Niger Delta – Need for Alternative Strategy
The Niger Delta struggle is a common struggle for all the ethnic groups in the Niger Delta. It should therefore not take an individual ethnic coloration or assume any such toga. All the ethnic groups – Urhobo, Ogoni, Itsekeri, Isoko, Ijaw and others have been playing their roles. A resort to violence as is being canvassed in certain quarters cannot resolve our issues. Take for instance the invaluable contributions which worthy sons of the Niger Delta like Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nnimmo Bassey and Comrade Sunny Ofehe have made to the Niger Delta question. They have made their mark, and without cradling an AK-47. They have not fired one single shot from a Molotov cocktail. They are not purveyors of violence as a means to an end.
In the Niger Delta struggle, we must be careful not to play into the hands of those who promote what I may call the Abuja Agenda. These are instruments with strings seeking to control certain elements in the Niger Delta and promote a certain agenda through violence. We must be careful not to allow the merchants of ethnicity hijack the entire process and unduly promote cronyism. Let us be reminded that when Goodluck Jonathan was president of Nigeria, he failed to deal with Niger Delta Question. Rather, he managed to be clannish and take care of a constituency close to his in-laws and relations.
Playing into the hands of the Abuja Agenda is what Asari Dokubo seems to be doing with an interview he gave to Vanguard newspaper on April Fool’s Day, 2017. In that interview among other things, he warned Vice President Osinbajo to stop visiting the Niger Delta, who is seeking to arrive at an amicable resolution of issues in our region. But I verily believe that Osinbajo’s visit will turn around things for the Niger Delta – a region which also includes the ordinary Ijaw. On a visit to the South East – Abia recently – Mr Vice President was conferred with a chieftaincy title – the Enyioha 1(friend of all) of Abia state. In that same spirit of unity which his visits bring, Akwa-Ibomites embraced him as their Obong Emem Ibom.
But the war-mongers among us and those who have individually profited from promoting violence as an instrument for personal gain or relevance seem upset. But this is our take: our region supports and lauds Mr. Vice President’s efforts. Our region will allow new thinking to shape the future of the region. We cannot continue to create pockets of division and think we will succeed. That Asari Dokubo has played a useful role in drawing global attention to the plight of our people in not in question. However, we advise that he should not invest in narratives that will split the common agenda. He should rethink his strategy and muse on the old aphorism that united we stand and divided we fall and fall very hard. Asari’s interview with the Vanguard of 1st April, 2017 certainly will not help to build a common agenda. We strongly appeal to him to use his goodwill to strengthen inter-ethnic cooperation and also support the Vice-President to implement a new Niger Delta agenda of sustainable development. This is the time to try an alternative model that will meet the needs of all Niger Deltans.
We have suffered enough. The billions that have been sunk into the NDDC, the Ministry of the Niger Delta and Amnesty programme have only benefitted few people. After more than three decades of environmental degradation and injustice, I think we should begin to explore an alternative development model that will give voice to the victims who cut across all the ethnic groups. We should not play ethnic politics in Niger Delta. Violence is not the only tool for seeking social and economic justice. Lessons from the Arab Spring have shown that embarking on violent struggle without concrete alternative framework normally will not end well for the people. We should support a new thinking that will put anti-corruption agenda on the table.
If the development agenda will work in the Niger Delta, we most end the culture of impunity that currently robs the region of her wealth. All the major failed contracts embarked upon by the NNDC and Ministry of Niger Delta were carried out by prominent people from the region. We most demand for prosecution of these 419 contractors and recover the sums already paid them as contract fees. The NDDC and Ministry of the Niger Delta cannot work for the benefit of the people if they continue to operate in darkness. Their procurement policy must reflect principles of transparency and accountability. The Federal Government must insist that the operators of these institutions should adopt the principles of open governance which give priority to due process and value for money. Enough is Enough.
If Vice President Osinbajo can provide the template that will stop corruption in the NDDC and Ministry of Niger Delta, we have a moral responsibility to rise in unity to support him and move away from ethnic politics.
Ugolor is ANEEJ executive director
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