If they made good their threat, at the time you are reading this, members of the taken-for-dead Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) would have resumed hostilities in the Niger Delta area, their major catchment area. The group had been in the forefront of violent agitation about ten years ago, demanding mainly, improved well being of the people of the Niger Delta, by way of provision of social infrastructure and employment. The scale of violence was high and sophisticated. It had grown from attacks on oil installations to kidnapping of oil workers especially expatriates, initially to force the government to a commitment of developing the region. But it soon became a veritable financial venture, a signature malaise that has become nationalized.
Not even the setting up of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, to exclusively develop the region, could tame the degree of violence. This forced the succeeding government led by late Umaru Musa YarÁdua to not only create the Ministry of Niger Delta, but to also offer the militants amnesty, on the condition that they will lay down their arms and let peace be. And since 2009, the militants have been enjoying the amnesty offer which has taken some of them to far countries, whilst receiving their stipend unhindered. So much for the narratives.
Last Wednesday, the MEND threatened to commence commotion in the country as at yesterday, as a result of the conviction of Henry Okah for thirteen years in South Africa. He was jailed for complicity in the bombings that occurred on Nigeria’s 50th anniversary in Abuja. That was in October 2010. In that incident, twelve persons were killed, and several others wounded. Although President Goodluck Jonathan had hastily absolved MEND of being the mastermind, events were to show otherwise. The trial in South Africa had been thorough, with mass of evidences which the court said, have proven beyond reasonable doubts that Okah was behind the attacks.
Before the Abuja incident, a regional summit organized by Vanguard Newspapers in Warri, in July of that year, had also been bombed. One woman died in that attack. Okah has been blamed for being behind the attacks.
Now in the bomb blasts the court said he engineered, a total of thirteen people died. Those who died from the blasts, are they not human? Didn’t they have families? Does MEND realise that many families have been thrown into eternal sorrow because of the terror acts of Okah? Children have been rendered fatherless or motherless, just as wives have been rendered widows. Their losses are eternally irrecoverable. Okah’s sentence is seen as a slap on the wrist. The sentence is light. He killed people and in recompense he got jailed for 13 years. I thought MEND should go for thanksgiving that in seven calendar years or so, their leader will be back. Those Okah caused to be killed are forever gone. They are all human. Okah’s life is not special.
It is instructive that Okah refused to accept the idea of the amnesty. The same Okah had indeed been involved in gun running leading to his arrest in Angola. He was extradited and made to face trial in Nigeria. But it was aborted. He soon got a pardon as he was released, in the bid to promote peace. That same Okah had also been accused of conniving with unscrupulous military personnel to steal or buy arms and ammunition of the Nigerian Army. The said arms were in turn used in fighting and killing Nigerian soldiers guarding the creeks. But all that were ignored, and amnesty offered. But Okah refused to be appeased. He kept grumbling. He swore to continue his onslaught against the Nigerian state. I think it is in furtherance of that resolve that the two bomb incidents took place.
Long before the bomb incidents, the MEND had always pre-conditioned cessation of hostilities on the unconditional release of Okah. Okah got released unconditionally, out of sheer political expediency, yet the man will not sheathe the sword. His faction of the MEND has kept faith with violence, retaining most of its arms. It now has a cache of arms which promises to be a ready weaponry in the newly-declared war.
To therefore threaten fire and brimstone in the name of “Hurricane Exodus” because of a “mere” jail term is to sell the impression that we are all not equal before the law. Nothing can be more wrong.
And the other arising issue is the degree of oil theft going on in the Niger Delta. It had been expected that after the amnesty programme started, peace, perfect peace, will return to the zone. But it has not exactly. While wild violence and killings have stopped, another level of brigandage has long commenced with the brazen theft of petroleum products by a cabal. Not even the fact that the security of the oil pipelines has been contracted to one of the former militants, Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) at the huge cost– $40 million per annum, has stymied the roguery going on in the creeks. Already, Shell has shut down in the Nembe area, ENI is threatening to shut down, same as AGIP which has indeed shut down—all because of unprecedented stealing of petroleum products. Yet, the huge security fee is still being paid to Tompolo. So is he being paid for the blightful stealing of the products or what?
It is against all these anomalies that the frothy threat of MEND is seen as a tactical faux pas. MEND has been a beneficiary of government’s good faith. One good turn should deserve another. Not a thoughtless and selfish umbrage. Let there be peace!
Achebe on the Pulpit
That the late literary icon, Professor Chinua Achebe used art as a veritable medium of preaching to the “oppressors” is not in doubt. The Trouble with Nigeria is that all the sermons he preached with his works, sounded like Greek to those in power, as if they are all under the spell of the Arrow of God. It is even a greater worry that no matter how much Nigeria earns, the poor are getting poorer while the rich are getting richer, and so we are in a continuous cycle of Things Fall Apart, as the centre is ever hardly able to hold. Not even when we resorted to democracy by electing A man of the People, have we had a relief from the rage of the locusts and even the Anthills of the Savannah.
The more they seem to move, the more static we end up being. Much movement, no motion. Nothing can be more ironical than the fact that a nation that is so blessed perpetually appears so cursed. Today, even the rest of the world is No Longer at Ease with the scale of malfeasance going on in Nigeria. Things are getting even more degenerate and the solution is not nigh, because diagnosis and therapy have been fatally faulty. And those who saw a better Nigeria of yesterday cannot help but moan in piteous retrospect that indeed There was a Country.
Is PDP About Shedding Leaves Again
Have you been following the silent war in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
War? Silent war? Where?
Yes, war. It is war of nerves. Have you not seen how the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur has been set on edge in the last one week? Can’t you see how the old man has been running helter-skelter trying to save his job?
Please do not exaggerate. He has been calm stating his position with remarkable composure.
Composure indeed. You will not see that the old man has been sweating under, even when he is in an AC-room. I can tell you that BMT is half-way gone. You did not hear that the President is not impressed with his performance? That under him, the party has come under so much attack both from within and without? That he has literally set the governors against the Presidency. And many of the governors are actually considering dumping the party? And you know the political implication of such a clash. There is no gainsaying that the governors are in firm hold of the party structures. And running them against the presidency could jeopardize the political interest and future of the President. Do you think it is for fun that the newly-elected BoT Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, has been criss-crossing the country on a trouble-shooting mission?
My friend, do not mis-represent issues here. There is nothing Tukur does without the approval of Mr President. They meet every Monday by 8.00pm at the Presidential Villa. I can confirm to you that the two party leaders are firmly on the same page as far as the operations of the party are concerned. And so, all these flying rumours about discord and discontent are purely the figment of mischief makers. QED!
Hold it. It is not QED yet. You say Mr President and the national chairman of the party are on the same page on the matters of party administration? Does this agreement include the sacking of the Adamawa State Exco of the PDP? Don’t you know that was the beginning of the crisis in the party? Don’t you know that was what set the governors against Tukur and eventually the President? Don’t you know the Chairman has been accused of twisting the procedures in his home state of Adamawa all because he wants a state executive that can make his son, Mahmud Tukur eventually emerge as the state governor in the next gubernatorial election? You don’t know this?
Hmmm, CNN! Who told you all these? Who told you Tukur is positioning his son to become governor? The greatest concern of the Tukurs is how to clear the son from the accusation of being a Subsidy fraudster. And that reminds me, what is the state of that case even? Has anybody been jailed?
Jailed? Nobody will be jailed. I can tell you that for free. This is Nigeria. Didn’t I tell you at the beginning that the case is going nowhere? It is sheer hoax. Are you convinced now?
But the matter is still in court, isn’t it?
That matter is in the judicial lagoon. Trust me.
So, back to the PDP issue. You must be guided by the fact that the leadership of the party is also concerned about frequent changes of its chairmen. It is almost becoming scandalous. I can count the number of chairmen of the party who had left office gloriously on my left hand. I don’t think Mr President wants to lengthen the list of chairmen who left in a huff.
Don’t be deceived. The interest of Mr President is what counts uppermost. If in the calculation of the President, Tukur’s continued stay in office will imperil his re-election chances, he will be thrown overboard without blinking. That is the way the game is played. And from what I can see the PDP is about shedding its leaves again. These are desperate times. And I can tell you that as 2015 draws closer, you will be seeing more and more desperate actions.
But by the way, is it true that the President has decided to consider amnesty to ghosts?
Yes, Ghosts, alias Boko Haram.
(index finger across lips) Shhhhh. Don’t say I told you. But it is all about 2015 my brother. The ghosts have been transformed into humans.
No, don’t make mockery of a serious matter. Don’t forget even the most senior northern monarch had led the call for the amnesty offer for the Boko Haram members. It will be foolhardy to dismiss such a voice without paying dearly for it.
Whatever it is, the President has shown again his trademark inconsistency.
I will rather say the President has shown that he listens, and that above all, he is not rigid.
A beg leave Nigeria matter jare
Let us go and pray, so the Junkuns and Tivs won’t come tomorrow asking for amnesty.