Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The real emancipation of the Niger Delta
I WOULD lend my unreserved support to any group genuinely engaged in a principled and focused emancipation struggle for the peoples of the Niger Delta. If I perceived this sincerity and clarity of purpose in groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force (NDPVF), the Niger Delta Vigilantes (NVD), and the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), I would have urged them to carry on their onslaught until all oil exploration and production activities in the Niger delta are completely grounded and sustained as such. At that stage, the government would have no choice but to begin earnest work on the environmental and developmental problems of the Niger Delta. I believe that now, not later, is the time for our government to pay its debt to the peoples of the Niger Delta. Oloibiri is a testimony to how very deserted the Niger Delta would be once the oil dries up. But it is now unassailable truth that the existing armed groups in the Niger Delta are neither fighting for the emancipation of the Niger Delta, nor do they have a clear understanding of the sort of emancipation they profess to pursue. The tactics of these groups are well known and many of them may very well be appropriate in a genuine revolutionary struggle or guerrilla warfare for justice. But some, such as the mindless killing of helpless oil workers, kidnapping of children, and terrorizing or harassing residents of the regions they claim to be fighting for, are hardly justifiable. But the biggest telltale of the insincerity of these groups is the contradictions in the lifestyle, positions, and allies of their leaders. The struggle for supremacy between the NDPVF and the NVD was never a liberation struggle. The early political and financial patrons of these groups (such as the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Peter Odili, which was widely alleged to have funded and armed the NVD to battle the NDPVF) did not believe in the liberation of the Niger Delta. Matter of fact, many of these politicians have exacerbated the woes of the Niger Delta. Today, Dokubo Asari, Tom Ateke, Henry Okah, Tamuno Kuna, etc are all multimillionaires. Thanks to revenues from illegal oil sales, ransoms for release of hostages, bribes from oil companies, and the unaccounted-for security votes of our governments. As we now know, the chief ambition of these men is acquisition of personal wealth, political clout, immunity for crime, and godfatherhood for aspiring politicians in the Niger Delta. The implication of all this is that the the injury and injustice done to the peoples of the Niger Delta have doubled. Not only have they been deprived of the benefits of their natural resources, they now can no more sleep with two eyes closed. Violence upon violence upon violence upon violence has made the region more hellish than Gehenna. In addition to taking the resources of the people without due compensation, in terms of environmental and developmental justice, the government has failed to rid the region of these self-serving, blood-sucking groups. Contrarily, the government has offered an unholy amnesty with daily supplication for these groups to disarm. Yes, there have been some successful military crackdowns, but the general approach of the government has been that of pampering the criminals or surface-scratching the problem. "Egunje" has been and continues to be lavished on leaders of these groups and their members, on traditional rulers and local chiefs, and on middlemen "peace-brokers." Do we need an Einstein to tell us that the last thing the beneficiaries of violence in the region would seek is to stop the flow of this easy money? Anyway, the violence continues and the peoples of the Niger Delta continue to live in constant fear. While this otiose strategy of supplication and prayers for peace - to the groups and their leaders, to traditional rulers and chiefs, to members of the public, to oil companies, etc. - is being carried on by the government; the very fundamental issue of environmental and developmental justice for the Niger Delta remains as unresolved as it has been since the first barrel of oil was removed from Oloibiri. Now we wonder: our resources have been taken forcefully away from us; our environment continues to be destroyed in a most unconscionable manner; our traditional means of livelihood has been lethally ravished; how about feeling sure that our grandparents could get a peaceful sleep in their shacks or letting our children go to school without fear of some violence befalling them or sitting down at dust with a friend to have a drink peacefully in the open? Can we not also do that?
The real emancipation of the Niger Delta