Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What Other Niger Deltans Must Do

By Sunny Ikhioya
The devastating effects of the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers on the Nigerian economy has made it imperative for the Federal government to reach a compromise with the militants. In fact, the PM News edition of Tuesday 7th June reported the setting up of a committee to discuss with the avengers. The questions that logically crop up from this development are: What will be the basis for discussions? Will the issues cover other Niger Delta ethnic groups? If an agreement is reached with the avengers, will that guarantee peace in the region? Do the authorities really want peace in the region? What must be done to guarantee that?
It is very important for all to know that the Ijaws are not the only ethnic group in the Niger Delta that have oil deposit in their land. The wikipedia source estimates over 40 ethnic groups in the whole region and almost all of them are oil rich and suffer the same degradation of their land as the Ijaws. The Ijaws also, are not the only tribe fighting for the resource control of their land.

The late Ken Saro Wiwa a foremost minority rights activist was of the Ogoni ethnic stock. But the recent militancy of the Ijaw group has made it seem like they are the only oil producing community in the region. The import of their struggle is, if they had remained docile, the federal government and international communities will continue to ignore the degrading conditions in the region. The people of this region have always been hard working and contributed significantly to the economic development of the country at different times in our history.

Long before crude oil came to the fore, it was known as the oil region and European businessmen set up trading posts in different parts of the region. It was known as the oil region because of the predominance of palm oil production. So, the peddlers of the lies that the other regions resources were used to develop the oil businesses in the Niger Delta are only deluding themselves or speak out of ignorance. The Niger Deltans have always been productive but they have never been known to come up with one voice on issues affecting them. It has always been to the advantage of those in authority to keep them fighting amongst themselves through the divide and rule technique.

The Niger Deltans have always been productive but they have never, ever come up with one voice because of the deliberate policy of the federal authorities to keep them apart. It began with the slave traders and later, during colonial times the British continued with it by setting tribes against one another, if it is not through land acquisition, it was deliberate trade decisions that pit one against the other. The federal government of Nigeria continued from where the colonial government stopped and it got to its peak during the civil war, with Chief Obafemi Awolowo as finance minister, the derivation policy for revenue generating communities was reduced to zero.

Even with the glaring pollution and destruction of their land, successive governments have continued to ignore their pitiable plights. You just have to go to the oil producing areas to experience first hand what goes on there. It is genocide through environmental poisoning. Even with their son Goodluck Jonathan as President, the majority ethnic groups rebuffed efforts to bring succour to the oil communities. For example, the Petroleum Industry Bill was killed in the National Assembly, now they have brought out a much toned down version that does not take the communities into consideration. You cannot allow the ‘goose’ that lays the golden eggs to die.

Until the federal authorities find an alternative source of revenue to the Niger Delta crude oil, they must kowtow to the rights of the owners of the oil, no other way out. The Jonathan government did not do much to alleviate the plight of the Niger Delta citizens, the little he did were concentrated in his hometown and other Ijaw locations. Projects that would have benefited other ethnic groups like the Ogidigben projects were needlessly subjected to controversies, same with the oil wells disputes involving Bayelsa and Rivers states.

This has made people from other delta ethnic groups to remain indifferent to the current plight of their Ijaw neighbours because, from the experience of the recent past, the Ijaws have proven to be greedy with the spoils. But, should we allow them to negotiate alone on issues that affect the whole region? My opinion is that the negotiation must involve all of the ethnic tribes in the Niger Delta region, no one must be excluded. Each of them must come to the negotiation table to express openly matters that affect them. It is a common problem to the whole – the economic exploitation and degradation of their land – therefore there must be adequate compensation and true control of the resources in their land.

The real communities must be made partners of any project that is embarked upon in their land and not succumb to the divide and rule tactics of the federal government. One has noticed that some groups are encouraging the federal government to intensify military action in the region because they are not happy with the way the Ijaws have handled things in the past but we all know that no military action can bring lasting peace to the region. It is only a concerted effort from all the ethnic groups, reached peacefully, that can guarantee lasting peace. The pipelines criss-cross the whole region, no military super power can mann it without the co-operation of the indigenes.

If we allow the Ijaw avengers to negotiate alone, we are giving bite to their right to claim the reward alone and allow others to scrabble for the crumbs as was the case under the Jonathan government. Other Niger Delta ethnic groups must demand to be included in the negotiation to table their demands. They should not allow others do it for them. They must also not allow themselves to be used as spoilers or saboteurs of a genuine cause for the region’s freedom.

*Ikhioya is a commentator on public issues 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...