Dear Mr President, ranka de de Sir! It would have been better meeting with you on this matter but the difficulty of protocols has made the option of writing you an easier access.
Recall that in the past few weeks the media was awash with insinuations that you plan to or had already opened dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger Delta with a view to addressing the renewed violence particularly attacks on oil infrastructures in the region. This is commendable; at least it represents a paradigm shift on your side.
Commendably, all the deviant militant groups involved in the renewed violence in the Niger Delta now seem to agree on one thing- and that is sitting down with the Presidency to discuss the issues around the Niger Delta question. However, what is puzzling is that the expressed mindsets of the groups including the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), and its reformed alibi RNDA shows that they are more if not totally interested in discussing the issue as it pertains to the Ijaws in the riverine areas particularly of Delta and Bayelsa and a segment of Rivers states. This is very wrong and would do anybody including the federal government any good.
Now, Mr. President, as you have agreed to discuss the issues around the Niger Delta question, it is important to let you know that the term “Niger Delta” and the problems thereof is far bigger than the term “Ijaw” and its own problem also. Both terms are not synonymous and whosoever pretends otherwise is an enemy of not only your government but genuine progress in the region.
There are two Niger Deltas: the physiographic and geological Niger Delta. The issues around the Niger Delta question borders on resource control or access to the wealth generated from oil and gas exploitation; and the devastating environmental consequences from oil activities. These issues are not restricted to the Ijaw areas of the region but in every corner where oil and gas activities including dangerous pipelines operations take place. So that takes the issues to the purview of the geologic Niger Delta.
The arrogance and disposition of the Ijaws in this whole issue of neglect of the oil producing Niger Delta is fast becoming annoyingly intolerable to say the least. This was how they hijacked and completely messed up the few genuine serious efforts by the federal government to redress some of the development issues at the core of the agitation. From the Amnesty programme through the federal government intervention projects such as the east-west road, to the Niger Delta Development Commission, it has been a case of ‘if it’s not Ijaw then no one else.”
In the entire Orashi region including ONELGA, Ahaoda, in Rivers state; Oguta, Egbema, Ohaji in Imo stae, how many of their people benefitted or still benefits from the amnesty programme? Or does Gbaramaturu produce more oil than Ogba, Egi and Ndoni or even Ahaoda?
It is vexing that as far as these Ijaws are concerned, the Kwale/Ukwuani man should not benefit anything from oil because he is Ibo. Meanwhile, the entire Ukwani area produce more oil and gas than some of these areas that want to claim they are more Niger Delta than every other person because they live inside water. Let’s not even talk of the Itsekiri areas and its people.
In the old Rivers state, Ahoada local government was the biggest contributor to daily oil production followed by Oyigbo. Ikwere and Etche are all big contributors in terms of daily volume output from their areas. How many people from these areas benefitted from the amnesty programme and its largess including lucrative overseas scholarships? How many infrastructure development projects were executed in these areas was even planned to be executed?
Make no mistake about this: there is no section of the oil producing Niger Delta that does not have the capacity and soldiers to form militant groups and sabotage facilities and infrastructures in their own and even other areas. Is it the Ogbas, or the Ukwanis who are more or less the same breed that cannot come together to form a formidable militant group that can stand their own anywhere? Or is it the Ndokis coming together with the Asas and Omuma/Etche as the same people to equally do their own thing? Or the Ikwerres? Ogoni is already a well known theatre. So if armed insurrection is the yardstick for government to listen and pay doles, the capacity exists across the different sections of the region.
And if every oil producing section or rather peoples begin to form their own militant group to get attention from the government, is that not anarchy? But if that is what some ethnic groups and even the federal government want by their attitude, I wish them what they wish themselves.
By the way, what are we even forming a negotiating team for? What is there to negotiate as pertains infrastructure and human capital development in the Niger Delta- payment of doles and/or gratification and pacification to a few armed insurgents and their elder statesmen at the expense of the real battered and neglected peoples of the Niger Delta and their environment?
There have been many attempts, many negotiations and many plans made in the past to improve the lives of the people of the Niger Delta by bringing the oil producing areas at par or near to what anybody can call sustainable physical and human development. Sadly, each ended with very little to show for the time and resources spent because of the insincerity of past Abuja governments and the naivety and outright stupidity of those who claim to be more Niger Delta than every other person. Na me talkam!
These people scheming for negotiations for doles and gratification or pacifications from the federal government, they should actually be told and in the language which they understand very well (and that’s obviously Ijaw) that the people of the Niger Delta are quite disenchanted with dialogues, ‘plans’ and promises at this time.
No doubt, in as much as there is an urgent need to de-escalate the armed insurrection in the region, the focus of such effort should not be to pay doles to whoever and in whatever disguise but to create an enabling environment for the federal government to actually convince not only the people of the region but the international community that it is serious about correcting and/or ameliorating the development imbalance in the region.
My suggestion Mr President Sir: There is a very well conceived, articulated, and fully developed “Development Master Plan” for the Niger Delta region. This Master Plan was basically conceived as a tool that the federal, states, local governments and millions of people of the Niger Delta Region can use to actualize their common vision and build their future to the standard they desire by starting from somewhere, afterall “at all at all no be imm be witch”? The problem is that nothing is happening anywhere in the region to convince the people including the militants that Abuja is serious with all their promises.
Where is this document- The Niger Delta Development Master Plan? Mr President, truth be told, most concerned indigenes of the region would agree that this all important document should be the only basis of dialogue/negotiation whatever you call it on the region’s agitation rather than doling out money to pacify a few people from a tiny segment of the battered and disenchanted oil producing region.
In the document there are well marshalled- out short-, medium- and long-term development intervention frameworks that could produce immediate, medium and long term visible impacts in the region and in the lives of its people. It also stipulates the responsibilities of every stakeholder including the federal, states, and local governments; the oil companies and even development agencies such UNDP and others. Let’s look at them and start from somewhere. This is the only dialogue I believe will produce the desired peace and calm in the region. God bless Niger Delta! God bless Nigeria!!
Ifeanyi Ifeanyi Izeze writes from Abuja. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and 234-8033043009.