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Niger Delta: Decoding Odumakin

Having achieved that objective, the next goal for the criminals is to use the proceeds from that to amass sophisticated weapons and then entrench themselves…

Having achieved that objective, the next goal for the criminals is to use the proceeds from that to amass sophisticated weapons and then entrench themselves as the undisputed political power in the region. This would then complete their transformation from militants to warlords; this would also mark the beginning of the externalization of the conflict. Then from that vantage point, if the rest of the country still insists on staying together, the criminals-turned-warlords may condescend to enter into a negotiation on their own terms. We may not be quite there yet, but we’re certainly only a few kilometers short.

Although they have not said so in so many words, it is becoming increasingly obvious that breaking away from the country is the Niger Delta criminal element’s final objective, so that they can have absolute control of the crude oil deposits in the region. The attack on the Atlas cove jetty on the very day that their fundamental demand was being complied with by the federal government should end any lingering doubts as to the real intent and purpose of the Niger Delta criminal elements which goes by the acronym MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta).

The attack was a declaration of war. For one thing, it was the first time that MEND would prosecute its violent attacks outside the Niger Delta region. The target was also carefully selected, because the Atlas cove jetty, located in Lagos serves as the main storage and distribution facility for the country especially for imported refined oil. If a foreign hostile country wishes to incapacitate Nigeria, that would be the kind of attack it would launch; two or three attacks like that on our airports, say, and the country would grind to a halt. Those of us who favour the carrot and stick approach are now having second thoughts: it is unlikely that the Niger Delta criminals would respect any conditions for peace. What they demand is the total control of the oil in the Delta areas and they know that their number one obstacle to achieving their evil aim is peace.  

The South West and South eastern part of the country which cooperation is necessary in dealing with the oil criminals are equally aware of this fact. Unfortunately their reactions to this very serious national threat are at best lukewarm. MEND is encouraged, emboldened and in fact assisted by the media. Although the bulk of the national media is located in the Lagos in the South West, they are owned and controlled by private individuals from the Niger Delta region. Should push comes to shove and the country is broken into three or four regions of North, East, West and South-South, the Western region is reckoned by many analysts to be the most viable regional entity. So for the South West and the media, supporting the Niger Delta is a natural inclination.

On their part, the Igbos of the South East would welcome a chance to actualize their aborted dream of a Biafra republic. Of course the Igbos know that without the rest of the country to deter them, running down the South-South would be a child’s play compared to the 1967-70 civil war which they lost to the combined federal forces. Whether the many tribes of the South-South know this or not, and how they plan to deal with it if it ever comes to pass is anybody’s guess.

This is of course a highly hypothetical and perhaps pessimistic projection; but the threat of the Niger Delta crisis is growing bigger and faster by the day that no scenario can be ruled out. To overlook the worse-case scenario in the hope that it would not come could have very dangerous consequences for the government.

It could also be very dangerous for the weakest link in the chain, the vast northern part of the country with its army of illiterate and poverty-stricken population.  While the federal government juggles its options and considers what to do, the 19 governors of the North can help matters by waking up from their slumber and begin to think seriously on how to survive without easy money from oil. At the moment some of those governors with huge untapped potentials are so disappointingly inept one wonders what they think about apart from sharing the monthly allocation from the federation account and how to rig elections; some, incredibly, are even toying with the idea of running for the presidency of a country whose future is so shaky you can feel it even in your sleep. You wonder what exactly they have done to transform their local environment that qualifies them to have such ambitions. They have hitherto failed to inspire their people to develop their potential; they have failed to provide quality education which is the basic ingredient for self-advancement. They travel incessantly and almost without exception they send their children to study outside the country or where they keep them here, it is usually in the most exclusive schools.

Assuming the North is seen as a vibrant self-sustaining entity by the rest of the country, this would serve as deterrent in itself; the oft-repeated jibe that that the North is a parasite and a drag on the rest of the country contribute in no small measure to the recurring threat and demand for “true federalism” “resource control” etc which are just euphemisms for “we want you out”. And yet our governors eat and drink and have fun without a care in the world. Maybe we need to take arms too.

One wonders if the northern governors properly decoded Chief Odumakin’s response to the attack on the Atlas Cove jetty in Lagos. Odumakin, by the way, is the secretary of the Afenefere Renewal Group; he called the MEND’s attack “unfortunate”; and then added ominously “…but the federal government has not done anything sufficiently to address the problems of the (Niger Delta) region”. This in spite of the many sacrifices that the federal government has made and is still making; and in spite of the colossal amount of money that has gone to region in the last ten years! Odumakin chose to speak that way because it serves the interest of the people he represents. The resounding silence of the Igbos also speaks volumes.

But then the North is too far gone in its pseudo-feudal backwardness to hear the beating of the war drums next door.