Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lessons from the Yenagoa Declaration

For the first time after the famous and historic gathering of all Ijaw sons and daughters christened The Kaiama Declaration more than one decade ago in which they demanded socio-economic and environmental justice from the Nigerian state, the pioneer and present leadership of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) the foremost nonviolent ideological youth movement in the Niger Delta converged on Yenagoa the Bayelsa State capital to chart a way forward for the youth of the region especially on issues that affect their role in economic development and the security of the region.

Also, in what seemed like a great departure from the past, the youth group through the support of the Bayelsa state government unanimously agreed to brook the frowns of criminality among their ranks. In their collective resolve, they stared cruelly at the cabal of dishonesty and the mightily corrupt straight in the eyes and asked them to desist from their evil ways. They for once promised to back their rhetoric with sustainable punches.

The well attended summit’s theme “Economic Development and Security in Bayelsa State/Niger Delta: the Role of the Youths” was apt and timely following the incessant cases of youth restiveness and frequent kidnaps that have resulted in the colossal loss of lives and revenues to the beleaguered region and the country at large. The action of the youth leaders convoked an agreeable unanimity that for the first time ever united the ideological tangents of hoodwinked Nigerians about the role of the Niger Delta youth in nation building.

During the summit under review, all honest commentators and analysts became agreed on the greatness of the meeting’s core objective of uniting the youth for peace which is sine qua non to human and socio-economic development as well as security of the region.

During the event, sad moment like the Odi butchery which was one of the fallouts of region’s agitations for economic and social justice may have testified to the tyrannical propensities resident in the core values of the Nigerian state, the determination of the youth to take their destinies in their hands send powerful signals that would give courage and hope to the Obong Ufot Ekaette’s led newly created Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. This was evident considering the quality and weight of personalities like Asari Dokubo, Felix Tuodolor, Maxwell Oko, Samuel Ogbuku and Patterson Ogons who graced the one day summit.

The shockwaves that reverberated in kidnap–merchant–camps were legendarily enormous as reported in the state capital. At least the geriatric debauchees who derived pleasure in burying the posterity of the youth in the crapulence of their avarice must turn a new leaf. The message in the Gloryland Cultural Center Yenagoa was very simple and concise: The youth are simply saying that political robber barons that stole the moment by embezzling their future, summiting them to be pillars of stagnancy and decadence have all been challenged and shocked into the realization that their evil will ultimately consume itself.

May this new sense of responsibility among the Niger Delta youth not lose steam!

With such atmosphere of unanimous stand against violence, kidnapping and restiveness, the ball is now in the President’s court to match his sanctimonious 7 point agenda with action. Previous attempts to address the Niger Delta question have rather been energetic than useful. Some were out rightly pharisaic and brazenly hypocritical. For instance the government stance on the region’s problems is anything but sincere. This fact was well articulated by Chief Edwin K. Clark who presided over the summit as father of the day and the generality of the youth in a communiqué issued at the end of the summit. It may interest Nigerians to know that President Yar’Adua visited the region only twice since assumption of office. It is on record that these visits were political not facts finding mission.

The present administration seemingly deceitful policies, volte face attitude in the region in question and most importantly the liberalization of ethnic politics in Nigeria are a dangerous trend in our body politic. How else can one describe the latest appointments in the oil industry? At first, the government was able to hide its depravity under the cloaks of populist mantras such as ‘the rule of law, 7 point agenda and servant leader style of governance’. But today, in order to coerce the impoverished Niger Delta masses into genuine submission, a retired and tired technocrat was called upon to man the 21st century reformed and transformed energy ministry after more than two decades of retirement from active service while his then personal aide was handed over the chair of authority in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). All these are men with northern cleavages. Essential ministries and bureaux such as works, finance, energy, national planning, FCT, Office of the SGF (very soon CBN) and juicy transactions like Oil Lifting License are the exclusive reserve of my brothers from the north. Justice to the people of the Niger Delta is stillborn!

The greatest tragedy and paradox of the region is likened to sending one to a farm without a basic tool like a hoe. Compare the budgetary allocation to the FCT and Niger Delta Ministries and imagine the gross disparity considering the developmental challenges of the region. These salient facts are the path Chief Clark and the youth have consciously chosen to tread in there seminal, thematic, eloquent and lucid presentations during and after the summit. They laid out the issues and invited reason to judgment albeit with threat to take legal action against the government if such injustices subsist.

As the youth resolve to eschew violence and follow the path of intellectual reasoning as canvassed by the group’s president, Dr. Chris Ekiyor, the Nigerian state must not continue to wander in a desert of socio-political injustice for so long without any oasis of hope insight.

Maxwell James

Yenagoa, Bayelsa State

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