in Akwa Ibom State. Thus, to ensure that the party was not threatened, storm troopers had to be recruited and financed, particularly in Rivers State, to intimidate any potential challenger to the PDP throne. The stratagem was repeated in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Edo, and Imo.
b. Due to the importance of Rivers State to the PDP, Dr. Odili was considered a favorite son of Chief Obasanjo. As a result, the governor was untouchable politically for almost eight years. Even though allegations of corruption were reported nationally, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did not have the political power to probe the governor. The commission waited until the governor fell from grace of Chief/Gen. Obasanjo after he was rejected as the presidential candidate of the PDP before moving to Port Harcourt to probe the financial activities of the governor and other public officials. It is possible to say that the godfather and godson relationship between Odili and Obasanjo fell apart when Odili refused to support the third term desire of Obasanjo. Odili could not support the third term because he was interested in the presidential office. In punishing the godson for disloyalty, the godfather refused to sanctify the presidential candidacy of Odili as the flag-bearer of the PDP.
There is no doubt that the governors of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo contributed massively to the coffers of PDP in return for the party protection against opposition threats. Between 2000 and 2007, Rivers State was the destination of choice for PDP national stalwarts. Bayelsa seemed to be the second destination of choice for these politicians. On the other hand, former governor James Ibori of Delta State had to do everything possible in his power to minimize the issue of whether he was a convict or not. This meant lavishing PDP leadership and high level police officials with money. Evidently, most national politicians and public officials who visited the oil-producing states often returned to their homes with truckloads of Ghana Must Go Backs. The governors were quite generous to these political visitors from Abuja and other locations in the country. In addition, the governors of these state donated generously to national causes, in the hope of greasing the palms of their godfathers and godmothers and consolidating their political and financial control of their states. Former Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State openly said that some of the monies for which he was accused of embezzlement were actually given to the PDP. At first, former President Obasanjo denied Dariye’s statement before admitting that the PDP had received some money from the governor.
c. Dr. Odili had presidential ambition from the moment he became the governor of Rivers State. His entire agenda during his governorship was tailored toward consolidating his presidential candidacy. Hence, he toured the entire country and donated public funds to every imaginable project. While he was very generous to national causes, he was not quite generous to the citizens of his state. One could not recall any instance in which he gave millions of naira to any community in Rivers State. As the time for 2007 elections drew nearer, he spent most of the time outside the state and gave and gave and gave money in the hope of becoming the PDP presidential candidate.
d. Before the 2007 elections, it was announced on the national media that a South-South governor would sponsor the campaign activities of the PDP. Many Nigerians thought that Dr. Odili was the likely candidate. However, some people pointed to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as the likely governor. Thus, within two weeks of that news publication, Dr. Jonathan was selected as the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, thereby, drawing attention to Dr. Jonathan as the likely candidate who sponsored the PDP. Sponsoring the PDP involves billions of naira. To do so, the state governor must divert funds from his own state budget. It would not be surprising that the PDP had been exhorting money fro state governors since it got into power. One wonders how much the oil-producing states sacrifice so much money in order to enrich the PDP.
e. The PDP made sure that its favorite politicians and public office holders did not fall under the investigative eye of the EFCC. As a result, charges of corruption and alleged corruption were directed mostly at those who challenged the PDP and former President Obasanjo. Thus, Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was politically protected until he began to speak more forcefully about the resource control issue and showed support for Atiku Aubakar’s presidential ambition. As soon as the members of the inner core felt that he was no longer a believer in the PDP system, the EFFCC was ordered to probe and set him up, hence, the London drama. Likewise, there is no doubt that when the former vice president decided to run for the 2007 presidential ticket, against the interest of Chief Obasanjo, the EFCC was directed to bring him down. Similarly, it is not until Dr. Odili decided to oppose the third term for Chief Obasanjo that the EFCC decided to probe him.
f. Despite complains about the activities of political storm troopers (cult groups), neither the PDP nor former President Obasanjo took decisive actions to get rid of the political tumor that was growing. On the realization that the political storm troopers had political connections to the corridors of power, both at Abuja and in the state capitals, the federal security agencies took a ‘ no hear and no see’ attitude toward cult groups. Consequently, in Port Harcourt, for years, the cults or storm troopers had more power than the army, navy, SSS, and the police. Senior police, army and naval officers posted to the city and the Rivers State had to kowtow to the political reality that the cults had extensive influence and were untouchable.
4. The security forces (Police, Army, Navy and the SSS) are Active Participants in Perpetuating the Port Harcourt Crisis
In Germany, in the 1930s, the official government law enforcement agencies and the army did not try hard enough to weed out the storm troopers. Instead, the storm troopers succeeded in weeding out prominent officers among the ranks of the police and the army. Similarly, in Nigeria, the armed forces, police and the SSS looked the other way and allowed the PDP to violate the democratic rights of the people. In Mexico, the government security agencies worked openly to perpetuate the IRP.. Similarly, in Nigeria, the government agencies identified with the PDP. In some circumstances, agents of these government institutions abetted the PDP in carrying out its undemocratic practices. One could not recall any instance between 1999 and 2006 in which the heads of the armed services, the Inspector Generals of the Police and the directors of the SSS sternly warned the PDP to desist from sowing the seeds of political destruction of the country. Instead, the SSS and the police went after opposition candidates and leaders of civil society organizations. In fact, due to extensive collaboration between the government agencies and the PDP, former Inspector General of Police, Chief Tafa Balogun, ended up serving as the chief political fireman of the PDP. He spent more time covering for the PDP and Chief Obasanjo than enforcing the law. Sunday Ehindero, who succeeded Chief Balogun as the Inspector General of the Police, also played the role of a political fireman for the PDP rather than being the chief law enforcement officer of the nation. As a result, both of them covered the political assassinations that took place during the periods of leadership of the NPF.
a. As stated before, the police, army and the SSS remained aloof throughout the period in which the people of Anambra State were being traumatized. It should be recalled that after the attempted coup failed to remove Dr. Chris Ngige, some youths were allowed to carry out the destruction of government properties in the state. Again, the law enforcement and security agencies remained unconcerned. Similarly, former president Obasanjo and members of the National Assembly acted as if the situation in Anambra was normal. This meant that the destructive activities were supported by the highest level of government in the country in an effort to punish Dr. Ngige and the people of Anambra for refusing to succumb to the pressure of the PDP to remove Dr. Ngige.
b. Despite the fact that Dr. Nigige was being threatened, the police actually removed the body guards that protected him. At a time, the police were allowed to guard Chief Chris Uba while allowing Governor Ngige to go without any police security. Thus, the chief coup plotter received police protection and the victim of the alleged coup did not receive any protection. As the events surrounding the attempted coup were being revealed, the chief police officer (Commissioner of Police Agu) responsible for carrying out the coup died mysteriously, in a typical PDP inspired method of neutralizing those who know too much or are considered to be a threat to the hegemonic power of the organization.
c. In Port Harcourt, the security services even helped to heighten the state of tension. It was obvious that the government agencies were taking sides. It should be recalled that Dokubo Asari was the first to renounce the use of violence, as a leader of the Niger Delta peopled Volunteer Force. He negotiated with former President Obasanjo and Dr. Peter Odili, the former governor of Rivers State. He surrendered his arms as part of the agreement to deescalate conflict. However, while he opted for a peaceful negotiation of the issues, the police and army constantly provoked him by harassing his followers. On the other hand, the security services did not go after the groups and leaders who, at the time, had not renounce violence. On numerous occasions, Asari was compelled to speak out publicly on why the security forces were constantly after him even though he had renounced the use of violence while leaving the leaders of other groups untouched. Eventually, the police tricked him and had him arrested and charged for treason. It was after he had been detained that the police and the army started going after Ateke Tom. Suddenly, the police and the army started harassing him and his boys. On two or three occasions, the army launched major attacks against him, under “Operation Flush Out’. Like Asari, Tom had to speak loudly in the hope of dissuading the security forces from coming after him. He even mentioned in one of his press statements that the governor of the state wanted him killed. While the police and the army went after Tom, they ignored other groups that were doing the same thing that Tom and his group were doing. This meant that the political godfathers in the state were no longer favorably disposed toward him. During this time, Soboma George was untouched and was allowed to roam free. This meant that the political leaders of the state were favorably disposed toward George. tHus, the police and the army did not go after him the way they were going after Tom.
d. In the current security crackdown, attention is focused on Soboma George and Ateke Tom. Other cult groups or storm troopers in the state are not being sought. The fact that the focus is on two or three groups and not others, even though it is a widely known fact that cult groups are scattered all over the state, means that national and state political leaders are only interested in weeding out groups that are now considered threatening to the political interest of those in power. It also means that political leaders are not interested in thoroughly purging the state of cults. Similarly, when the current governor of the state, Sir Omehia, says that he is going to demolish the impoverished waterfront neighborhods around Abonnema, Njemanze etc., he is saying that he wants to destroy only the groups that are threatening his political hold on the state, not all the cult groups in the state. Otherwise, he would have requested a state-wide crackdown of all cult groups or political storm troopers. Thus, barely a week after the Port Harcourt crackdown, cult violence erupted in Emohia and in Ogoniland. Twenty people were reported to have been killed.
e. It could even be said that the PDP, state officials, and the security forces are now focusing on Soboma George, Ateke Tom in an effort to eliminate them because they know too much about the activities of national and Rivers State officials in sponsoring political violence and assassinations of prominent individuals in the state. If George and Tom and other group leaders were to talk about all the deals and activities that have taken place in the state involving them and state officials, many heads could roll. Otherwise, the Army would not have destroyed an entire hotel just to try to kill George. In the process, innocent Nigerian lives were sacrificed. If the Army knew that he was in the hotel, why did they not try to arrest him and make him talk so that investigators could gather evidence to go after the political godfathers that sponsor various storm troopers? The blasting away of the hotel reminds one of Odi and Odiama. In other words, when ever the military confront some obstacles, they tend to overact uncontrollable, thereby, reinforcing the view that the Nigerian military is still focused philosophically on the tenets of the West African Frontier Force that was created by the British to subdue African ethnic groups during the process of colonization. As a result, the armed forces do not feel comfortable around Nigerians. They tend to view the Nigerian civilians as enemies, hence, brutalize them during any confrontation. This is not an understatement, considering the fact that after cracking down on the storm troopers or cults, soldiers man-handled innocent residents of Port Harcourt. Fortunately, probably for the first time in the history of Nigeria, senior Army officers spoke loudly against the behavior of the soldiers. This was a marked departure from the past in which senior military officers always support the actions of their men.
5. The Storm Troopers or Cults were Responsible for Putting Nigeria’s Political Office Holders in Power in 2003 and 2007
Based on the discussion above, it is inferable that the so called elected national and state elected officials, whether in 2003 or 2007, were put in power by the ‘votes’ of the storm troopers and not by those of the Nigerian people. These groups rigged the elections, destroyed ballots, stocked the ballots, intimidated voters, forced election officials not to show up at their polling stations, threatened political opponents not to mount successful political campaigns, threw bombs, and assassinated those considered to be too threatening to the political interests of the anointed candidates.
Evidently, it is not a coincident that prominent Nigerians have died more between 1999 and 2007 than at any other time in the history of Nigeria. It is also not a coincident that the PDP led government is responsible for assassinating more Nigerians than any other regime in the country. In short, the PDP makes Gen. Abacha’s regime quite civilized.
Now, using the argument being made by many public officials and some Nigerians that political office is an investment, the storm troopers or the cults or the area boys or the armed boys are demanding a fair share of the loot being perpetrated by public officials whom they helped to put in power. It should be reminded that Chief Chris Uba and many political godfathers and godmothers had insisted and continue to insist that money given to political candidates is a form of business investment and they have a right to recoup their investments in political candidates. Therefore, using the same logic, it appears that the storm troopers or cults or political thugs are also demanding a return on their investments. After all, without their sacrifice, most elected officials in Nigeria would not have had the opportunity to occupy political offices, thereby, amassing unbelievable personal wealth
They are demanding a return on investment because they invested their lives to put the elected officials in power. What is happening is that most of the so called elected officials are very greedy or are forced to become greedy by their colleagues and the incredulous system they put in place to hoodwink Nigerians. As a result, when they finally get into power, they quickly forget the boys who helped them to succeed. The boys become angry that their services to the elected officials are not being compensated fairly, based on the totality of the amount being acquired by the elected officials through looting. For instance, if an elected official suddenly becomes a multimillionaire for being a governor or a senator or a head of a legislative committee, the boys, through intelligence, are able to know the sudden wealth being acquired by the official whom they helped to put in power. If the official is suddenly worth N300,000,000, the boys want a share of that wealth. If the official refuses to compensate the boys based on what the boys think is a fair share, the boys will react one way or another to show their displeasure
Apart from helping to put political candidates in power, the boys have also been called upon by the highly connected in society to provide escort and security services to oil bunkering operations. Generally, oil bunkering is carried out by high government officials, highly connected businessmen and women, high ranking military and police officers, and international syndicates. This is why ocean going vessels are involved in bunkering. This is why a number of oil bunkering ships have literally disappeared while in the custody of the Nigerian Navy. This is why Nigeria’s political leaders are not very serious about enforcing the law against bunkerers. This is why the owners of African Pride are not in prison. Thus, when the boys protect the ships, barges, and trucks that transport stolen oil to their destinations, they expect to be paid well for the risks they take in doing so. Unfortunately, like the so called elected officials, many big oil bunkerers seem to be greedy and not willing to treat the boys fairly, as the boys imagined.
One major reason why the storm troopers or cults or area boys or the bad boys are not treated well after elected officials get into office or an oil bunkerer makes a big deal is due to the fact that many of the boys come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. As a result, the elected officials and the oil bunkerers assume that they can get away by ignoring the boys and using government security forces to protect themselves against the boys. However, the boys are very bold and smart, they are able to beat the government security system and directly threaten officials who refuse to pay them their fair share.
Their ability to outmaneuver the politicians was amply demonstrated when the mothers of Governor Omehia of Rivers State and the Bayelsan Speaker of the House and an 11 year old son of a member of Bayelsan House of Assembly were kidnapped. Similarly, in Port Harcourt, the storm troopers have divided the entire state into political and financial zones.
As the politicians and major national oil bunkerers ignored them after having achieved their political and business goals, the boys quickly learned to survive. They turned themselves into armed militias and use the skills acquired in executing political violence and escorting ships, barges, and oil trucks into a well-oiled bunkering operations. To do so successfully, they fight among themselves to control oil-bunkering territories. Today, many cults or armed militias or area boys or storm troopers are self-sufficient in terms of money and guns. They have acquired arms beyond what the politicians originally provided for them. Thus, they have developed ingenious ways to sustain themselves.
Although, denigrated, insulted, and castigated for their services as ‘hired hands”, the storm troopers or area boys or cults, or thugs, or bad boys or militias have extensive knowledge about those ruling Nigeria. They also have extensive knowledge about which businessman or woman is doing what. They know how many Nigerians became rich through illegal means. Therefore, the storm troopers are not afraid of any political official in Nigeria, whether at the national or state level. How can they be afraid when they know how public officials got into power? How can they be afraid when they know how some of the multimillionaires acquired their wealth? How can they be afraid of the law when they know that political leaders do not obey the law? How can they be afraid when they know that the politicians relied on their services to protect their political and financial turfs?
To understand the
The Rivers State situation like the Bayelsan situation is made worse by the dirty game that the PDP played within the party to select candidates during the April 2007 elections. It should be recalled that before the April elections, a number of names were floated by PDP as the potential gubernatorial flag bearers of the PDP in Rivers State. Then with fanfare, former Speaker of the House of Assembly in Rivers State, Chief Amaechi, was anointed as the future governor. Thereafter, without any explanation, he was removed and replaced by Sir Omehia. Both are said to come from the same area. Some even say that both are related. Thus, the PDP leadership in the state played politics with these two politicians, their supporters and the people of the state. By playing one against the other, their supporters were forced to become violent. The storm troopers that are associated with Amaechi became hostile to those that are associated with Sir Omehia. This tension was recreated throughout the entire state during and after the elections or periods of political imposition of political candidates. The rivalry is magnified because now that Sir Omehia is the governor, it means that his assistants and armed supporters are smiling uncontrollably as the money flows into their pockets as paybacks for their services. On the other hand, the political assistants and armed supporters of Chief Amaechi are angry because they have to scramble to make a living. The Amaechi vs. Omehia rivalry is replayed hundred times all over Rivers State as political winners and their supporters are smiling while the losers and their supporters are angry for being cheated by the PDP system.
Due to the intertwined relationship between the storm troopers and the political leaders of the state, the police, army and the State Security Service cannot do much to neutralize the storm troopers. It should be recalled, as stated above, that when Dokubo Asari decided to make peace with President Obasanjo and Governor Odili, he was surprised to realize that both the president and the governor were not too interested in disarming the boys that were sympathetic to their political side. In fact, Asari, on a number of occasions wondered why the police and the army were not making any effort to disarm the other groups in the state while he had surrendered his arms. During this time, Ateke Tom was untouched by the security forces while Asari boys were constantly harassed. Then, when the state political leaders decided to go after Tom, he was harassed the way Asari was harassed earlier. While Tom was being harassed by the police and the army, no effort was made to clamp down on the groups that were said to be on the good side of the governor and members of the government.
Thus, by playing the ‘divide and conquer’ game with the storm troopers, the political leaders literally set the stage for violent confrontations by the armed groups. It should be recalled that the PDP played the same dirty game with Bayelsa State after Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was nominated as a vice presidential candidate. Instead of anointing the deputy governor as the gubernatorial candidate of the party during the April 2007 elections, the PDP politically traumatized the state by picking one candidate after another until Chief Timipre Sylva-Sam suddenly emerged as the gubernatorial candidate of the party. In both states, the electoral process was so hampered that almost two-thirds of the states populations did not vote.
6. The Current Crackdown will not Solve the Problem of Cultism in Port Harcourt
Based on previous history, the current military crackdown will not solve the Port Harcourt problem. Neither will the crackdown solve the state problem. The reasons for the doubt are based on the following factors:
a. As usual, the crackdown is temporary and selective. The focus is on groups that are not receptive to the governor and the government in power now. Groups that are on the good side of the governor are left to exist tactically. As stated before, crackdowns in Rivers State have always been selective. At one time, Asari was the target, later, Ateke Tom, now, it is Soboma George. There has never been a political will to solve the problem in a comprehensive manner. It should be recalled that Operation Flush Out was instituted to stop Asari. Then, the army was unleashed to stop cultists in Abuloma. The army has been sent more than two times to flush out armed gangs in Okrika. Even Ogbakiri has been visited by the army. Despite these occasional operations, no other steps have been taken to get to the root cause of the problem. Therefore, the current military/police operation too will only result in a temporary reprieve.
b. The crackdown will not solve the problem because both national and state politicians are in a state of denial. They are pretending as if they do not know the root cause of the problem. The PDP created the problem because it wanted to exercise political power by shortchanging the democratic system. Every elected official, including the Speaker of the National House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Eteh, Governor Omehia of Rivers State, the Rivers State Minister of Information, the Commissioner of Police, the Army Command in Rivers State etc. are making statements as if they are innocent of the violent drama they conceptualized and activated.
c. The Port Harcourt problem will remain because everyone is trying to blame the youth gangs instead of the politicians and the PDP which invented the storm trooper philosophy in its political roadmap, the heads of the security services for allowing the PDP to impose candidates and prevent the electoral system to truly determine who should rule, and the national bunkerers who are enriching themselves through the services of the boys.
d. The cult problem will remain because the political and financial stakes are high. It is a known fact that in Nigeria if a person becomes a governor or a speaker of the house or a senator or a representative or a local government chairperson, the person would instantly become wealthy. On the other hand, if a person is unable to occupy a political office, his/her chance of acquiring wealth becomes slim. This being the case, politicians, not only in
e. The military crackdown will not solve the problem because those who are engaged in oil bunkering need the services of the storm troopers to carry out clandestine operations. There is no doubt that the army, navy, police and the SSS are quite familiar with those highly connected Nigerians who are engaged in this treasonable offence. As far as those connected Nigerians continue the trade, the storm troopers will always be protected one way or another. Hence, the government only seems to engage in selective crackdowns.
f. The military crackdown is selective because the boys know too much about who is who in Nigeria. They know how the politicians got into power. They know how the politicians amass their wealth. They know how certain individuals become super rich. Therefore, if a comprehensive crackdown were to be carried out, some youths would talk and point fingers at some of the biggest political fishes, not only in Rivers State but throughout Nigeria.
g. The crackdown on the storm troopers will only be very selective and temporary because those in position of power, not only in Rivers State but throughout Nigeria would not want the boys to talk openly about who ordered who to be killed. In other words, the armed gangs are quite familiar with who ordered former Attorney General, Chief Marshall Harry, Chief A. K. Dikibo, Barnabas Igwe and his wife, Funsho Williams etc. to be assassinated.
h. Even an imposition of emergency rule will not solve the problem of storm troopers in Nigeria, particularly in Rivers State. First, no politician, not even the president would be willing to declare an emergency in Rivers State. Similarly, no current public office holder, including the president, governors, senators, representatives, and local government chairs would support new elections. To do so, they would have to agree that they assume their current political offices illegally. The PDP would be forced to admit that it has been imposing candidates on the people of Nigeria without the votes of the people to determine who should rule or not. If the president were to impose an emergency rule with a view of conducting new elections, the governor of Rivers State could challenge the president in court by saying that the president does not have the legal right to do so since his own position too was determined by other means and not through genuine elections.
i. The Port Harcourt problem will not be resolved because there is a tendency to focus on Port Harcourt and ignore the national character of the problem. The Port Harcourt problem is indeed an extension of a national problem because the PDP created it in an attempt to grab power and reward its members.
j. The cult problem in Port Harcourt will remain because the Army, Navy, Police and the SSS do not have the manpower and the resources (equipment) to engage in a comprehensive cleaning of the problem. If these forces try a national clamp down, they would overstretch themselves, thereby, enabling the storm troopers to grow even stronger.
k. Passing an anti-cult law too will not lead to the disappearance of cults. The cults are the procreations of the politicians and the elite generally. The politicians would not engage in any act that would diminish their political importance in a country where the primary means of acquiring wealth is through the occupation of public office. If such a law is passed, the police will be tactically prevented from enforcing it, considering the fact that when ballot machines were found in the residence of Chief Adedibu, the most powerful individual in Oyo State, former Inspector General of Police, Sunday Ehindero, openly said that he had no power to arrest the political godfather. In other words, Ehindero was saying that the police did not have the political clout to arrest such a powerful individual.
l. The Port Harcourt crackdown will not solve the problem because the storm troopers or armed gangs have developed classical guerrilla tactics to evade annihilation. As the troops and the police mount roadblocks, the armed boys will lie low and wait. Some of the boys will surrender while others would not. Some of the public officials making noise in Port Harcourt today will pay later when the boys decide to payback in kind what the army and Airforce had done to them and their supporters.
It is evident that the Port Harcourt cult problem is a microcosm of a national political problem because the PDP systematically created it. In order to solve the Port Harcourt problem, it is necessary to develop a national action plan to deal with cultism or political storm trooping. To successfully do so, the war on corruption must be executed fearlessly. This is the only way to reduce the perception that political power amounts to financial wealth. As far as acquisition of wealth is connected to being in political office, those who want to acquire wealth will do anything, including hiring the services of political storm troopers to pave the way.
As can be seen, Nigeria is gradually degenerating into a state comparable to Colombia and Pakistan. In these two countries, armed groups are so embedded in the fabric of society to the extent that the national armed forces are unable to wipe them out. In both countries, there are regions in which national security forces cannot step in. If they try, they are easily overwhelmed by the armed groups. In Nigeria, there is no doubt that the Niger Delta is increasingly becoming a no-go zone for the armed and police forces. If the political and economic issues are not amicably resolved before it is too late, what is happening in Port Harcourt will be described as a child’s play compared to what the situation would be without the resolution of the multiple issues.
If President Yar’Adua is really interested in deescalating armed confrontations, he must do the following:
a. Accept the Port Harcourt crisis as a symptom of a national political problem generated as a result of the violation of the democratic process through imposition of public officials by the PDP. Develop a national policy aimed at reducing cultism throughout the country and not only in Port Harcourt.
b. Reform the entire electoral system so that rigging and imposition of candidates are drastically reduced. In subsequent elections, no one should be allowed to occupy any public office without winning a majority of the votes of the voters for that particular office.
c. Allow the courts to process and proceed with ongoing legal suits being filed against the PDP over the election results of 2007. The decisions of the courts must be obeyed in every case involving pubic offices.
d. Thoroughly clean the PDP of non-democratic elements so that the party stops imposing individuals as elected officials on the Nigerian people.
e. Remove any public official from power who is connected to the cults, regardless of whether the person is a governor or a minister or a director.
f. Fight corruption. Currently, the acquisition of personal wealth is tied to holding public office. Thus, in the last forty years, wealth has primarily been associated with working for government. Consequently, people get into politics because they want to acquire wealth by looting from the public treasury.
g. Impose severe punishment on those who embezzle. It is impossible to reduce armed confrontation when the financial stakes are so high as politicians compete fiercely to be in power and acquire wealth.
h. Create a conducive environment for economic growth so that the youths would have legitimate means of sustaining themselves.
i. Visit the resource control matter to reduce armed opposition in the Niger Delta. As far as national, regional, and state politicians and public servants steal from the state and violate the rights of the indigenes of the oil-producing region, the youths there would continue to resist by every means possible.