Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results Albert Einstein
Since the first part of this article was published last week, many persons have contacted me to respond to its contents. It is interesting that many people felt that what I initiated was a timely and worthwhile debate. I have therefore chosen to raise a few more issues that can help us deepen the conversation further in search of solutions. There are those who rather than take on the issues raised, decided to attack my person. One of them, Ms Ann Kio Briggs even contacted my university. However, I am gratified that many persons who learnt about her action condemned it and amplified my position that she is not an activist but a conflict entrepreneur. After more than six years of deliberate silence, I listened to her inciting young people in Port Harcourt to secede from Nigeria. How else will one describe hypocrisy? The last time I saw Ms Briggs, four mobile policemen in a convoy of cars were escorting her.
We must not allow any distractions or blame game to distract us. It is not time to be judgemental either. Rather it is a time to revisit and rigorously interrogate what we now know and call the Niger Delta cause. Was/is they are a cause? If we all answer in the affirmative then do we mean the same thing? Is the cause about lingering questions lacking in clarity or are there answers already provided? Was the cause/answers in economic, political, environmental issues or a combination of the three? Is it the same thing as resource control or amnesty programme? My point here is that there seem to be no coherent Niger Delta cause, rather a plethora of causes submerged and almost lost in the pursuit of self-interest and opportunism.
When a politician, a traditional ruler, a youth leader, a fisherman, an indigenous oil company, a multinational oil company and a government official come together in one room to talk about the Niger Delta, will we expect any form of agreement? Beyond the Ogoni Bill of Rights and the Kaiama Declaration, where else can we find the Niger Delta cause articulated?
Who should speak or act on our behalf going forward and do they have our consent? Do they represent our collective interest and do they report to us? What approach will be most fashionable? Will going back to the creeks, as many people including the Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan seem to be suggesting, be helpful or an avoidable complication? Is the Niger Delta cause the same as Ijaw cause or is it broader? Without pretending to have all the answers I argue that while the Ijaw is a dominant tribe in the region, there are more than 40 ethnic groups and 250 dialects whose interest we need to consider. There are the Ogoni, Ibibio, Esan, Bini, Itsekiri, Isoko, Efik, Annang, Oron and others. There cannot be a better time than now to have an inclusive conversation that will give equity and voice to the minority who has been murmuring since the days of the Willink’s Commission.
With the new government coming into power in the coming days, this is a time for the Niger Delta people to undertake a deliberate stocktaking and introspection. We must be more strategic, more issue based and less adversarial. This is no longer a time for a few people to select themselves as representatives and give themselves the license of speaking for the Niger Delta for their own self-enrichment.
Beyond the implementation of the UNEP Report and comprehensive clean up the region, omnibus agencies like the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) need to be reviewed and restructured from a patronage centre that it is at the moment to a development agency that it ought to be. Putting monies into the pockets of the rich all these while has not taken the region anywhere. Those who are funding and abetting the mindless proliferation of small arms within the region must be told that the stray bullet can hit anyone.
The Niger Delta is a regional unit of Nigeria and the plan to develop it should be an integral part of a holistic approach to move the country forward. Those who want to profit from calls for secession should be made to understand the meaning of treason as soon as law enforcement kicks. Those who betrayed the Niger Delta are here with us.. To some people the truth hurts, but to others a debate is a gratifying opportunity to learn.