Urhobo Historical Society
PRESIDENT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO DEFENDS HIS INVASION OF BAYELSA STATE AGAINST HIS CRITICS
November 30, 1999


Source:
Subject: PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT ON ODI
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 12:15:03 EST
From: "Nowamagbe Omoigui M.D." <nowa@RICHMED.MEDPARK.SC.EDU>
Organization: USC School of Medicine
To: IJAWASSOCS@aol.com, susanne.breitkopf@muenster.de, NigerianScholars@africanqueen.com, etc.

Aso Rock Release:

"It has become necessary to comment further on the deployment of troops to restore peace and tranquility in Bayelsa State after the situation of near anarchy that prevailed in the state prior to the deployment. I wish to make it categorically clear that government, by this act, has not violated any internationally acceptable human rights provisions as practised elsewhere in the developed world.

"Those who criticise the deployment of troops to the troubled area are either guilty of shameful ignorance or are simply playing to the gallery. How else can one explain a situation where people who are far removed from the state can claim to know better than the governor of the state who also is the Chief Security Officer of the state.

"The deployment of troops to Bayelsa was an inevitable step taken under very serious constraints on the part of the Federal Government and wholesomely endorsed and supervised by the Governor of Bayelsa State, His excellency Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and nobody, and I repeat nobody can accuse His Excellency of not loving his citizens. In fact, if anything, this is one governor that directly and personally shares the pains and difficulties of his people which accounts for his overwhelming acceptance and popularity in the state.

"The federal and state governments, being in no doubt whatsoever that a serious intervention was necessary if anarchy with mayhem and the attendant social problems were to be prevented, resolved to act decisively to stop the dangerous drift towards impending and irredeemable disaster.

"The instructions to the troops were clear, specific and unambiguous - that is, dislodge perpetrators of violence, restore law and order and apprehend suspected murderers.

"Unfortunately, on arrival at Odi township, the soldiers were put under heavy bombardment from highly sophisticated artillery - masterminded by trained fighters disguising as "Youths." This gang of dissidents made it impossible for the troops to enter the township for over three hours and because of approaching night, and in order to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties, the government troops withdrew and laid low even though they had the fire power and manpower to override the militant terrorists. The troops resorted to this measure in order not to depart from their brief and to ensure that there is no wastage of human life.

"The following morning, the "militant youthful terrorists," had occupied virtually every building in sight from where the  resistance through shelling continued unabated. This led to some casualties among the troops who later overpowered the militant terrorists, and finally succeeded in dislodging them from the town.

"I am happy to inform you, fellow Nigerians and the world, that peace has since returned in Bayelsa State and citizens have gradually picked up their lives from where the terrorists, nearly put them in jeopardy.

"Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press it is important to state here that the trouble in Niger Delta is not being perpetrated by hoodlums, or any group that can be described as civil agitators, but rather, it is being championed by a dangerous band of psychopathic, merciless mercenaries who exploit their artillery, sophistry to kill, rape or kidnap, destroy and extort money from anybody available.

"This band of criminals are neither interested in the Niger Delta people nor in any developed projects in the area. Their chief area of interest and concern is to exploit the sentiments of the wicked age-long neglect of this region for personal gains which usually runs into millions of dollars. How else can one explain the situation where those supposed ethnic agitators in the last few years have collected close to 50 million US dollars from individuals, local and international companies, oil companies, fishing companies, commercial vessels, etc, operating in the region in form of extortions, ransoms, direct grafts, etc, and yet have never even thought it fit to embark on any self help community project to help their own people on whose behalf they claim to be fighting.

"Undoubtedly, these are no progressive youth on any reasonable agenda. Rather, here we are dealing with "criminals of fortune" who predate on the blood even of their own people. How can it be said then, that a carefully planned and cautiously executed exercise to rid the society of these criminals is a violation of human rights. What about the gruesome murder of a dozen law enforcement agents or the senseless murder and cruel beheading of soldiers at their duty posts? The government will not allow criminals in any part of the country to intimidate and overrun innocent civilians in any community in Nigeria. Government will fulfill its commitment to the Niger Delta people and will not rest on its oars until justice is done to our people in the area where most of our wealth presently comes from.

"It is pertinent at this juncture to comment on the sad and unfortunate position that Afenifere has taken on the world acclaimed presidential pronouncement on the activities of OPC.

"It is perplexing and most regrettable that while most sensible, peaceful and patriotic Nigerians have commended Mr. President for this bold and remarkable pronouncement, the Afenifere, contrary to common sense, logic and good intention, openly encourages, the activities of hoodlums, who have unnecessarily heightened tension in Lagos and environs and made ordinary citizens become unduly apprehensive for their safety and well-being.

"Any endorsement, tacit or disguised, of the mindless killings, arson and mayhem that have characterised the activities of the OPC in recent times stands, condemned and is, certainly inimical to peace and stability in Nigeria.

"More importantly, the usual obvious ethnic undertones that is the hallmark of the group is not only regrettable as it endangers the life and properties of Yoruba elsewhere in the nation, it also portends great danger to the corporate existence of our great country, Nigeria.

"Our young democracy needs time to get properly established and stabilised. Without democracy, it is obvious from our recent history, our nation stands the risk of political and economic annihilation. We therefore have no alternative as stakeholders in this great nation, but to come together, shun and bury all centrifugal forces within us, and nurture our democratic project to maturity.

"Necessary ingredients of this nurturing will include political integration, growth and development, equity and social justice.

"To bring about all the above, we will undoubtedly require massive injection of foreign funds in the form of investment, as it is too obvious that an annual revenue base of US$10.15 billion definitely cannot be sufficient to create substantial growth for this nation of 120 million with nearly 1,000,000 square kilometres of land area.

"Without doubt growth and development, economic prosperity, and even social justice are totally incompatible and unachievable in an atmosphere of instability, incessant ethnic clashes, sustained wanton destruction of lives and property, gradual and pervasive feeling of insecurity.

"The inevitable conclusion therefore is that ethnic militia and those who encourage or condone them have an agenda that is against the aspirations and interest of the Nigerian people and the Nigerian State. Their activities are inimical to peace, stability and promoting of our nation and its people.

"In fact, such individuals, groups and associates are the true enemies of a modern Nigerian state. I enjoin all Nigerians to go on bent knees before God and pray that now that Nigeria, at last, has a chance to make a breakthrough to grow and develop its full potential, under the able leadership of president Olusegun Obasanjo, Almighty God should silence all war mongers and those who beat the drums of war within our beloved nation.

"We must collectively agree to resolve all our grievances and misgivings through open, frequent and unfettered dialogue, negotiations and compromise. Therein lies the future of this great country in the next millennium."


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