Urhobo Historical Society

Niger Delta:
Death versus Development

By Eferovo Igho
Vanguard [Lagos, Nigeria]
Thursday, September 04, 2003

What the Niger Delta needs is not US military presence but development to appease the aggrieved people .....

 IT is no longer a secret that Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea are strategically important to the US. Sylvester Odion-Akhaine said the obvious when he opined in the Daily Independent of Tuesday July 29, 2003 in a piece that shared the same editorial pages with this author’s that "securing the oil wells of West Africa has a military imperative, hence the agreement with Sao Tome and Principe, the new Kuwait of Africa."

The alacrity and zest President Olusegun Obasanjo put into his effort at restoring democracy, so called, to the tiny island suggests the man is playing the puppet. You can posit the existence of a sell-out deal. Akhaine drew attention also to a testimony before Congress, where Michael Wihbey of the African Oil Policy Group (AOPIG) actually proposed the creation of a new South Atlantic Military Command that would "permit the US navy and armed forces to more easily project its power to defend American interests and allies in West Africa."


Right now we are co-habiting the Niger Delta with the Marines and US Naval patrol boats of different sizes. The argument that America is here to protect her interests is a tomfoolery, expectedly hollow and baseless, which only rubbishes our sense of nationhood. If we are no longer a sovereign state somebody should tell us, so that we know what to properly do rather than invite an animus against renewed slavery. Obasanjo in 2003 may want to draw understanding from old Epictetus (c50-120): "No man is free who is not a master of himself". As if this potential doom, is not enough, Obasanjo has assigned one of the ministries of coercion, Police Affairs, to a Deltan. Another Deltan is the Minster of State in the Ministry of Defence, the second coercion ministry by my own definition, as if the restiveness in Delta is without a cause. Either these Ministers have been detailed to intimidate their kinsmen to compliance or to take life from perceived deviants. That is, they are to kit their squads for a kill whenever things move a verbis ad verbara , from words to blows.

And the Germans would quickly ask: nicht wahr? (Is it not true?) The whole thing evokes some touch of bitterness or what Lucretius calls amari aliquid, if we must capture it in its original usage. This "brothers-kill-yourselves" strategy is theatrically the pentagon!

We harbour the notion that Obasanjo should abreast himself with concepts such as independence, self-determination, sovereignty and that he should accept the place of consensus and referendum in democracy. Military deftness is no surrogate for vox populi.

It is true Obasanjo inherited an economy which was, from egg to the apples, a story of rot. But should that explain why in his first term he brought Bill Clinton to teach him elementary economics? Now, George Bush came calling obviously for security reasons. We harbour a further notion that if Obasanjo lacks what it talks to deliver the average Niger Deltan from the prevalence of unsavory rent to his purchasing capacity, transform the oil rich Niger Delta by creating beautiful sights atop the water and oil, and give the citizenry a sense of security that it is indigenously occasioned, then it will be as good as resigning and returning to Ota farm.. That will be better than make a dog’s dinner of our commonwealth and common destiny as a nation.

And whosoever thinks the Niger Deltan can be tickled pink by this Bush and Obasanjo ‘tango’ does not know the situation on ground. It is a pity Obasanjo is acting an offensive script that is obviously not home packaged. But can intimidation put off the sense of neglect and exploitation smouldering within the average Niger Delta youth? Is it not a sad irony to milk a people and still conceive to extirpate them?

Blue Print

What the area needs is certainly not US military presence but an opening up and a framework that will inexorably see to its development that will present it as part of Nigeria, indeed. Obasanjo must hear beyond sycophancy and eschew proximity to invidious positions. We want to see a conscientious multi-year development plan for the Niger Delta; a blueprint that will see the region developed in stages. Something of a quarter century segmented into phases of five years each will keep us focused and coordinated. We wish to touch briefly on the first and second phases, for upon these the other phases depend for the total development of the area.

The first five years should see the region opened up to the rest of the country. It should be a time to fashion out a most, yet decent and befitting road network with the Atlantic as terminus By that we mean each state bordering the Atlantic should have a road that terminates by the Atlantic. Co-ordinated and co-facilitated say by a well funded NDDC, the Commission would have to work in tandem with each of the state governments and oil prospecting companies, oil servicing companies, other multi-nationals, local government councils, financial houses, money-bags and other stakeholders within each of these states as co-facilitators. The Federal Ministry of Works should, of course, play a pivotal role in our calculation. It is a synergy with instant results.

We are talking of prestressed or cast insitu bridges with enough (under) support at every short interval with the best of wing walls and with the benefit of landing stages (jetties) at each village. Bridges with the best pedestrian railings will be just good enough. The picture we should get at the end of the day is a beautiful road network suspended above sea level, looking down at God’s signatures: water, with the invisible oil buried under it, the world of water creatures and luxuriant vegetation. Never mind that the evil that has become oil exploration has damaged the marine ecosystem and whittled down denizens in the region: plant, animal and man.

As a necessary follow up you may want to tie up each of these roads up at the Atlantic from Cross River to Ondo (or Lagos if you like). What a pride to have Cross River-Atlantic Road, Akwa Ibom-Atlantic Road, Rivers-Atlantic Road, Bayelsa-Atlantic Road, Delta-Atlantic Road, Ondo-Atlantic Road and the all-important road, the Niger Delta-Atlantic Road! You are face to face with a beauty that herald development. This is the best way the people can be made to enjoy their environment. You are willy-nilly saying bye to youth restiveness and diffusing at the same time the tension that has become cities like Warri.

Corrupt Leaders

Does somebody really want to solve the Warri problem? Is there seriousness anywhere? What you have achieved in the first phase will take on a seal in the second phase; time for restiveness and tension to fizzle out. The aforesaid stakeholders should now build satellite towns at their respective points a long the coastal road otherwise now called Niger Delta-Atlantic Road. A "Lekki" at Ogheye or Orere (Benin River) and Forcados for instance, will showcase the glory of God’s nature, boost tourism and accelerate commerce, and share attention with Warri. What is good for Delta is , of course, good for the other states of the Niger Delta sharing boundary with the Atlantic. We recognize that Abia, Edo and Imo states will still partake in the old arrangement states in the Niger Delta.

A fraction of the gargantuan sum being stacked away and , or being mismanaged by our corrupt leaders who will ever scramble to be in government can help achieve more than enough this minimum expectation of Niger Deltans; the minimum expectation that has a capacity to initiate a solution to the Niger Delta problematic paradox. What is more; from Oloibiri till date the amount of gas being recklessly flared and finding place in our lungs runs, in value, into some trillion naira. Within same period about 25 trillion US dollars has been carted away from the region by the Federal Government, multi-nationals and thieves in high places (top politicians, technocrats and their myrmidons), in the name of crude oil. From the plankton to the sea mammal and mahogany or palm tree the region has lost aquatic life to an equivalent sum. Before and after Ken Saro Wiwa and Odi massacre human life, human blood keep sinking under perhaps to fill the void caused by oil exploration. Will one borehole here today and classroom block there tomorrow solve a huge problem? Somebody somewhere should be human, show mercy, get set to develop the area and point the exit to the Yankees.