Urhobo Historical Society

November 27, 1999

Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 08:34:00 -0500
From: Andrew Edevbie <kevtrics@juno.com>
To: President Olusegun Obasanjo <president.obasanjo@nigeriagov.org>

His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Head of State
Federal Government of Nigeria
Aso Rock, Abuja, Nigeria.

Dear President Obasanjo:

Your Gun Boat Diplomacy in Bayelsa State Is Bound to Fail
And Nigeria under Your Presidency is Heading for Disintegration

I write as a concerned citizen from the Western Niger Delta region of Nigeria to condemn the action taken by you and your National Security Council in ordering another raid into the Niger Delta to punish its people. To back up my condemnation of your action, I will offer reasons why your action cannot be legitimately interpreted as a routine governmental exercise of law and order and why the people of the Niger Delta are justified in regarding your invasion as an act of conquest and colonization.

We know from reports filtering out of the area which remains sealed off from the news media and relief workers that Odi has been completely leveled. Many homes in Kaima, Mbiama and Patani and other neighboring villages have been set on fire and over 200 innocent lives have been lost. The current state of anarchy in the area is therefore a far cry from the promise you made when you took office in May 29, 1998, and during your recent visit to the United States, to improve the quality of the lives of the people of Niger Delta. Your government, like the military dictatorships before it, have choosen to exploit the resources of the Niger Delta people for the benefit of the powerful ethnic groups in Nigeria. Your action of the last few days has reduced Bayelsa State to Stone Age conditions and will certainly embolden the people to continue the fight to keep away all those who are stealing their God-given wealth. The patriotic youths whom you set out to arrest, are merely exercising their right of self defense against invaders. They will be remembered as freedom fighters and not the vandals you describe to the world. Many of us from area who felt that the crisis in the Niger Delta might finally be solved under you have become disillusioned and wonder why we reposed any confidence in you in the first place. We are particularly incensed and appalled by the various statements coming from your propaganda machine, with one saying, that the “police action” was necessary to restore law and order in the area. What a great deception! The reason you advanced to justify such a massive destruction of an already depressed area, shows how little the Nigerian government cares for the welfare of the citizens of the Niger Delta.

You Did Not Invade Bayelsa State to Restore Law and Order

In recent times, serious breakdown in law and order has been widely reported in the cities of Lagos, Shagamu and Kano. The number of policemen and security personnel lost in the line of duty, is far in excess of twelve policemen allegedly killed by Ijaw youths in Bayelsa State. In spite of the well reported loss of lives and destruction of property, no state of emergency was ever declared and neither are we aware of any attempt by your government to punish the people of Lagos, Shagamu or Kano for the action of a few individuals. The Odua People’s Congress (OPC), the Yoruba military wing and radical elements in the North (including the apostles of Sharia law), continue to operate freely and your government has so far made no meaningful effort to contain their activities. Clearly, your reaction to the unfortunate death of police officers in Bayelsa State is predicated by your avowed determination to guarantee the flow of oil revenue that you need to run your government. The invasion has little to do with concern for human lives. The free use of excessive force, including the application of mortars, artillery and naval gun power against unarmed and defenseless elders, women and children speaks volumes about the true intent of your government.

Conquest and Colonization of the Niger Delta People

Any one who read the ultimatum you gave to the Mr. Diepreye Alamieyesiegha, Governor of Bayelsa State, cannot help but come away with the feeling that we are a conquered people and that no one needs to respect us and our elected officers. The poor man was summoned to Aso Rock, the seat of the Nigerian Government and reprimanded for not keeping his people in line. Nobody in your government offered him any help to solve the high unemployment among the youth, the lack of medical facilities, water supply and facilities for basic education to take home to his people. To add insult to an injury, your Press Secretary, Dr. Doyin Okupe, of course speaking for you, told the world, much to its bewilderment, that your troops were sent in at the invitation of the Governor and that the troops are under his command! The same Governor was quoted, only a few days earlier to have vowed not to allow federal troops into his state. You more than any one else know that even the placing of federal troops under a state Governor is unconstitutional. Apart from manipulating and humiliating the Governor before his people and the world, you have sown the seeds of discord within the Ijaw communities whose members will now see the Governor and other elected officers of the state as traitors, elements working with the enemies to defraud them. We are beginning to see the repetition of the Ogoni tragedy in which Abacha’s military government fomented crisis in the Ogoni communities as an excuse to arrest, try and hang Ken Saro Wiwa and eight others for crimes they never committed.

As a conquered people, we are not represented in your government and of course, we have no one to voice our concerns, even though our part of Nigeria provides 90 percent of all government revenue. If the National Security Council has a Niger Deltan on board, the fateful decision to invade Bayelsa would never have been made. If the Special Adviser on Petroleum Affairs has been from Niger Delta and not the one selected from the Hausa/Fulani Oligarchy, the federal government would have been more aggressive in containing the excesses of oil companies. You also know that your Federal Executive Council has no one to argue for our side during any debate of issues that affect our lives. We had two major fire disasters that consumed thousands of innocent lives in the Urhobo communities of Idjerhe and Ekpakrame within one year and your government, like the one before it has done nothing to provide relief to those affected. If these tragedies had occurred in the Northern and Western part of Nigeria, you would found an excuse to initiate a massive program to rehabilitate the victims. Your government policy is to take all our money, spend it only for the benefit of the major ethnic groups and leave us the minority destitute, obviously because we are considered too weak to fight. In deed, we are a conquered people, deprived of all rights as human beings! Does it surprise anyone that while the killers of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola are hunted down and tried in Lagos, Justice Mohammed Auta, one of those known for carrying out the judicial execution of Ken Saro Wiwa, is still siting on the bench in Abuja! Your government has the temerity even to refuse to release the bodies of those ordered hanged by Justice Auta to the affected families for decent burial.

OMPADEC, PTF, and Now NNDC Form a Trail of Schemes to Deceive and Defraud the People of the Niger Delta

With the assumed conquest of the Niger Delta complete, it is now time for your government, like the ones before it, to engage in schemes to deceive the world that the Niger Delta is about to be developed. We are fully aware that the wealth derived from the Niger Delta is being siphoned away by the federal government and never returned to the people. The schemes, which merely offer development plans, are cleverly made part of dry, half-hearted and seeming endless debates about allocation of oil revenue. In 1992,Babaginda government initiated one such plan: Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC) “to address the difficulties and the sufferings of those who live in the Oil Producing Areas of Nigeria” Although the Federal government only allocated 3 percent to the commission, it was mired in corruption and it cannot point any successful project in the area. Then came the Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF) with the mandate to use revenue from increases in the prices of petroleum products to “identify key projects in all parts of Nigeria so as to bring about equitable development to all our communities”. The Fund, under the direction of a Northern, General Buhari, built roads, hospitals and schools in the North and disregarded the needs of the Niger Delta, the source of money that was used for the various projects. Now we have your Niger Delta Commission (NDC) bill which not only deny our people rights of ownership and but also make them pay for damages to our ecosystem caused by years of reckless process of oil exploration. As a conquered people, we are supposed to accept whatever you are willing to offer and you felt justified in launching a punitive expedition against the people of Niger Delta for daring to complain. I hope the next time you travel outside Nigeria, you will let the world know that Bayelsa State of Nigeria remains the one of the poorest places on earth with no light, no telephones, water supply and other basic necessities of life even though it has been known for the past 40 years for the highest overall production per capital of oil in Nigeria.

The Near-Absence of Condemnation of Your Action in Bayelsa State from the Major Ethnic Groups in Nigeria Must Be Seen as an Encouragement to Continue the Exploitation of Our People

We are not surprised by the absence of protest of your military siege from people outside the international human rights communities and the Niger Delta people. The reason for this lack of concern for the plight of our people is not far to fetch. Any one who cares to go through the list of those in the decision-making positions at MOBIL will find that it is filled mainly with YORUBAS. The IBOS similarly monopolize all the top positions in SHELL. The YORUBAS and IBOS are also dominant in CHEVRON and other oil companies that operate in the Niger Delta region. The minority people from the oil-producing areas are hard to find anywhere in the workforce. The major ethnic groups, clearly have interest in status quo and they must be happy with your government for protecting their interest! These people assist the oil companies in devising policies that exclude our people from employment and contracts. It does not seem to matter that this pattern of employment is against government policy that restricts 70 percent of all skilled labor and 100 percent of all unskilled labor to the indigenes. In
addition your government supervises a scheme that ensures that the best and most lucrative contracts go foreigners and others outside the oil-producing communities. In spite of the enormous wealth people made or stolen from the Niger Delta, none is ever invested in the area. The people are left alone to deal with abject poverty and environmental problems caused by oil exploration. It seems that you do not feel that our people, particularly the unemployed youth, have the right to be angry for the lack of compensation for damages done and for the inequitable distribution of benefits from the oil industry. As a conquered people, our youth deserve to be punished ruthlessly, anytime they dare to express frustration in any form or shape with a system that victimizes them. You must have been be elated when members of the Federal House of Representatives who are from the North voted to commend you for a “wonderful job” in Bayelsa and to blame the Niger Delta people for all their problems.

As a Christian, you must be aware that nothing on earth ever stays the same. I hope you will find time to reflect on your role in causing untold miseries to our people. Your government has the option to stop the killings and get out of the Niger Delta. May the Good Lord grant you the wisdom to distinguish between evil and good, especially as it pertains to the problems of the Niger Delta people.

Sincerely yours

Andrew Edevbie
Detroit, Michigan, USA
November 25, 1999.