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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Peter P. Ekeh


In several pockets of human history, groups and individuals who assume

the status of aristocrats have claimed the significant privilege of

insulting others. They are so used to the exercise of this privilege

that they get agitated when their targets of insults reply. Indeed, they

expect those whose dignity they assault to calmly play patsy, bowing in

genuflection. Apparently, our lordly neighbours in Nigeria assume more

than that. They are claiming the privilege of deciding which academics

are worthy of their vocation. All of these traits seem to emerge from

Bala Usman’s blatant affronts on the Niger Delta and the angry reactions

from his peers against those who have dared to challenge Bala Usman’s

misconceived theories and assertions.


Bala Usman’s two instalments of insults were published from his “Centre

for Democratic Development, Research, and Training,” which is virtually

the only remnant of the Centre for Democratic Studies that Omo Omoruyi

founded and headed under Ibrahim Babangida’s military regime. Although

it has received substantial financial backing from the Federal

Government of Nigeria, the main achievement of this Centre has been a

spate of abuses of various individuals and ethnic groups, mainly those

of Southern Nigeria. The authors who publish in its medium are few and

unvaried. The latest instalment in this tirade was an unprovoked attack

by Bala Usman on the Niger Delta, pinpointing the Urhobo and describing

as “laughable” the thought that Urhobo existed before 1938.


This “Ignorance” diatribe was circulated in the internet on April 18,

2001. My reply to Bala Usman’s assertions appeared in the internet on

April 29, 2001. A week later, I received an email message from an

intellectual of Yoruba origin living in the United Kingdom to the effect

that those whom he described as “Arewa mandarins” were unhappy with my

essay and that they will reply in full force. Since then several other

Niger Deltans have responded to Bala Usman’s claims and attacks on the

Niger Delta.


Now Bala Usman’s supporters and defenders have come forward with their

defence, at least two of them for a start. A month after Niger Deltans’

reactions to Bala Usman’s claims began to pour in, Sola Fasure’s premier

defence of Bala Usman appeared in the Comet of June 5, 2001. It was

simply titled “In Defence of Bala Usman.” Nine days later, and published

in the internet in the first instance in and, an angrier defence has come from a

more formidable personage in the aristocratic firmament. Using similar

phrases – such as “laughable” -- as in Bala Usman’s original essays,

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi defended his peer with pronouncements and judgement

of doom over the qualifications of the man he saw as Bala Usman’s

primary critic, in a field far removed from his banking profession.

Apparently doubting its authenticity, his title of  ‘Usman, Ekeh, and

the Urhobo “Nation”’ uses quotes to support Bala Usman’s abusive

characterization of a whole ethnic group in the Niger Delta. These two

defences of Bala Usman appear formatted from a common talking point and

are remarkably similar in their strategies.




First, Bala Usman’s defenders do not accept in any shape or form that

Bala Usman has offended Niger Deltans. Sola Fasure has grievances

against Bala Usman. But they have nothing to do with the complaints of

Niger Deltans that they have been unjustly disparaged. Instead, he

narrates how Bala Usman used his enormous influences during the Sani

Abacha military dictatorship to cancel a conference that he was

organizing at the University of Ibadan, because Bala Usman disapproved

of its French funding. It is amazing to me that Fasure could rate so

high the inconvenience of not holding a conference that was cancelled at

the behest of Bala Usman and yet brush aside complaints from Niger

Deltans that Bala Usman has made grossly insupportable claims about

their existence and their ownership of the lands in which their

ancestors have lived from times immemorial.


Second, Bala Usman’s defenders support his claim that the Nigerian State

owns the Niger Delta. While this support is implicit in Lamido Sanusi’s

praise of “brilliant points made by Bala Usman,” Fasure was explicit in

support of Bala Usman. He says: “the Nigerian state is superior to the

ethnic groups and therefore have a superior claim to the land and the

resources there-in.” This is the essence, of course, of the interests of

those fighting for the control of the Niger Delta. It is striking that

throughout Fasure’s remarkable essay, there is the incredible assumption

that the Nigerian State means Abuja. The truth of the matter is, the

states of the Niger Delta are part of the Nigerian State and their

control of the resources of the Niger Delta would in no way violate

Fasure’s dictum. This is an intellectual stance that neither Bala Usman

nor Lamido Sanusi nor anyone else can validly argue against from the

premise of political science and its understanding of the meaning of the

state. No one in the Niger Delta has asked for the control of the

resources in the Niger Delta by ethnic groups in the region. What Niger

Deltans have asked for is that their states, rather than the central

government at Abuja, should control their resources. What is wrong with

such reasoning in a federation? Is that not what happens with groundnuts

and cocoa? Was that not the position of Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello whose

dominant influence led to the construction of Nigerian federalism in the



Third, Sanusi and Fasure brushed aside any issues raised by Niger

Deltans that did not touch on the all-important matter of resource

control and the related issue of the definition of Nigerian ethnic

groups vis-a-vis Nigeria. Fasure did take important matters into

consideration in these two areas. The banking chieftain Lamido Sanusi

was more limited in his angry essay. He was satisfied with issuing

pronouncements and further insults. Both Fasure and Sanusi also ignored

the important corrections by several Niger Deltans of faulty claims by

Bala Usman. Sola Fasure allowed only one item of inaccuracy, which

probably inconvenienced him the most. It was in my reaction to Bala

Usman. Fasure turns to the portion on the Yoruba in my essay, in which I

was least interested, and says as follows: “[Ekeh] tries hard to fault

Usman's data on the authorship of the word ‘Yoruba’ and used the

inaccuracies he identified to upend Usman's principal thesis that:

ethnic identity as we know it in Nigeria today is a recent historical

development.” Is this the only inaccuracy in Bala Usman’s essays that

Sola Fasure could read from all the reactions from Niger Deltans? Does

he accept that the British donated the term “Urhobo” to the Urhobo in

1938? Or is it just possible that Fasure thinks that this inaccuracy

from Bala Usman is of little consequence, whereas the “Yoruba”

inaccuracy was more consequential?


Various important contributions on this subject included those by

Nigerian Publius, the pen name for an Ibibio chieftain [The Guardian May

7, 2001: “CEDDERT and The Misrepresentation of Facts”], Andrew Edevbie

[Vanguard, May 24-25, 2001: “Bala and His Rule-Book for Nigerian

Politics”], G. G. Darah [The Guardian, May 14, 2001: “Bala Usman:

History Will Absolve Us”], and Chris Akiri, [The Guardian, May 22, 2001:

“Bala Usman and the Urhobo Nation.”] These contributions posed important

questions with regard to Bala Usman’s assertions on the Niger Delta. It

is unclear whether Lamido Sanusi and Sola Fasure accept the various

points raised by these authors or whether they considered their

contributions as unworthy of their attention. Sanusi’s position that he

treated my essay as representative of Bala Usman’s critics cannot help

matters when my objections to Bala Usman’s claims do not overlap with

those of these writers. Instead of answering these writers’ worthy

points of protest, both defenders of Bala Usman took the calculated

decision to concentrate on what they perceived as inconsistencies in my



Colonialism, Ethnicity, and Precolonial Nations


I am intrigued -- and amused -- by Fasure’s and Sanusi’s mystification

of my Inaugural Lecture of 1980 at the University of Ibadan, titled

Colonialism and Social Structure, in their defence of Bala Usman’s

claims. Sanusi was particularly excited, declaring that I had committed

“intellectual suicide” and that I had made an “intellectual blunder.”

Essentially, these men have made two claims. The first is that my

inaugural lecture was a source of Bala Usman’s assertions on the lack of

any history or nationhood for the Yoruba, Urhobo, Ijaw, and the Igbo –

his prime examples -- before the arrival of colonialism. The second is

that my position of 1980 was the same one that Bala Usman was stating in

his two essays in 2000 and 2001. Let me take on these specious

contentions, one after the other.


Sanusi makes the first argument as follows. He argues that given the

position I took in my inaugural lecture of 1980, I ought “to boldly

support Bala Usman whose thesis was nothing but a reproduction of the

theme of Ekeh's own brilliant 1980 paper” [emphasis added]. I am fairly

well known in Nigerian academic circles. If what Sanusi asserts here is

correct, how was it that Bala Usman did not cite this “brilliant paper”

whose theme was allegedly reproduced by him? Bala Usman cited a huge

number of Nigerian authorities in his expansive contentions. I was not

among them. I am sure that Lamido Sanusi is a brilliant man. But he is a

banker. I do not expect him to have read my inaugural lecture or any

other publication of mine before this 1980 paper was handed over to him

in the wake of my response to Bala Usman. It is clear to me that he was

confused in his understanding of that paper.


Both Sanusi and Fasure say that what Bala Usman has written is identical

with my 1980 position. It is fair to say that my 1980 lecture has been

widely used and cited in academic circles in Nigeria and in the wider

sphere of African studies. It has not been attacked in any serious

fashion up till now. I can assure both Sanusi and Fasure that if I had

made the same arguments as Bala Usman, my theory would have been

shredded by now, just as Bala Usman’s obnoxious positions are now being

challenged. I have no desire to cite passages from my lecture of 1980

nor its 1975 predecessor, “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A

Theoretical Statement.” But I will state its arguments in a way that

will inform the reader of my theoretical position. I regret that I have

to resort to the tedium of theory, but I suppose I have no choice in the

circumstances of the present campaign on behalf of Bala Usman’s position

that relies solely on the vilification of my scholarship.


I was a witness to colonialism, having been born in its midst and having

been educated in its schools. It was my contention in the 1970s and

1980s that colonialism had impacted our history in ways that had not

been fully recognized. I will give two examples here from the 1980

lecture. First, consider rulership in African societies. Before

colonialism, the British dealt with African rulers as kings, addressing

them in correspondence as “Your Majesty.” But under colonial rule, they

became chiefs, losing their title of “majesty” and now addressed as

“Royal Highness” – the title reserved for minor categories in British

royalty. Moreover, in precolonial times, traditional African kings were

dependent on the people for their legitimacy, and indeed were

accountable to their people in their behaviours. Under colonial rule,

the chiefs were accountable to the alien rulers, not to their people.

This is an epochal change. That does not mean that it was good. On the

contrary, I believe that it was bad. The same logic applied to ethnic

groups. Before colonial rule, nations -- which British anthropologists,

retrospectively, were pleased to call tribes -- existed on their own.

Under colonial rule they were conjoined in the same political space,

reducing their status to those of ethnic groups. Before colonial rule,

there was no interaction between the Igbo and the Yoruba. Under

colonialism, they became ethnic groups in the same political process –

ideationally, a diminution in status from nationhood to ethnicity.


I believe any Nigerian of my generation will agree to the validity of

this formulation. And it has largely been accepted. Let me give further

examples from the cases of the Igbo and Yoruba because Lamido Sanusi

seems particularly exercised by my views in these cases. There has

always been a core Igbo nationality – with its base in the Anambra

Valley. In the nineteenth century, that is before the British arrived,

Igbo societies were being transformed from two directions. Western Igbo

was under Benin hegemony, politically cut off from eastern Igboland. But

there was a greater upheaval in Igbo history that Kenneth Dike has

recorded. In the later part of the 19th century, particularly in the

1880s and 1890s, there was a huge population movement from the Benue

Valley into Igboland. This is how Kenneth Dike recorded this aspect of

Igbo history:


     The northern branch [of increase in Igbo population] was a

     direct result of the slave trade. The indigenous home of the

     Ibos, which lies mainly to the east of the Niger valley, is

     within the forest belt where the calvary used . . . in annual

     slave-raids could not operate. These raids were conducted

     mainly in the plains north of the forest region, and were

     organized from Kano, Sokoto, Bida, and Ilorin. They inevitably

     led to the movement of tribes, south of the Benue to

     inaccessible areas and places of safety such as the Ibo forest

     area provided. (Kenneth Dike, Trade and Politics in the Niger

     Delta 1830-1885. An Introduction to the Economic and Political

     History of Nigeria, 1956: 27)


That is, according to Dike’s view, there were fresh immigrants into Igbo

country who were still learning to access their ways into Igbo culture

at the onset of British colonialism. There was therefore nothing

mysterious about Eluwa’s position that I quoted from David Abernerthy in

my lecture. What colonialism did was to provide space for the

recomposition of Igbos from both sides of the Niger as well as to enable

the fresh immigrants from the Benue Valley to integrate steadily into

Igbo culture.


The Yoruba case was more settled. But Ekiti was distant from hardcore

Yoruba in Oyo, for which the term Yoruba was applied in precolonial

times. Again, the Benin presence was significant in eastern Yoruba

periphery. Under colonialism, there was an expansion of Yoruba

ethnicity, even into the periphery.


Now, clearly the above statements do not represent Bala Usman’s

position. First of all, my lecture was on African political theory, not

on Nigerian history. I used Nigerian cases to illustrate theoretical

positions that I enunciated. The lecture is one of three well-known

papers of mine that have dealt with colonialism in Africa. (The other

two papers are “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical

Statement” and “Social Anthropology and Two Contrasting Uses of

Tribalism in Africa.”) None of these three papers was about the history

of Nigeria. Bala Usman was not enunciating a theory of African politics.

He was dealing with his understanding of the political history of



Second, there was no place, even by way of examples, where I contended

that there was no African history before colonial rule. Four years

before my inaugural lecture, I authored a chapter, titled “Benin and

Thebes: Elementary Forms of Civilization,” in a book published in 1976

by Yale University Press. It was a comparison of Benin royal practices

to Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex of ancient Greece. That was an academic piece

that acknowledged connections between Benin and Yoruba histories dating

back to several centuries. On the other hand, Bala Usman contended that

the Yoruba had no name until it was given to them in the nineteenth

century. Let us quote him again: “But it was from a book of the Sarkin

Musulmi Bello, written in the early nineteenth century, that the name

[Yoruba] became more widely used.”  That is a pretty serious statement.


I must stop this train of analysis here. I have no desire to lend any

weight to the trivialization of the Niger Delta situation by reducing

its seriousness to mere academic arguments. We are dealing with

endangered human lives and human cultures in the Niger Delta. It is not

some smart academic matter. I have said enough to calm down Lamido

Sanusi – if ever he will listen – from his brash judgement that my

attack on Bala Usman’s claims on the Niger Delta constituted an

“intellectual suicide.”




Of the many letters that I received on the Bala Usman episode, one was

particularly perceptive. Ayo Obe, President of Civil Liberties

Organisation, sent a note on this issue that included the following

thought: “I am glad, though, that Usman's article got read by some

people other than the converted.  The sad thing is that most of those

who will read your article are those who would agree with you in any

case.  What we need is more preaching to the unconverted - and perhaps

some attempt to change minds?”


I doubt that any amount of persuasion will change Bala Usman and Lamido

Sanusi’s attitudes towards the Niger Delta. I first came across Lamido

Sanusi’s views on the Niger Delta in 1999. G. G. Darah had written an

article in The Guardian of May 31, 1999, complaining that the "real and

original Niger Delta" had been slighted in government’s appointments to

key positions in the petroleum industry. A few weeks later, Lamido

Sanusi wrote a rejoinder rebuking Darah. This was my comment in another

venue on July 4, 1999, on Sanusi’s rejoinder: “What I found troubling in

reading Mr. Sanusi's well-reasoned article was his tone of reference to

the [Niger] Delta areas. There was considerable condescension.” Neither

Lamido Sanusi nor Bala Usman seems to have any less spite for the Niger

Delta today than Sanusi displayed in June 1999.


Are we therefore not engaged in a conversation of the deaf? Are we

listening to the points of view offered from the opposing side? I

believe that the problem is deeper and more fundamental than the views

of a few individuals at opposite ends of a national spectrum of ideas.

What the Bala Usman episode confirms in my mind is that there is a

complete breakdown in Nigeria’s national consensus. A nation exists and

survives because there is at least a modicum of a national consensus

embodying a measure of agreement on the principles on which its state’s

apparatuses should be run. There is no longer any such consensus in

Nigeria. Instead, there are two imageries of what the Nigerian State

should look like. Even if it is impossible to maintain mutual

conversation on the issues of ethnicity and other academic niceties, we

all may profit from understanding the outlines of the two contrasting

imageries of the Nigerian State that have emerged in our public affairs.

I will try my hands at their characterization.


Nigerian State as the Epiphenomenon of Military Rule


The Nigerian State that Bala Usman and Lamido Sanusi are fighting to

preserve is the outcome of prolonged military rule. It is a state that

has departed from the principles on which Nigerians fought for national

independence from Great Britain. At least, it is a organizational

phenomenon that is distant from what we experienced and expected at the

point of independence. I do not see any benefits or sources of strength

in this epiphenomenon of civilianized military rule. I will therefore

characterize it by its deficiencies. Maybe Bala Usman and Lamido Sanusi

will try their hands at displaying its strengths and its benefits.


First, the post-military Nigerian State is now completely hostile

towards the ordinary individual. The purpose of a progressive state is

to advance the welfare of individuals and to recognise and enhance their

humanity. The Nigerian State has lost this definition of its purpose.

Although it has signed tons of international treaties that preach

respect for the dignity of the individual, the Nigerian State now

engages in bestial treatment of the individual. It now appears that the

Nigerian State exists in its own essence, with no obligation towards its



All these points may sound theoretical. So, let me give examples. I

never imagined that I would be a citizen of a country in which a man’s

hand is cut off for stealing a goat or in a Nigeria in which amputation

machines become a priority in the budget reckoning of state officials. I

thought such wicked things happened far way in primitive Eurasian

societies. The other day, an old colleague from Scandinavia sent me an

email complaining that Nigeria had degenerated so badly to the point

where a judge could order that a man’s eye should be removed from him.

He asked me to do something about this sad development. I did not even

reply, because I have no response. The truth is, even formidable and

privileged people like Bala Usman and  Lamido Sanusi cannot do anything

to stop this madness, if they are opposed to it. Nor can President

Olusegun Obasanjo. That is what is so frightening in this new and

unexpected disregard for human dignity in Nigeria. For now, the poor

Hausa peasant is the main victim of these outrages by the Nigerian

State. But its masters do not intend to have such a narrow boundary. We

can catalogue this matter further. Years ago, when he still cared about

such matters, Bala Usman produced a terrific book (Political Repression

in Nigeria, 1982) that detailed how ordinary people, including Ghanaian

immigrants, lost their lives in the hands of state officials. That was

shocking then. It no longer shocks. How many Nigerians die daily in

Police custody? How many Nigerians die yearly in Nigerian prisons? It

would make news if a Nigerian died in a UK prison. But Nigerians who die

in the hands of state officials seem fully qualified to be disposed of

carelessly. The Nigerian State, as of 2001, has become the epitome of

illiberalism in its total disregard for the value of human lives and for

its disrespect for the dignity of the human being.


Second, the Nigerian State that has emerged from years of military rule

is unjust.  The political arrangements that were worked out at

independence have been violated and discarded. Instead, arbitrary and

perfunctory mechanisms have been substituted for the principles that

were carefully hatched out by Nigeria’s founding fathers. Although we

are supposed to be a federation, much power is concentrated in Abuja.

Abuja, which was built to wall out the ordinary citizen, rules all of us

from a distance. It does poorly and yet forbids other units from trying

aspects of governance in which it cannot cope. Just consider the Nigeria

Police, which is completely overwhelmed. The rational thing to do would

be to have a slim and efficient Federal Police that would cope with

Federal crimes, while leaving state and local matters to State Police.

But no, the Nigerian State must remain a feared leviathan – so it

pretends that it can cope with the problems of violence and crimes all

over the country.


The Nigerian State is unjust for another reason. It is arbitrarily

uneven. Some areas have tremendous and unchecked powers, while others

are barred from exercising their elementary rights to basic existence. I

will give two examples. Consider what President Olusegun Obasanjo did to

Odi Town in the Niger Delta. For no just cause, the innocent people of a

Nigerian town plying their lowly existence, disturbing no one, were

attacked by a mighty military machine because the Government said it

wanted to teach Niger Deltans a lesson. Now, we in the Niger Delta know

fully well that President Obasanjo would not dare carry out such an

arbitrary operation if Odi Town were in Sokoto State or Katsina State.

Indeed, in the very period in which the President ordered the invasion

of Odi Town, Zamfara State was defying the President’s views that a

Sharia regime would be unconstitutional. Let us put the matter some

other way. Can anybody doubt what President Obasanjo would do to any

Niger Delta state that attempted a Sharia regime in its realm? It is

such disparities in the dispensation of elementary justice that brings

disrespect from citizens to their “government.”


Let me give another instance of this type of injustice that maltreats

some citizens while treating others with reverence for doing the same

thing as those victimized. In his article under review, Lamido Sanusi

introduced Bala Usman  as the “firebrand northern intellectual.” So he

has been, from the early 1970s – from the regimes of Yakubu Gowon and

General Obasanjo through Babangida and Abacha unto the present

civilianizied regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has spoken his

mind, canvassed his views, fought Vice-Chancellors at ABU, and enjoyed

privileges. We should congratulate him. That is how things should be.

But there were many other firebrands, especially in the South, who could

match Bala Usman’s fearlessness. Where are they now? They have been

vanquished by the military. Many were hounded out of universities. Many

were jailed or detained for no just cause. A system that discards its

intellectuals because they have no protective aristocracy behind them is

unjust and will suffer the consequences of its evil deeds. As Nigerian

Publius wrote in his rejoinder to Bala Usman’s threats against the Niger

Delta, the quickest way to destroy Nigeria is to “Drive your

intelligentsia into exile in foreign countries, which they then help to

advance even faster than your own.”


That is my portrait of the Nigerian State that exists today. I can see

it clearly because I come from a disadvantaged region of the country.

Can Lamido Sanusi and Bala Usman not see it through the same lenses? I

fear that as beneficiaries of this flawed system, they are fighting

strenuously to protect it. My prayer is that they will relent so that

full reforms can occur for the restoration of a Nigeria that we all can

be proud of and work for. But let no one be urged to respect a state

system that is fast becoming an evil enterprise.


Reforming the Nigerian State: A New Imagery


I can be brief here. We need to reverse course. I know that it is not

easy. At the very least, we need to manage our destinies at the local

and state levels. The whole premise of Bala Usman’s original essays was

that only a solidified and unified Nigerian State, ruled from Abuja,

would be useful. My knowledge of history tells me that such a system –

which is the existing arrangement -- would not last. For Nigeria to last

and prosper, it must restore its purpose.


The greatness of Nigeria was that its diverse units had freedom to

govern themselves in their distinct ways. In the 1950s, Eastern Nigeria

decided to dispense with the House of Chiefs, whereas it was a great

institution in the North and West. We must recover that spirit of

diversity. Let every zone or state have its own constitution. Let no one

be afraid of diversity. We all should be Nigerians because we want to be

Nigerians, not because we are forced to be Nigerians. Legislated and

enforced patriotism has never worked anywhere or anytime in history. In

my days, I have seen Nigerians who loved the country with a passion.

Today, many such people have given up. Let us have new arrangements of a

genuine federalism that will allow us – and our children – to renew our

faith in a nation whose spirit has been wounded, severely.


Such a system may help to fight the expansion of the corrosive disregard

for the dignity of the individual human being. Let those states that

value their citizens invest in their welfare. At the present time,

Nigeria’s logic is to opt for the least common factor of development,

compelling all Nigerians to move at one slow pace. Let Abuja become a

small place, not another megalopolis from where orders are issued to

local and state governments.


Such a model of the new Nigeria will require that we all work for what

we own. The present system where some believe that wealth will come to

them automatically because they control Abuja will be reversed by true

federalism. This compact portrait is a viable and just alternative to

the present unjust and unsatisfactory system that dominates and

terrorizes our lives.




On June 14, 2001, naijnews, Nigeria’s premier internet news service,

circulated an article by George Orwel of Dow Jones Newspapers on

President Olusegun Obasanjo and the oil industry. Its first three

sentences are worth quoting:


     Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo once sought advice from

     Fidel Castro, Cuba's president of 40 years, on survival

     tactics. Castro reportedly told him to identify a cash cow,

     then keep a close eye on it.  Obasanjo related the story to

     reporters recently and said oil was his cash cow, which he

     plans to watch over closely.


Before Olusegun Obasanjo became a civilian President, other groups of

Nigerians had identified Niger Delta’s oil as their cash cow. It is

doubtful that the chummy relationship between President Obasanjo and his

allies, many of whom supported his unjust invasion and destruction of

Odi Town, would exist at all if the largesse of Niger Delta’s oil was

not available for spoliation. The current fight against the notion of

state governments’ control of mineral resources, including petroleum

oil, is fuelled by their determination to continue to direct the way

Nigeria’s wealth would be exclusively controlled from Abuja. Indeed, I

doubt that Bala Usman, Lamido Sanusi, and their peers would bother to

fight for Nigerian unity if Niger Delta’s oil were not available to

them. Bala Usman would not bother to spend his intellectual resources

for mounting his incredible theory of the geological formation of the

Niger Delta if there were no oil in Niger Deltans’ lands and waters.


What is so very frustrating in all of these circumstances is that these

beneficiaries of oil wealth now treat Niger Deltans, whose lands and

waters produce petroleum oil, as an inconvenience. They do not even

listen to cries of lives ruined by oil exploration. None of them would

have the courage to visit the Escravos to see the sludge and the utter

devastation foisted on the people by oil greed. Shell and Chevron are

unregulated in their conducts. Some compassionate foreigners have taken

up the battle for the survival of Niger Deltans affected by oil

exploration, while privileged Nigerians from a distance enjoy wealth

whose source they care little about. You will not come across anything

about Niger Delta’s huge problems of environmental degradation in the

pages of publications sponsored by Bala Usman’s well-financed “Centre

for Democratic Development, Research, and Training.”


The people and cultures of the Niger Delta may not last into the next

century if the current frenetic pace of destruction of their lives and

lands and waters continues unchecked. The Federal Government of Nigeria,

from Abuja, is uninterested in any propositions that will not increase

its largesse from the Niger Delta. It is very sad that Niger Deltans now

rely on foreign environmentalists to fight injurious policies mounted by

the Federal Government of Nigeria. Elsewhere there are threats that if

Niger Deltans do not stop complaining, military force will be used to

crush them. One of the most aggravating portions of Bala Usman’s

“Ignorance” essay was the barely hidden threat that Niger Deltans would

be reduced to the same amount of wretchedness as has been visited on

Native Americans. I must cite Nigerian Publius’s statement on this

score, in his reply to Bala Usman. He says,


     It is far more preferable for those behind [CEDDERT’s]

     deception [of teaching true history] to state their threats to

     the people of the Niger Delta, in a very blunt manner, as they

     did recently while purporting to pay tribute to Alhaji Aminu

     Kano. In their subsequent paper (Ignorance, Knowledge and

     Democratic Politics in Nigeria), Niger Deltans . . . were told

     that if they want to be like America, non-indigenes would

     march to the Niger Delta and kill off the original inhabitants

     and take their oil.


Is it only Niger Deltans who are outraged by this brand of immoral

intellectualism? Has the rest of Nigeria become so immune to such

outrages that Nigerians cannot see the looming catastrophe in the Niger

Delta? No one should minimize the dangers. African history is replete

with instances of ruined lives and cultures for no reason other than the

fact that mineral resources were present in certain places. The

population of the Congo was reduced by half in three decades of King

Leopold II’s greedy rule in search of natural resources and wealth in

the Congo at the end of the nineteenth century and for a decade in the

twentieth. The Afrikaner’s apartheid regime in South Africa was fuelled

from that country’s gold mines. Niger Deltans would be most foolish to

leave things as they are simply because there are some brilliant

intellectuals, from “Centre for Democratic Development, Research, and

Training,” who will concoct theories in support of an evil state system.

Niger Deltans must embark on a campaign that will assure them that their

cultures and their people will survive into the next century and beyond.

The stakes are that high.


Peter P. Ekeh

Buffalo, USA

June 20, 2001.




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