A Slap on Core Delta Peoples
By Obaro Ikime
We remind Mr. president of the fact that when the present Delta State was created, the Babangida regime, for reasons which we know, decided to locate the capital at Asaba at one extremity of the state . Why was the federal capital moved to Abuja? Was it not because it was thought that Abuja was more centrally located? So how come that when it came to Delta State, the same argument of centrality did not come into play? Or are we to understand that in the case of Abuja the centrality argument was merely an excuse for moving the capital of Nigeria from the south to a point acceptable to the north? As it is, Delta peoples in Forcados or Burutu have to go all the way to Asaba to transact business with the headquarters of their state. Locating the headquarters at Asaba is as unacceptable as locating it in Patani or Forcados, for those who know Delta State. Yet, Babangida did it and got away with it. Now, under an elected presidency, a similar slap is being administered on us, the peoples of the core Delta area of Delta State. Mr. President, we urge you to re-think that nomination in the interest of peace and justice.
The Niger Delta has been on the boil for quite a while. Warri was actually burning at the time the nomination for federal ministerial appointment was sent to Senate. Basic to Niger Delta discontent is that the bulk of the wealth of the nation is being derived from their territory while they are consistently neglected when it comes to development. One would have thought that in the circumstances, an adequate Delta voice in the federal cabinet will be one way of demonstasting to us that the new administration will seriously address the Niger Delta question. As it is, while Bayelsa and Rivers states have nominations who are real Delta peoples, Delta State has an Aniocha person as the nominee. We feel insulted.
When you take a look at the list of persons who have held the petroleum portfolio, you find that never has anyone from the Western Delta held that portfolio. Only persons from the North and Eastern Delta have been appointed petroleum minister. Without a nomination from the core Delta area of Delta State, not only is there no hope of a person from that area becoming minister for petroleum, no person from that area will be on the cabinet to speak for that area within the cabinet. We simply cannot accept that this is fair on us as core Delta peoples of Delta State. This is marginalization of the worst order. It is reprehensible insensitivity. It is bad politics. It is like sprinkling petrol on the fire that has been burning in that area. Mr. President, we plead that there be a re-think on this matter.
Let us, for the sake of argument, accept that the nomination is that of the Delta PDP. What is the party telling us? That Aniocha gave it, the PDP, more votes that the Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri and Ijo put together? Is that what the Delta PDP is saying? Let us have the figures to prove the point! No, Mr. President, it cannot be. It simply cannot be. Someone somewhere is toying with us, the peoples of the core area of Delta State. Mr. president, we realise that you cannot do everything, see everything, check everything. In this instance, we make bold to declare that you have been ill-advised, and we urge you to take another look, a really hard look, at the justice of what has been done. Our counterparts in the Eastern Delta will, once again, be on the cabinet. We will not. When, we ask, was an Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri or Western Ijo person last on the federal cabinet - we mean a civilian? From our land flows a substantial slice of the nation's wealth, but we are not good enough to serve as federal minister! Is that what we are being told? Thank God the facts on the ground contradict any such claim. Among the Ijo, Itsekiri, Isoko and Urhobo are men and women who can hold their own against the very best that any other part of Nigeria can produce in every field of human endeavour. We refuse to be ignored any further. For the sake of justice, we plead, Mr. President, that you send to Senate a name from among the peoples of the core area of Delta State. You know, Mr. President, that there can be no peace without justice. We want peace. Therefore, do justice to us. We await your reaction.
If we may, Mr. President, look at the wider canvass as
we close. You have made it quite clear in your utterances thus far that
you intend to work with persons of proven integrity. We believe you. But
we fear that you have on your list of nominations for ministerial appointment,
certain persons to whom the word integrity cannot at all be applied. We
see on that list a name of two of persons whose past history is that of
greed and graft. We see a name or two who had played key roles in aborting
democracy in the past - persons who have sold their conscience for a mess
of pottage, even if the pottage cost handsome millions! Check your list,
thoroughly, we urge you, Mr. President. May God grant you the courage to
do that which is right.