Thursday, February 11, 2010
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.
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.