MEND Winning the Propaganda War

‘For Our Freedom and Yours’- MEND’S motto

MENDDid President Umaru Yar’adua speak too soon when he bullishly announced this week at Yenagoa, Bayelsa State that he has banished Niger Delta militancy for good? MEND appears to have successfully transformed themselves in the public eye from criminal gangsters and kidnappers to a genuine voice for the oppressed people of the Niger Delta.

The Yar’adua government may have finally handed down a gift that will unite several Niger-Delta youth groups, community leaders and civil societies, governors of the geo-political zone and the militants.

 The militant groups started out as ethnic self-protection societies or protest groups, eventually some were drawn into the high-stakes world of Delta politics. Initially funded and armed by local political leaders to ensure electoral victory for their patron, the militants are strategically transforming their image.

Whereas the rebels claim they are fighting for the rights of local people in the delta and for an increased share of Nigeria’s vast oil wealth but evidence suggests that the Niger Delta militants are also associated with illegal oil bunkering

According to a UNODC report MEND is implicated along with, the security forces, government officials of stealing crude oil, a.k.a oil bunkering.

In a rare convergence of interest between the governors of the Niger Delta, ordinary Niger Deltans, and the militants, Barely 24 hours after South-South governors threatened to pull out of the amnesty arrangement for militants, Delta State students issued a 7-day ultimatum to the federal government to rescind its planned relocation of the proposed University of Petroleum from Effurun, near Warri, Delta State to Kaduna, while the self-styled umbrella body of militants in the region – the Joint Revolutionary Council – indicated it was opting out of the amnesty programme.

The JRC said its decision was influenced by their loss of confidence in President Umaru Yar’Adua’s ability to prosecute any meaningful agenda on developing the Niger Delta and the offer of amnesty, which they predicted, would fail.

The JRC in a statement by its spokesperson, Cynthia Whyte also condemned the planned relocation of the proposed university to Kaduna and reversal of the upgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute, Efurun, Delta State.

This chutzpah in the form of a planned relocation of the Petroleum Institute from Delta State to Kaduna, (coming in the heels on-going agitation in the region in the quest for a better environment gravely affecting peace and security in the region, youth restiveness, a high level of criminality, the gross neglect by the oil companies and allied industries to the yearnings of communities, lack of basic infrastructure and employment opportunities and the degradation of the environment on which the rural people depend for their sustenance) is a classic example of the failure of the Yar’adua government to appreciate the importance of Public Relations – otherwise known as propaganda – in the successful prosecution of any war.

The Yar’adua government have finally handed down a gift to unite several Niger-Delta youth groups, community leaders and civil societies, governors of the geo-political zone and the militants. All have joined the fray in the demand for a rescinding of the decision, saying the President was sending wrong signal about his commitment to the peace process in the region. 

It can only be compared to the appointment of a Hausa man to head a Niger Delta Summit while declaring an emergency on the Niger Delta aimed at assuaging the angst of the Deltans at the foreign domination and exploitation of their resources.

Compared to this government ineptitude, Mend knows the value of good public relations, that is why immediately they bombed Atlas Cove, they followed that up with the  announced 60 day unilateral ceasefire, not only that, they topped that up with the release of hostages “as a demonstration of good faith”.

The Lagos attack marks a major escalation the activities of Mend, which has rarely attacked outside the Niger Delta. Five people were killed in the attack on an oil tanker facility. The attack left many Nigerians bewildered and attracted nation-wide condemnation.

MEND knows they need support of the generality of Nigerians, the support they risked losing by escalating their bombing outside the Delta region.

However, when the Odua Peoples Congress(OPC) and Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), attacked MEND for bombing the Atlas Cove jetty which it said was an invitation to inter-tribal war. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) immediately fired back . 

MEND spokesman, Jomo Gbomo in an interview with Daily Sun said rather than criticize MEND for its action; the YCE should be apologizing to the militant organization and the Niger Delta over the actions of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the region.

MEND stated that the Niger Delta problem might have started in oil rich region but since it was sired by injustice it knew boundaries. It dismissed that its action could lead to a tribal war except there was a plan to start a war before the MEND action.

His words: “The YCE should be the ones apologizing to us after their son; Olusegun Obasanjo wiped out Odi with innocent civilians and stole our commonwealth as the Minister of Petroleum. They should apologize that while we do not have bridges to cross to our communities, the system has robbed Peter to pay Paul with bridges in their sacred region. The Niger Delta issue may have started in the Niger Delta, but the problem caused by injustice knows no boundaries. It is a Nigerian problem that should be enjoyed or suffered by all. Some say they are sympathetic with the struggle. While that could be true, it is only those that make sacrifices with us that are the genuine sympathizers.”

MEND also won another propaganda war when President Yar’adua announced a N50 billion amnesty for the militants, many including Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie said that the militants should not be paid. Their argument was that the amnesty would be rewarding criminality. MEND was thus portrayed as engaging in the struggle for the money in it, adding to the profit they allegedly make from oil bunkering.

 MEND immediately said it supported the non-payment of the money as it would expose those who were in the struggle for monetary gains and those who were genuinely concerned about the problem of the Niger Delta, stressing, however, that it could backfire as criminals with guns could return it to collect money and buy new ones.

“The Archbishop may have his reasons”, Jomo said in statement, “There are opponents and proponents to this offer. The money offer can separate those who have a vision and those who are in it for the short-term gain. This is helpful to us because there would have been no other way of finding out the committed fighters. The drawback here is that many fake militants who are criminals can now offer the weapons they have for cash and then buy new ones. It is a complex situation which only true federalism can solve,” he added.

MEND also knows how to play Jekyll and Hyde. In fact, since the Federal Government escalated the Niger Delta crisis by declaring war on the militants, MEND has been running a ring around the neck of the government.

Starting the military action in the first place was the first chutzpah, a gamble that risked alienating the international community knowing the humanitarian cost of such action and MEND knows that.

Thus it is no coincidence that the kidnap of foreign workers immediately abetted. Foreign media started referring to the militants as rebels. The government had inadvertently clothed the agitators with the turban of Freedom Fighters in the eyes of the whole world.

In a bid to end the war and years of rebel attacks on the oil industry, President Umaru Yar’Adua declared a N50 billion amnesty for all the militants and said any rebel willing to give up their weapons by October would benefit from a rehabilitation programme, including education and training opportunities.

Even this declaration of amnesty – an act designed to display the federal government as magnanimous was exploited by MEND.

MEND initially said they will reject the amnesty asserting that amnesty is only for those guilty of crimes, and then gave conditions for their acceptance which included the release of their Leader, Henry Okah.

MEND leader, Henry Okah, was then freed from jail as part of the amnesty. But even as he was being released MEND, said it carried out an “unprecedented attack” on an oil tanker facility close to the main commercial city of Lagos.  

The timing of the attacks was significant, coming at a time when the government has offered an amnesty to the militants. MEND is obviously sending a message to the government: they will continue to use violence at the same time as negotiations.  

They hope to put pressure on the government to extract greater concessions as part of the amnesty. They want to show they have the capability to strike anywhere – even Lagos, the country’s economic heart, our correspondent says.

In the end, Federal government was portrayed as weak, virtually on bended knee praying MEND to accept the amnesty.

IT is worthy of note that while the rebels say they are fighting for the rights of local people in the delta and for an increased share of Nigeria’s vast oil wealth, the government has in the past dismissed them as criminals.  

The current situation

General pessimism as to the success of the Amnesty

The JRC has said it was no longer interested in any overture from the federal government for peace “as the judgment of the President so far has proved that nothing good can come out of such a venture.”

The JRC’s statement reads: “On behalf of the JRC comprising alliance units of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, The Reformed Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force and The Martyrs Brigade, we wish to declare our complete loss of faith in the Musa Yar’Adua’s Agenda for the Niger Delta.

“We wish to condemn emphatically, the decision to reverse the upgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun. This decision is evil, wicked, and condemnable and a representation of the demented quality of leadership over the contraption called Nigeria.

 “The decision goes a long way to prove without any iota of doubt that Yar’Adua and Rilwanu Lukman are not committed to the plight of the people of the Niger Delta.”
The JRC condemned the alleged approval of N14.5 billion to set up the proposed petroleum university in Kaduna, “while the people of the Niger Delta region are suffering.”

“These people are not ready for peace in the Niger Delta and therefore we will not give them peace. At the appointed time, we will attack the Petroleum College in Kaduna. Kaduna is home to the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), it is also home to the elitist Nigerian College for Aviation and many others. How many cities in the oil rich Niger Delta has a college of aviation? How many of the oil producing communities in the Niger Delta even know what a College of Aviation looks like?

 The militants claimed that the move to site the Petroleum University in Kaduna was an unrepentant move by what it called the “Northern cabal to perpetually put the Niger Delta region down and ensure that they represent a symbol of poverty and lack.”

JRC continued: “Yar’Adua will fail on the Niger Delta. He has surrounded himself with some of the worst advisers from the Niger Delta and he would not go far. His amnesty package reminds us of a failing father who has lost control over his family”, they declared.

 The Delta State students under the aegis of National Association of Delta State Students also demanded a written apology from Lukman over what the students called “highly inflammatory and derogatory remarks by the minister” on the controversial relocation issue.  
They warned political and other leaders from the region against “all forms of blackmail in this new struggle against an obvious injustice to Delta State people and Niger-Delta,” adding, “Mr. President would not dare the relocation proposition if some leaders from the region had not been selfish and betrayed the people in many ways in the past. 

At the meeting hosted by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in Asaba, Delta State, which was chaired by the Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, the governors described the proposition under the Petroleum Industry Bill insulting and a slap in the face of local communities in the oil producing states.  
The students, who converged in their thousands yesterday in Warri and adjoining Effurun to launch a peaceful protest round the oil-city, said that the relocation plan by the government “has placed a big question mark on the sincerity of Yar’Adua on the all-important issue of amnesty to the freedom fighters in the Niger-Delta.”  
Some of the protesting students – who were drawn from tertiary institutions all over the country – were seen as early as 7.30 am yesterday driving round major streets in Warri, Effurun and Ekpan as well as adjoining areas in Okpe and Udu local government areas of the state wielding placards.  
They later barricaded the ever-busy Effurun Roundabout, where strategic roads like the Warri-Ughelli- PortHarcourt Road, the Nigerian Ports Authority Expressway and the Warri-Sapele- Benin Expressway converge. 
Although, the action of the students resulted in heavy traffic hold-ups for several hours, with the lines of vehicles stretching for several kilometres, the students received open approval from many commuters and passers-by.
The National President of the Delta State students, Mr. Benedict Oboide, while addressing journalists at the Effurun Roundabout City Park Garden, said the students would have no option “than to mobilize against the provocative plan of the federal government, if at the end of this one week ultimatum, it fails to do the right thing by rescinding the decision take the petroleum university to Kaduna.”
“At a time like this, when we are talking of getting more support for the presidential amnesty, it is scandalous and most unfortunate that Yar’Adua would accept this gross insensitivity to the feelings of Deltans.”
He lamented that the President, rather than implement the upgrading plan initiated by former president Obasanjo, “has abandoned the PTI students to study under unacceptable condition.” 
The students were joined by representatives of the Niger-Delta Youth Movement comprising the nine states of the region, with an officer and spokesman of the group giving solidarity messages.
The Niger-Delta Elders Forum, which includes opinion leaders like Chief Edwin Clark, several former civilian governors, retired army generals, national and state legislators, traditional and religious leaders has equally voiced its strong opinion against the relocation of the petroleum university proposed for Effurun-Warri by the Olusegun Obasanjo government. 
The region’s elders and leaders incidentally met two weeks ago at the PTI Effurun, where they issued a communiqué backing the amnesty reprieve declared for militants on June 25, 2009 by Yar’Adua.

Yar’Adua panics over S-South Govs’ threat

Headlines Jul 24, 200, Vanguard

By  Emma Amaize
PRESIDENT Umaru Yar’Adua was rattled yesterday by the South-South Governors’ threat to pull out of its amnesty programme for militants and has reached out to some of the governors to find out what went wrong with their usual channel of communication with him  and how best to resolve the vexed issues.

Our source said it is most likely the President would settle for a meeting with the Governors in Aso Villa in the next few days to iron out the grey areas since their full cooperation and participation are very vital to the success of the amnesty programme and other peace efforts.

Several ministers called their governors yesterday to know if what they read in the newspapers concerning their position was correct and they told them they were not quoted out of context.

However, the elders and leaders of the South-South, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) Warri-Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group and other groups have thrown their weight behind the governors, who they commended for taking such a bold decision for the first time.

It was also learnt that President Yar’Adua has asked the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to talk to his people, but, according to my source, the governors have politely told the Vice President to steer clear of the matter and allow them to face Mr. President.

MEND elated by govs’ position

Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND) in an exclusive electronic mail response to an inquiry by Saturday Saturday Vanguard said, “We are elated that our governors are waking up from a long period of hibernation”.

“However, knowing these are typical Nigerian politicians, we doubt they will have the moral justification to fight for their people because they have soiled their hands with blood money and a majority of them were not elected into office by the people but through electoral fraud”, its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo stated.

Yar' Adua

Yar’ Adua

His words, “These are men who have sold their birthright to the North for a bowl of porridge and suddenly have realized what their treachery has caused  their people. If they are genuinely committed, it is not too late to make amends”.

“That the governors are beginning to see what MEND saw in 2006 has vindicated us.
It is sad that many souls have perished because of the greed of a few men in authority who got carried away with fleeting power.

Perhaps they are learning from the solidarity of the Northern governors and parliamentarians who put their people first before other parts of Nigeria”, he added.

S-South elders hail govs

South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark told Saturday Vanguard that the elders and leaders of the zone would meet August 3 in Akwa-Ibom to deliberate on the arrogant and provocative statement of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Riwalnu Lukman, Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) upgrade palaver and other matters that affect the region, while the Delta State Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum would meet on Tuesday at Kiagbodo on the same matter.

On the threat issued President Yar’Adua by the South-South governors, he said the elders, leaders and people of the region were strongly behind the governors, who, for the first time, have taken a fashionable decision.

“We are solidly behind them and we are happy with the decision they took at Asaba. We all accepted the amnesty by President Yar’Adua, not that we don’t know the implications but with the   Petroleum Industry Bill, which denies the oil producing communities of their right, the arrogant comments of Dr Lukman and the utter manner in which the upgrade of Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Warri was reversed, the amnesty appears to have been programmed to fail”, he asserted.

His words, “We are going to discuss the provocative, arrogant and uncompromising statement of Dr Rilwanu Lukman, the upgrade of Petroleum College in Kaduna at over N14 billion, building of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund headquarters at N10 billion in Abuja, downgrading of PTI, Effurun, near Warri and all that”.

He said the country belongs to all Nigerians and nobody should be regarded to be a second-class citizen by the other, adding, “The country has to be governed with the consent of everybody and nobody should take himself as being superior to the other person”.

Good riddance to bad rubbish — IYC

National President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Dr. Chris Ekiyor who spoke to Saturday Vanguard said, “IYC supports the South-South Governors in their threat to pull out from the amnesty programme because the Federal Government cannot say that they are solving the Niger-Delta problem on one hand and creating more problems on another  hand”.

“The Federal Government is insulting us by pulling our resources to upgrade  a Petroleum Training Institute in Kaduna for over N14billlion and building a N10billion headquarters for the PTDF in Abuja when our complaint is that we are not happy with the ones they have pulled out in the past”, he said.

Dr. Ekiyor urged members of the National Assembly from the South-South and South-East and possibly the South-West to work together and ensure that they throw out the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill, which took no cognisance of the oil producing communities.

Good decision — WIPMG Chairman of the Warri-Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG), Chief Paul Bigha told Saturday Vanguard, “The threat by the South-South governors to withdraw from the amnesty programme because of the reasons they gave is a laudable one. It has shown that they too know the move by the Northern oligarchy to continue to deprive the people of the Niger-Delta of their God-given resource”.

“At last, they have agreed with MEND in the struggle. We pray they should stand by the decision taken”, he added.

Why S-South Govs decided to tackle Yar’Adua

THE forewarning on Thursday night by South-South Governors that they would pull out of the amnesty programme of the Federal Government on the grounds of absence of a definite post-amnesty programme for the region, anti-oil-producing communities bearing of the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill and movement of the University of Petroleum from Effurun to Kaduna did not come as a shock to many Niger-Deltans.

To the more discerning ones, however, the action taken by the Governors at Asaba was expected long time ago, but, even though it was late in coming, it is  still good as aphorism,  “It is better late than never” demonstrates.

Hardly 24 hours before the stunning threat, coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah in an interview with Saturday Vanguard on the downgrading of the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, near Warri and upgrading of the Kaduna Petroleum College said he would not blame President Umaru Yar’Adua, but, the National Assembly members and Governors of the region, who have not been able to rise to the challenge of providing good leadership for their people because they were “selected” and not “elected”.

Recalling Yar’Adua’s recent statement of the government’s plan to build a trans-Saharan pipeline from Nigeria (Niger-Delta) to Algeria , he wondered why the South-South governors should not mobilize and meet Mr. President in Abuja and tell him unmistakably that the pipeline would be blown up by the boys if the proper thing was not done.

With the show the governors put in Asaba on Thursday, it was obvious that they had been bearing some pains of marginalization and oppression for a long time, but, events of the last few days made them to break loose.

All PDP, except for Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state, who is of the AC, the governors have done everything in the last two years and more to tag along with President Yar’Adua in virtually all his policies so as not to rock the party, but, the growing power of some of his advice-givers, who are anti-South-South in their actions, and the inability of Mr. President to quickly denounce their antics has become a source of concern to them.

Initially, some of the governors reported their worries to the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan but the look of things; it was evident that the number two citizen was not in the position to sway the President.

And so, the only option probably left for the governors, who are not unmindful of their place in history if they failed to take the bull by horn was to challenge the authority of Yar’Adua to give imprimatur to such decisions. They have come with a subtle threat of warning so as not to appear as if they are confronting Mr. President, hoping that he would read the handwriting on the wall and urgently make amend.

However, some South_Southerners who support the new spirit of the governors would not want the warning to be a blank threat and urged them not to give in to any appeal by President Yar’Adua as long as the issues they raised were not satisfactorily addressed.

They said it would be the worse treachery if the purpose of issuing the warning was to make the people of the South_South feel that they were really disturbed by the developments, whereas, they are on the same page with Yar’Adua and his Northern cohorts. But feelers from some sources close to the governors said they mean business this time around.

It was gathered that for a long time some of the governors who were bent on creating conducive atmosphere for the operations of the oil companies in the region and other stakeholders pleaded with the Presidency to grant amnesty to militants to facilitate their discussions with the armed youths to drop their arms, but, the Presidency paid deaf ears until the ill-advised Cordon and Search operation by the Joint Task Force on the Niger_Delta led to the near_total crippling of the economy.

Some of the governors were called militants and sponsors of militants for suggesting a way out and when, out of panic, the Federal Government proclaimed amnesty, it did not come out with any clear-cut development programme and the governors have no idea of what its actual intentions are, whether it is to get the militants off its back to continue to explore oil and gas or that it really has the interest of the people at heart, nobody can say.

Even the Ministry of Niger-Delta with two Ministers from the Niger-Delta does not have enough funds and authority to initiate certain things concerning the region without clearance from some Northern apologists in the Presidency.

Since the Niger-Delta Technical Committee headed by Mr. Ledum Mitee submitted its report, the governors have been buffeted from all fronts by their people on why the Federal Government has refused to issue a white paper on for nearly seven months, but despite the fact that they don’t have a correct answer, they kept telling their people that a committee was looking into it with the view of producing the recommendations that the President would use to come with a white paper. But for how long can they continue to lie to their people when the Mitee report contains the solutions to most of the problems.

Undeterred, the  governors still  battled to see how to get an “unwilling” President Yar’Adua to appraise the issues from a proper perspective so as not spoil the apple carte, his Minister of Petroleum, Dr.  Riwalnu Lukman added salt to injury with his crude verbiage in recent outings that portrayed the oil communities as meaning nothing to the government of the day.

The sheer arrogance of  Lukman broke the camel’s back, forcing the governors to react collectively against the President for the first time.


Sam Egwu should explain now the ramification of moving the Petroleum University to Kaduna.  Why should everything that makes the country function should be located in the Northern Nigeria? No more developing of any place in the North until the Niger Delta and its environs is fully developed. I am sick and tired of this constant insult of the people of Niger Delta…


Until the nation restructures in line with true federalism to attain its full potential, the problems in the Niger Delta will no doubt continue. 

“It is unbelievable that at this very sad juncture in the lives of the people of the Niger Delta, N14.5 billion would be used to set up a college of petroleum studies in a non-oil producing North while indigenes of the oil rich Niger Delta are left to wallow in ill-equipped training facilities.” – JRC

Is the government of Musa Yar’Adua actually thinking of sitting such an institution in Kaduna at this time? What is the rationale behind such a decision?

In the past, I had on several occasions queried the rationale behind siting a refinery in Kaduna under the government of General Murtala Muhammed. My query stemmed from the fact that, considering proximity to raw material as a notable determinant for siting an industry, Kaduna was in no way close to a possible area that would be earmarked for siting of such an industry. I saw, and still see the laying of conduits from Niger Delta to far away Kaduna for the transportation of the raw materials to feed the refinery as a clear economic waste that should have been avoided. That was political madness!

The reason adduced by many a rejoinder to my write-ups was that the decision to site the refinery in Kaduna was political, aimed to balance out some politico-economic equations in the scheme of things in the country. Some of the writers went further to say that in taking political decisions in a fragile country like Nigeria, economic factors normally become irrelevant.

As hard as they tried to convince me along this line, I was not moved. I still find it rationally inexplicable to site a refinery in Kaduna where no raw materials to feed the industry was found. On the contrary, I saw it as a political gimmick, diabolically designed to alienate the oil producing areas from enjoying the fringe benefits of their product. And if my thinking were correct, Murtala’s administration was a bit wicked to the oil-producing areas of the country in this aspect.

Granted that the wrong decision to site a refinery in Kaduna was done at the time of the military, and at a time when the South-South was struggling to find its footings on the political landscape of the country because of the civil war, why on earth should Yar’Adua ever think of setting a college of petroleum studies in Kaduna at this time, and in this dispensation? Why not cities like Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Warri, Asaba, Uyo, Aba, etc? Why Kaduna? What is the rationale behind the siting of such a college in Kaduna? What does the government want to achieve?

Many of us – including this writer are die-hard apologists of ONE NIGERIA, but the government should not play into the hands of those on the other side of the divide. That would be regrettable.

Emeka Reuben Okala
London, UK