Date Published: 10/08/09
Post Amnesty: What Niger Delta Governors Should Do By Ifeanyi Izeze
It was very shocking to read in a national newspaper that President Umaru Yar’adua’s magnanimous gesture of amnesty to the Niger Delta militants deserves nothing less than a Nobel Peace Price. What an insult to the entire peace initiative in the Niger Delta? Who deserve to be nominated for a peace price- the helpless president that was begging for peace or the militants that willingly agreed to stop fighting, surrender their weapons to test government’s sincerity in addressing the underlying issues?
Regrettably, it shows how the people at the centre view the entire peace process. As was rightly said by an analyst, “the amnesty has at best; been an ill-conceived initiative packaged as a favor and delivered to the people of Niger-Delta as a take it or be damned policy. But this is going to be the greatest mistake of anybody who thinks that the crisis in the Niger Delta could be solved by tough talks from the federal government.”
Truth be told, the entire concept of amnesty to the militants was not even the federal government’s idea. The Rivers state governor, Chibuike Amaechi initiated and implemented the concept in his state, though with a caveat that whosoever was not involved in the genuine resource control agitation and refuses to repent, would be treated as a criminal. Maybe we should nominate Amaechi for the Nobel Peace price for his creative thinking in governance. Anyway, this is just an aside.
We are already in the post amnesty era: The militants have renounced violent agitation and confrontation. They have dropped their arms and so now oil and gas can start flowing freely once again out of the region without any hindrances. Meanwhile, as we were told, all that the militants have got in return so far was presidential handshakes and the honour of group photographs with the president and his vice.
Walahi , If there is any time the Niger Delta governors should march to the Abuja to protest or rather confront the President over issues that pertain to the obvious circumstances that gave birth to militancy in the first instance, now is.
Rather than struggle to be the governor that outshined the others in executing the amnesty programme for militants, the Niger Delta governors should wake up their ideas and start thinking of what to do with these repentant constituents of theirs. There is no time to slack in this matter. This is because from obvious indications, the federal government has no single idea or rather has zero will power to constructively engage not only the few that turned up as repenting but the scores of others- active, dormant and new breed that would obviously show up tomorrow or even later today.
Your Excellencies, if you had not known, know it now that the post-amnesty period will be much more challenging for your various governments than this period you have been snapping pictures with guns and repentant militants.
It is very interesting that in all the talks of militants agreeing to try the federal government’s amnesty, nothing in tangible terms has been said about post amnesty programme not only for the few who has repented publicly but for the entire region as a way of reversing the ill-feelings towards the government by the people. It took Reuters- report for privileged Nigerians to hear that the President is proposing a security agency to protect oil facilities, inspect and guard ships/vessels coming into the region. And even from the report it was obvious that the sole concern of the federal government is unhindered access to the oil and gas resources in the region.
This is the time for the Niger Delta governors to ask the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to in definite terms unfold his post amnesty development agenda for the entire region not just for the few militants.
Look the president eyeball to eyeball and tell him that it’s no longer acceptable for the centre to dodge and blame the state government’s failure to develop their areas as responsible for the restiveness. Agreed that the states will do their own programmes which has become a must now but let the federal government tell the whole world what it set out to achieve within a clearly defined time frame. Make the man talkam with his mouth and then make the governors publicise aam massively because of tomorrow o!
The president should be able to say what he plans to do to address the root causes of militancy in the region. Time frames should be attached to any proposal he makes as an intervention. This will help both the governors, the people of the region, other Nigerians and even the international community to do genuine milestone assessment of such programmes/projects and also test the sincerity of the government.
Previous efforts by government could not achieve anything in terms of infrastructural development. So in this new post amnesty era, there must be a paradigm shift and the Niger Delta governors should canvass and be ready to drive it in conjunction with all local government chairmen in the region.
The OMPADEC/NDDC as a development concept has not worked and will never work as currently conceived. The Ministry of Niger Delta is not going to achieve anything for sure. And nobody should talk of implementing the NDDC master plan because that concept in itself was a big fraud and outright time-buying conspiracy against the “real” peoples of the region. Do we need a master plan to know that Ajakaja should be linked to Ngo by a bridge or efficient modern water transport system? Do we need a master plan to know that a good number of well qualified, highly trained graduates and other artisans from the Niger Delta should be usefully engaged in the oil and gas sector and associated service sectors?
As long as some people continue to think that they are better and more qualified to work in the oil sector than the people whose souls of existence have been battered by oil activities, Nigeria will be ready to welcome armies of highly trained militant P.Hd holders and they would do their own with grammar, engineering, scientific, legal, cyber and other diverse backgrounds to increase the nightmare of a central government that has continued to deceive the people whose wellbeing it’s suppose to take as a priority.
Sharing N50 billion among repentant militants (genuine and fake) and their government ‘militant’ organizers will produce only one result- bigger crisis tomorrow or even later today. Mark my word!
Under the new paradigm shift very drastic policy measures are required to change the status quo which has not helped anybody over the years. The Ministry of Niger Delta and the NDDC should be completely out of whatever the President proposes to do as his immediate post amnesty intervention projects/progrmmes in the region. Is it not laughable that the only comment the Ministry of Niger Delta has made as its idea of post amnesty programme was that it will send the militants to craft centres to acquire skills. Tell me the skill that Tompolo, Ateke or even Asari can acquire now in this their old age to help them start up normal civil life? Could you imagine Ateke and Asari going to learn mechanic or shoe making? Haba! The ministry should go and look for the platoon of repentant militants Associate Peace Works rehabilitated in Jos for Peter Odili’s government. Bros dem pick up new arms after few weeks of do-nothing post rehabilitation.
In addition to the individual efforts of the state governors, the bulk of the federal government’s intervention should be publicly given to the various state governors to directly supervise not the NNDC or the Ministry. This is even a good strategy to hold these governors responsible for any failure within their areas. Let’s task these governors and their local government chairmen to be responsible and more responsive to the problems of their people.
Then any governor, who fails to develop his place, should not ask the federal government to send military detachment not even mobile policemen to defend his Government House when his people start protesting again.
How true was my friend when he opined that “ The issue at hand is more serious than the individual ambitions. I say this because the schools and motivations that created and nurtured Boyloaf, Tompolo, Ateke and co (all generals) have not been closed. For all we care, there may be out there, totally unknown to us more vicious field marshals Preye, Worlu and co’ that may come to put a permanent lie to the whole amnesty -for- peace gift.”
Your Excellencies, go to Abuja first and get their commitment. When you come back, we will then let you know equally that it is no longer business as usual.
IFEANYI IZEZE, ABUJA ( firstname.lastname@example.org )