The Niger Delta Question


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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The Niger-Delta Question: Will MEND Help Solve it?




Hosiah Emmanuel



"It is a crime for anyone who is being brutalized to continue to accept that brutality without doing something to defend himself. And the philosophy that preaches this, is a criminal philosophy" - Malcolm X.



February 19, 2006


The Nigerian Niger Delta question is by now a familiar but recurring question of violence against the environment, the non-renewable natural resources and the people of the over 70,000 square kilometres and of of the world's largest wetlands.  Do the inhabitants of this region deserve a decent living?  Do they deserve not to die of diseases caused by pollution from the oil-exploration activities?  Do they deserve to have a say in how the non-renewable resources in their homelands are depleted?  Do they deserve to enjoy modern infrastructure?  It is common to see oil flow-stations and platforms a few miles away, properly lit and equipped with modern facilities like clean water and Internet access while the nearby communities live in stone-age-like perpetual darkness and untreated stream water for drinking and other purposes.

As if that is not enough, the source of livelihood of the inhabitants of these nearby communities who, in the first place, were not consulted before the appearance of the oil exploration outfits in their land, is usually decimated by the activities of the unwelcomed outfits imposed on them.  Their farmlands are destroyed during seismic activities; their fishes are chased away; all this happen with no substitute means of livelihood.  This is compounded because these communities were never part of any national plan.  They are usually not connected to the national electric grid and mostly unknown by those who rule over Nigeria until there is a need to extract oil from their land.  They are like a conquered people within their own country. If you like, call it neo-colonialism but I am trying to paint an honest picture of reality in Nigeria.

With their source of livelihoods gone, male parents and heads of households suddenly become incapable of providing for their wives and children; wives and children in turn start to have less confidence in their former bread-winners.  To survive, some of the weak wives and female children resort to sorts of sub-human activities which include helping to satisfy usually weird sexual desires of Nigerian and expatriate oil workers.  On the other hand, the male children fall out of control of their parents at tender ages and escape town to engage in early child-labour.  Some of these children ideally are supposed to be in school and shielded from the hardship of their parents.  But, there is no national policy that protects the young of Nigeria from the economic adversities of the parent.

What is the resultant effect of this?  Hitherto unknown diseases like AIDS and others creep into the communities, the family structure is weakened and the people not only lose their values but their self-confidence. 

The picture I have painted above of the life of an average Niger Deltan has been the case for over 4 decades now, with no solution in sight.  Attempts have however been made to protest these injustices by some of the inhabitants.  Activist and revolutionary, the Late Major Isaac Boro, born of the Ijaw town of Kaiama protested in 1966 with a "12-day revolution";  an Ijaw activist group, MOSEIND, and the Ogoni activist and poet, the Late Ken Saro-Wiwa's MOSOP, in the early '90s non-violently demanded better deals for the Ogoni and other oil-producing communities; the Ijaw Youths Council under the leadership of Mr. Felix Tuodolo with their famous "Kaiama Declaration" in the late 90s articulated a string of demands as a way to ameliorate the past decades of suffering; and then the militant Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF) led by Alhaji Dokubo Asari (a former President of the Ijaw Youths Council - IYC), as recent as last year threatened to use more revolutionary means to provide answers to the question. 

The central government successfully over-powered, maimed and have either killed or imprisoned all those who have protested these injustices.  Where non-violent peaceful processions were used to protest the injustices, the government used violence to over-power.  Hundreds of thousands of Ogonis, Ijaws and other Niger Deltans have been murdered by the Nigerian military and entire communities destroyed as a response to the protests of the injustices in the Niger Delta.  Let's not forget that these fallen heroes were also Nigerians.  May their souls rest in peace.

Have these suppressions successfully cowed the people?  I thought so.  But suddenly, an hitherto unknown group which calls itself the "Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta", MEND, emerged late last year and have proven to be honorable, decisive and potent!
MEND emerged at a time the Government thought they have won and over-powered the people by the arrest of Asari and the follow-up brutalization of his followers who protested in PortHarcourt.  The Vice-President, Mr. Abubukar Atiku made a statement to this effect late last year thus:

  " We are confident to say that the worst is over.
    To get to this stage, we have been deliberate, systematic and
    consistent in tackling environmental and social problems in
    the Niger Delta. We have maintained that while we are doing what a
    responsible and caring government is expected to do to address genuine problems,
    we will not condone criminality and lawlessness…"

Of course he lied when he said they have been "deliberate, systematic and consistent in tackling environmental and social problems in the Niger Delta".   He failed to notice that the sociological dynamite that had stemmed from decades of abuse and the persisting unemployment and neglect will not safely detonate by selective coercing of progressive but dissident voices.  This dynamite needs no fuse; the MEND has proven this point unmistakenly!

As I was saying, the MEND have been decisive, ptent, honorable and ruthless (to armed forces) since they came into the picture of the struggle to answer the Niger Delta question.  For their respect of civilians and civilian targets, I congratulate them!

Surprisingly, the Federal Government of Nigeria has exhibited no such respect for civilian targets. MEND warns and gives considerable notice before it attacks; the Federal government bombs communities without prior warning.  Massacres of Ijaw communities of Odiama (1800 Ijaw people murdered), Odi (over 3000 Ijaw people murdered), and the latest 5 Ijaw communities of Okerenkoko, Ukpogbene, Perezuouweikore-gbene, Seingbene and Seitorububor (counted 30, still counting) in the Delta are examples of such heartless and criminal use of force to kill citizens especially Ijaw citizens, employed by President Obasanjo since he took office in 1999.

MEND on the other hand have only attacked soldiers in self-defence.  Their recent encounter with over 40 soldiers at the Forcados terminal where no soldier was killed tells more about the honor with which they have set out to wage their revolution.  I encourage them to continue in this path of honor!  I hope that the Federal Government will be equally honourable.

Since their emergence, the MEND have effectively carried out the following activities.  Please note that their elders at the failed political conference were humiliated out when they attempted at dialogue with the powers in Abuja (is violence more effective?):

   -  They got the powerful central government to dialogue with them to effect the release of 4 international hostages 19 days after their capture
   -  The reduced Nigeria's oil exports by 10%.  Every reduction of oil export is good for Nigeria's future because the proceeds are today squandered by some few while the majority of Nigerians live in poverty.
   -  Effectively retaliated and thus caused to cease further bombing of 4 Niger-Delta communities by the central government's military within 48 hours by attacking a major export terminal and taking away 9 hostages.
   -  Forced the emperor Obasanjo to cancel his trip to Calabar and call for dialogue to release the hostages.  Obasanjo kept mum throughout the bombing of the communities on his order.  He refused to respond to cries of the community elders.  It is amazing that he released a press statement because foreign nationals were held hostage.  This man has no regards for Nigerian life. Why are we still keeping him in power?

The question in my mind is:  Will the MEND force an answer to the Niger-Delta question?
I am earnestly watching the events to see...  But the lesson that, only counter-violence forced the Abuja powers to think properly should not escape us.  It is unfortunate but it is the reality.

Hosiah Emmanuel



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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.