By Adeola Aderounmu
When late Musa Yar’ Adua became the ruler of Nigeria in 2007 after one of the several disputed elections in Nigeria, one of his “achievements” was granting amnesty to the Niger Delta militants. He had a 6 or 7 points agenda which included the empty vow to improve power supply. The rest is history.
The stories regarding the origin and the spread of militancy in the Niger Delta creeks are diversed. They are based on different lines of arguments and different schools of thoughts. The arguments are also influenced by political inclinations. The propagation and sustenance of falsehood in Nigeria is also like an occupation on its own. Some people are paid even by government to do this.
However I know some honest people who earn their livelihood by taking dangerous sea trips to fish in Nigerian internal and territorial waters. Therefore what I know for certain based on eyewitnesses’ reports is that the militants became more “useful” when Obasanjo was aiming for his second term in office.
The allegations wrapped Mr. Obasanjo and some governors from the Niger Delta areas in the game plan and the summary was that when the elections were over, the militants became more potent than ever before and they also found new ways and tools to become more relevant than the pre-Obasanjo era.
The things that happened around that time would lend more credence to these narrations from the people that I know and met. For, at that time in the history of Nigeria more people became aware of attacks on national pipelines and the growing spate of kidnapping, first of expatriates and then of any Dick, Tom and Harry escalated. At the beginning of week 9 in 2014 one man referred to as the adopted father of Goodluck Jonathan was kidnapped. He’s surely worth a ransom of USD20bn.
Let me go back in time. When I was a young boy, at my early teen years to be sure, I remembered that I swore never to step my feet on the soils of Northern part of Nigeria. My decision at that time was informed by the types of news and images that I got about Northern Nigeria. For me at that time, the North was the North. I probably had insufficient knowledge of regional geography.
I was one of those kids who read Newspapers from an early age. I could say I was 8 years old when I started reading Newspaper and I remembered that my father specifically bought me books about Nigeria. At age somewhere between 13 or 15 I read Naiwu Osahon’s “A Nation In Custody”. Those kinds of books helped to build my interest in national issues. They also formed me as I saw from an early age that Nigeria was/is ruled by criminals and heading to perdition. We are still on that road. Sadly too, Nigeria and Nigerians are still in custody.
The formative years of a child are important as I’d come to learn and experience personally. I remembered how I “worked” hard to influence my National service. I had little faith in the program and I was not ready to cross the boundaries of western Nigeria. Once I did so just for fun when I stepped my feet on the soil of Cotonou. I knew what I wanted and what I never wanted was to be part of the inexplicable madness of Northern Nigeria where my aboki neighbour could be the one to slice my throat or cut my head during an upheaval.
Terrorism is not an entirely new phenomenon in Nigeria. It had presented itself to us over the ages and years in different forms. In recent times it was painted variously as communal clashes and sometimes as protests over issues relating to Islam within Nigeria. At one time it was a senseless riot connected to a beauty pageant show.
At another time it was related to issues that have nothing to do with Africa. The Danish cartoon saga was entirely a problem of Europe but it went viral and death tolls were hardly reported from anywhere but in Nigeria it became a means to kill in the North. The upheavals and pandemonium that occur in Northern Nigeria were mostly treated with kid gloves and usually swept under the carpets.
These abnormalities in Northern Nigeria that shaped my thoughts during my teen years are parts of the reasons I deemed courageous the decision of some people that I know to go up north for one reason or the other. If things were different, I would have been a good traveller not only across the world but also in my country of birth. I have praises for my friends who went up north. I have praises for those who have settled somewhere in North even to this day and made it their home away from home. That’s how it should be. If you are from a certain country, you should have the right and possibility to choose your settlement, under normal circumstances.
Unfortunately one of the saddest things about Nigeria is the near total failure of governance at all levels. With the current status of Nigeria as a corrupt country and probably the place in the world with the largest accumulation of poor people, the evidence are rife that Nigerians have not govern Nigeria successfully. From one government to another, impunity rose, corruption soar and the plundering of the country’s wealth by people, government and institutions continue unabated. Nigeria is even opened up to plundering by foreign parasites and imperialists. If the wall is not cracked though the lizards will never find a way in. Nigeria is not cracked, she is completely broken. There are no walls of protection literally and figuratively. It appears the goal is to leave the country in an irreversible ruin. Summarily Nigeria is completely derailed and hope is almost lost.
As I was saying, when Yar Adua granted amnesty to the Niger Delta militants, the signals were obvious. It appears that to be heard in Nigeria; you also have to be armed. The militants gained access to government houses. Some of them got some of the best houses in Abuja and in their home states. Militants under Yar Adua became kings and lords.
These aberrations were sustained and taken to new heights by the Goodluck Jonathan’s regime. Militants simply took over parts of the Nigerian economy by obtaining juicy government contracts and jobs. One rascal called Asari Dokubo who had committed several atrocities against the Nigerian state became one of the chief beneficiaries. How terrorists became bedmates with the Nigerian government is not entirely a mystery. Over the years the government has been a beehive for criminals and all manners of people who are not fit for administration and governance.
In the 2014 budget Mr. Jonathan’s corrupt government is dedicating a whooping N63 billion to the militants. You will not find a greater level of insanity in any government around the world. Where in the world are terrorists paid by government? N63bn can change the face Nigeria as a country if the money is used judiciously to target job creation and youth-oriented educational programs. But Nigeria has a minister of finance who found it honourable to present this jagbajantis as a budget plan.
Nigeria has been misgoverned for more than 50 years. Sometimes political and military aggressions, plain violence, state murders and assassinations have been used to steer Nigeria. These crimes are the “rule of law” and the “codes of conducts” for self-preservation in the Nigerian government.
Whatever led to the birth and eventual rise of Boko Haram had a fertile soil on which to bloom and “prosper” as sad as it seems. The rise of Boko Haram was too easy. Among the certainties is that Boko Haram became more prominent in the post-Yar Adua amnesty days. Now, under the Jonathan government, Boko Haram came to war.
The origin of Boko Haram is still under debate. They may have been a group of army constructed by the Islamic governments of Northern Nigeria. They may be soldiers who deflected from the Nigerian military. They may be mercenaries from neighbouring countries blended with the illiterate, jobless and ignorant locals in the name of religion and war. Who knows?
There are evidence of misadventures of what appeared to be roles of established governments in the rise and spread of global terrorism. The roles of the United States in the rise of Bin Laden’s led Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan are well documented. When Gaddafi of Libya became the target of the United States and NATO, terrorists were armed to aid the displacement and his eventual murder, just to mention a few examples. People are still studying the Syria scenario.
Hence, in giving so much money, power and space to terrorists who are politically labelled as militants, the federal government of Nigeria will not be the first to directly or indirectly sponsor terrorism. Therefore the roles of the Nigerian federal government and the Islamic governments in Northern Nigeria and the northern elites/rulers deserved to be investigated as Boko Haram continue to flourish right under their noses. Boko Haram may have existed when I made up my mind as a child not to step on the soil of the blood-spillers. They may have been there when the power hungry rulers of Northern Nigeria promised to make Nigeria ungovernable for Mr. Jonathan.
No matter what led to the establishment and the rise of Boko Haram, the failure of governance at the state and federal levels cannot be excluded as additional factors. The majority of dictators and rulers in Nigeria have been from that part of the country. It seems that they deliberately impoverished their people intellectually. Somehow illiteracy and ignorance levels in Northern Nigeria are far higher than the rest of the country. The hypothesis was that the rulers from the North ensured that their people were educationally deficient so that the northern elites will always have their ways among the ignorant populace. Today, the pay-back prices in terms of blood spillage and outright destructions of towns anc cities are inestimable.
The Boko Haram insurgencies and terrorism that is wrongly tagged as militancy in the South of Nigeria have similar curves. The governors of the oil rich states have over the years looted their people blind. What will remain inexplicable is how the looters and thieves from this region always have the backings of the people they steal from. I have defined the Nigerian syndrome in a previous article.
It is generally known that the local rulers of the Niger Delta region and those who served as ministers in federal and regional institutions like the Oil Mineral Producing Area Development Commission (OMPADEC), the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) ought to have been brought to books. They embezzled funds earmarked for the development of the Delta and other places. These rulers are also known to take huge sums from foreign corporations without accountability.
Therefore when addressing the rise of terrorism in the delta as a fallout of gross underdevelopment, maladministration, corruption, nepotism and other vices the bulk goes round in a cycle. The representatives of the delta region have failed their people, the state governments have failed and the federal government is the chief culprit for not ever leading by proper examples.
What the N63bn allocated to the Niger Delta will meet is the greediness of the terrorists. The problems in the region persist. These problems range from lack of basic amenities to serious environmental issues that make the Niger Delta people to be ranked amongst the poorest people in the world. The general percentage of people living under the poverty frame in Nigeria is a hidden global tragedy.
Whatever type of war or destructions that are still attributed to the Niger Deltan terrorists surely are devoid of ideology. They have seen how “easy” it is to become super-rich and influential in government through the use of guns and gun-powders. They have seen how their predecessors have spread all over the places yet still siphoning amnesty funds like leeches and parasites.
What these mostly non-combatant militants hiding in the creeks have not seen is the end to the spillage in their environment. What they have not seen and probably not looking forward to is the implementation of all the policies and promises that have been made by governments and agencies connected to the delta region. They have grown to love the quick money and get rich any-how style. Like their masters-the local chiefs and like the government of Nigeria, the future doesn’t count for them.
Truth is, for more than 53 years Nigerian rulers stole and carted away the treasures of Nigeria. There are no federal plans for nation building and preparing the country for the unborn generations. All Nigerian “roadmaps for development” did not see the light of the day. Not under the military, not under the civilians. Truth is, everything was neglected including education, health and other simple basic infrastructure. Hence, in Nigeria, it actually ought to be a total war on bad governance. All well meaning and Patriotic Nigerians should actually be out there asking the government to surrender, pack and exit.
In Nigeria, the new full-grown terrorism and militancy are delayed responses to the now more than 53 years of absolute waste of the independent status. What the sponsors of these terror groups (whether from inside or external sources) have done is to find the cracks in the walls. It appears that the 3rd generation of post-independence Nigerians are also wasting away.
With the spread of militancy and the popularity of terrorism, one can presume that knee-jerk responses on the part of Nigerian government have made these twin calamities into wars that the Nigerian military will not win easily or early enough. Recent terror attacks in Northern Nigeria show the determination and preparedness of the terrorists and the Fire Brigade Approach of the Nigerian army.
To subdue terrorism in Nigeria on the long run, some political sacrifices must be made. The system of governance must change radically. If pursued honestly the National Conference will provide the catalysts needed for the much needed changes. It is well known that those who have tried to fight off terrorism in the absences of functioning governments and social justice always fail.
The ineffective system of governance in Nigeria has rendered almost all Nigerian government institutions paralysed-they are places for self-enrichment and non- performance. There are no magic doses unfortunately. Therefore when the power that is accumulated to Abuja is decentralised, Nigeria may have taken one giant leap in the right direction.
Nigeria will benefit immensely from a proper change of system of governance. This means that the unitary system of government needs to be abolished in the nearest future. Doing so will on the long term as mentioned earlier probably checkmates future uprisings where terrorists will not be aiming at a central goverment if the ultimate power is not there. In the future N-Eastern Nigeria I am optimistic that a people deciding their own fate will put up enough resistance to fight or resist insurgencies. I don’t think any group of people would like to self-destruct when their destinies are in their own hands.
Regional governments will restore the old Western Nigeria (now being demanded by the Yoruba Congress from a recent gathering in Ibadan) and the other recognised regions that were in existence before the military destroyed the political structures in Nigeria. No doubts, based on newer ideas or ideologies there will be modifications to the regional system in this new century.
The change of the system of governance will not return Nigeria to glory in one night. It may be one of the several steps on the way to recovery. If we make amends today recovery in the regions or acrosss Nigeria can take a decade, half a century or just a few dozen years depending on the will of the people.
In the meantime, the government of Nigeria must not forget its primary duty which is to protect the lives and property of citizens within the boundary of Nigeria. Ending the terrorism in the delta and in the Northern part of Nigeria especially must be done in the shortest time possible without doling out N63bn, or more. Rather it is the Nigerian military that must get all that is needed and required to accomplish the tasks of winning internal wars and fending off external aggressions.
Citizen re-orientation programs which will include patriotism, dignity of labour, promotion of merits, top-level discipline, honesty, trust, commitment to job, family, community and nation/country are among the virtues that will be needed in the various regions that will be reinstated or reconstructed after the National Conference.
Images from SVT Sweden