In our reflection on the Niger Delta crisis and our appeal to reason, it will be helpful to ask the question: what is the nature of the crisis of the Niger Delta area? How best could it be addressed? Is violence or war the best approach?
The real crisis of the Niger Delta is developmental in nature and it is occasioned by many years of prolonged policy neglect, inadequate funding and outright misuse of funds.
The resort to war, violence, and threat of secession is not necessarily the best approach because violence begets violence.
Methinks that such approach would result in further destruction of the area by outsiders in the name of war. This is therefore one of the reasons I am appealing to all concerned to allow reason prevail in the Niger Delta.
The ugliness and uselessness of violence and war make a resort to them unworthy. We once fought a civil war and all we got was wastage of lives and properties. The scar of that war is still too fresh to be forgotten and it is enough to remind us that civil war is bad in itself. It is unkind to spill blood and cause destruction of properties. The mass suffering that will flow say from the Niger Delta area to different parts of the country, is unimaginable.
The economy would be further harmed and made far worse off. War is not a tea party and it should not be coveted for whatever reason today. It is simply wasteful.
Thus it pains to read about prolonged policy neglect and the consequent acts of violence by some militant groups as exemplified by repeated destruction of facilities in the highly development starved zone – South-south zone.
It seems illogical. On the one hand, we are crying for development and on the other hand, some of us are setting ablaze the few developmental installations around. In the end who is the loser? I think it is Nigeria in general, but the Niger Delta area in particular.
There is a misreading of the socio-economic barometer here, oversimplification of the task and adoption of a wrong approach.
The problem at hand is acute under- development of the Niger Delta area.There are two sides to the development crisis in the zone namely inadequate funding and misuse of resources. None of them can be solved through violence and war.
Still there is always the idea – the eagerness for war in our elite and copied by the youth. There is always this feeling of ‘we can do it better being on own, so let’s do war’
The temptation to go it alone by breaking away from Nigeria appears to be high today even if misleading.
However, it seems an over simplification of the task at hand and wrong approach. It is more a case of some things are ‘easier said, or imagined than done’. For sure, a new country out of Nigeria-God forbids bad dreams – will not translate into earthly heaven for the people concerned or lead to the immediate meaningful development. It will not erase conflict, corruption or even exploitation, petty rivalry, greed for power by the elite in the new country.
Nor will it change attitude to politics. Look at the way we conduct elections- the high tension, unwarranted killing and maiming of opponents – brothers and sisters alike even at the grassroots.This is so because the exploiters would not disappear.The corrupt elite would still be there to ply their nefarious trade. They would still be there to do what they know how best to do- exploitation and corruption for personal interest.
Now it is inter tribal conflicts, then it will be intra tribal wars in the new country. Look at South Sudan for some useful lessons. Since its independence, it has been embroiled in deep internal crises thereby leaving no room for much development of the new country.
There is the question of knowledge, skills, technology, capacity and capable hands to consider. For instance, it required the intervention of men with appropriate technology and knowledge to discover and dig out oil on commercial scale from the bowel of our grounds. Modern technology is still in short supply in all parts of the country.
Of course, a unilateral declaration of Independence would lead to reprisals and civil war. No responsible government would allow it. In the course of war any molecule of development in the area would be destroyed- some of them willfully.
In the final analysis war does not create wealth but destroys it, dislocates people and throws up challenge of reconstruction and rehabilitation in the end. It really solves nothing.The issue at stake in the Niger Delta is gross under-development and it can easily be tackled by the ruling elite if there is the political will and sincerity of purpose.
The problem is well known – criminal neglect of the region over time. Though long time nothing much has been done to tackle it head on thereby leading to loss of faith and confidence by the ordinary citizens including the youth in the authorities, still the situation can be effectively transformed today.
But this can be best done by sincere negotiations and positive actions of the ruling elite- both local and national- and not through arms struggle and exchange of fire between the citizens and the state.
As the South African experience has shown, a people can ‘war war’, destroy strategic installations but in the end only round table negotiations based on reason that wins the day.
Other recent cases such as the Sudan, Arab spring in North Africa do not recommend rash or irrational acts such as war. Are those societies better off today than they were before their bloody uprising? Methinks not.
This is why one is happy with the present effort to clean up Ogoni area. It is reassuring and indicative of the new spirits to get things done right. Such efforts should be accelerated.
Unfortunately, war and other forms of threat to security do not allow accelerated meaningful developments to take place. We need an atmosphere of peace and stability to work, develop and make significant progress.
As things are at moment no reasonable contractors would be bold to work in the Niger Delta without serious rethink. Let us reason together. As a Chinese leader once observed the road that can be “is not always the road” And following it can be dangerous and disastrous. War is not the right way to go today.
We do not need to search far to appreciate the banefull effect of wars and crisis in society. For instance we knew what happened in Biafra, and now in the North East. It was a period of arrested development, misery incorporated and opportunities wasted in each case. Mindless destruction of lives and property became the order of the day. See the waste that some part of the North East has become as a result of Boko Haram unpatriotic acts.
For sure war is not good. It is helpful to always be guided by the saying that when the rain falls, it falls on every body – friends and foes alike
Let us not give room for enemies to destroy our land further, including the few features of development around.
History should serve as guide here. Negotiated solution is the best.There is nothing that cannot be negotiated on the surface of the earth, including the problem of Niger Delta. Even the under-development, poverty and unemployment that pervade the country today especially the rural areas can be tackled if there is sincerity of purpose and political will to do the needful.
Dr. Abhuere is the founder of the Centre for Child Care and Youth Development, Abuja.