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Niger Delta for sale

May 20, 2009

The recent invasion of Okerenkoko in Delta State of Nigeria by the Nigerian military in search of militants (and their baby: kidnappers) has once again raised the Niger Delta conundrum to the lime light. As usual, half-baked solutions are being suggested and after a while, we will go back to the starting point.

Unfortunately, the government is not prepared for a true solution to the problem and this is strongly supported by those who benefit from the current ugly conditions in the Niger Delta. The so called latter-day liberators (cultists, traditional rulers and politicians) of the Niger Delta have never said the truth because their demands are like those of the blood-sucking demons (never satisfied because the basis of their demands is personal greed). They demand that government should: build infrastructure (where they control and get the contracts, if not, they frustrate or discourage the contractors building the infrastructure); increase derivation allocation (because they will still be in control of the funds of which they are never held accountable.

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For instance, OMPADEC failed, who has been held responsible?); create OMPADEC, NDDC, Federal Ministry of the Niger Delta (where they will still be in-charge). So, the Niger Delta is actually up for grasp or sale and the buyers are the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), state governments, local governments, cultists and gangsters (they are in control of the lowest and highest places, public and private sectors in Nigeria); politicians and politician contractors, international community, political parties, crude and refined oil bunkering magnates, Nigerian ex and serving military and police chiefs, top civil servants who insist that the area should be annihilated and exterminated, international oil and gas companies (IOGCs), NDDC, Ministry of the Niger Delta, community leaders and their boys and girls in the Niger Delta, politicians and opinion leaders from the Niger Delta who incite the boys and girls at night but attend government functions in the day, biased Nigerian media who know the truth but decided never to say it, advocacy groups and NGOs whose ultimate aim is “just talk to survival” etc.

The sellers of the Niger Delta include all indigenes from the area especially the politicians, opinion leaders and traditional rulers from the Niger Delta. They sold the COR movement, Isaac Adaka Boro, despised Kenule Saro-Wiwa, abandoned Claude Ake, hated Obi Wali etc. What did they say when Ogoni was nearly wiped out from the surface of the earth by the Abacha government? What did they say when Umuechem was razed down by the army in 1991? What did they say when Choba was raped, killed and destroyed by Odili in 1999? What did they say when ignorant and ambitious greedy politicians recruited cultists into politics in 2003 elections in Rivers State? Today, cultism rules in Rivers State: at all arms and tiers of government, in all communities and villages where mere inter-family disagreements have provoked the maxim and the communities wiped out (Ogbakiri, Rumuolumeni, Ogbogoro, Rumukpalikwu Ugbonwo, parts of Okirirka, Rumuekpe, Ibaa etc). They rule the university, polytechnic, college of education, school of nursery, all secondary schools and primary schools in Port Harcourt, and very soon, it will expand to the nursery schools. The politicians and traditional rulers of the Niger Delta are causing this harm under deep and strict pretence, covered and protected by the government.

So far the buyers and sellers of the Niger Delta have teamed up to always provide the following counter-solutions to the Niger Delta wahala: creation of state and local governments, Niger Delta Basin Development Authorities, OMPADEC, NDDC, cash-for gun-scheme, Ministry of the Niger Delta, amnesty and rehabilitation for militants (but death penalty for kidnappers, as if they do not know that militancy is the mother of kidnapping. What sense does it make to kill a bad baby and leave the mother: she will born another bad baby), military force (the type that killed tens of thousands of the Ogoni, wiped out Umuechem, Odi, Choba and now Kerenkoko). These anti-solutions have created millionaires in the Niger Delta, yet the problems are still unresolved. This paradox attests to the fact that they are no solutions; they are anti-solutions.

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The solution to the Niger Delta underdevelopment and destructions are that the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) must accept that Nigeria needs to be recreated politically. The strength of Nigeria’s development lies in the different resources God had made available to the different peoples in Nigeria. In giving them these resources, He also gave them the requisite talents to develop the resources. Hence the Hausa is better in groundnut production and cattle rearing, the Tiv is better in producing certain crops and fruits, the Ikwerre is better in palm oil production, the Ijaw is better in fishery, the Ogoni has crude oil and gas, the Effik and Ibibio are better in cooking, the Yoruba is better in cocoa production etc. Therefore it is not the duty of the FGN to develop these people from a central pool, rather it should provide an enabling general environment for the people to develop their potentials and flourish in what they know and have as dictated by their environment and talents. So, without much ado, and with regards to the Niger Delta, the FGN should:

•    Ban all cultist and secret societies in the Niger Delta. They are the systems that aided and produced the militants. What therefore should be killed is what produces militancy, kidnapping and assassins in the Niger Delta; and not waste time on chasing shadows. But the militants, kidnappers and assassins should be prosecuted so that we can recover those who are not real criminals and draft them into useful handworks that will benefit the society. Another thing to note with respect to the character of the so- called liberators of the Niger Delta is that they are those cultists who latter delved into crude oil bunkering and in order to protect their businesses, they quickly resorted to hide under the claim that they are liberators of the Niger Delta. To show that they are not liberators of our people, we need to closely examine their method of operations and compare same with those of MOSOP, Ogbakor Ikwerre Convention, Ijaw National Congress etc.

•    Set up a judicial commission to prosecute every politician who had in the past recruited militants and cultists into state politics in the Niger Delta
•    Disarm (not kill) all persons having and/or carrying guns and ammunitions in the Niger Delta. Dr Peter Odili’s government in Rivers State, through the cash-for-gun crude policy made it very easy and cheap for youths in the state to have access to many guns and rifles with which they have wiped out perceived enemies in their communities. For example, this writer has not visited his community, Rumukpalukwu Ugbonwo in Rumuakunde, Emohua for the past 4 years since the community is now a thick forest: orchestrated by gun-loving youths who have lost the patience to settle disagreements, rather and quickly resorted to killing and sacking my people with the maxim.
As a step forward to resolving the Nigerian question, also manifesting and affecting the Niger Delta, the FGN should:
•    Call for the immediate convocation of the Sovereign National Conference (SNC) of all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria

•    Grant self-determination to all ethnic groups in Nigeria

•    Place the development of Nigeria in the hands of Nigeria people because what Nigerian people need is Nigerian development, not European or Asian or American or Arabian development. Nigerian development will be based on developmentalism which recognizes the concept of comparative resource advantage. For example it insists that Ijaw development must spring from fishery because they have better water bodies, talents and competences to produce fish and feed Africa than any other ethnic group in Nigeria. With time, Ijaw should be able to produce her hooks, nets and boats as well as sea trucks. The presence of mass water bodies dictates that Ijaw development must of necessity start with the resources that can be got from the creeks, rivers and the ocean. Later, Ijaw development can move to other resources in Ijawland like crude oil, gas etc. To insist that Ijaw development must come from Abuja or Lagos is like saying that Ijaw development must start from the production of groundnut, cocoa, yam etc. Ijaw development must come from what Ijaw is and has but within a conducive environment provided by the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This should be applicable to all ethnic groups in Nigeria. Anything other than this is to continue to waste the Nigerian humanity and giving the Nigerian space a meaningless expression. Thus OMPADEC, NDDC, Ministry of the Niger Delta etc cannot develop Ijaw and the rest of the Niger Delta.

•    Agree that every ethnic group contribute 5% of her annual budget to the federation account to maintain federal services (defense, international relations, and provision of enabling, equitable, fair and progressive laws, policies and regulations). The FGN should be a small government whose nature and responsibilities should be agreed on at the SNC. The main politics of development should be played at the ethnic group level with the federal government supervising all the groups, not by force but through rigorous dialogue and consensus.

This is the true solution to the over 50 years of conflicts in the Niger Delta and indeed the rest of Nigeria. It is called developmentalism which must start from the environment of the people, with their talents fashioning out the required processes to be used in addressing society imbalances. This will produce the goods and services the people need and grow the entire spectrum into the people’s culture. This continuum must be regeneratively creative, innovative and sustainable by the people under their control and mastery. Developmentalism leads to true development which is different from infrastructure building widely applauded by Nigerian politicians as development.

Okachikwu Dibia
Maitama, Abuja.

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