That the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), “upon careful consideration of the state of the nation,” could openly endorse with their full support the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), General Mohammadu Buhari, speaks volumes about the ongoing political intrigues and the overall state of the nation, particularly the ill-feelings of some interest groups in the Niger Delta.
Ordinarily, MEND would have been the last group to openly endorse a presidential aspirant from anywhere but the Niger Delta region, however, as commonly said, the Nigerian political terrain is an arena of absurdities.
The Niger Delta group, in its January 6th 2015 statement said, “Our decision to throw our full support on Gen. Buhari stems from the pathetic state in which the country has been put by the government of Goodluck Jonathan and our strong believe [sic] in Gen. Buhari as the man and change the country needs.”
As is the practice, the President and people around him may want to hurriedly dismiss MEND as disabled and irrelevant in the current scheme of things, but the crucial question is: why should a frontline Niger Delta rights group be at the forefront of kicking against what would have been rightly described as the presidential aspiration of the same region they were supposed to be fighting for? This should bother us!
It may be convenient to dismiss this publicly expressed dissatisfaction against President Jonathan by a section of his people without bothering about the undercurrent or even the consequences post-February 14 presidential election.
Can the federal government and the new crop of billionaire ex-militants say everybody that participated in the Niger Delta struggle was adequately carried along in the amnesty “rehabilitation” and post-amnesty assignment of responsibilities/contracts either in government or by government?
Does MEND have a justification to still maintain its grudges against the federal government irrespective of who is leading? What is the status of Henry and Charles Okah’s case(s)? Have they been prosecuted and jailed (if convicted) or they are still awaiting trial for several years now? Who are these boys terrorising parts of Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers and the flank between Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers on the Bakassi axis? These are some of the issues the government has to look at now or after the elections.
So, could MEND be on a vengeance, or worse, a spoiler mission against the President and his second-term aspiration? Hear the group: “We re-state our disregard and lack of confidence in President Goodluck Jonathan. Rather than address the perennial issues in the country responsible for his administrations failures, he is concentrating government funds in a campaign of misinformation intended to hoodwink Nigerians who, unfortunately for him, are now wiser and smarter than he is.”
Whether anybody wants to hear this or not, MEND’s rejection of Jonathan and endorsement of Buhari as better than their brother, obviously shows that several groups in the region are aggrieved either for outright marginalisation or for being treated as underdogs.
MEND said it found laughable the recent statement by Goodluck Jonathan on his government’s plan to fight corruption.
“This statement not only smacks of ignorance to the highest order, but also shows just how stupid he thinks Nigerians are. A president that had six years to tackle the problem but chose to shield corrupt government officials, joined in the looting of our resources and now has the temerity to say his government 'has a plan' to fight corruption. This is a big slap in the face of every single Nigerian!
“President Jonathan, since assuming his office, has setup [sic] countless number of “committees,” none of which their reports has ever been implemented. From the Nuhu Ribadu report to the KPMG and fuel subsidy reports, just to mention a few.
“We challenge every Niger Deltan to ask yourself if the region is any better under Goodluck Jonathan than it was under a sick late President Musa Yar'Adua. We are convinced that the people of the Niger Delta have woken up to realise that voting Goodluck Jonathan simply because of tribe, was the biggest mistake they made.
Now, taking the message even if anybody prefers to ignore the messenger, is it not true as said by MEND that “Since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office, the Niger Delta region has continued to experience excruciating poverty faced by the people, worse pollution and environmental degradation and not once has he ever come out to openly condemn the destruction of our environment by the activities of irresponsible oil companies?
Is it not also true, as confirmed by recent reports, that the country is losing billions of dollars in oil revenue due to oil theft? This theft has been aided by the pot-bellied Nigerian army generals, in connivance with corrupt Nigerian government officials, the Joint Task Force and the Nigerian navy. It is no wonder the once-respected Nigerian military has been reduced to a ragtag army by Boko Haram terrorists.
The Niger Delta region has the Ministry of the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) and the largest percentage in oil revenue allocation, yet the region has nothing to show for all these due to a very corrupt system of governance in place. Are all these not also true?
Whether Jonathan returns as president or not is an aside. The real issue is: What has actually changed in those parameters that gave rise to the militant struggle in the region since the advent of this dispensation? And it is very laughable that even the new breed of ex-militant billionaires can't point to any tangible business or infrastructure they have built in their various waterside settlements.
Rather, they live flashy (though timid) lifestyles in Abuja, Lagos and Dubai. The truth is that most of them cannot even go back to their areas because of how they badly short-changed the boys that staked their lives to make the case for the Niger Delta. Going to build world-class schools/universities abroad and buy shares in blue-chip companies abroad, how is that going to develop and turn-around the fortunes of the Niger Delta people?
Even if Bros. J succeeds in securing another term or even two more, one May 29th it will surely come to an end. Abi! Is it that time we will return to the creeks and say we are fighting for the marginalisation of the Niger Delta people? Walahi, my people perish for lack of knowledge (dem bee mumu) - period!
IFEANYI IZEZE is an Abuja-based consultant and can be reached at [email protected]; 234-8033043009)