Lessons Arewa Consultative Forum can learn from Niger Delta

Just what can Niger Delta teach Arewa Consultative Forum ACF? And why is what Niger Delta has to teach important? My hope is that what I have to say will help the ACF to stop seeking ridiculous reasons to justify the devastation of Niger Delta and mind their rationale for it echoes as self-justifying. To be sure, conspicuous remarks that what have Niger Delta done with the 13% “given” to them or what “we gave to them;” and the affirmation of a makeshift scientist that oil and gas are the result of fossils from trees that grew in Northern Nigeria, which over millions of years awash the Niger Delta by seismological conditions, and eventually degenerated into oil and gas; thus Niger delta has no claim to the oil and gas. These remarks echo from the past but I consider them with contemptuous indignation. ACF is a surrogate of the core North. Since the end of the civil war, the core North has held the rest of Nigeria sway to panhandle and ask for favors from them. Thus the core North thinks that the rest of Nigeria is subject to their dictates, and that they can manipulate people and circumstances without risking a change to the geographical borders of Nigeria. What they fail to understand is that Nigeria is a negotiated union, and the terms of the union can be repealed or broken any time. Except that the core North and the rest of Nigeria coexist and must, of necessity, define each other. For the core North to oppose the great need of developing Niger Delta is to ignore the quality of life that “Nigeria” can make possible for its citizens. That quality of life is what the significance of Nigeria is. What does this mean for the ACF? It means that Niger Delta is a unique opportunity for the government of Nigeria to distinguish itself by impacting a sense of country pride in Nigerians again. Pride in our country may be the real main goal of developing Niger Delta. Also, the ACF can learn from Niger Delta that no matter how ethnically diverse Nigeria is, our people have always coexisted. Nigeria as we know it cannot thrive without Niger Delta, and Niger Delta without Nigeria. Next, the ACF should understand that if Nigeria chooses to ignore Niger Delta, it also should ignore the crude oil from Niger Delta. To ACF, the oil from Niger Delta is desirable but not Niger Delta and its people. Niger Delta is a microcosm of the macrocosm. Niger Delta and its people are two sides of a coin. So also are Niger Delta and Nigeria. ACF cannot have one without the other. There are no separate parts to this whole. The audacity ACF shows in its rhetoric towards Niger Delta depends on the free money from Niger Delta. The same is true to the audaciousness of Nigeria. I call this dependence. The idea of dependence is as fundamental in Nigeria as it is among people all over the world. For example, a commodity a person has and a commodity a person does not have depends on its utility. Some times having a commodity that has utility can be a blessing or a curse depending on which country of the world you live in. Whereas the commodity – crude oil – from Niger Delta is the main economic condition of coexistence in Nigeria, it is a curse to Niger Delta. Unfortunately, the ACF often add insult to the injury Niger Delta already suffers. In Nigeria’s oil economy, when production falls, it’s almost always the fault of militants in the Niger Delta. But ACF should take some of the responsibility because the actions of militants are often a response to the ACF’s rhetoric. While the ACF is all about drilling the oil in Niger Delta, Niger Delta is about its people benefiting from the oil. The saying goes that if a child gets in the habit of biting the finger that feeds him, the child will starve. The ACF should always remember that the antagonism they show towards Niger Delta is their distinguishing characteristic. Thus, they will either unite or separate Niger Delta from Nigeria. Again, the ACF must learn from Niger Delta that “owner” matters. To the extent to which the bulk of the nation’s wealth is the property of Niger Delta, attention to Niger Delta as “owner” is critical. It has been said that the worm that ravage a cola-nut sits deep in its stem. It can also be said that the ACF and the core North are the worm at the root of opposition to Niger Delta’s development. No doubt that Niger Delta is home to vast deposits of oil in Nigeria. What other way is there to show patriotism in Nigeria than develop Niger Delta? For that matter, what any administration does with the idea of developing Niger Delta depends on the “understanding” that Niger Delta is an integral part of Nigeria. Further, the ACF should learn that they cannot see the development of Niger Delta as intrusion on other national development interests but as a part of the rewards Niger Delta reaps for their oil. It is sad that in Nigeria, custodians of power and their ethnic group regard other groups especially those who have not had the opportunity to become custodians as weaklings. But events in the Niger Delta are a wake up call and shed new insights into what hitherto was unexpected of weaklings. Any surprises? No! Those in power should wake up and create conditions for the express development of Niger Delta. Moving forward on the agenda to develop Niger Delta will be most satisfying. Furthermore, the ACF can learn from Niger Delta that the limits of participation in government to people of Niger Delta are not ones of knowledge and skills. There are more knowledgeable and skilful people in Niger Delta to govern Nigeria than the ACF can tell. Nigeria is hopelessly behind the times in matters of who should and should not be president. It is not surprising that who becomes president of Nigeria is handpicked from the North or Southwest. The rest of Nigeria is simply irrelevant. Niger Delta says enough! The game of diversion that keeps people of Niger Delta from staking out for the president of Nigeria has come full circle and it may not look pretty. For common sense, the road to become a president of Nigeria should be rethought with clear paths. Instead of having a dispassionate Yar’Adua and the likes of Obasanjo, we should have individuals who understand what it means to be “public servant.” Law should exclude the executive, legislature and judiciary arms of government at all levels from direct access to public money. More ambitiously, take money out of politics. The implications of that will be profound for Nigeria politics. In addition, our democracy would recognize the many ways in which our diverse people can participate in the process. The ACF also can learn from Niger Delta that commencing the work of developing in Niger Delta can be the most important indicator that someone is getting it right. Like Lagos of the 1970’s, Ogbemudia’s Bendel State, Mbakwe’s Owerri, and Abuja to mention a few, are all Nigeria story. Niger Delta could be a part of that story. Roll out the tractors and bulldozers and commence work on Niger Delta. There can be no evidence of development in Niger Delta until hands first do it. Give Niger Delta a rightness of fit beyond the conditions that make it possible. Finally, the ACF can learn from Niger Delta that when two dogs play, they yield to one another to gratify the play. Otherwise, the play becomes a fight. Yielding, not having your way always, enables progress; and progress is winning. Cooperation is the vehicle to new vistas. Cooperation can be a primary virtue in Nigeria. So it should be to cause the development of Niger Delta, and indeed, all other national goals. But cooperation in a surrounding influence of ethnic hegemonies would require a culture of deliberate joint action to realize. By that I mean a culture in which our oneness is put above our divisions. Nigeria should help Niger Delta stand on new grounds rather than allow it to sink in the deep mud of oil exploitation. The aim is ambitious, but it is one that is critical in the long run for the well being of Nigeria. Clearly, the points listed for the ACF to learn does not exhaust the discussion of ACF’s aversion towards Niger Delta. This effort is to provide a string of wake-up calls to the ACF, and especially to the core North. Nigeria is not a property of anybody. It is no surprise that Yar’Adua has nothing to show for his two years in office. But Yar’Adua can still deliver by acting decisively to bring change to Niger Delta. The development of Niger Delta will not be a small task. However, when the question arise that how much money should be allotted to developing Niger Delta? The answer should be clear: all it needs.



The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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