Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
The Niger-Delta And Politics In Nigeria - Part 1
November 25, 2005
I have been asking myself for the past two weeks, when the idea of writing an opinion on the Niger-Delta came to my mind of the place of the Niger-delta in Nigeria politics.
Bayelsa State is one of the oil-producing states in Nigeria. It was in Oloibiri, a small town in Bayelsa state that oil was first discovered in Nigeria. The town and the state as at today do not have anything to show for the wealth it has generated for the country.
One question begging for answer is why is a region that is generating to so much wealth for the country is left, neglected and allowed to suffer the way it is now. The money we spend on education, health, power and other good things of life come from the black gold, yet the land that gives us the wealth, though now shared by few, is desecrated, defiled and abused.
Why is this so? Why has it been difficult for the whole country to see the injustices done to these people? Why do we play the problems of this most important region in Nigeria down? Why do we keep insulting these people’s sensibility? These and many questions are begging for answers.
What is the place of the Niger-Delta in the political history of Nigeria? None! They are not at the fore front of political activities. They have been issued as political instruments, aligned with others rather than being aligned to. But it has never benefited them.
Ogoniland is a minute parcel of land of about 404 square miles and home to about 600,000 people. For years, close to 634 million barrels of oil put at about $30 Billion had been pumped from its land; but what did they get back in return? Poverty, primitive education and health facilities. Very few of the land enjoy most basics such as electricity and running water. Shell and other oil companies have caused a lot of damage to the people’s land. Oil spillage has destroyed the lands and waters, contaminating the waters and the lands. The people’s main occupations are farming and fishing, but the spillage put a stop to their means of livelihood.
Their protests have been met with maiming and killings. Their women raped, children starved to death, youth crippled. Isaac Boro started the fight for the emancipation of these grossly oppressed people, and in the early 90s the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was formed to represent the opposition to the oppression of the Ogonis. At a time when the people felt helpless, hopeless to stand and fight for their land, Kenule Saro-Wiwa stood and led his people to war against the oppressive government and its collaborators- the multi-national oil companies.
In 1995, the Ogonis paid a supreme price; but before the 1995 tragedy, the Ogonis stood against the Babangida’s sponsored 1993 elections and it was only in Ogoni land that the 1993 elections did not take place. They did this to protest their neglect. It became offensive for the Ogonis to protest the destruction of their land. In response, Ogoniland and other Niger-Delta became war zone. Military personnel armed with war gadgets were deployed to torture, rape and sack the land known as the heart of Nigerian economy. In 1995, the nine people, now known as the Ogoni-9 were arraigned before a Kangaroo Tribunal and found guilty. They were sentenced to death and hung by the Abacha government.
On November 10, 1995, against calls from international community, Abacha’s government ordered Ken Saro-Wiwa and other 8 Ogonis executed by hanging. Nigeria shed blood of innocent citizens to protect foreign oil companies who come to defile our lands and steal our wealth away to develop their own countries. Sad too was the role of traditional rulers of the Niger-Delta who became boot-lickers at that time.
After the hanging of the Ogoni 9 for their alleged role in the Killing of another set of 4 Ogoni citizens, Lt. Colonel Okuntimo and Komo took over the land and they ruled the State (Rivers State) with iron hands. Killing their fellow Nigerians, raping women and amputating hands. It was a sorry sight at one of the conferences organized by BOABAB, a Human Rights Organization on the Rights of women in Nigeria in 2001. I saw and heard the victims of the military abuse recounting their stories. One woman told the gathering how she was raped in front of the car by Okuntimo in the presence of soldiers and how she was bleeding. Another lady came forward to tell us how she became one-handed woman after she was shot by soldiers who are Nigerians, not soldiers from America or Cameroon, but fellow Nigerians treating their fellow citizens like enemies in war over their won rights.
Most of the Ogoni students at the University of Port Harcourt dropped out of school because of arrests and kidnaps. One of them now lives in New York. He was arrested with others and Okuntimo ordered their execution. He was lucky that the soldier who shot him shot him in the leg and left him alive. But he carries the scare now hobbling.
It will be unfair to put all the blames at the door steps of the foreign companies and the federal government without talking about the role of the local leaders in Niger-Delta. While the youth fight and agitate, their leaders who meet with the oil companies negotiate, get compensation on behalf of the people and lied back to the people.
When Obasanjo came to power in 1999, to show his appreciation to the Niger-Delta people for their support was the sacking of Odi. General Malu, then Chief of Army Staff was directed by Obasanjo to send soldiers to Odi to bring the town down. Women, and kids were killed like chicken, some were raped even in their death.
What has the Niger-Delta gained from supporting the mainstream political party in Nigeria? Nothing but betrayal. They have been used and dumped, yet the people still remain loyal. If there any region in Nigeria that should have a say in how Nigeria is governed, it should be the Niger-Delta, but unfortunately, they don’t have a say. In the scheme of things in Nigeria, these people are behind. So far, the best they have got is Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. A Yoruba man is the President, a Northern man is the Vice President, an Eastern man is the Senate President, a North central man is the Deputy Senate President, a North western man is the Speaker of the House and a South south man is the Speaker. Position number 6! Three people from the North hold very important positions. Vice President, Speaker and Deputy Senate President.
No one has come out from the Niger-Delta to indicate interest in the Presidential race, but we have a lot campaigning for Babangida a northern man, Atiku another northern man and some are even begging Obasanjo to stay there for life.
Talking about the Ogonis, even in their state, their highest has been state commissioner. Why would the Ogonis accept to be second class citizens after the great price they have paid with the killing of their sons, wives and husbands? When would they be willing to take their rightful place in Nigeria politics? The Ogonis and their brothers in the Niger-Delta should wake up from their slumbers. Why would Yoruba views be respected and Niger-delta views taken lightly? Nigeria has been divided into two: we have the Nigeria of the Hausa and Yoruba and the Nigeria of Ibo and Niger-Delta. When the former talk it carries weight, but when the latter talk, no one listens. I think it is self made and it is the people themselves that can alter that.
Before, we have the North, East and West, now we have the Northwest, Northeast, North central, and Southwest, Southeast and South south. Power in Nigeria has been rotating between two regions. The North as one entity and the South west. I do not believe in the rotational presidency syndrome but for the purpose of this argument; in 1998 after the death of Abacha, it was decided by some faceless individuals that Yoruba should be compensated for the annulment of the 1993 election. This led to Obasanjo presidency. He was picked by the same people and now presidency is going back to the north after staying in the South, not south west, but South for 8 years. For the purpose of this argument, Obasanjo, a Yoruba man was head of State from 1976-1979; Aguiyi Ironsi only ruled for 6 months. Nigeria is 45 years old, Yoruba ruled for 10 years, Ibo for 6 months and the rest 331/2 years have been for the north. Now it is time for the north to rule again for another 331/2 years?
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.