four-decade situation in the Niger Delta is a 'crisis that will not go
away,' Sabella Abidde writes in Pambazuka News, which 'if not properly
addressed may reverberate across international systems.' Given that the
Nigerian government has proven itself 'incapable' of solving the
problem, Abidde argues the case that 'the time is now for the
international community', 'especially the United States of America' 'to
The history of the Nigerian Niger Delta crisis is well known.
know that this is not a crisis that came about because a group of men
and women got bored and then decided to take on the Nigerian government
for the fun of it. No. This is a crisis that has been brewing for
decades. And for several decades, the Nigerian government thought it
could simply massage cosmetics over deep wounds. The multinational oil
companies also thought they could buy off a group of elites and all
would be well. The international community also acted as if the
conflict was a local issue to be confined to the backwater.
In any case, no one is interested in the blame game. The time is now,
the hours are here for political will and other tangible resources to
be applied to a crisis that, if not properly addressed, may reverberate
across international systems. The Niger Delta crisis, as the world has
now realised, will not soon go away. There is a limit to which people
will endure abuse, exploitation and rape. Because the Nigerian
government has proven incapable of solving this problem, the time is
now for the international community â€“ especially the United
America â€“ to step in.
A once localised condition has now become a global imperative, and as
such, we urge the United States to take a leading role in this matter:
Fashion or refashion policies to address the crisis. Appoint an envoy
or a 'czar' for the region. There is precedence for such a foreign
policy initiative. And this needs to be done because the Yar'Adua
government, as events and records have now shown, is clueless and
A critical examination of America's foreign policy in the last two
decades proves that it is concerned with environment issues and with
matters dealing with social dislocations, international health
challenges and uncontrollable migration that are likely to constrict
its resources; and that it is also concerned about activities that are
likely to cause the unplanned disintegration of friendly nations. Above
all, it is concerned about terrorism. We see all these as some of the
end results of the Niger Delta crisis. It is in light of this that we
urge the US to formulate or readjust its foreign policy to accommodate
the ongoing quagmire.
In 1976, human rights were at the centre of President Jimmy Carter's
foreign policy paradigm. Some ethical and moral choices were made.
Today, we expect the United States government, under the tutelage of
President Obama, to make the same choice: Actively participate in
finding solutions to the Niger Delta crisis. It is in the interest of
the US to do so, a utilitarian choice that is in the interest of all
parties. Indeed, America will gain prestige by doing what is right for
Nigeria and for the people of the region.
As of today, we cannot say that the policy toward the region is just,
virtuous or ethical. At a time when there has been untold amount of
inhumanity, neither the State Department nor the White House, has made
unequivocal foreign policy statements that side with the oppressed.
Insofar as the Niger Delta is concerned, we do not see America's moral
principles in motion. She is absent, silent, and seems irrelevant.
During President Obama's visit to Ghana, and Secretary Clinton's visit
to Nigeria and other African countries, African governments, amongst
other things, were advised to adopt democratic principles rooted in
justice, good governance and strong institutions. We have not seen
these in the oil-producing communities or in the country as a whole.
A country's foreign policy practices are generally rooted in
well-established principles and values â€“ principles and values
vital for the survival and wellbeing of its people and national
interest. Jerel Rosati tells us that Foreign Policy is the
involvement abroad and the collection of goals, strategies, and
instruments that are selected by governmental policy-makers.' Foreign
policy instruments include trade and trade embargoes, military
intervention, veto power, aid, and lending policies.
In the United States, as elsewhere in the world, a number of factors
determine the scope and nature of foreign policy. And whatever those
factors may be, the end game of foreign policy is the furtherance and
sustenance of the national security interest of the state. A country's
foreign policy may, in addition to the interest of self, also benefit
friends and alliances while at the same time deterring foes and
antagonists from engaging in actions that might otherwise cause harm or
derail specific goals.
Foreign policies are not always directed at nation-states alone. The
1646 to1648 Peace of Westphalia “which ended both the thirty and
eighty years' wars in Europe â€" ushered the modern era where
states became the primary focus of global politics. In addition to
nation states, foreign policies may be directed at non-state actors,
i.e. non-governmental organisations, multinational corporations,
regimes and institutions, terrorist groups, and oppressed ethnic
For instance, the United States had a policy that protected the Kurds
of Northern Iraq from Saddam Hussein's deleterious policy. What's more,
the US, in collaboration with the United Nations and Portugal,
championed the political independence of East Timor. Occasional
missteps aside, Washington has a long history of championing noble
causes: Helping to free nations and aboriginal groups from the grip of
subjugation; spreading democratic values; preaching free markets and
the inalienable rights of peoples to design their own destiny.
As noble and humane as its foreign policy may be, America has, on
occasions, misread global events and/or misplaced its priorities. At
other times, it simply chooses the wrong cause or the wrong side. This
is rare; but we see this misplacement, misreading and false choice in
its relationship with Nigeria vis-Ã -vis the rich but
underdeveloped Niger Delta. The Obama administration also seems to be
committing the same blunder President Clinton committed in not
forcefully dealing with General Sani Abacha in perhaps the darkest hour
in Nigeria's tumultuous history. His carrot and carrot alone policy
allowed Abacha to run amok. And Obama, it now seems, is about to make
the same mistake with Yar'Adua.
What we have in the Niger Delta region is a tragedy and travesty, a
grave injustice; and an unacceptable expression of man's inhumanity to
man. Sadly, this has been the case for over four decades -- “ with the
situation becoming desperately pronounced in the last decade. Through
it all, Washington has been silent; turning blind eye to a condition
that calls for it considerable power and influence. It is not too late
to do so.
And so we implore the United States government to employ its
considerable power and influence: Call the Nigerian government and the
multinational oil companies to order in their treatment of the
oil-producing communities. Indeed, the intervention of the US is
urgently needed in this matter. The Yar'Adua government can no longer
be trusted to find a sustainable solution to the crisis. The government
There are several reasons why the White House should get involve in
First, it is simply the right thing to do. The US is not and cannot
always be the world's policeman. Nonetheless, situations such as the
low intensity conflict in the Niger Delta deserve America's attention
especially since we know the root cause of the conflict. And we also
know who the predator and the victims are.
Second, ecological degradation -- “ such as the one we have on almost
every inch and space in the Niger Delta" -- “ is not just a local
it has global implications. Quite a few scientific findings have shown
that environmental degradation negatively impacts global security and
Third, there are systemic studies that indicate that poverty,
hopelessness and cruelty leads people to violence and terrorism.
Because the three variables are present in the region, elements and
groups within the region may be amenable to outside forces looking to
recruit terrorists. In a spider web-like world, terrorism has no
Fourth, if the economic, political and institutional underdevelopment
continues, the crisis may become too complex and too perilous to
resolve. In time, the cost of oil exploration and distribution may
become very costly. And in fact, the cost of some commercial activities
may become exorbitant as the region is directly tied to the global
Finally, the continuing crisis may trigger the violent disintegration
of Nigeria, with consequences that may overwhelm the West African sub
region. Should this happen, the United States and Europe will have to
contend with refugees and internally displaced people. The resulting
social challenges may even become a burden on a continent that is
ill-equipped to handle minor crises.
Chief Ojo Madueke, the foreign minister, and the minister of Niger
Delta affairs, Obong Ufot Ekaette, had on several occasions voiced
Yar'Adua's opposition to outside help. Frankly, we think the government
should rescind its opposition. No amount of military armament from
Israel or elsewhere can solve this crisis. The Israelis themselves live
in constant fear of the unknown: Military supremacy in the region has
not assured them a stress-free sleep. President Yar--Adua should
demilitarise the Niger Delta and then come to the table with clean
hands and a clear conscience -- with the United States as the referee.