AS I write, the Nigerian State has unleashed its Armed Forces, the largest on the African continent, on the hapless and long over-exploited people of the Niger Delta. A most horrendous and fratricidal onslaught, the ongoing military blitzkrieg has been conceived to brutally subjugate, and if need be annihilate, a target group that has championed the Niger Delta struggle for a decade now. The
commando-like pounding of Niger Delta communities and creeks is nothing but war. Yet, the Federal Government has not convincingly shown the world any instance of a casus belli. So far thousands of innocent citizens have died, hundreds of thousands displaced, hunger and hardship now stalk the living.
The Niger Delta debacle is avoidable. However, Nigeria’s ruling elite ever so well steeped in buccaneering engagements have conspired to make life “short, nasty and brutish” for Niger Deltans. At the core of the Niger Delta crisis is the deliberate unwillingness of the nation’s misruling hegemony to rule well. Infernal misrule, monumental corruption, Machiavellian manipulation, Mephistophelian guile and utter disregard for fairness, equity and justice all culminated in the ongoing imbroglio.
The fact remains that the Niger Delta is one of the most naturally endowed regions in the universe. Its oil and gas account for over 95 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue. Yet, Niger Deltans live in abject poverty having lost all the insignia and appurtenances of humanity. A torched landscape, polluted air and rivers now define the Niger Delta. Gone are the enchanting flora and fauna, the fishes, and all that once made the region an arcadia. The Nigerian State and oil multinationals have visited both ecocide and genocide on the Niger Delta region. The tragedy of the Niger Delta is already too well known to be recounted here.
The ongoing state orchestrated war will achieve nothing. It will further exacerbate the crises. The Niger Delta fighters, be they revolutionaries, militants, or “criminals” as the state brands them, should be invited to a peace talk. What is needed is neither force nor monologue. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is not a shadowy or shambolic organisation. It is a well organised movement in the vanguard of the Niger Delta struggle. It is in the best interest of all for the Nigerian State to recognise the body and “jaw jaw” with its leaders; one of whom is Henry Okah whom the Nigerian State has taken hostage. The resistance being put up by MEND is justifiable. In all history, every people under such inhuman oppression ultimately took up arms to right wrongs. MEND has repeatedly and most eloquently articulated its demands which a well-meaning state should not hesitate to grant. Such contentious issues as adherence to the principles of federalism and resource control form the raison d’etre for MEND’s struggle.
Successive Nigerian rulers have always been short-sighted, if not the Niger Delta debacle would not have been. The crisis in the region portends grave danger not just for Nigeria, but for Africa and probably the world. As the crisis escalates, the loss in human terms would aggregate a holocaust. Its effect on the Nigerian economy would be suicidal. The Federal Government says it is losing N8.7 billion daily to the ongoing crisis. This is a testimony to the diabolic intent of the Nigerian State. The region is the nation’s cash cow yet it is so impoverished. Ever so astigmatic, the Nigerian State is yet to gauge the future consequences of the ongoing action.
Ever so quick at giving a dog a bad name in order to hang it, the Nigerian State has again and again called the agitators criminals, militants and other denigrating labels. But the fact should be known that the state made them so. The real culprits are not the fighters, but government functionaries past and present who run Nigeria aground. Those men and women who stole our future for their today. To be sure they have their collaborators in the private sector, in the armed forces, police, universities, judiciary, in fact everywhere. The Niger Delta struggle, and indeed the struggle to reclaim Nigeria will not end until these cabals are undone. They swell their ranks every day, but certainly they cannot undermine the struggle.
There is really no doubt that the Niger Delta struggle has been infiltrated by criminals. However, these “criminals” are ironically agents of the ruling party. They form the bulk of thugs they used to rig elections in 1999, 2003 and 2007. The “criminals” also work hand in hand with politicians in hostage taking, kidnapping, and bunkering and in perpetrating other heinous acts. The “criminals” are also on the pay rolls of governors, legislators, military officers, business barons, among others who are in the sleaze of ruining Nigeria and the downtrodden. This is a country with a cancerous soul!.
The ongoing war in the region has given the lie to Niger Delta governors’ claim that they have achieved peace. It is a lesson to them that they should begin to build peace instead of buying it. The Yar’Adua government should begin to implement the recommendations of the Niger Delta Technical Committee. The MEND revolutionaries are not likely to give up the struggle until they are convinced that the government is serious and sincere. They have seen through the sham in gestures such as the Niger Delta Development Commission, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Six moths Amnesty period and other such hokum designed by the Nigerian State. The federal government should invite the fighters for sincere dialogue. All the stolen billions being recovered from thieves in positions of authority should be ploughed back to develop the region. The Niger Delta governors should also stop the massive corruption going on in the states. There is an emergency on hand, and they cannot afford to fiddle like Nero. They should use the billions they receive every month for the welfare of the people. They shall know no peace until the people are contented.
It is shocking that President Yar’Adua has not made any public statement about the on going pogrom. However, it is more shocking that the baby Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, blabber mouth Dimeji Bankole has commended the soldiers for murdering Niger Deltans, and has urged them to extend the holocaust to Bayelsa and River States. All Niger Deltans whether, Efik, Ibibio, Urhobo, Ijaw, Itsekiri, Isoko, Anioma, etc, must rise and rally round the present cause. They should mobilise and internationalise the campaign to emancipate the region. They should let the world know the facts of the ongoing Niger Delta genocide.
Dr. Awhefeada teaches literature at the Delta State University, Abraka.