By Democratic Alternative (DA)
Gentlemen of the Press,
It is my pleasure and privilege, once again to welcome you to this Press Conference by the Democratic Alternative at our party secretariat at the tail end of the 2nd millennium. Whilst the developed countries of the world are fully poised to end the present millennium with a clear idea of how to maintain their vantage positions in the international order of things, Nigerians, indeed most Africans, in spite of the rich endowment in human and natural resources, are still grappling with baseline existential issues of economic survival, human rights, self-determination, and the route to post-feudal development. Nowhere is this tragic irony more obvious than the Niger Delta, an area which in spite of the high intensity of natural resources harbours the most deprived population anywhere.
The purpose of this conference is to address the disastrous situation in the Niger Delta including the reckless deployment of troops to Odi by the Obasanjo government. We shall similarly state our position on the alarming spate of ethnically inspired bloody clashes in some parts of the country.
THE NIGER DELTA:
The military action that is being waged against the people of the Niger Delta is a most unfortunate continuation of the oppressive philosophy of governance which regards force as the basic strategy for dealing with social and political problems, a policy for which the country's erstwhile military dictators were notorious. The size,weaponry and operational approach of the deployed troops as well as their cold blooded savagery in the two-week old military campaign leave us with no choice than to conclude that the object of the operation is the comprehensive destruction human lives and habitation in the besieged community. Certainly, the physical wiping Off from the surface of the earth of the town of 0di cannot be justified by the Purported man-hunt for the killers of the policemen (the stated objective in the operation) but potray the Obasanjo government as living up to the mindless atrocities that Abacha and Babangida's soldiers unleashed against the people of the Niger Delta. Obasanjo and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party cannot in Good conscience explain away the mass killing of innocent civilians, including women and children, and the wholesale vandalisation of property all in the name of trying to bring a few so-called Outlaws to justice. The mindless demolition of Odi and the sacking of its 60,000 inhabitants lengthens further the long list, including 87 Itshekiri communities, some Isoko, Ilaje and Ijaw communities in Delta, Bayelsa and Ondo States that were totally destroyed and sacked by the military when the overt dictators were in power.
The obvious objective of this policy is to allow the foreign oil companies to continue oil exploration and exploitation without any responsibilities to the population that erstwhile lived in those areas. Of course, that means higher profits for the companies, particularly with the total deprivation of such territories Of their inhabitants. This policy of depopulation to satisfy the exploiter objectives of "investors" is as condemnable as the threatened declaration of a state of emergency in Bayelsa State.
THE SOLUTION TO NIGER DELTA CRISIS
The DA has consistently drawn the attention of Nigerians to the inability of the Ruling parties to coordinate and implement a people-oriented programme of economic development and social reorganisation of our well-endowed country. President Obasanjo and Governor Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State belong to the same ruling party, the PDP. Yet, there is a total lack of coordination and direction in the activities of both governments in Bayelsa State. The ruling parties are no more than convenient associations for office seeker's and fortune hunters. They lack the ideas and programmes needed to organise Our society on a sustainably democratic and progressive basis.
The Niger Delta crisis cannot be solved by force. The solution is to be found in the constructive involvement of the Niger Delta peoples themselves in the resolution of the mounting and daunting socio-economic problems of the Niger Delta. The political context of prolonged political alienation, economic deprivation, environmental devastation and physical and psychological brutalisation of the populace and territory revolves quite readily around the choking hunger for jobs, roads, clean water, electricity, shelter, education, healthcare and other similar basic needs for decent and humane living. The constitutional structure of the federation and governmental functionality need to be urgently renegotiated to enable the people utilize their natural resources for their own development. A patronising federal power is as undemocratic and oppressive as a foreign invader.
There is no greater evidence of the inherent ineffectiveness of cosmetic attempts by a patronising power than the prolonged stalling of The Obasanjo inspired, if controversial, Niger Delta Commission Bill in the National Assembly whilst exploitation and deprivation of the Niger Delta peoples continue. There is no alternative to commencing immediately and without delay a process of interactive dialogue with the people of the Niger Delta with a view of fashioning,, out an acceptable strategy for the development of the area.
The Democratic Alternative hereby calls on the various nationalities in the Niger Delta to channel their energies and several efforts towards achieving self-determination as proclaimed in the Kaiama Declaration and other demands of the organisations of the people of the Niger.Delta. The concept of self-determination as democratically expressed in the Kaiama Declaration and other declarations of peoples' organisations in the Niger Delta is based on self governance, resource control and cultural self-expression in a truly Federal Nigerian State as well as for environmental justice and involvement of the communities in the determination of the conditions under which the oil companies will continue to operate therein. We support these demands as just and legitimate and call on the Obasanjo government to commence forthwith a transparent process of multilateral negotiation that would involve the government, the oil companies and freely chosen leaders of the Niger Delta peoples to work out the modalities for meeting the demands. All military operations in the Niger Delta should cease and all the troops deployed there should be withdrawn forthwith to pave the way for a democratic solution based on popular participation and dialogue. The ultimate solution will involve creating the enabling environment for indigenous, national and people-controlled corporations to take over the management of natural resources from the exploitative foreign multinationals which in consonance with local fortune seekers have dominated our economy with far-reaching disastrous consequences since the early 1950s.
The DA calls on every nationality in the Niger Delta to cease all inter-ethnic conflicts, suspicion and battering, as these discredit their worthy cause and divide and weaken their legitimate fight against the oppressive Nigerian state and the exploitative oil companies. The DA hereby calls for a conference of Niger Delta Nationalities to resolve such sore issues as territorial rights and claims, relationship with the oil companies, and inter-ethnic relationship in the Niger Delta. We call on all democratic forces and organisations to cooperate with the authentic bodies fighting for self-determination in the Niger Delta and the DA to work assiduously towards this conference.
The DA is of the view that self-determination in a truly Federal Nigeria will require the devolution of greater powers, duties and resources to the tiers of government closest to the people and that a new tier of government closer to the people than the current Local Government may need to be created to address democratically the needs of the various communities. The DA will, very soon, come out with a document on this concept, its technicalities and applicability. There is an urgent need to reorganise the political economy of this country. The current destructive situation in the Niger Delta is an avoidable replication of the repetitive historical manifestations of domination which have been exemplified throughout the history of Nigeria.
The DA denounces the various backward and primitive activities of some misguided youths that have manifested as misdirected ethnically-motivated violent clashes in Ajegunle and Ketu in Lagos, Sagamu in Ogun State, Kano as well as in various parts of the Niger Delta. Such retrogressive actions are the germ for ethnic cleansing and other primordial manifestations which are mutually destructive to the worthy cause of the workers, the artisans, the traders, market women and all other segments of the oppressed masses of Nigeria struggling for a just and democratic Nigerian society. We call on our youths to reject their being misused for such self-destructive campaigns by reactionary politicians, self-seeking businessmen and foreign exploiters.
The current ruling parties - PDP, APP and AD have failed the nation. They have no democratic -solutions to these problems. They resort instead to primitive shoot-at-sight orders and appeal to ethnic solidarity which compound the crises rather than resolve them. We condemn President Olusegun Obasanjo's reckless shoot-at-sight order as unequivocally as we denounce the hooliganism of the misguided youth behind the recent ethnic killings.
We call on all truly democratic and popular political parties such as the DA and the NCP who have better concepts, ideas, and programmes for the rapid socio-economic development of Nigeria to mobilise the working people, the peasants and the popular organisations toenhance the consciousness of the people and work towards the installation of a truly democratic and progressive government in Nigeria. The quest for a progressive Nigerian society that would be just to all who live in it cannot be attained until genuinely progressive and patriotic political forces come to power in Nigeria. This remains our commitment.