Friday, August 7, 2009
Niger Delta: No amnesty, no surrender
‘I hate victims who respect their executioners.’ (Jean-Paul Sartre).
No one can guarantee the Nigerian people and the Nigerian state peace, security and stability insofar as the Niger Delta crisis is concerned. No one! Not even the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). MEND’s strength, relevance, and audacity derive primarily from government’s inanity. The Nigerian government is the only entity that is fully capable of transforming the region. Once that is done – or once the transformation is taking place – peace, security and stability will become the order of the day.
The idea that a lemon-amnesty will turn to lemonade is a pipedream. What makes the government think that what justice-seeking groups like MEND need is official pardon? Forgiveness for what? Who is the giver, and who are the intended beneficiaries? If the Yar’Adua/Jonathan government is bent on giving amnesty, fine: It should go look for criminals to arrest and prosecute. There are thousands of such in and around the corridors of power in all the thirty-six states and the federal capital territory (Abuja), state and in several financial, judicial and political institutions around the country.
But since the government is too weak and inept to arrest and prosecute them, amnesty may be in order. Three things needed to be made clear: (1) an illegitimate government has no moral grounds on which to grant amnesty; (2) the wrongdoer cannot grant the aggrieved forgiveness, and neither can a cheater pardon the cheated; and (3) the Niger Delta crisis cannot be tackled in isolation: There must be comprehensive solution to the myriads of evils that have been eating away at the nation’s fibre – threatening the fragile foundation upon which Nigeria rests.
The ongoing crisis is a manifestation of the rot that Nigeria has been since1960. And really, ‘It is no measure of health,’ said Jiddu Krishnamurti, ‘to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’ To say Nigeria is sick is an understatement. Nigeria, at the hands of a select few, is a calamity: An iniquitous entity that feeds on the marrow of its young and posterity.
The Nigerian government is in no position to offer amnesty. Between 1914 and 1960, what infraction did the Niger Deltans commit against the colonial government; between 1960 and 1999, what offence did they commit against the Nigerian government? Within these periods, what wrong did the colonial government not commit against the region? What political, economic and social wrong has independent Nigeria not commited against the people? For several years they inflicted on the people deep pain; but now that the people have awoken from slumber, government is taken aback. We – we the people of the Niger Delta – should be the one offering the Nigerian government amnesty.
This amnesty thing is not only bogus; it is a diversionary tactic on the part of the Nigerian government. Sadly a lot of elites from the Niger Delta and around the country are buying into it. True, there may be some criminal elements here and there; but that is the nature of political struggles and activism. This was the case in the ANC struggle against apartheid-South Africa. It was also the case in pre-1948 Israel and in various other struggles around the world. To now think or say criminality is unique to the Niger Delta struggle, is not only a lie, but disingenuous. Saints don’t lead political or armed struggles.
If the government and the people do not want the ongoing low intensity conflict, then, there must be equity and good governance. And government must resolve – genuinely revolve – to solve the underlying problems. It must commit resources and the political will necessary for a just settlement. But so far, all one see are delays and diversionary tactics – the same wayoyo, the same wuruwuru, the same magomago and the same ojoro of the last forty or so years. What the government calls negotiation, is no negotiation at all. No sensible person/group negotiates on its knees or from a weak position, especially if the group at the other end of the table is known for its duplicity and savagery.
The Yar’Adua/Jonathan government speaks and acts as though the Niger Delta crisis has its roots in post-1999 Nigeria. And then there are segments of the population who thinks the crisis is ‘their problem, not ours’. In addition, there are groups who equate political struggles with bad citizenship and or terrorism. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The Niger Delta crisis has its roots in both pre and post-colonial Nigeria (just that the state of affairs entered our collective consciousness in post-independence Nigeria).
If the conflict is resolved, every Nigerian stands to gain: A win-win situation for all. But without an honest, adequate and encompassing solution, Nigeria can/will never move forward. Frankly, this is a serrated bone lodged in Nigeria’s trachea. The Niger Deltans are not the only ones suffering. The Yoruba and the Igbo are also suffering from this mess. The Tiv, the Igala and the Nupe also suffer from this unbalanced federalism. We all suffer, including the Hausa/Fulani and their historical supporters. This is not just an Ijaw or a Niger Delta problem – it is a problem for all of us.
Something else: Political struggles are legitimate struggles. And you use readily available tactics. The international community also knows that ‘terrorism is the weapon of the weak’, and that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.’ MEND and associated groups are justice-seeking groups. They fight the people’s cause. A just cause. In this regard, therefore, I ask:
- What is the Nigerian government going to do about the environmental disaster that is pervasive in the Niger Delta?
- What is the government going to do about the uneven development that has come to characterise the country?
- What is the government going to do about resource allocations, the nature of federalism, the creation of addition states for the Ijaw, and about the dismal level of infrastructure?
- What is the government going to do about the divide-and-rule tactics it has introduced into the region?
- And what about the militarisation of the region?
- And finally, what about the payment of adequate compensation to hundreds of communities in the Niger Delta that were invaded, sacked and destroyed by both the Obasanjo and Yar’Adua government?
The Nigerian government made peaceful negotiation impossible, it outlawed diplomacy. Between 1958 and 2008, there were more than 25 commissions and reports, decrees, etc, etc designed to address the Niger Delta problem. What became of these efforts other than the duplicity, lies, and survival strategies that followed? In the Niger Delta, pollution is everywhere. There is gas flaring every day and every night. Fertile farmlands were either ceased and or made infertile. Pristine rivers and waterways polluted. The people’s wishes and aspirations were curtailed. Hopelessness is today the order of the day.
Think about it: If you have nothing to gain, you will have nothing to lose. Of what use is amnesty when today is no better than yesterday and tomorrow will be worse. MEND may never be able to defeat, in the classic sense, the federal government of Nigeria. But the group have the capability and the determination to make government bleed and bleed and bleed some more.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Sabella Abidde is a noted commentator on African and global affairs. His essays have appeared in several news and commentary outlets. He lives in Washington DC and can be reached atSabidde@yahoo.com.
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