Strategic Factors and Options: The Management of Propaganda and False
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.,
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
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
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,
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
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
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:
Okhomina, O. ( October 13, 2003). Group laments attacks on Clark. Vanguard. Online: http://www.vanugardngr.com/articles/2002/niger_delta/nd313102993.html/
Olise, A. (October 22, 2003). Navy impounds ship, arrests 20 Russians,
others with stolen oil. The Guardian. http://ww.guardiannewsngr.com/news/article02.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Morever, such photographic pictures can be used automatically as
evidence in case the oil companies and Nigeria were being sued.
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