Skip to main content

Niger Delta youths; Criminals, Militants, Or Freedom Fighters

June 10, 2009

During one of the religious crisis in the north one of our national leaders said and I quote How did we become so careless and so uncaring to have allowed our senses to be so insidiously deadened by the rhetoric’s of short sighted little men who make us accept as normal carnage and exploitation which once ago would have shocked us and force us to take immediate action? How could we have watched with unconcern the glowing ambers of ethnic and religious strife without taking early preventive action to douse them? How did we allow the birth and development of ethnically base illegal security bodies of unemployed militia youths, well armed organized hoodlums flagrantly and even boastfully, taking the law into their own hands in the full knowledge that they will suffer no punishment? Unquote
And I asked myself why? In the process of trying to answer the question I found out that ethnically based illegal youth bodies have been in existence in this country for years but never did it gave birth to a new nomenclature. It is evident that violence became legal through the formation of these different self acclaimed youth bodies all over the country.  What were they fighting for?  Where they being marginalized by the Nigeria state? And if yes to what extent. The word militant is now a new nomenclature proudly used by Nigerians when they are discussing the Niger Delta problem. To some it is abhorrent, to others dynamic, to some repugnant, to others exhilarating, to some it is destructive, to others it is useful. One must look beyond tribe, personal styles, verbal flourishes to assess its values, assets and liabilities honestly.

Violence is in the region today because injustice is there and when the people of the region called for aid no body responded. They called because they believed in the interrelatedness of all communities and state. And they came to realize through experience that Nigerians and the Federal government will not move around the question of genuine development until they are confronted with concentrated violence. And they also have great documents consisting of all the committee reports that have been in existence since the Willinks commission telling them that something should be done fast. They have seen people who with great sacrifice and dedication and a radiant faith in the future labored courageously in the rural areas of the region. With idealism they accepted blows without retaliating, with dignity allowed themselves to be plunged into filthy, stinking jail cells, with a majestic scorn for risk and danger non violently confronted the powers that be and at the end they were killed.

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content1'); });

If there is violence and militancy in the region today please know that it is a cry of disappointment born from the wounds of despair. It is a cry of daily hurt and persistent pain. For years they have been caught in the tentacles of multinational oil companies and the federal government because with total control they have been left empty handed. So in reality the violence in the region is a reaction to the failure of the Federal government, multinational oil companies and Nigerians.

I say Nigerians because we are all tied up in a single garment of destiny whatever affects the region affects all of us. We can no longer afford to live with the narrow provincial idea that they are not my people. They all deplore the violence taking place most especially from the north but their statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the violence. I am sure that none of them would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.  It is unfortunate that the violence is now part of the struggle, but it is even more unfortunate that the Nigeria power structure left my people with no alternative. Have they been to the region to collect facts to determine if injustice exists in this region? There can be no gainsaying that injustice envelopes this region. The region can be liken to a valley filed with millions of people who because of economic deprivation and social isolation, youth restiveness and communal crisis as a result of the crude oil have lost hope, and now see life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign. A valley filled with misguided bloodthirsty illegal militia youths, a valley filled with my brothers and sisters who grow up with the ominous clouds of insecurity and unemployment forming in their mental sky. The wealth of the nation is from this region but it does not reflect. These are the hard brutal facts of the case. On the basis of this we now have two types of leaders in the region. We now have leaders with weak minds and weak hearts. False faith and unstable hands, leaders whom the lust of office will kill, who the spoils of life will buy, no opinion no will, no honour and will tell lies, leaders who will face the president and could not damn his treacherous flattering and leaders who are opposite of the qualities listed.
After years of many promises the youths came to realized that they were the victims of a broken promise. Their hope had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon them with no alternative except to go deep into the creeks and draw national and international attention to the gulf that separates promise from fulfillment. These youths I ask you are they criminals, militants or freedom fighters? They have many pent up resentment and latent frustration that must be released and if repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways they will seek expression through violent means.

So they created a constructive tension that will help Nigerians rise from the dark depths of prejudice and oppression to the majestic height of brotherhood. If we have achieved any gain in the Niger Delta today it is because of the activities of these youths. We in the Niger Delta know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor it must be demanded by the oppressed. We are only asking for our constitutional and God given rights.

This is a regime that talks a lot about the rule of law and I am sure that they would understand that law exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dam that block the flow of development in the region. The criminally minded ones that have corrupted the struggle should be dealt with according to the law but those ones who merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive should be commended. They bring it to the open where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured. It is wrong to urge an individual to cease his effort to gain his God and constitutional given right as a Nigerian because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. The region needs to be protected from degradation and exploitation.
How can Nigeria and Nigerians ask we the minority, the people of the South South region to obey their laws of development because they are in majority and don’t make this same law binding to themselves.  Take a look at the development rate of the country you will find out that sometimes these laws are just on its surface and unjust in application. A person who puts his or her life on the line just to arouse the conscience of the region is respecting the greatest laws of this land. JTF should please stop the bombardment, for now they have done well. But I want them to know that the purpose of this struggle is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. JTF boss, Major-General Yarkin Bello should not allow our youths to be bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence and lack of development in the region is a burden in our heart and a shame to the Nigeria nation. It carries the seed of doom. It is at bottom the view that the Nigeria society is so helplessly corrupt and enmeshed in evil.

Henry Eloho Ayanruoh,
Member Delta Waterways Security Committee
Writes from Warri

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('content2'); });

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('comments'); });