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What is the sense in Niger Delta insurgency?

To Lai Erinosho, a professor of Social Science and a former Head of Department and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences at the Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago-Iwoye, members of the Niger Delta Avengers may be fighting a war they cannot win in the oil-rich region. The one-time Social Science Academy of Nigeria Executive Secretary believes […]
The post What is the sense in Niger Delta insurgency? appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

To Lai Erinosho, a professor of Social Science and a former Head of Department and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences at the Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago-Iwoye, members of the Niger Delta Avengers may be fighting a war they cannot win in the oil-rich region. The one-time Social Science Academy of Nigeria Executive Secretary believes the agitators would have chosen another path if they had had a second-thought on the consequencess of insurgency and the future of oil. 

THE Niger Delta and the Avengers are assuming that they can make the country ungovenanbale under the present Buhari administration just as the Boko Haram insurgency did to Goodluck Jonathan simply because oil which is the main stay of our economy can no longer be easily and effectively mined in their area unless their demand for more resources from the Federation Account is met. Well, I wish to urge them to have a second thought on the cost-benefits of insurgency.

 

Background to crisis

 

I recall during my trips around the country when I had cause to discuss with our brothers/sisters of Niger Delta origin on the then 2015 forthcoming elections that finally brought President Muhammadu Buhari into office. Nearly all of them (i.e., Niger Deltans) who had a chance of discussing the elections argued ferociously that Jonathan deserved to be re-elected and indeed believed that he would be re-elected by Nigerians.

Second, many of them said that they would make our country ungovernable through the disruption of sale of oil in the international market if Jonathan was not re-elected. To them, all of us will be the losers because we are all totally dependent on oil to keep our economy going. Of course, the basis for the assertions rested on the assumption that oil will continue to fetch money for from the international market like it was doing for other oil producing countries – Venezuela and Saudi Arabia among others. Oil was then selling for about $100 per barrel and Nigeria, like others, was getting a lot of revenues in United States (U.S.) dollars.

Third, the supporters of the Niger Delta states and Dr. Jonathan who were mainly drawn from the Southeast encouraged their Niger Deltans to use religion as a ploy to galvanise the country to support Jonathan’s bid for a second and final term in office, forgetting that Nigeria is sub-divided into three religious subgroups, namely, Christianity, Islam and traditionalists.

Fourth, my Niger Delta colleagues in justifying Jonathan’s re-election hinged their argument on the fact that Northerners had already been in power for a little over 30 of about 50 years of Nigeria’s independence and what was wrong in Jonathan staying in office just for a handful of years. After all, Jonathan would not have beaten the record of some of the long-serving Northern leaders, whose performance in office was poor. The country did not revolt when the non-performing presidents of Northern Nigeria origin were in office. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander they argued. Why was the country in hurry to push Jonathan out office like a chicken?

Jonathan lost the election woefully and had to quit. His defeat was simply because the country was dissatisfied with his performance as President. A number of people hijacked the former President for their own pecuniary benefits, grabbing all that they could grab and amassing stupendous wealth.  Indeed, millions of Nigerians were angered by the performance of the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) under Jonathan and wanted change at all cost.

The former President would not have come out alive from Aso Rock if the PDP had rigged his re-election into office. There were ominous signs on what would have happened in the aftermath of the election if this were to be case. Indeed, this assertion is not far-fetched but founded on various sources on the state of affairs prior to last year’s elections. Not surprising that Nigerians thanked the Almighty Allah and God for His mercies on the outcomes of the election. But let me give some evidence for the assertion about the impending doom that would have followed the elections.

John Campbell, a former American Ambassador to Nigeria, had in his book titled: “Nigeria: Dancing on the brink” suggested that Nigerians have a track record when it comes to getting rid of their non-performing and/or sit tight leaders. He further noted he would not have been taken aback if this were to happen after the 2015 elections. The U.S. State Department of State also predicted the disintegration of Nigeria in 2015 shortly after the publication of John Campbell’s’ book.

Nigerians were very furious with the American prediction. But the Americans had their reasons for this prediction because they saw it coming with the threats from different parts of the country and especially from those who believed time was ripe for a change of government. The Americans foresaw another civil war in the making which would have led to the disintegration of our country. Such a war would have led to devastation, destruction, carnage and unprecedented refugee crisis in the Africa sub-region judging by the population of our country. The Armed Forces would have disintegrated because officers/men were already demoralised, aggrieved, and factionalised by the way President Jonathan was handling the Boko Haram insurgency. There was no sincerity in the prosecution of the insurgents because soldiers from certain sections/ethnic groups were being deliberately deployed to fight the war with their bare hands and of course they were being killed like flies. You will recall soldiers were already disobeying orders and quite a handful were court marshaled by the authorities. The court martialed soldiers, who were defended by Mr. Femi Falana SAN, were convicted and are now wasting away in prison.

Nigeria would have been broken into small republics with ethnic armies controlling ethnic enclaves at war with one another over the sharing of assets and liabilities of the country. The Americans knew all of these possible consequences would have followed if Jonathan was rigged into office by the PDP by all means.

I have provided this background discussion to show that the on-going attempt by Niger Delta and Avengers can be explained against the backdrop of the disappointment of their people over the re-election of Jonathan.

They were, and are still thinking as follows: “We will make Nigeria ungovernable”; “We will disrupt oil production and ensure that no one benefits”; “It is our oil, harvested from our land which spreads over a difficult terrain – mangrove forests interspersed with rivers, lagoons, lakes, and the Atlantic Ocean”; “We know the terrain very well and can beat the Nigerian Armed Forces to it”; “The Federal Government’ll find it extremely difficult to take over our land and stop wanton destruction of the pipelines and as such the country will not be able to garner substantial revenues from oil”; and “Oil production will cease and the Federal Government will have no choice but to enter into negotiations with us and we can in the process get a better deal on resource allocation.”

I shall in this piece argue that the response of the Niger Delta and Avengers is not well thought-out and is likely to be futile. They ought to have undertaken a detail cost-benefits analysis of their plan before embarking on insurgency as an effective instrument for exacting concessions from their target group(s). Let us take a look at what is happening right now which I am sure they probably did not take into consideration.

 

Pros and cons of insurgency

 

Nigeria is a country consisting of nearly 400 ethnic groups with diverse interests. Will it be possible for a handful of ethnic groups in the Niger Delta to outwit vast numbers of their fellow countrymen and women from various other ethnic groups that outnumber them in a ratio of 20:1 in such a fight? Impossible! As in the examples discussed below, the attempt by Niger Delta Avengers to expand support for their cause is failing.

First, Nigerians are now openly recognising the foolishness of their country’s dependence on one product – oil, for survival. They are now inclined to downplay the importance of oil which the Niger Delta and Avengers are playing god with.  People are now persuaded that Nigeria should think of surviving without oil. What is the big deal about oil in any case?

Second, the Itsekiri, who are also a part of the Niger Delta sub-region are distancing themselves from the insurgency of the insurgents. Also, the Ndigbo, representing the Southeast have put on their thinking red cap over secession. The Ndigbo are making spirited effort to distance themselves from the issue of Biafra because they know and recognise the fact that the break-up of Nigeria will not be in their interest. Their substantial and immoveable investments spread all over Nigeria will be lost or forfeited if Nigeria disintegrates. The Ndigbo are the cosmopolitan ones who live away from home and who have huge investments (houses, shops and hotels) that cannot be relocated to their homeland if there is chaos in Nigeria. But some Ndigbo, especially those living within the landlocked enclave of Southeast who do not have anything anywhere in Nigeria but in the Southeast and who also never experienced the consequences of the 1967-1970 civil war.  So, it is easy for the latter to talk glibly about secession and war.

Further attempt by Niger Delta Avengers to extend insurgency well beyond their land area to Lagos and Ogun states has incurred the wrath of the authorities and indigenes of these states. The incursion of the insurgents was successfully repelled by the Federal authorities with the support of Lagos and Ogun states indigenes.

Voices from the North are now suggesting that even a break-up of Nigeria will after all be good for their sub-region. They are now arguing as follows: “What is all these wahala (fuss) about keeping Nigeria together because of oil?”; “Is it not better to live in peace without oil than with insecurity with all its consequences?; “Let us go our separate ways”. They argue: “After all, oil is no longer bringing lots of revenues to our country.”

Finally, the Federal Government is attempting to shift from oil as the mainstay of the economy to agriculture and the untapped sold minerals. Yes, it may take time to harvest the result of diversification, but these other alternative sources of revenue will certainly pay off.

I doubt whether the Niger Delta Avengers took the foregoing response of the rest of the country into consideration when they resolved to embark on their current insurgency.

 

Why other ethnic groups

won’t back insurgency

 

I believe that there is no widespread support for insurgency among other ethnic groups. Yes, the Avengers have a case but should insurgency be the instrument for advancing their cause? Will Insurgency not undermine the corporate existence, stability and rapid development of the country? No one can know how it will end in a country like ours which is still fragile.

It is therefore not surprising that the Ndigbo, representing the Southeast is already distancing itself from the agitation because of its recognised economic interest to keep Nigeria together. The Ndigbo who would have tied the Niger Delta insurgency to their agitation for an independent Biafra now remember and appreciate the salient facts of history about their sub-region. The Niger Delta betrayed the Ndigbo during the Biafran secession war when (Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River and Akwa Ibom) teamed up with the Federal Government. These states also seized the landed properties left behind by the Ndigbo as war booty.

The Iteskiri in Delta State are not in support of the Avengers. Their leaders have said so in clear terms that they are in support of the Federal Government’s stand to treat the militants as criminals. This is a blow to the Avengers because they are an important ethnic group in the Niger Delta sub-region.

The Yoruba are least likely to support the Niger Delta insurgency as a means of seeking solution to political problem of this nature. Anyone who knows the Yoruba character will attest to the fact they have never really been in support of violence as an instrument for exacting concessions and achieving their goal. Rather, they often opt for non-violent, intellectual strategy.

Nigerians will recollect how the Yoruba responded to the June 12 crisis when the election of their son, the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola was annulled. They took to the streets to demonstrate and worked very effectively to isolate Nigeria from the international community.

The Ndigbo in particular and the rest of the country expected the Yoruba to use the outcome of June 12 to break away from the country through armed struggle. The Yoruba were sure that every ethnic group in the country would gang up against them and clobber them into submission. The Yoruba were wise and refused to go to war. They stayed away from war and instead waged an intellectual struggle against the like of Gen Ibrahim Babangida and the late Gen Sani Abacha. Their struggle demobilised Nigeria for five years and made Nigeria ungovernable for both former leaders and the Yoruba won the battle in the end when the country conceded the presidency to them. We should recall that for the first time in our history, the two presidential candidates of the two major parties were Yoruba, Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae. The former (Obasanjo) was elected in the interest of peace in the country.

The Hausa/Fulani under the present leadership is likely to take a hard stance against the Niger Delta Avengers because of their widely held view that the current insurgency is aimed at making the country ungovernable under the Buhari leadership, who is from the North. The North believes it is now their turn to head the country again after their attempt to replace the late Musa Yar’Adua with one of theirs. They will therefore make every effort to scuttle the plan of the Avengers.

The agitators will be naive to believe that support for their cause will come from the other so-called minority ethnic/Christian groups in the North. My knowledge of their behaviour/character over the years leads me to the conclusion that they will always side the Hausa/Fulani hegemony when the chips are down. This view is based on knowledge of them gathered through extensive travel and contact with these minority ethnic groups in the North. They are always inclined to tag along with their regional kith and kin rather than with the so-called oppressed minority like them. So, all said and done, the support for the Niger Delta Avengers to drive their point home within the federation through insurgency as is now playing out is likely to be futile.

 

Sincerity, transparency

and resource control

 

There is lack of credibility and sincerity in current insurgency in the Niger Delta. Jonathan was in charge for a little over six years. He had all the power to influence things and undo the short-changing of his people by the Nigerian state. He had the courage to organise the 2014 National Conference on how to re-structure the country despite stiff opposition against the conference by those who believed in the status quo.

Jonathan had the report of the 2014 National Conference on his desk several months before his exit from power. He had a golden opportunity to push for the implementation of, or implement the report. The former President even failed to implement the United Nations (UN) Report on the clean-up of the Ogoniland.

These are some of the questions all the right-thinking Nigerians are now posing for answers from Jonathan and Avengers. Why did Jonathan not take step to implement the report?  Was his failure to implement the report out of timidity? Why expect Buhari to come and implement Jonathan’s inspired conference report? After all, he was able to implement the recommendations of the administrations of Obasanjo and Musa Ya’Adua on the Niger Delta which included the setting up/strengthening of the Niger Delta states through a new revenue formula for resource allocation and the establishment of the Ministry of the Niger Delta, NDDC (Niger Deltal Development Commission) and Amnesty Programme for the militants as well as the development of the skill of militants for productive work.

The Niger Deltans should have directed their anger towards Jonathan for failing to take them to the Promised Land by ensuring a fair share of the proceeds from the oil. But he copped out to use the popular American cliché.  However, Buhari, who is under attack from the Avengers is now implementing the UN Report on the clean-up and development of Ogoniland.

Another fact that underscores the lack of credibility and transparency in the agitation of the Niger Delta and Avengers over a fair deal in resource allocation is the use to which the resources allocated to them from the Federation Account between 1999 and 2015 (i.e. the Obasanjo, Yar ‘Adua era up to the end of Jonathan’s administrations) have been put to profitable use. So much money was disbursed to Niger Delta states; the Ministry of Niger Delta; the NDDC; and the amnesty programmes, with very miserable outcomes. There are repeated insinuations in national newspapers that the funds were diverted into private pockets. Indeed, the leaders of this sub-region are believed to be using insurgency/agitation to garner resources for themselves.

 

Little to show for huge

allocations

 

Today, the socio-economic conditions in the Niger Delta sub-region are poor. The states are unable to pay the pensions and salaries of their workers as and when due. Roads have not been constructed and jobs have not been provided for their people. The students from the Niger Delta states who were sponsored to study abroad in the wake of the bonanza from oil under the dispensation of the Obasanjo/Yar ‘Adua/Jonathan regimes are stranded because the authorities can no longer pay their fees. Their people were in charge of their institutions and they had ample opportunity to use available and abundant resources judiciously to develop their institutions and also to lift their people out of poverty. Alas! This is not happening in the Niger Delta.

There was a recent media report that a hotel located in a prime area of Abuja which was seized from a former governor of a Niger Delta state because he used monies corruptly appropriated from the state coffers to build is derelict. This report is very depressing to say the least. What is the point garnering more resources when allocated funds are misappropriated by leaders who have no interest in the well-being of their people.

It is not easy to find widespread support for a cause where there is no evidence of good outcomes which is the case in the Niger Delta today. The resources allocated to the states in the sub-region were not managed by people from Planet Mars or other states in Nigeria but by their indigenes. This is a cause for alarm for other Nigerians who would have been inclined to wholeheartedly support the insurgency of the Niger Delta Avengers. The general feeling among many Nigerians is that insurgency is a premeditated action and sponsored solely by those who are inclined to continue to milk the states in the sub-region and also impoverish them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the future of oil?

 

What is the point of the current insurgency against the backdrop of the decline in the price of oil in the international market? The price of oil has continued to decline sharply and is widely believed that it will continue to drop for many years to come because of the following reasons.

First, there are now serious attempts to develop alternative sources of energy. Because of this, oil will no longer be a money spinning commodity soon. Moreover, cars, planes automobile will in due course be powered by other energies. The developed high income countries are rapidly reducing the dependence of their economies on oil due to environmental concerns and oil will probably not be worth as much by the year 2050.

Nigerians in general, and Niger Deltans in particular, who think that they can depend forever on one product for the survival of their economy had better think about the future of oil. Oil may not be worth much soon with the rapid development of alternative sources of energy.

The impact in the decline of the price of oil in the international market is already not only being felt in Nigeria but in all other major oil producing countries like Venezuela which has mis-used proceeds from its oil and is now in a miserable state (almost a failed state) as well as Saudi Arabia which is also experiencing severe economic recession for the first time in years.

The decline of oil as a major source of energy will continue at a faster rate and in no time, we will have oil trapped in our land which no one will be interested in buying. For example, coal was the main source of energy during the colonial and post-colonial times. Coal from Enugu which fetched lots of money for the defunct Eastern region during the First Republic is no longer in demand. And yet, our coal can still be mined in Enugu and along the Kogi basin today. But no one wants to buy coal anymore. Even Nigeria is not harvesting huge quantities of her coal to power electricity.

Let the Niger Delta states, the Avengers and Nigerians in general learn from what happened in the United Kingdom (UK) years back. The UK which used to be dependent on coal is no longer doing so. The coal miners in the UK played the sort of role that the Niger Delta Avengers are now playing in Nigeria today, holding the country to ransom.

The miners used to make the UK ungovernable for years in collaboration with Labour Party through wildcat strikes until Margaret Thatcher (now late) was elected Prime Minister. The Iron Lady broke the backbone of the coal miners. Today, no one hears about coal and the miners in the UK. The power, which the miners wielded was destroyed and they are today in pitiable conditions.

I urge the readers of this piece to take a look at the late Thatcher’s autobiography titled: “Margaret Thatcher: The Path to Power”, on how she decimated the coal industry and the miners. Her action also kept Labour Party out of power for more than ten years.

Niger Deltans and the Avengers should learn from this story of coal in the UK. Oil is passing away and it is in their own interest to take advantage of its current price by ensuring peace so that as much as possible can be mined and sold for hard currency for the development of their sub-region and Nigeria before it is not worth as much anymore.

 

The post What is the sense in Niger Delta insurgency? appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

Source:The Nation Nigeria

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