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MOSOP: Are the Rulers of Nigeria playing politics with the Niger Delta issue?

By Dum-ale Tanee
Coordinator, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Kansas City Chapter

Published Sunday 10 June 2007
 
When the retired General Olusegun Obasanjo became the president of Nigeria on May 29, 1999 the number one issue on his top priority list in his inaugural speech was “the crisis in the oil producing areas.” His administration has come and gone with the crisis becoming worse than it was before he took over power. This does not come as a surprise to many indigenes of Niger Delta because of his track record.

Although he was the author of the Land Use Decree of 1978 which he later smuggled into the 1979 Constitution, the peaceful and law abiding people of Niger Delta embraced him with open arms and wanted to work with him to resolve the crisis. Despite this show of support from the people of the region, Mr. Obasanjo continued his old tricks.

He tried all that he could, even went to the Supreme Court to prevent the payment of the so-called 13% derivation by bringing in “onshore/offshore dichotomy,” and wanted the 13% apply only to onshore. He refused to consider the demands of the people as part of his proposed solution; rather he opted to continue with the failed system of coordinated development programs championed by OMPADEC under a new name, “Niger Delta Development Commission” (NDDC).

Although his government claimed to have implemented the 13% derivation, what we don’t know is “13% of what?” as fairly asked by the late Ken Saro Wiwa the Great. For example, if the government was to give 13% of 1,000 U.S. dollars, but they present 100 dollars instead of 1,000 dollars and give 13% of 100 dollars, where is the remaining 900 dollars?

On his watch, the NDDC failed woefully because of funding. Mr. Obasanjo’s refusal to provide adequate funding for the NDDC was not by accident, it was deliberate. Although Obasanjo openly acknowledged the failure of NDDC, he did not disband it or increase its fund allocation because he wanted to use such failure as a pretext to move on to the next stage which was the “nine point agenda,” a military containment plan which he favors.

Under his “nine point agenda,” creeks and other shallow water ways or rivers linking oil locations and flow stations were to be dredged to facilitate the movement of fleets of warships and gun boats acquired from China and other parts of the world, including military equipments donated by the Bush administration. Also, access roads to facilitate the movement of land equipment were earmarked for construction. And above all, about 20,000 youths of Niger Delta were to be recruited into the army or police to be on the frontline.

Because Mr. Obasanjo was not willing to address the problems of Niger Delta due to a conflict of interest, that is, it conflicted with his earlier stand that informed his decision to promulgate the Land Use Decree; he decided to embark on extensive and aggressive purchase of weapons from various parts of the world. This move was intended to intimidate or suppress the people of Niger Delta and forced them to abandon their genuine struggle.

One of such moves was revealed by his Vice, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that President Olusegun Obasanjo approved $2 billion for the procurement of weapons for the suppression of the people of Niger Delta (Daily Sun, January 31, 2007). Earlier, on May 4, 2006 the Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper revealed another multi million dollar arms deal between Nigeria and an Israeli company called the “Aeronautics Defense Systems.” This deal was considered the largest arms deal ever for the company.

Since the Niger Delta crisis intensified, the Indian government and the Bush administration did not openly call on the administration of Mr. Obasanjo to go into genuine dialogue with the aggrieved communities putting into consideration their genuine demands. What they did was to be the first to openly donate military equipment to his administration. The recent statement by the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Theresa Whelan that “American assistance could not be utilized by the Nigerian army due to lack of training,” Tribune, March 19, 2007 shows the extent of the Bush administration’s involvement.

Despite the fact that most world leaders and government officials have acknowledged that misgovernance is the cause of the crisis, one among them, Jack Straw, former British Foreign Secretary, yet they did not see. These two leaders of the world’s oldest and largest democracies knew fully well that those gun boats and other military equipments that they donated to the Nigerian government against our people were not hospital equipments or agricultural implements.  I do not think that American or Indian people would have approved of this unwise decision if they were to be consulted. This is exactly what Marxists interpretation of a maximal state is; the “interests of dominant elite who use the state to advance their own cause.”

The problem facing Nigeria as a nation today is purely internal and does not demand the importation of arms or weapons to suppress it. Suppression only causes anger and disaffection, hence the need for resistance. Today, our troops are on peace-keeping missions in the Sudan and many other African countries because of internal problems that would have been resolved through dialogue. There is no known external threat to Nigeria at the moment that warrants such aggressive and extensive weapon purchase. The only external threat that existed was over Bakassi Peninsula and it has been peacefully resolved. Therefore, if the people of Niger Delta who have the resources that are being used to import weapons and bargain for foreign support decide to do the same, the country will surely disintegrate. And that is not what any of us wants.

As Alhaj Umaru Yar,Adua assumed office as the next president of our nation; I do not expect much from him because he has no agenda of his own. What he has done so far was to sing the same old song. All that he said in his inaugural speech was to pledge to uphold to the failed agenda proposed by Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo on Niger Delta. The so-called “Niger Delta Development Master Plan.” I am very concerned about this new plan which is similar to other failed development plans that were earlier initiated.

What I expect President Umaru Yar,Adua to do is to come out with a plan of his that encompass the demands of the people of Niger Delta, putting into serious considerations the environment and years of neglect. Acknowledging the problems in the region is one thing but taking practical steps to sincerely address it is more important; therefore, he should come out with specific details of how he is going to make things work this time. 

Going to the G8 meeting is not going to help because it is the same G8 states that are selling arms or weapons to Nigeria and other African countries and fueling conflicts on the continent, decried Amnesty International. While I sincerely appreciate the efforts of the citizens and various organizations from the G8 countries in helping the neglected people of our continent and trying to find solution to these problems, I think that their governments should do more. They should stop playing double standard. I can’t understand how borrower nations from Africa would pay over 200% of what they borrowed while the outstanding debts remain.

New leadership or a new name for the same old program that has failed is not going to make any difference as long as the reason behind such a program is to manage the issue and not to solve it. The main reason why OMPADEC or NDDC or “nine point agenda” did not succeed was because it was created to manage the problem and keeps the oil flowing, not actually solving it.

When the late Ken Saro Wiwa the Great told the nation soon after the establishment of OMPADEC was announced that the program will fail, many from across the country, including some elites from Niger Delta wanted to stone him. But within a few months of its existence the program failed.

Former President Obasanjo came in with the name NDDC and later introduced the “nine point agenda” under the program which also failed. Now is the Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan (NDRDMP) which is total rubbish. This new containment plan does not even deserve a shot because it is not going to address any problem. We already have plans which the rulers of our country can work with if they are serious, and that is the only plan that can resolve the issue.

There is no doubt about the fact that the NDRDMP is going to fail and there is another failed plan with another name waiting in line. The people of Niger Delta cannot continue to live from one failed program to another; therefore, Umaru Yar,Adua should ignore Obasanjo’s failed plan and work with those in the region that Obasanjo did not want to work with because they speak the truth. If Mr. Obasanjo after serving as a military dictator and two terms as president cannot come up with a plan to solve the problem; why did he think that his failed plan deserved a shot by his successor?

Despite the fact that Nigeria does not have the technology to produce oil; does not give us a fair share of our oil proceeds; and most importantly does not protect us, still we continue to allow the nation to control our oil. This is going to change soon unless this administration is serious about resolving the issue.

Every successive administration has always pledged to protect the lives and properties of the citizens of our country but has done the opposite when it comes to the lives and properties of Niger Deltans. For example, the lives of Umuochem people, the Ogonis, Opia and Ikeyans communities to mention a few, and our environment which is our number one property are not considered lives and property to the government.  Therefore, by denying the region a fair share of its oil proceeds and sending the Nigerian army to kill us for demanding it, as well as neglecting our environment, the rulers of our country have displayed open greed and absolute stupidity. 

The rulers of Nigeria are reckless, irresponsible and totally unwise. If the Ogoni people and some others in the region had not taken to the street, I do not think there would have been any attention given the Niger Delta. Lack of wisdom on the path of our leaders, their selfishness and stupidity is also expressed in the Nigerian currency. A currency that was supposed to be content neutral to reflect the ethnic composition or diversity of the country is now bearing tribal marks. Then, where is Niger Delta that sustains the country?

Niger Delta can no longer afford to feed a nation that is so irresponsible that would accept arms donated by other nations to use against its citizens that it is supposed to protect. A nation that is so disrespected in the international community because of failure of leadership; a nation that cannot make its own decision except those imposed from outside or by transnational oil corporations; a nation that does not respect human rights and the rule of law. A nation whose citizens are being beheaded for crimes that citizens of other countries would commit and face repatriation or serve jail terms or short term imprisonment unannounced. And finally, a nation that has become a serious threat to the indigenes of Niger Delta.

Since the Niger Delta crisis intensified, the Indian government and the Bush administration did not openly call on the administration of Mr. Obasanjo to go into genuine dialogue with the aggrieved communities putting into consideration their genuine demands. What they did was to be the first to openly donate military equipment to his administration. The recent statement by the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Theresa Whelan that “American assistance could not be utilized by the Nigerian army due to lack of training,” Tribune, March 19, 2007 shows the extent of the Bush administration’s involvement.

Despite the fact that most world leaders and government officials have acknowledged that misgovernance is the cause of the crisis, one among them, Jack Straw, former British Foreign Secretary, yet they did not see. He also set up a reconciliation committee headed by one Rev. Father Mathew Kuka to return Shell to Ogoni.  It is important to note that despite these many visits there is no government presence in Ogoni and nothing was put on the table for the people.

It took the rest of his administration from 2005 that the reconciliation committee was set up till 2007 to develop a concept paper that we never see till today.  Even a few days before he left office, former President Obasanjo, Rev. Father Kuka and Shell went to Ogoni for spiritual cleansing. This makes me wonder how religious is Shell Company that has killed to many of Ogoni People and many in the region. What he would have done was to cleanse his government of corruption, but he never did.

He also called on the Ogoni people and others in the Niger Delta to stop agitation because Nigeria was according to him, a “democracy.” I think asking Ogoni people to stop agitation because there is democracy in Nigeria is like asking African Americans to remain slaves because America is a democracy. In America, if the institutions that fought for Civil Rights were abandoned after the legislation to protect the rights of Blacks were passed, many would have remained unprotected today.

The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) remains the genuine negotiating partner that speaks for the entire Ogoni people based on the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR), not only for Ogoni elites. And Ogoni people are the stakeholders and block holders not anyone else. A situation whereby our oil money is used to finance block holders to our oil by Obasanjo is totally unacceptable.

The recent statement by Rev. Father Kukah that MOSOP was dead in the minds of the people of Ogoni after their years of struggle with the military is stupid and shows that the so-called man of God is a total liar. For example, if MOSOP was dead as he claimed, where does the idea of environmental clean up in Ogoni come from? What brought about the 13% derivation or the struggle for resource control that is spreading across the entire Niger Delta like fire? We do understand his frustration for failing to return Shell to Ogoni as he promised while accepting his committee appointment, but he shouldn’t insult the Ogoni people with such frustration. We also understand that he was trying to go around the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR).

If Mr. Ledum Mitee had presented anything other than the OBR which he knows about to him because that was what he wanted to hear, then Mr. Mitee was not playing straight like him who called himself a man of God. If he was sincere and straightforward as a man of God, he would have asked former President Obasanjo to give him terms of reference before he even started, but he did not. The entire Ogoni people everywhere on earth are committed to MOSOP. The Ogoni people will not allow for oil activity without the fulfillment of the OBR, therefore if Kukah was dealing with Mitee secretly without reference to the OBR, he was doing it at his own risk. 

The Ogoni people know what they want. Ken Saro Wiwa did not lead fools for Rev. Kukah to claim that he himself knows what the Ogoni people want. They are clearly written in the OBR. MOSOP is grassroots organization and it remains that way till tomorrow because it is a living idea.

Ogoni people do not need any irresponsible government or crooks to develop its oil. We can do it better. If President Umaru Yar,Adua wants to resolve the problems in the Niger Delta he should deal with groups that present their people’s demands. Not (s)elected representatives or fake stakeholders or block holders who are only concerned with their own pockets. Such mistakes have been made before without any result and must not be repeated again.

All we want is that the problem of Niger Delta be resolved in line with our genuine demands as the Bakassi Peninsula problem was resolved peacefully in line with Cameroon’s demand.
 
Let us not forget that Niger Delta produces over 3 million barrels of oil per day and over the past 3 years oil prices have remained at a stable over $60 per barrel; why then can our people not benefit from the windfall like other oil producing nations?

The peaceful nature of Niger Deltans should not be mistaken for weakness or taken for a ride by the rulers of our country or any other dominant ethnic group(s) that controls power because things are going to change in no distance future. Therefore, the wisdom that was used to resolve the conflict between our country and Cameroon in line with Cameroon’s demand over the “Bakassi Peninsula” should also be applied here. 

We gave up some of our rights to the state of Nigeria for protection, but right now the state is the major source of threat to our existence.

Those kidnapping for ransom in the Niger Delta today are agents of the Nigerian government and multinational oil companies that operate in the region.  Most of them are not from the region. They are being sponsored to destroy the image of our peace-loving people to win both the support of the international community for weapons and also as a way to justify any increase in oil price that they decide.

The OBR remains the key to resolving the Niger Delta crisis not only because it advocates for fair compensation and protects the environment, but most importantly it provides for the unborn. That is why it has become the model for the Niger Delta struggle for justice.

After over 50 years of total neglect, deprivation, and absolute show of greed and stupidity by our rulers, the people of Niger Delta still want the proceeds from their oil resources shared among all Nigerians. Therefore, we cannot be blackmailed, intimidated or forced to abandon our just cause. 

Dum-ale Tanee
Coordinator, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Kansas City Chapter

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