Published On: Thu, Oct 27th, 2016

Buhari and Niger Delta Issue: Futility of Turnaround Motion? -By Ifeanyi Izeze

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NIGER DELTA REGION

The continued inanity of the people of Niger Delta (my people) has to be radically addressed quickly and in-house too because they are becoming irreparably disfigured in their mindsets as expressed in some of the imprudent ways they keep portraying themselves.

Is it not laughable that we are falling on each other scrambling for whether or not to participate at the federal government’s proposed regional summit, dialogue or whatever to discuss the issues at the crux of the agitation in the region? Who did this to my people that they can no longer think straight?

Shamelessly, those that call themselves leaders of the Niger Delta are even amenable to what they described as a “credible dialogue process between the Federal Government, the oil companies and the accredited and authorized representatives of the region.”

Hear them: “We reaffirm our collective resolve to only engage the Federal Government through a credible dialogue process with accredited representatives of the Niger Delta region to proffer long lasting solutions to the protracted Niger Delta insurgency and not a summit of this type.”

Let’s even ask: Is President Mohammadu Buhari even ready for sincere talk/dialogue with anybody on this matter? This should be the first question. His body language and expressed mindset show the contrary. Recall that he reportedly said during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 71st edition of the UN General Assembly, in New York that: “We are making definite progress on how many factions of the militant groups exist, their leadership and operational basis, and we have equally sought the cooperation of the oil majors. In a short while, I believe the issues would be resolved.”

Also, in his Independence speech, the president deliberately described the Niger Delta militants as “thugs.” Whether he was right or not in the use of the term is immaterial. What matters is the deliberate painting of the agitating people of the region as “thugs and criminals.” Is that the language you use in peace missions? So who is the president making effort to dialogue/negotiate with-thugs and criminals or “looters of the federal treasury”?

President Buhari may truly be a good man with good intentions for the country as those who know him well insist but whether anybody wants to hear this or not, the problem with his administration is that his presidency is too militarized. Almost everybody advising him on key national challenges is either retired soldier and retired secret service personnel or myopic clannish warlords who since they were born, were never taught the difference between the language of a military administration and that of a democratic dispensation. Callous comments by the president’s men including the speech writer(s) keep reinforcing the public perception that this government is just a modified “command and control” one.

Does anybody in the Niger Delta still doubt that the federal government as displayed is only interested in continued access to oil flow from the region if not, should pacifying the militants replace urgent intervention infrastructure development? It’s only someone who is brain-dead that does not know that the issues confronting the Niger Delta and at the core of the agitation do not require any more sterile academic exercise in the name of summit or dialogue with a self-serving  cliques.

Why is it that no government had ever bothered to implement the recommendations on the Niger Delta with the overall goal of holistic, people-centred, people-focused and people-driven growth and development in the region? President Yar’Adua’s remarkable efforts at granting Amnesty with all its packages only ended up creating more powerful and better-informed agitators.

When Buhari’s crocodile started smiling in the Niger Delta, that would have been the best time for the Julius Berger caterpillars to have rolled- in massively into different sections of the region doing roads, bridges, water scheme, rural electrification etc. At least the “smiling crocodile” would have provided cover for any militant who may want to disrupt work on site. But this did not happen. Now the crocodiles are no longer smiling rather they are now in “tears,” another repeat of same old mistakes of past administrations. So we are just going in circles!

There is a way you insistently ask somebody to go to hell that he actually decides to embark on the trip and see what would happen. That is the present situation between the Presidency and the people of Niger Delta.

Mr. President Sir, don’t even bother meeting/dialoguing or negotiating with anybody whether militants, council of elders or self-appointed representatives of the people because all that would be a waste of time and energy. This is what you should do to get the desired results: Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is an annex of the Presidency and this extended office of the president embarked on what could fairly be described as a sincere and comprehensive facts finding mission that ultimately culminated in the development of a document called “Niger Delta Development Master Plan.” Almost every stakeholder across the Niger Delta including oil companies and international development agencies, federal government agencies and the people of the region contributed to the development of this document and so it can be said to have at least fairly captured the needs and aspirations of the entire stakeholders. Where is this all–important document?

There is nothing anybody is going to discuss or suggest in any meeting whether you call it summit or dialogue that was not thoroughly streamlined in this document except collection of pittance handouts as amnesty or “settlement.” In this document, there were recommendations for short, medium and long term actions towards redressing the development imbalance of the callously neglected Niger Delta region.

The President may also need to be reminded that the federal government under the Umaru Yar’Adua set up a 45-man Presidential Technical Committee on the Niger Delta, under the chairmanship of Ledum Mitee, to collate and align all the various Reports on the Niger Delta and proffer a permanent solution to the lingering Niger Delta crisis. This committee extraordinarily had a free hand to operate and even chose its own key officials including the chairman and secretary. Most of the immediate and medium term actions that can be taken by the federal government in the Niger Delta were highlighted in the final Report of this committee that was submitted and currently domiciled in the Presidency.

The report of the technical committee did well to review all previous reports on the Niger Delta, including the Niger Delta Master Plan, Willinks Reports (1958), Belgore (1992), Etiebet (1994), Vision 2020 (1996), United Nations (1997), Popoola (1998) Ogomudia (2001), Presidential Panel on National Security (2003), Niki Tobi (2005) and
that of the Coastal States of the Niger Delta .

What stops the Mitee-led Presidential Technical Committee Report from being endorsed by way of a Government White Paper for immediate implementation instead of all these scheming to talk and talk and deceive the people?

So what other talk show- whether you call it “summit” or “dialogue” are we clamouring for? The fact remains that the region has been criminally oppressed, exploited and neglected for over five decades and no amount of blaming Jonathan’s government for action or inaction is going to change the perception of the people that they have been grossly maltreated. The only antidote is massive infrastructure and human capital development not talk shows. We voted for change and change we must have by the grace of the Almighty God. Those who have ears let them hear

 

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(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja and can be reached on: iizeze@yahoo.com; 234-8033043009)

 

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