Date Published: 10/18/09
AMNESTY DEAL – HOW ABOUT OGONI? By Michael Porp-Kokoh: firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy: International Federation of Ogoni People- INTERFOP
The amnesty declared by the federal government of Nigeria for Niger Delta militants was in the first place unnecessary. At the time of Amnesty pronouncement the militants were waxing strong in their destruction spree. They did not show any sense of remorse for their actions to warrant or necessitate amnesty. They never demanded one. In some sense, the amnesty was an appeasement to the militants to halt their campaign against oil companies.
With the promise of reward for those who surrender their arms and accept the amnesty, one can see that the federal government was on the begging side of the truce equation, given the fact that federal military reprisal campaign against Niger Delta militants failed presumably, in the behest of public outcry for the suffering masses of women and children who were used as shield. Therefore, federal military retaliation (Joint Task Force) on Niger Delta militants failed to accomplish the purpose for which it was launched. If Niger Delta militants were subdued completely to the point that they willingly and unconditionally surrendered, then amnesty would have meant something to both parties.
In spite of prevailing circumstances and backdrop of the amnesty pronouncement, if Niger Delta militants reciprocate the magnanimity of the federal government and avail themselves of the opportunity for peaceful negotiation offered courtesy amnesty, there exists real possibility for an amicable resolution of the chaos that has not benefited anybody in honest terms."No victor, no vanquished", we say.
It’s important for both parties to understand that there cannot be a true and overwhelming winner in a situation such as we have in the Niger Delta. If militants desert the amnesty negotiation table and resume the wanton spree of burning oil installations and other infrastructure, kidnapping humans, and fighting, yes, it will trouble the federal government who is saddled with the burden and responsibility for protection of lives of citizens and property. On the converse, the scene of this drama is the habitat of the perpetrators and the Niger Delta people. They will also suffer. We should remember that the federal government is not an individual. Metaphorically, government is a dress uniform worn by individuals consequent upon specific powers bestowed on them at a specific time. At the end of a shift of official duty, the individuals take off the uniform and become ordinary men and women tending to personal and family needs. This is one reason government problem is everybody’s and everybody’s is government’s or can be nobody’s. The Nigerian state is unfortunately a victim of the latter appellation.
If the battle field was outside the environment of the Niger Delta, militants would perhaps have nothing much to lose. Incidentally, the setting is within the milieu of Niger Delta geographical domain. This means they live with the general atmosphere of insecurity created and all the effects this has on the ordinary peoples’ living and lives. All these is said to not intimidate but encourage Niger Delta militants to give government the benefit of doubt by exercising patience in the amnesty and peace process. Hopefully, the federal government will come clean and true in their quest for peace by reasonably meeting the demands and aspirations of oil bearing communities or openly disappoint itself and remain a subject of ridicule among modern democracies.
Finally and most importantly, the federal government should remember the peaceful but resilient voice of the Ogoni people. They may neither be violent as to earn ransom from government nor qualify for amnesty with promises of skyscrapers in Abuja. In the same stratum, Ogoni will neither falter nor waver in their determination and demand for justice. The world is watching how Nigeria compensates her deviant citizens who resort to violence in a polity where opportunity for peaceful protests and dialog exist. Ogoni too is watching keenly.
The world is also asking, how about Ogoni?