Eric Ayoola appears to confuse themes in Peter Ekeh's letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo with correspondence from other sources. In this entry, he says of Ekeh's letter: "I am glad that you are aware of the treatment that Israel metes out to terrorists, however you stated erroneously that the Israeli authority demolish the houses of demonstrators. If they were doing that I wonder if there will be any house left in Palestine. What the Israeli do is to demolish the houses of suicide bombers who think nothing of detonating their bombs in crowded market places or bus-stops. Drastic situations merit drastic measures."
Actually, there was no reference
to Israel or the Middle East or any other troubled spot in the contemporary
world in Peter
Ekeh's letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo. He did compare the circumstances
in the Niger Delta to King Leopold II's "Congo Free State" at the end of
the 19th century. It is entirely possible that some one else made the point
that Eric Ayoola here attributes to Ekeh. But Ayoola's views, as stated
in this reference, might have coloured the President's decisions in invading
the Niger Delta in order to deliver a lesson to Deltans.
Thank you for your views. However I disagree that the government acted unconstitutionally or irrationally in deploying troops to Odi. The intention was never to raze the village down. Rather, it was to apprehend the criminals hiding behind the children, women and elderly people of that community.
Let us not forget that when policemen were sent to apprehend the criminals, they were incapable of doing so. The casualty of law enforcement agents simply mounted. What was a responsible government supposed to do? Sit down on and fold its hand?
When soldiers were sent they came under ferocious attack not by so called "youths" but by battle hardened and blood thirsty militants who thought nothing of slaughtering their captives. Even in a full blown war, combatants respect the protocols of war i.e. to safeguard the lives of captives.
I am glad that you are aware of the treatment that Israel metes out to terrorists, however you stated erroneously that the Israeli authority demolish the houses of demonstrators. If they were doing that I wonder if there will be any house left in Palestine. What the Israeli do is to demolish the houses of suicide bombers who think nothing of detonating their bombs in crowded market places or bus-stops. Drastic situations merit drastic measures.
In Northern Ireland, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (i.e. the local police force) are always armed and the British government deployed thousands of troops to the region in the height of terrorist attacks from the IRA. In Russia, the government is pounding Grozny ( the capital of the breakaway region of Chechnya) day and night with mortars and bombs, in a direct response to the acts of terrorism which has claimed hundreds of lives in the Russian capital. Though there has been condemnation of the bombardment, countries which would have ordinarily expressed strong condemnation such as Britain have been muted in their criticism of Russia. Obviously Britain cannot so easily forget the cold blooded murder of 5 British telecommunication workers by Chechenya rebels some few months ago. Thus sometimes people destroy their own cause and alienate those who would normally support them by mindless acts of savagery and barbarism. The Ijaws murder of the 12 law enforcement agents falls into this category.
In Seattle, the mayor declared a state of emergency and ordered national guard onto the street to quell the violent demonstrations of anti capitalists who are hell bent on disrupting the World Trade Organisation meetings.
I have deliberately not made mention of any non-democratic country in my examples of countries where the governments have taken drastic steps to arrest drastic situations. The government in Nigeria is no different in its decision to send troops into Odi to flush out the criminals hiding behind women, children and elderly people in that village.
May I reiterate once again my position that YES the Niger Delta region has been hard done by by successive governments in Nigeria, YES they have been criminally neglected, YES theirs is a just and legitimate agitation and they deserve better, far far better than they have received so far.
Yet, is there is anyone out there who honestly believes that the Ijaws and other oil producing communities will actualise their goals by killing, looting, murdering, hostage taking, kidnapping, destroying properties, extortioning money from multi nationals and by engaging in all out war with neighbouring communities and law enforcement agencies. If you think so please wake up from this pipe-dream.
Acts of aggression, terrorism and violence must cease before any form of progress can be made. It is unbelievable that intelligent people fail to see the strength of the argument against violence and incessant disturbance in the Delta Niger region.
Justify the violence as much as you can but no meaningful development can take place until and unless there is a conducive atmosphere for dialogue and for constructive work to take place.
Let us learn from our own history even if we do not want to learn from world history that after much blood shed and fighting there is no choice but to talk.
Chest beating either by the Ijaws or the OPC in the face of legitimate government response to acts of violence and killings will not resolve matters.
The OPC might be right in its claim to have 3 million members, but that is still infinitesimal to the millions of Yorubas who do not believe in terrorising their neighbours and fighting and killing members of other tribes living amongst them.
To heap the blame of the recent sorry situation on the government is disingenuous to say the least. President Obasanjo has shown restraint so far until the cold blooded murder of the policemen. And for those citing violations of the human right of the Ijaws what about the human rights of the murdered policemen.
I wept when Ken Saro Wiwa was killed. I took issue with one of the sons of the murdered Chiefs in a letter that I wrote to the Guardian Newspaper of London when he sought to justify the equally gruesome murder of Saro Wiwa by Abacha.
Ken Saro Wiwa fought a just and noble cause. His work is not being complemented by the killers of Ijaw land, rather they are turning the hands of the clock back.
In conclusion, may I state unequivocally that I empathise with the cheated people of Nigeria's oil producing area. They have been maltreated for so long. Nevertheless, it does not take a genius to accept that when a new figure attains centre stage, antagonists must pause to think and reconsider their strategy. The militants of Ijawland are behaving as if they are in their own world impervious to what is going on around them. They seem not to realise that Babangida has "stepped aside", Sani Abacha has died an ignominious death, Abubakar has handed over, Obasanjo is now in power. Give him a chance to deliver.