Whoever coined the slogan of “The Big Heart” for Delta State deserves an award, though he failed to add that the big heart functions better in selfishness and criminality. Is it not curious that we now have self-styled militants who buy pages of newspapers begging the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to compel their state governor to sit down and negotiate with them?
It was outrightly disgusting reading both the advertorials by the group that called itself the New Delta Avengers and the response by the Delta State government to the threat of resuming attacks on oil facilities in the state. The key point that immediately emerged from the cross exchanges was that both the ruler (governor) and the ruled (disgruntled politicians/overnight militants) are as naive and deceitful as the other.
Governor Okowa’s statement claiming that members of the “New Delta Avengers” are not people of Delta State completely missed the point. How else could anybody have described the state government’s response on the matter if not to say that it was very naive? If they are not from Delta State, where are they from - spirit world? They are people of the state but are obviously disgruntled for whatever reasons which at best from the tone of their various advertorials and campaign materials is tied to the funding, control, and dominance of DESOPADEC, at least on the surface.
The spokesperson of the militant group, Olleum Bellum, in a statement, said: “If you see the allocations for states that were released by Ministry of Finance, you will see that Delta State and Okowa were paid N4, 747,930,884.16 billion for February and DESOPADEC is supposed to get half of that money, but we know that nothing was paid to DESOPADEC.
“Let him release the facts on the fund that he had given to DESOPADEC. Why is he not publishing accounts of the state allocation, internally generated revenue (IGR) and other revenues and what he has done with them like his colleagues in other states are doing? Even projects that were begun before the Okowa government by DESOPADEC have all halted because the money is being siphoned. He has not done anything to benefit the oil communities from Ndokwa to Koko to Forcados. We said he is robbing Peter to pay Paul and we stand by this.
“We also call on President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo to pay 13 per cent money direct to oil communities. We want to control our resources in Delta because government has failed us.”
The only glaring issue raised by the agitators borders on the application or otherwise of the 13 percent derivation fund especially the funding of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, (DESOPADEC)
Those behind the campaign are asking the state government to disclose the names and physical locations of the projects the state government claimed to have spread in oil communities in Ijaw, Isoko, Ndokwa and Urhobo communities.
Being smart by half is in itself a danger because it sometimes exposes you as a selfish ethnic area council chief! Interestingly, for the first time in the history of militancy and all the benefits that had arisen thereof, we are seeing Ndokwa being dragged in to give the impression that the protest encompasses all the oil producing areas of the state. Of all the benefits certain sections of the state got and are still getting in the amnesty program and activities of DESOPADEC and NDDC, did it occur to these selfish people that Ndokwa produces more oil and gas than some of their areas? But for my published article in protest against PANDEF, did it occur to people from the other oil areas of the state that Ndokwa should be part of the forum?
Having monitored governance of Delta State from the outside in the last 18 years, it is glaring that the major problem in the state is the servicing of patronage to some indigenes who feel they are gods and/or demons working for the gods. And until we cast them out by praying and fasting, Delta State will never make tangible or meaningful inroads in terms of infrastructure development and service delivery to our people.
How did former governor James Ibori get into trouble? At the beginning of his administration, Ibori was to these same gods “the best thing that ever happened to the state” until King James decided to be himself and frontally tackle development of the state and the generality of its people rather than worshipping idols and servicing demigods in the form of patronage. These same people also waged lots of wars against Emmanuel Udughan just for ethnic differences even though he had his own peculiar ways too.
If you check well, it will probably be that the present governor, who is carrying a very heavy burden of inherited debt, is no longer sharing money meant for the state to some greedy elders, miscreants and militants. This may be the major reason we’re seeing all these ranting just to compel the governor to release cash.
How can we continue like this as a serious state? Uduaghan spent almost all the resources he received as governor servicing these same gods. But did that spare him from their attacks and evil ways? No! Go to the EFCC office and see the library of petitions against him all coming from this same group of people.
Now let’s look at it: The New Delta Avenger, a self-acclaimed coalition of ex-militants from the oil producing areas of Delta State, is asking Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to give account of the 13 per cent derivation he received from the Federation Account in the last two years explaining what went to the oil producing communicates, especially the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC. They threatened to resume fresh hostilities targeted at oil facilities in the state from June 30, to protest alleged marginalization of the oil producing areas of the state.
Deconstructing the issues raised and facts of this matter, it is curious that this is the first time ever, any group calling itself ‘militants’ would spend so much money buying pages of newspapers for advertorials to ask the President to intervene in their agitation. This invariably confirms sponsorship by some well-to-do people in the state who are not happy with the governor either because they have been schemed out of relevance or checked to stupor by the new administration or they are seeking the intervention of a superior power to compel the governor to do their bidding.
It is good that the New Delta Avengers also gave the governor an ultimatum to convene a meeting of stakeholders and leaders of all oil and gas producing communities in the state. So the question now is: who are the stakeholders and who are the leaders? Is it traditional rulers; some privileged people from those areas; militants of the New Delta Avengers group; members of the erstwhile DESOPADEC board; or leaders of women and youth groups? Who selects those qualified to participate as “stakeholders and leaders of oil and gas producing and pipelines communities”- the government or New Avengers?
Addressing this matter is very simple: the governor should, as a matter of urgency, convene this meeting of stakeholders which should be an open one void of secrecy and any iota of favoritism. When the meeting finally convenes at Government House Asaba, not in Warri or Kiagbodo and not also in Abuja, the governor should present every detail of receipts and expenditures to the stakeholders and should not at all try to appease any group as that is not going to give him any respite. Mark my words!
The governor should also not fail to highlight every detail of the running debt servicing and repayment, a burden inherited from the previous administration. It is not a secret that the immediate past government of Emmanuel Uduaghan completely mortgaged the future of the state by borrowing so much that now whatever the state gets from the federation account including the 13 percent derivation is grossly chunked away by creditors who want to recover their monies? Invariably, Delta State as at today is a gbese state spending almost everything it gets every month on servicing and repayment of debts. There has to be a paradigm shift if any good is going to come out at all from the present dispensation in the state. God bless my Delta State!
Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja. You can reach him at [email protected].