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Strategic Factors and Options #2


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Strategic Factors and Options:  The Management of Propaganda and False Information

By Priye S. Torulagha

Due to the strategic significance of the Niger Delta, the region is being bombarded and saturated with propaganda.  Propaganda can be defined as an organized program of publicity or selected information used to propagate a doctrine or a point of view or an idea (Abate, 1997).  It could be used to educate or misled, depending on the desire or intentions of the propagandist.  Generally, a propaganda can only be effectively neutralized through a well coordinated information decoding and response system.

It can be said that the Ijaws are victimized by propaganda emanating from many sources. It can further be said that the Ijaws are managing the situation very well, despite being handicapped by the lack of informational resources, particularly, a major newspaper or magazine.  This can be attested to by recent systematic responses to falsified allegations and innuendos.   In short, the Ijaws are increasingly speaking with a coordinated voice on internal, regional, and national matters.   This orientation to the dispensing of information must be maintained in order to clearly enunciate the Ijaw position on critical matters that affect the Niger Delta region and Nigeria.

To support the view that the Ijaws are doing better in managing information, it might be necessary to point out some of the fallacies that have been thrown at the Ijaws since the beginning of the Warri crisis.  Since the crisis, the Ijaws have either been accused or characterized or depicted by the following:

a.       That the Ijaws are expansionists because they want to control the entire Niger Delta.

b.      That the Ijaws are aggressive violators of other peoples rights in the region

c.       That the Ijaws are terrorists.

d.      That the Ijaws want to secede and are laying the groundwork for the destruction of Nigeria

e.       That the Ijaws are not fighting for the democratization of Warri but are bent

on controlling the entire subregion so that only they can own the oil revenue

f.        That the Ijaws and Urhobos of Warri are mere tenants and not aborigines of Warri

g.       That Chief E. K. Clark is not a son of the area

h.       That the Ijaws do not want to work hard and build their own cities but want to take over other peoples’ lands and cities.

i.         That the Ijaws are criminals for vandalizing oil company properties in theNiger Delta.

j.        That the Ijaws are committing genocide against a small ethnic group.

Based on the above falsehoods, calls have been made to pressure Nigeria and the international community to use force against the Ijaws.  Calls have also been made to have Ijaw leaders arrested and tried for sponsoring terrorism and killing innocent people. 

It is obvious that the strategy of the other side has been to use disinformation and diversionary tactics in order to misinform and deceive Nigerians and the international community about the facts concerning the Warri conflict.  Part of the strategy has been to frighten other Nigerian ethnic groups, particularly, those in the Niger Delta, from associating and strategizing with the Ijaws. 

Instead of joining the propaganda war by throwing mud, the Ijaws have concentrated on the issues.   Hence, it can be said that since the Warri crisis began, Ijaw leaders have never used derogatory or provocative words against the Itsekiris while Itsekiri leaders and activists have repeatedly used provocative and derogatory words against the Ijaws. 

The information management strategies for the Ijaws should continue to be guided by the following orientation:

1.  Never throw mud by spreading falsehood or disinformation.  The reason being that falsehood has a way of back-firing on the originator.  The greatest strength of the Ijaws lies in always endeavoring to tell the truth.  There is more to be gained in telling the truth than lying. 

2.  Always concentrate on the facts.  The facts are the best defense as well as offense, whether politically, legally, morally, and militarily. 

3.  Generally, when someone or a group relies extensively on falsehood or disinformation, it means that the person or group is becoming very desperate.

4.  Falsehood, which is another word for lying, is very addictive.  When a person or a group relies extensively on falsehood, after a while, the person or group becomes addicted to the lying tendency and becomes incapable of confronting truth.  This then leads to self-exaggeration and self-defeat since the facts are confused with falsehood and the liar cannot differentiate the facts from the fantasized imaginations.

5.  The Ijaws should never underestimate the intelligence of another human group.  Underestimation often leads to over-estimation of the self and the serious underestimation of the capability of the other group.  Mighty leaders and nations have been defeated militarily and politically as a result of this psychological tendency.

6.  Never use derogatory terminology against another human race or ethnic group, regardless of the degree of conflict.  Like the previous tendency, doing so leads to a psychological feeling of “superiority” of the self and the assumed “inferiority” of the other group.   As you can see, since Nigeria’s independence, the Ijaws and other smaller ethnic groups have constantly been derided and subjugated.  It is a great surprise to many Nigerians that they do not know much about theIjaws.  They are also surprised by the fact that the Ijaws have refused to play along with a prescribed stereotypical road map.  So far, on the Warri conflict, the Ijaws have maintained self-control by not using derogatory language against the other side.  They have insisted all along that they want separate local governments for the Ijaw, Itsekiri and the Urhobo, no more no less.  They should stand firm on the need for separate local government councils for the three ethnic groups so that all Nigerians, regardless of ethnicity, should be treated equally politically, legally, militarily, and economically.

7.  The Ijaws should never overestimate their capability and potential.  An undue overestimation can lead to false analysis and conclusions.  So far, the Ijaws, throughout the struggle for resource control, have been very careful not to appear arrogant through overestimation of their potentiality.  They have been very willing to negotiate the issues.

8.  The other coin is that the Ijaws should never underestimate their capability and potentiality.   An undue underestimation can lead to self-defeat and a dependence on others.  In fact, it can be said that it took the Ijaws a very long time to wake up from decades of political sleep due to lack of self-assurance.  As a result, they waited for Nigerian leaders to do the right thing by treating them fairly.  Of course, national and regional leaders failed to do so.

9.  Sections 1 through 8 are very important variables for any struggle.  History shows that great leaders and nations have been defeated or conquered by less powerful leaders and nations due to excessive falsehood or propaganda, exaggerated self-importance, serious underestimation of the intellectual capability and development of the opponents.  There are many examples.

a.  The Great Darius 111 of Persia underestimated the military capability of Alexander the Great.  In the ensuing battle, Alexander defeated him and conquered Persia around 300 BC ( Wallbank ,Taylor, and Bailey, 1976, p. 118). 

b.  The Romans felt so superior to the extent that they referred to other groups as “Barbarians.”  Well, the barbarians (German tribes or Visigoths, the Mongolians, and the Moslems contributed immeasurably to destruction of  the Roman Empire (Ibid., p.195).

c.  The Mongols overran China in the 13th century and established the Yuan Dynasty.   Around the 17th, 18th, and the 19th centuries, Chinese emperors referred to the Europeans as “Barbarians.”   When the Europeans, led by Britain, attacked the great China in the 19th century, it collapsed, hence, Hong Kong was colonized by Britain.

d.  The United States underestimated the tenacity of the Vietnamese people.  It ignored their martial history and their ability to survive great odds.  It had to withdraw in a less than glorious manner.   The United States, can further be said to have also underestimated the problems that were likely to take place in Iraq.  The war is over, yet, victory is being achieved in a piecemeal manner.

10.  Channels of communication should always be open, regardless of the degree of conflict or hatred or pain.   These allows for various options and the possibility of an end game to any misunderstanding or conflict.

11.  Any false information or disinformation intended to cause a negative portrayal of the group or the group’s intentions must be countered as soon as the falsehood is planted in the airwaves or in the newsprints.   The reason being that when a fallacy is not quickly challenged, in due time, people come to associate the falsehood with the truth or the facts.  In recent times, the Ijaws have done a marvelous job by responding forthrightly to challenge false information. 

a.   For example, the response to the false reports that the Ijaws had given the Yorubas an ultimatum to vacate the city of Warri was superbly done.  If the Ijaws had not responded quickly, the Yorubas would have felt that a war had been declared against them and the Ijaws would have been forced to fight on four fronts at the same time – the Itsekiris, the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Army, and the Yorubas, for no reason at all.  The opponent really wanted such a front to develop. By responding very quickly, Nigerians were made aware of the facts of the Warri crisis. 

b.  As the Warri crisis dragged on, the Ijaw Peoples Association (IPA) of Great Britain and Ireland “called on the Federal Government to implement the reports of various past commissions of inquiry as a means of finding lasting solutions to the crisis (Ebiri, September 25, 2003).  The call was published in a national newspaper (The Guardian).

c.  When some Itsekiri leaders published reports that the “origin of the Ijaw leader (Chief E.K. Clark) was unknown and questioned the Ijaw nations on the ownership of areas in Warri,” the Warri Ijaw Leaders Forum immediately responded by saying “to keep the records straight, we like to let them know that Chief E.K. Clark is an aborigine of Warri having hailed from Ikiam Idumu in Ogbe-Ijoh town in Ogbeh-Ijoh kingdom, in Warri South West Local Government Area.” (Okhomina, October 13, 2003).  Think about it for a moment, it is the responsibility of the Ijaws to decide who becomes their leader.  Consequently, why would another ethnic group be so interested helping the Ijaws to pick their own leaders?  The Ijaw response was very effective.  Again, Nigerians were exposed to the dirty tactics that are constantly being deployed to deceive them about the Warri situation.

11.  While it is always necessary to react by countering false information, careful analysis must always be made before any reaction is initiated.  This is necessary to avoid falling into a political or a military trap.  In conflict situations, it is not unusual for an opponent to release false information in order to cause the other side to react in a certain way or entrap it.  Consequently, the Ijaws should never jump the gun by reacting aimlessly to a falsely planted information which is intended to achieve a certain objective.

To avoid any entrapment, whenever a provocative statement is published by those who  wish to cause political harm, the Ijaws should always carefully read and digest the information, then discuss strategies to counter the information.  If necessary, they should call upon any of their sons and daughters and friends to map out a well-articulated plan before responding to the provocative information.  To achieve this kind of objective, it is necessary for all Ijaw groups and leaders (including both establishment and non-establishment) to communicate across ideological lines so that an acceptable and a reasonable response can be made without overreacting.

A coordinated response requires that all Ijaw youth groups communicate frequently with the Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw Youth Council so that there will be no speaking with multiple voices.

12.  While it can be said that the Ijaws have done a wonderful job at the regional and national level, the international level continues to present a problem.  The oil companies and their home countries have yet to respond positively to the expectations of the peoples of the Niger Delta.  Instead of listening and trying to forge a warmer relationship with the indigenes of the region, these international actors have been acting as if the indigenes do not matter.     The oil companies continue to behave as if they are states within a state of Nigeria.   A number of intentions and actions which are inimical to the interest of the Niger Delta have been perpetrated.

a.  Most people in the region were surprised when it was floated that the United States would like to send its security forces to protect American oil facilities in the Niger Delta.   The Confederation of Niger Delta Youths in Akwa Ibom and other groups reacted angrily at such a proposal (Akpan, September 2, 2003).

b.  The oil companies are mounting very serious and falsified public relations campaigns to announce to the entire world how generous they have been in helping to develop Niger Delta communities.  For instance, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd.(SPDC) announced through its General manager, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu that it had spent N8.7 billion on community development activities in 2002 (Ighodaro, October 16, 2003).   Chevron, to the consternation of the peoples of the Niger Delta, was awarded the 2003’s U S Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence for supposedly helping to evacuate over 3,000 people from the Warri crisis (Ujah, October 21, 2003). The award is a slap on the faces of the peoples of the Niger Delta, particularly the Ijaws, who have repeatedly been brutalized by Chevron’s security operations.

c.  The oil bunkering activities of international cartels and syndicates have been very destabilizing to the Niger Delta.   Their home countries do not seem to care about the illegal oil transfers.  The Nigerian Navy has caught many ships illegally siphoning oil from the region to the world markets (Olise, October 22, 2003).

13.  To solve the international communication problem, the Ijaws and other concerned indigenes of the Niger Delta should now focus their attention on publicizing the plight of the peoples of the region in the Western media.  The governments and citizens of the Western nations (US, Britain, France, Holland, Italy) need to be told about the nefarious roles of the oil companies in the destruction and marginalization of the Niger Delta.  Various groups and individuals should write letters addressed to Western governments, environmental organizations, and the United Nations.  In addition, articles should be written and sent to the Western media concerning the destructive habits of the oil companies.  The articles should be backed by factual evidence, including dates, eye witness accounts, and pictures.  The major ethnically based organizations such as the Ijaw National Congress and the Ijaw Youth Organization should ask Western governments (through their embassies in Nigeria) with oil interests in Nigeria to explain their official positions toward the Niger Delta.

So far, the activities of the oil companies and their home countries clearly demonstrate the fact that there is a double standard concerning human rights and the right to equal political treatment.   Consequently, the Ijaws and the other ethnic groups in the Niger Delta must watch the situation very critically and not falsely assume that everything is fine.    The battle is onerous and continuous since the Niger Delta is faced with unrelenting foes. 

14.  Thus, managing information effectively is a critical part of the struggle for political and economic democracy in Nigeria.   As a result, when making a rebuttal, focus on the ideas or facts or logic or evidence presented by the author and not attack the person.

15.  Finally, do not be afraid to admit a mistake when one has been made.   It reinforces credibility.   When a subgroup or a movement within the ethnic group misbehaves, do not be afraid to criticize it so that corrective measures can be instituted.



Abate, F.R. (ed).  (1997).  The Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus.  American Edition.  Oxford.

Akpan, A.  (September 2, 2003).  Group opposes deployment of US troops to Niger Delta. The Guardian. Online:  http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/news/article16.  9/2/03.

Ebiri, K. (September 25, 2003).  Ijaw in Diaspora want govt to implement panels reports on Warri.  The Guardian.  Online:  http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/news/articl08.  9/25/03

Ighodaro, J.  (October 16, 2003).  ‘Shell spends N8.7 bn on community development. Vabguard. Online:  http://wwwvanguardngr.com/articles/2002/niger_delta/nd116102003.html.  10/21/03.

Okhomina, O. ( October 13, 2003).  Group laments attacks on Clark.  Vanguard. Online: http://www.vanugardngr.com/articles/2002/niger_delta/nd313102993.html/ 10/13/03.

Olise, A. (October 22, 2003).  Navy impounds ship, arrests 20 Russians, others  with stolen oil.  The Guardian.  http://ww.guardiannewsngr.com/news/article02. 10/22/03.

Ujah, E.  (October 21, 2003).  Chevron wins US award over N-Delta evacuation exercise.  Vanguard. Online:  http://www.vanguardngr.com/articles/2002/niger_delta/nd2221102003.html.  10/22/03.

Wallbank, T.W, Alastair Taylor, and Niles Bailey.  (1976).  Civilization: past & present. Seventh Edition.  Glenview, Illinois:  Scott, Foresman and Company.

Strategic Factors and Options #2 By Priye S. Torulagha

At about 3:00am, the CBS Night News made a brief coverage of the Niger Delta situation.  The reporter commented about the poverty of the region and why the indigenes want resource control of the oil.

Nigeria's Ambassodor to the United Nations, Chief Louis Mbanefo tried to put a good face by blaming the oil companies for not helping to provide amenities to the Niger Delta communities. He did not mentioned the fact that the federal government of Nigeria had totally neglected the region for over forty years. Instead, he expressed an alarm over the demands of the indigenes to control the petroleum resource. In other words, he does not want the federal government to allow the oil-producing states to have a greater control of the oil revenue.

Although the news report lasted for about three minutes, yet, the fact that an American major news outlet covered the Niger Delta situation showed that little by little, the people of the region are making an headway by informing and educating the world about their bitter experiences with the way they are treated by Nigeria.

Thus, as stated many times in the past, the people of the Niger Delta must ceaselessly utiilize every technologcal means of communication to inform the world about what is going on in the region. The Ijaws, in particular, cannot cease for one minute to tell their own side of the story to the world. Consequnetly, Ijaws must become voracious readers and listenres of news from every part of the world in order to know what is being told about them. 

In this regard, it is the responsibility of every Ijaw man and woman who lives in various parts of the wolrd to digest daily news reports about the Niger Delta and the Ijaws so that effective rebuttal can be mounted to neutralize any false information being spread.

It should be reminded that the Ijaws are being stereotyped as "troublemakers" and "terrorists."  Do not forget the Federation of American Scientists (FAS)typecasting of the Ijaw National Congress, the Ijaw Youth Coucil, and the Egbesu Boys as "terrorists."

It is not a coincident that some Itsekiri elements are adopting the "terrorist" and "troublemaker" characterizations to describe the Ijaws over the Warri crisis.  Tactically, the Itsekiri elements who are adopting the stereotypical approach to the Ijaws are doing so in an effort to encourage the federal government of Nigeria to launch military attacks against the Ijaws.  Those who adopt this strategy try to ignore the root cause of the Warri crisis. They rarely make any comment about the inequality of political opportunity in Warri due to the Rwandanization of the politics there. They always consciously avoid metioning the fact that the minority is trying to dominate the majority Ijaws and the Urhobos.

It is also not a coincident that Governor Ibori refered to the Ijaw fighters as "terrorists" while visitng Koko Town in Itsekiriland.  He used that word as a way of reinforcing the view that the balance of power will not be changed to disadvantage the itsekiris.  Governor Ibori has been in power for almost four years, he has not used his power as the chief executive of the state to alter the ward system.  he attacks the symptoms wiithout doing anything tangible to ameliorate the cause of the problem.

The Ijaws must be media savvy and be willing to open channels of media comunications with every major news outlet throughout the world in order to counter any poisonous attempt to destroy their reputations.

As part of the effort to counter any disinformation and misinformation, it is now necessary for every Ijaw community, political and environmental organization to

have in possession video and photographic cameras. These devices are very powerful tools to educate the world.  For instance, if the Gbaramatu communities had such devices, as soon as the towns and villages were attacked or destroyed by the federal security forces, a photographic picture flashed throughout the world via the internet would have created so much impact about the Warri situation.  Likewise, the easiest and the most effective way to inform the world about the destructive and destabilizing roles of the oil companies is to flash across the globe pictures of oil company helicopters working closely with Nigeria's security forces to attack and destroy Ijaw communities.

Such pictures can be sent automatically to the world's major news organizations such as the BBC, CNN International, the French News Agency, The New York Times, The Washington Post etc.  They can also be sent to the United Nations, United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, China etc.

Morever, such photographic pictures can be used automatically as evidence in case the oil companies and Nigeria were being sued. 

So far, the Ijaws should congratulate themselves for responding aggressively to the Warri crisis. By petitioning the federal government of Nigeria, contacting regional, national, and international organizations, and news outlets, they were able to counter the disinformation that was being spread about the crisis.

Keep working with other groups in the Niger Delta to demand the signing of the offshore/onshore dichotomy abrogation bill, the changing of the ward system in Warri and resource control. Ignore totally the outside elements who challenged the Ijaws recently to declare a Niger Delta Republic.  There are many ways to achieve political goals.  Moreover, the Ijaws have a God given right to always choose strategies that suit their circumstances and not fall prey to any mischevious outside advice.

It is time to start a campaign for the creation of another Ijaw state. Remember, every disinformation must be countered.