Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nigeria and The Imperatives of French Revolution

Today, the 14th of July, is ‘Bastille Day’. This is the French ‘Fête nationale’ which originally commemorated the ‘Storming of the Bastille’ marking the beginning of the French Revolution and the subsequent fall and demise of Louis XVI and the French Monarchy. Bastille Day is celebrated on 14th July each year. In France, it is called "Fête Nationale" ("National Holiday"), in official parlance, or more commonly "quatorze juillet" ("14th of July"). 

The French national holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which took place on 14 July 1789 and marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The storming of the Bastille is seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern French "nation", and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution.

The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th's Ancient Regime. By capturing this symbol, the people signaled that the king's power was no longer absolute: power should be based on the Nation and be limited by a separation of powers. Although the Bastille only held seven prisoners at the time of its capture, the storming of the prison was a symbol of liberty and the fight against oppression for all French citizens. Like the Tricolour flag, it symbolised the Republic's three ideals: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity for all French citizens. 
It marked the end of absolute monarchy, the birth of the sovereign Nation, and, eventually, the creation of the (First) Republic, in 1792. Bastille Day has such a strong signification for the French because the holiday symbolises the birth of the Republic. As in the US, where the signing of the Declaration of Independence signalled the start of the American Revolution, in France the storming of the Bastille began the Great Revolution. In both countries, the national holiday thus symbolises the beginning of a new form of government.
The significance of this day cannot be lost on Nigeria as both countries, just revving up after a peculiarly hectic transition processes that ushered in brand new leaders, are presently enmeshed in an intrinsic drive for rebirth, re-direction and restoration in the face of extensive socio-economic and political challenges of epic proportions. 
This commonality of experience is further enhanced by the geographic forces of history, which localised Nigeria in the matrix of four francophone African countries namely Républiques du Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. 
There is no gainsaying the obvious that this singular fact underscores the importance which France attaches to Nigeria as it is also conscious of the fact that Nigeria, with its gregarious population which constitutes one fifth of the total population of Africa south of the Sahara, inhabits an area almost twice the size of France.
It is equally noteworthy that relations between the two countries have developed steadily on the economic, political and cultural levels since former President Jacques Chirac’s trip to Nigeria in July 1999 shortly after Obasanjo’s inauguration. A return visit by former President Obasanjo in February 2000 further contributed to giving new impetus to economic relations between the two countries. 
Incontestable statistics reveal that after picking up vigorously in 2005 (increasing by 37,5% and exceeding for the first time €1 billion – attaining in fact €1, 048 million), French exports to Nigeria surged spectacularly by 78% in the first five months of 2006. French imports from Nigeria too, mainly consisting of hydrocarbons, have also grown considerably by 63% since the beginning of 2006. With this record, Nigeria became the second largest client to France in the sub-Saharan Africa and by inference, a significant trade partner of France.
A peep in to the historicity of the two nations unearths an inextricable but active relationship that dates back as early as 1902 with establishment of Compagnie Française de l’Afrique Occidentale (CFAO) in Lagos. Other companies in various sectors soon followed that example. As at now, more than 120 French companies participate in Nigeria’s economic development. 
French presence in Nigeria’s industrial sector is substantial with the establishment of MICHELIN in Port Harcourt, producing unprocessed rubber from its rubber tree plantations, manufacturing tyres and exporting same to 25 countries, Air Liquide supplying industrial gas and oxygen all over the country, PEUGEOT operating the largest assembly plant in West Africa, Cementia Lafarge rolling million tonnes of cement, and TOTAL leading in the vigorous development of Nigeria’s petroleum and gas sector.
In infrastructural development, BOUYGUES pioneers the construction of first-class facilities from Abuja and in electrical engineering; ALSTOM, AREVA, SCHNEIDER and CLEMESSY are major French electrical sector suppliers boosting the local energy capacity. In GSM telephony, ALCATEL and SAGEM are churning out technological mysteries while ACCOR, AIR FRANCE and SDV-BOLLORE are all leading the revolution in the services sector namely Hospitality, Aviation and logistics. 
Over the years, investment by such French enterprises in Nigeria has reached a total stock of about US$ 4 billion, more than in all of the rest of West Africa. Accordingly, in terms of current investment in the country, France ranks slightly behind the United States and ahead of the United Kingdom, our so-called coloniser and Commonwealth brother.
On the cultural plane, Nigeria, being an English-speaking nation surrounded by French speaking nations and constituting with them, a region on its way to integration, the need to learn French can only be compared to the necessity of learning English in France. 
However, Nigeria’s educational sector which has wobbled severely under conscious under-funding by Governments has received appreciable levels of funding from the French Ministry of Education with the establishment of a network of more than 120 secondary schools and 24 institutions of higher learning on a pilot basis and an establishment of three zonal centres (Jos, Enugu & Ibadan) specialising in training Teachers of French language.
Further cultural presence is actualised through the establishment of Ten Alliance Français institutes and Cultural centres and a teacher-training programme run in partnership with the Agence Internationale de la Francophonie and aimed not only at modernising their teaching methods which have gone rusty due to Governmental insensitivity but also at making the learning of French more appealing to Nigerians. 
My experience at the Nigerian French Language Village in 2002 would forever remain evergreen in the aggregated nationalistic efforts at achieving national unity and global relevance through the voice of a common language.
In bringing to bear, the consequences of the French Revolution on Nigeria, there is universal agreement that the political and administrative face of France was wholly altered: a republic based around elected – mainly bourgeois - deputies replaced a monarchy supported by nobles while the many and varied feudal systems were replaced by new, usually elected institutions which were applied universally across France. Culture was also affected, at least in the short term, with the revolution permeating every creative endeavour.

There is no doubt that the revolution permanently changed the social structures of France as Europe was also changed. The revolutionaries of 1792 began a war, which extended through the Imperial period and forced nations to marshal their resources to a greater extent than ever before. 

Some areas, like Belgium and Switzerland, became client states of France with reforms similar to those of the revolution. National identities also began coalescing like never before. The many and fast developing ideologies of the revolution were also spread across Europe, helped by French being the continental elite’s dominant language.

The imperatives of the above and many others on our nation cannot be oversimplified in the light of the urgent need for a revolution that would restructure our bogus federation and an immediate overhaul of our constitution. The past eight years have not only brought out the naked deficiencies of our constitution but have also revealed in its truest shape, the knock-kneed and distended nature of the Nigerian federalism. 

The advent of separatist agitations laced with kidnappings, terrorism and other Mephistophelean luxuries as well as an extant administration that continues to sweep aside all questions of national existence by the simple process of arrogating all powers to itself, small circle of cronies and party faithfuls, has of course further galvanized the thinking, inserting the possibility that one way to ensure that these aberrations are nipped in the bud, is to activate the French revolutionary instinct by way of looking into and modifying the very structures that conveyed us to this sorry pass, for if the unthinkable could happen once, and the internal arrangements of the nation’s democracy are not drastically overhauled and rendered more equitable and accountable, then of course, the temptation to repeat that phase of our history will ever remain with us.

Atâyi Babs

The Niger Delta Master Plan: Another View

Amidst usual banters and self-righteous pontifications, the President launched the most-awaited Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan (NDRDMP) recently. The master plan, which was facilitated by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in collaboration with local stakeholders and international development agencies, 
is geared towards achieving orderly and accelerated socio-economic transformation of the Niger Delta.
With an implementation timeframe of 15 years (2005-2020) in the first instance, the master plan is divided into five areas, like economic growth, under which wealth is expected to be generated in order to reduce poverty, support better living standards, diffuse social tension, and regenerate urban areas. Human and community needs will address the welfare of individuals; the natural environment aspect aims to conserve bio-diversity resources, remediate and restore environmentally impacted sites and degraded resources, and set standards for regulation and control.
At a cursory look, the above which according to its authors, is "unique and represents the veritable road map for concrete development of the region", appears to manage the magic of proffering a comprehensive and pragmatic solution to the Niger Delta conundrum. But for a region that comprises nine states (all under PDP control for 7½ years), 185 local government areas and over 13, 000 communities, and is at the same time home to the livewire of the nation's largely undiversified economy, the plan is not only ill-timed, it sure stinks of socio-economic masturbation and tokenism.
Let’s state the fact in unmistakable terms. Niger Delta today has become a perfect picture of stupefaction with neglect and violence as totemic icons of fluctuating existentialism. Blessed with one of the biggest oil reserves on the planet and with over 34 billion of black gold tucked under its voluptuous belly, the region still shamefacedly flaunts itself as the habitation of some of Africa’s poorest people and probably the region with the worst environmental destruction and degradation on earth.
It continues to attract quantum of attention in national and international discourse due to the fact that whilst other regions in Nigeria share the benefits of enhanced national revenue accrued from oil and gas, only the impoverished people of the Niger Delta bear the burden of hosting the black gold that sustains the nation and at same time lubricates the fantasies of her rulers.
Expectedly, the colossal indifference of successive Governments to redress these anomalies and promote national harmony, peace, justice and fairness in a pluralistic society like ours has created the present situation of disruptive restiveness in the region occasioned by an ever-increasing army of militant Youths with a rabid predilection for violence. This has been manifested through kidnapping of oil workers and expatriates, vandalising oil installations, general insecurity of lives and property, and many other vices.
The dictates of the above behove on any Government worth its salt to tackle these issues firmly, objectively and with all sincerity of purpose by putting first things first as well matching words with action, and not merely adulating in rhetoric and self-derided notion of progress. The act itself, of launching a master plan, rulebook or strategy whose birthday postdates the existence of an act of parliament that legislated its implementer into being smacks of putting the cart before the horse.
Moreover, the Niger Delta is today where it is, not because of the absence of well-articulated plans, strategies and governmental apparatus to serve as veritable engine rooms of growth but because of our seemingly hereditary inability to right historical wrongs, hold aloft the banner of truth and justice, promote equality and fairness to all men, place good of the State of over self, and internalise the mechanisms of ‘Social Contract’ as postulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
For a region that wears the toga of poverty and violence like a crown, a master plan that is supposedly meant to raise the standard of living above the poverty line, and go beyond that to create favourable conditions for social stability, greater productivity and economic prosperity in the rural and urban Niger Delta cannot be said to be a "clearly defined and people-oriented, multi-stakeholder development strategy for the region" as the peoples’ views, hopes and legitimate aspirations as contained in their bill of rights, declarations, and charter of demands which the government continues to treat with utter contempt, were totally disregarded.
Furthermore, the master plan’s capacity to mitigate violence and stop the tide of hostage-taking in the region can only be situated in the fate that befell the much-lauded report of the Ogomodia Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas which is presently occupying a pride of place on the shelves of Government, gathering dust!
One wonders the propriety of launching a master plan in 2007 when Government has not commenced the full implementation of the recommendations of the Lt. Gen. Alexander Ogomudia-led Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas which submitted its report to the President on the 19th of February 2002.
Another intriguing thing about this master plan is its distended shyness of the key recommendations of the panel which are: upward review of the minimum 13% derivation to not less than 50%; Training of Niger Delta indigenes for employment in oil companies; Provision of infrastructures such as electricity, water, roads, e.t.c, Repeal of the Land Use Act, Petroleum Act, Gas Re-injection Act and other laws which dispossesses oil producing areas of their land; and the full industrialisation of the Niger Delta region?
Posers on Government’s intrinsic incapacitation to translate into tangible reality, the recommendations of the James Ibori Presidential Standing Committee on the Niger Delta; the NNPC-Niger Delta Youths Standing Committee, the Major Gen. Mohammed Presidential Committee on Peace and Reconciliation in the Niger Delta; and The Niger Delta Peace and Security Strategy (PASS) will further give us a prophetic insight into the expected destination of this master plan: the recycle bin.
It might even suffer a shoddier fate with the coming of the next Government (even if it’s a PDP-controlled one), which may not be under any moral suasion to implement the twilight plan of an administration that had 8 years to cure a national malady.
Hopes that a shared understanding of the plan would go a long way to secure and sustain public faith and participation throughout the plan implementation period as well as help the stakeholders, especially oil companies and international organisations make informed contributions that will enrich the plan can be said to be a hopeless hope as long as the people are shut out from relevance.
Relevance in this case pertains to recognising and accommodating all local interest groups and communal assemblies in any plan that aspires to add meaning to their existence. And at the moment, there is no overstating the unassailable fact that the prolonged mindless incarceration of Asari Dokubo for treasonable felony (which the master plan obviously evaded) constitutes a daring assault on the collective integrity of every Niger Deltan as well as an abhorrent normalisation of selective justice against a people so oppressed. The aggregate opinions in the region points to a speedy and expeditious trial/release for the NDPVF leader as precursor to any further intervention in the Niger Delta.
Also, glorifying and recognising oil companies and organisations as drivers of effective delivery of the master plan negates outrightly, the antecedents and contributions of these bodies in the degradation of the region as well in other parts of the world where there is always an intricate nexus between civil wars and natural resource ownership.
It is a well known fact internationally that wherever there are resources to be plundered we find foreign companies ready to cooperate; often there is the World Bank, Shell, Chevron, Texaco or ExxonMobile to put a smiley face on these atrocities, claiming things would be worse if they did not supervise the corruption and pay a blind eye to the despoliation of the environment.
Similarly, expecting State governments that stashed away monies and other resources accruable to Niger Delta States way in hidden bank vaults and used same to service personal fantasies and phoney presidential ambitions to now “come in through ecological funds and professional funds management in order to ensure improved revenue generation, encourage public-private sector partnership, and special projects” can as well be likened to praying wishes to be horses for beggars to ride. Leopards are not yet known to be chameleonic, at least not in the Niger Delta.
This is hoping that the authors of this plan will look into the aforementioned drawbacks with a view to correcting same as a Niger Delta where peace, prosperity and progress walk on all fours is the wish of every true Nigerian!
Atâyi Babs©

As Leadership Changes Hand in Niger Delta

Whether we like it or not, bad governance and political irresponsibility have never constructed the greatness of any human society. The peace, progress and development of every nation are forever predicated on, and guaranteed by responsible and visionary leadership which pilot the affairs of the state with enormous sense of duty. These foregoing cannot be divorced from the present quest to redesign the Niger Delta as a region that has become increasingly hostile to its inhabitants.

History testifies to these facts. Niger Delta as any challenged enclave in the world has not yet found it bearing simply because good leadership has eluded the region. Men of honour have not been in the vanguard of administering and championing its course.

Historically, one can confidently equate the Niger Delta conundrum to Great Roman Empire, America after the Great Depression, Great Britain after the Nazism and Germany after the war. whereas record has it that Caesar was reputed to have found Rome a city of brick, but left it a city of marble, while Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) gave America the new deal which not only brought it out of the great depression, but jump stated a socio – economic renaissance that today, was reputed to have brought America at the pinnacle of global dominance, while Winston Churchill led Britain during its darkest hours ; leading it to victory from the jaws of the Nazi death and destruction, while Konrad Adanauer and Friedrich Ebert inspired the Germans post war miracle which today set Germany out as one of the world’s economic giants, the Niger Delta and Nigeria’s problems have however become as complex as astronomy (apology to Eddy Edivwri of This Day) in this 21st century world simply because we lack icons of history to make legendary and remarkable impact to solving the region’s problem. Also, china that we all admire today was carefully and rigidly managed by men who nursed a vision of socio – economic dominance.

After a careful study of the Niger Delta crisis, it is rather unfortunate that the travail of the region, the socio – economic disequilibrium, militant anxiety and the secessionist agitations in the region are direct consequences of bad governance occasioned by league of buccaneers that have held the people hostage for the past years. It is rather unfortunate that some Presidential Aspirants are even canvassing for the creation of ministry of Niger Delta to ensure the perpetuation of looting in Abuja – Nigeria’s supreme axis of pretense.

Leadership as observed by one public commentator is more than a compilation of some delirious meandering of synaptic import. It is important to see leadership as a call to serve the masses and the zeal to inspire fellow citizens with apostolic zest unlike the nebulous college of looters that parade themselves in the Niger Delta as messiahs. Leadership is for true patriots. In summary, leadership is all about giving. Ask JF Kennedy! From Presidential to Local Council candidates, anybody that lacks the will to give a purposeful leadership in the troubled region should be rejected by the politically awaken people of the region as leadership changes hand.

For instance, each presidential candidate has seen reason to rent the air with statement such as; I will change the fortune of the Niger Delta people without concretely stating how to go about it. The brazenness of governance in the region in the past years is so naked that the rural populace drink from the water they defecate in. this, I am saying from experience as a development worker in the region. It is therefore rational to situate the crisis in the region in the precedent years as failure of governance across all level of our national life. J F Kennedy observed long time ago that if a free society cannot help the many who are poor; it can never save the few who are rich.

If hunger wakes the poor to insomnia, fear will invite the rich to awake. That is the law of social existence. The present insecurity and other sundry agitation in the ruined region is a clear manifestation of the above long time axiom where the elite in complete concurrence with expatriates steal every resource thereby leaving the poor to swim in abject poverty and crumbs.

This writer’s experience in the region’s communities as regards social infrastructure that is totally lacking has further reinforced the level of incompetence and insanity of a bunch of leaders so brash that dominates our country despite the huge resources therein! How can a man be in the midst of water and yet have no water to drink? Isn’t this the sorry irony of the Niger Delta?

For instance if all the oil producing region has to advertise is hostage taking, absence of electricity, health care, roads, mind boggling poverty, street filled with filth, and refuse, why then should we contest the fact that, when the likes of Richard Gozny say leadership is the bane of the region; when it is obvious that the past and present day misrulers have helped them arrived at such conclusions.

The most important aspect of this development is the opportunity the present democratic transition offers. It is rather very instructive for the people in the delta to choose candidates that look, sound and exude credibility. Considering the absence of plausible leadership, monumental avarice, brazen inequality and social dissension in the region, supporting the candidates of these largely failed and profligate governors to access and control their resources legitimately - certainly means their rendezvous with greatness is automatically postponed ad infinitum.

It is terribly bad that hospital in even some of the states capitals are practically out of drugs and equipments and few Doctors loitering around will watch you die if you have no deposit. Bearing in mind the enormous wealth embedded in this poverty stricken land, there exists no logic, excuse or circumstances that can justify the level of misrule and crass incompetence prevalent in the region in terms of administering governance except if the will is lacking couple with desire for self aggrandizement. The above statement defies all explanation and constitutes the greatest example of the colossal failing of mankind and man inhumanity to man especially from the outgoing leadership in Nigeria. Today the region and by extension Nigeria has become a huge paradox of everything that is evil, wrong and hopeless.

Recently the senate president, Ken Nnamani was quoted as saying all the countries Nigeria took off together in nationhood have tragically left us behind. One can even safely the ones with criminally bad record of terrorism, dictatorship and lack can boast of functional and efficient basic infrastructure and services with good level of social welfare in spite of their meager resources. Ours is a direct opposite – poverty amidst plenty. Or can someone explain the fact that despite the records amount in our coffers we still grope in perpetual and endless dungeon of poverty?

I enjoin all our Presidential Aspirants and respective aspirants from the following areas to pay a campaign visit to Tamigbe, Ozobo, Agbogene in Delta State and Ayama, Aleibiri, Isampou, Peretorugbene, Gesmiebo all in Bayelsa State and Akaolu in Ahoada west, Obele, Rumuekpe in Emohua; Rivers states to see the dehumanizing condition in which the Niger Delta people tragically find themselves. It is a case of total disconnect in the following Ogoni land in Rivers state – Bere, Teemana, Agbani – Lueku, Gbe, Giokoo, Kira – Tai and Kporgor. I can go on and on. These ironically are the three richest states in Nigeria in view of their federal allocation and sundry incomes.

In these communities, one can witness the extent to which the Niger Delta governors with the full cooperation and facilitation of the oil companies and Federal Government have held their subject; who were seen as slave rather than as citizen in contempt. These “leaders” have demonstrated more self-centeredness than anything else. Infact, Nigeria has failed the Niger Delta!

To end with, as these governors and their collaborators exit the various Government Houses, all effort must be stepped in to bring the full hammer of justice on those leaders that have failed the people. This will serve as deterrent to the in coming leadership.

Maxwell James

HOSTAGE-TAKING: What Government Must Do in 2007

From a hitherto exclusive Mephistophelean pastime in turbulent climes, hostage-taking has burst forth on our shores with a sneeze that is reminiscent of the asthmatic Baboons in virgin forests. Its advent on our shores is no doubt an effusion of anger, provocation and unrestrained emotions at our swelling failures and inadequacies in nation-building as well as the age-long distinctive contradictions in the Nigerian State.

The cumulative cost of quasi-military resistance by the Niger Delta youths has been enormous in terms of human, financial and economic sacrifices. The impact of hostage-taking, which has come to be regarded as a national malady, afflicting the soul of the nation’s economy can only be hazarded as the nation’s oil output is the worse hit with the loss of 600, 000 barrels per day (BPD) and even more as at last year. It was initially 556, 000 bpd, but with an addition of 75, 000 down, Nigeria’s daily oil revenue loss for 2006 was a whopping $700, 000,000! With the incidences of hostage-taking recorded this year already, it is expected that the national budget is already running short of $1 billon.

These huge losses will definitely translate into another occurrence of needless deficit budgeting with a snowballing effect on the already empty stomach of the common man. This scenario will in turn, provide our Leaders with an omnibus excuse not to fund our educational aspirations, provide social security, transform our ‘consulting clinics’ to apex referral hospitals, provide infrastructures, roads and incentives that will engender societal transformation through agro-allied activities, and translate the Nigerian nightmare to the Nigeria of our dreams.

Hostage-taking, for all it has come to represent, must not be allowed to continue as we cannot afford a sustained bonfire of our hopes and aspirations to greatness on the altar of youth recklessness and Governmental insensitivity. We, the people of Nigeria must arise and speak anew in boldness and courage to the people of the Niger Delta who live in depravation, that inasmuch as we will neither ignore your oppression nor excuse your oppressors, we can only stand up for your liberty and stand with you in an atmosphere devoid of reckless exuberance, mindless violence and inarticulate posturing.

In the same vein, Nigerians must also rise and put their Government to task on proffering lasting and workable solutions to the seemingly intractable Niger Delta question as previous and current interventionist attempts at providing lasting and meaningful solutions to the restiveness and general instability in the region have come to oscillate between taking two steps forward and three steps backward. We should make our Leaders to understand that a genuine effort by the Federal Government of Nigeria in directly intervening in the Niger Delta region with a view to giving them a sense of belonging and partnership in the Nigerian Project remains the most cogent and penetrative panacea to the problems of the beleaguered region.

Such an effort must encompass a complex whole of strategies and steps that when implemented fully, will assuredly address the decades of neglect, exclusion and abandonment experienced by the inhabitants of the region and it will also restore hope and impart a sense of collective fulfilment. As an important overture, Government should as a matter of necessity embrace the time-tested ideals of genuine dialogue which are sincerity of purpose, sense of collective importance, patient listening, readiness to implement decisions, faithfulness and focal commitment to progress and not rely on the current Aso Rock choir of cheerleaders of Niger Delta extraction which has since become as potent as a dialogue with the deaf.

For a meaningful dialogue to hold, Government should cease further hostilities against the Niger Delta people by the Armed Forces in order to create conditions necessary for genuine dialogue aimed at addressing the underlying factors for violence in the region. The planned use of chemical and aerial bombardments of positions believed to be occupied by the militants should be denounced for what it is: anachronistic and unproductive.

With 2007 as an electoral year, Government should commence the full implementation of the recommendations of the Lt. Gen. Alexander Ogomudia-led Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas. The committee which was inaugurated on the 8th of November 2001 had all the then service chiefs I.G of Police, SSS DG, NSA, Representatives of Niger Delta States Oil Companies and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) as members and it submitted its report to the President on the 19th of February 2002.

Among the key recommendations which are very germane to the resolution of the present impasse in the region are: upward review of the minimum 13% derivation to not less than 50%; Training of Niger Delta indigenes for employment in oil companies; Provision of infrastructures such as electricity, water, roads, e.t.c, Repeal of the Land Use Act, Petroleum Act, Gas Re-injection Act and other laws which dispossesses oil producing areas of their land; and the full industrialisation of the Niger Delta region.

The above recommendations, to say the least, are very realistic just as they are attainable looking at the long years of neglect of the Niger Delta vis-à-vis Government’s knack for implementing far-reaching reforms which taste like bitter pills today but solve the problems in the long run. Moreover, for the cynics of the Government to be proved wrong that the “ongoing reform programme” is not just an esoteric swansong for witch-hunting, societal dislocation and self-serving actions, Government must adopt the same mentality of reforms that presently oils the wheels of governance in adopting the eight democratic proclamations by the peoples of the Niger Delta with regards to claims of ownership, resource access and control, environmental justice and clamour for true federalism. This should be done with a view to implementing the relevant aspects that do not run contrary to the spirit and letter of the 1999 constitution. These proclamations include that of the Ogonis, (a bill of rights), Ijaws (Kaiama declaration), Ikwerre (charter of demands), Urhobo (resolutions of the Urhobo Economic Summit) Isoko (charter of demands), Oron (bill of rights) Egi (Aklaka declaration), and Warri ( Warri accord).

2007 should also see Government at all levels taking concrete steps in ensuring that oil companies protect environment, monitor and verify oil companies’ contributions to community development with a view to plugging observed leakages and arresting senile excesses of Niger Delta Elders, embark on a comprehensive road network to open up the isolated region, establish specialist Health institutions throughout the region, make the Niger Delta “Liberation Project” unattractive and less lucrative by providing jobs for the vast army of youths, provide scholarship for training in oil industry-related skills, full implementation of the NDDC masterplan as mandated by the Mr. President and increased funding for NDDC which presently subsists in tokenism.

However, Government must be commended for the seven major policy decisions it has implemented in the region within the past seven years. These are the implementation of the 13% derivation; setting up of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); constitution of the Ogomudia Committee; constitution of the James Ibori Presidential Standing Committee on the Niger Delta; the NNPC-Niger Delta Youths Standing Committee, constitution of the Major Gen. Mohammed Presidential Committee on Peace and Reconciliation in the Niger Delta; and The Niger Delta Peace and Security Strategy (PASS).

Also worth commending is the appointment of worthy Niger Delta sons into commanding heights of the Oil and Gas sector with particular reference to Dr. Edmund Daukarou OPEC President and Energy Minister. Equally worth commending is the involvement and recognition of Youths in the Government’s quest for peace and development in the Niger Delta as evidenced in the recent appointment of Mr. Maxwell Oko, the former central zone Chairman of Ijaw Youth Council, Field Coordinator of the Niger Delta Peace and Security Strategy (PASS) and the National Coordinator of the Ijaw House, as the Special Assistant to the Energy Minister. With this appointment, there is no gainsaying the fact that Government recognises the unassailable role of the youths in stemming the tide of hostage-taking and other violent acts as Maxwell Oko’s tenure as IYC Chairman saw to the facilitation of a harmonious working environment for oil companies as well as the active involvement of Ijaw Youths in vocational trainings, entrepreneurship and investment management programmes.

It is hoped that these steps will go a long way in dousing the angst in the Niger Delta and terminate the reign of hostage-taking on our shores as they will decisively and positively address the foundational raisons d’être for this unfortunate tide in our nation’s history with a view to permanently correcting and eliminating same.

Atâyi Babs

Global Job Crises And The Nigerian Prodigals

 A recent trip back to Nigeria brought the reality home. Nigerians, an inimitable set of the most hardworking and intelligent people on the face of the earth, contributing to global development in all spheres of human existence, are not insulated from global job losses after all. The brimful arrival lounge of the Murtala Mohammed International airport was all confirmation needed. Luggage of all sizes and colours belonging to returnee Nigerians struggled with the attendant human traffic for relevance. In the midst of this urban chaos was frustration and disillusionment boldly inscribed.
A chat with some of them unearthed the deep currents of dissatisfaction flowing copiously beneath the ocean of thoughts in which their jerky return to the land of their birth has subsumed them. Job losses, redundancies, shrunken investments, “Madoff syndrome” attacks, mounting bills to pay, and switched off services and utilities all topped their bill of complaints. In a 21st century re-enactment of the biblical parody of the prodigal son, they are coming back home with the hope of finding jobs where they are none, creating non-existent opportunities as well as reverse the brain drain in our universities to brain gain. A sudden flash of realisation and alien patriotic zeal seem to suddenly burst on their sight.
The facts on the ground are grim. Governments, Multinationals, Corporations and blue chips across the globe where these vibrant Nigerians once regarded as their fortes, impregnable safe havens, are now grunting under the smashing yoke of the latest capitalist malady called recession. Initially it was the capital market, and then oil and gas, motoring, manufacturing, banking, aviation and now media institutions are all reeling in this unfathomable descent to nothingness. Internet giant, Yahoo ran up one-off costs of more than $600m during the first quarter as it shed 1,600 jobs, equivalent to 10 per cent of its workforce, and took a hefty accounting charge on its international operations. For the full year, the company remained in the black with profits of $424m, compared to $660m in 2007, fended off a takeover offer from Microsoft, struck an aborted co-operation partnership with Google and wrestled with a shareholder rebellion.
On their part, Microsoft announced the most sweeping job cuts in its history as a worsening economy and weak spending on technology sent quarterly profit sharply lower. Microsoft stated in a release that “in the light of the further deterioration of global economic conditions, it was eliminating up to 5,000 jobs in R&D, marketing, sales, finance, legal, HR and IT over the next 18 months, including 1,400 jobs today.” Toyota, General Motors, Honda, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Bank Paribas, Airfrance-Klm, British Airways, Rfi, Bbc have all tasted the bitter fruit of job cuts in the face of dwindling fortunes with over two hundred thousand hands waking up into unexpected docility.
All these notwithstanding, the end of this global job sludge appears far from the vista of realistic permutations as the world economy is firmly on the part to losing no fewer than 51 million jobs by the end of 2009. In its recent damning report, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said that the global job cuts which could climb 51 million by the end of this year is a direct consequence of the disparaging economic meltdown, which has dealt heavy blow on economies of Europe, America and Asia. The ILO figures indicate that developed economies would be hit hardest with the fastest rise in unemployment rates, from an average of 5.7 per cent in 2007 up to 6.6 to 7.9 per cent in 2009 and East Asia which had the lowest regional unemployment rate at 3.5 per cent in 2007 is forecast to experience a jump of between 4.5 to 5.5 per cent in a year.
Putting it plainly, this crisis carries the prospects of pushing another 200 million workers into extreme poverty as they and their dependants are faced with the grim reality of being forced out of a living in informal, underpaid and unstable work situations especially in Africa and South Asia. With no remarkable progress in poverty reduction and the colossal weakening of the middle classes, and the attendant socio-political and security implications, the situation could get even worse especially for Africans in Diaspora.
With this seemingly unending dramatic twist of events, Nigeria has once again proven to be the last resort to many of its citizens in Diaspora what with the current unprecedented scramble for Lagos and Abuja flight tickets from major destinations in the world. As they come in their droves, it is only apposite to assure them of Nigerians’ usually receptive and legendary courtesies to both foreign and indigenous visitors. They should be reminded of their country’s peculiar circumstances in case they may have forgotten due to long sojourn overseas. They are indeed welcome to their country, which is powered by the lethal fumes of generators and fuelled by crime. A Nigeria that subsists largely in a yet to be recognised but trail-blazing leadership meltdown where every family unit constitutes a government on its own, providing water, power, security and tarrying roads.
A refreshingly new country where banks and other financial institutions declare cooked and cancerous profits and dividends under a distended money market regime that stands economics on its head awaits them. Also waiting with its long arms of welcome is the history grabbing, Obama-endorsing capital market, tucked firmly in the ‘safe’ hands of Transcorp patrons and led by one of their own, a “been to” with a shouting green card to match. This market, imbued with a loathsome distaste for good corporate governance, and all its manipulative tendencies that are not market-driven, awaits them with its prostituting spiral fall and the trademark regulatory impotence that stalks its existence.
The 21st century Nigeria feverishly longs to embrace her prodigals in her bosom from where poverty and ill-gotten wealth both flow, coalescing into a confluence of motion without movement, and forming tributaries of widespread deprivation, infrastructural decay, moral decadence and militancy of epic proportions. Beneath this bosom is a history of job losses, which has long transmuted into job scarcity with recruitment tests into banks and para-military bodies recording over 200,000 applicants as well as sending some of them to their early graves. Yes, this is the Nigeria they have read so much about, where the minimum wage rests comfortably within the State confines of $52 and any attempt to disparage the tokenism is stoutly resisted and termed as blackmail by the ruling class.
A different country awaits them, a Nigeria where electoral excellence has been elevated to the realm of rocket science and pharmacognosy. Where town union elections end up in bloodbath, professional and student bodies fight continually over elections, their teachers fare no better, up to selections in traditional institutions, blood must flow. An experience of a lifetime beckons for these incoming agents of brain gain. Welcome to educational paralysis, an overarching rustication of academic ideals where intellectuals gather to listen to the foolishness of idiots because of donations, decorate with degrees, the very people who ruin them and bestow honoris causa on nonentities all for filthy lucre.
Welcome back to your country, the 20th hungriest country in the world, where 65 per cent of its population live in food insecurity with insufficient access to the amount and variety of food necessary for a healthy and productive life. Welcome back home, welcome to Nigeria.
Atayi Babs