Urhobo Historical Society


Niger Delta Initiative

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Call for paper
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003 09:02:12 -0400
From: Tokunbo Awoshakin <awoshakin@kettering.org>
To: Urhobo Historical Society <UrhoboHistory@waado.org>
References: <fc.000f846b001a77c6000f846b001a77c6.1a77cf@kettering.org> <3F15D906.3060901@waado.org>


Tokunbo Awoshakin



The situation in the Nigerian Niger delta has never stopped attracting attention from the international press. Unfortunately, the kind of coverage given to the crisis in the Niger Delta has been such as focuses mainly on the reporting of violence, particularly acts of violence perpetrated by angry members of the community. A lot of times, issues are covered in ways that bear little resemblance to the way people encounter them in everyday life.


Several international and local humanitarian organizations are interested in getting involved in finding a suitable solution to the crisis but lack of facts on the exact position of the people in the oil communities and the bureaucracy from government officials have combined to frustrate successive attempts by credible international organizations to become actively involved in the Niger Delta crisis.


The politics of the Nigerian government, that of the oil companies and sometimes that of some elements in the oil communities have also made the situation seem almost impossible to amend.  It would seem that the anger of the people of the oil community at the political system is based to a large extent on the perception that money has replaced the influence of citizens as voters.


For a large majority of the unemployed youth and angry women who join militia groups and make threats of nude demonstration respectively, politics is seen as having been circumscribed and now directed by policy makers and oil firms who speak another language: the language of avoidance. These people find nothing of personal value in the so called community development projects. It is almost like there is no place for their initiative and actions.




The project of bringing public initiative to bear on decisions affecting the lives of the communities in the Niger Delta is one that should be realizable in the framework of deliberative democracy. This should be pursued in a framework where there is genuine public will. This is true because, there is a public dimension to the Niger Delta issue. Yet, this is always missing from the way policy matters are framed and presented.


The Kettering Foundation, in pursuing the Niger Delta Deliberative project believes that for the people of the oil communities to relate to the major issues of Niger Delta crisis, they have to be framed in terms of what is valuable to the people in their everyday realities. Citizens want to know their choices, choices that are described in terms of what is valuable to them.


To have these kinds of choices, there needs to be deliberation among the people as well as between them and the stakeholders. Now to deliberate is not just to “talk about problems” It means more than that. It also means to weigh carefully both consequences of various options for action and the views of other parties involved in the crisis.



Kettering Foundation’s project on the Niger Delta is at its preliminary stages. Right now we seek information from Nigerians, especially from people from the oil producing communities, civil society activists, writers, government officials, oil firm representatives, youths, women etc. We seek collaboration that may develop in the implementation of the project.


Some say the main problem is unemployment. Others say it is health care and education. Yet others say it is just a matter of equity in sharing of oil resources from the areas. There is different perception of the root cause of the violence in the oil producing communities of Nigeria.  Similarly there are different ideas as to how the main issue should be tackled. Each has its high and low sides and will require sacrifices on the part of all concerned.




Answers to the following questions will help in the framing of the issue for the Kettering Foundations’ project of deliberative democracy in the Nigeria Niger Delta.


Ø      What is the real issue?


Ø      How does this issue concern you?


Ø      What do you or your organization value most in the Niger Delta and why is it so important?


Ø      What conditions must prevail in order to achieve what you want?


Ø      What can you or your organization do to help one community in the Niger Delta?


Everyone is encouraged to send answers to these question and provide the following details.

(a)     Full Name (b) Organization or affiliation (c) Location (d) e-mail address and /or telephone (e) indication of interest in collaborating with Kettering Foundation on the project. (f) Nationality.

Citizens of Nigerian oil communities and representatives of civil and corporate organizations in these communities are strongly encouraged to respond to this call.


Position papers should not be more than 2 pages.


Please send your position papers containing answers to the questions and the other information to:

Tokunbo Awoshakin

Kettering Foundation USA