Eheen! This new secession plan reminds me of the zillions of activists, combatants and resource control celebrities that once inundated our body politic spilling blood and ink for the emancipation of the Niger Delta. The sudden return of the ‘our people and our oil rhetoric’ strike chords reminiscent of a time when familiar voices held microphones hostage and swift feet traversed the length and breadth of the globe seeking justice for the poor and hungry farmers whose livelihood has been destroyed by the flow of the black gold. Prolific writers, sonorous and sometimes tough talking voices constantly painted pictures of the irony of diseased locals that have to daily drink from the same oily waters they bath and poo poo in, while workers living in fenced compounds of companies drilling oil from their lands live in luxuries next to London. Eggheads and ivory towers applied with dexterity the “Dutch Disease” model as they laboured to draw the attention of the world to the deplorable conditions of the peoples of the “resource cursed” creeks. Amazingly, all these “save our region” activities grounded to a gradual halt as soon as a bowler hat wearing Nigerian took over the helm of affairs at Aso Rock.
Worried by the half a decade comatose of the once vibrant resource control and self determination debates , I had engaged a friend in some sort of “beer parlour debate” to ascertain as to whether the systemic injustices and ironies that has long plagued Nigeria’s resource rich Niger Delta have now been resolved or that the struggle for which Isaac Adaka Boro, Dappa Biriye, Ken Saro Wiwa lived and died for has now being actualized in the Jonathan Presidency and I got a casual reply “it is bad habit for an African to talk nineteen to the dozen while eating”.
The news that the resource control Amazon of the Niger Delta, Ankio Briggs and a few others had met recently in the Garden City under the auspices of Lower Niger Congress to call for secession on the grouse that the Nigerian nation is “unjust and fake” because President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has lost an election did not strike me much as “breaking news” until I watched the YouTube clips of the August event and saw that the actual people who filled the Atlantic Hall of Hotel Presidential, applauded and echoed while she delivered her oratory were the same faces described in the grim Niger Delta imagery, the deprived and down trodden. It is the same “our people” ‘whose sorry pictures’ were used to galvanize sympathy and solidarity around the world in support of giving the goose its rightful share of the golden eggs which eventually culminated in the historic emergence of Niger Delta born Nigerian president. Unfortunately, these “our people” who never got a chance to partake in the crumbs falling from the petro dollar festivities of Aso Rock Villa in the last six years are again been exploited with sensationalism as mummified activism gathers sinews and breath on the eve of bringing down the curtains of what was supposed to be a golden era in the history of the Niger Delta struggle.
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Now that the banquet is winding down and culturally permissive conditions for talking may soon become obtainable for guests and host of the six year long ‘Aso feast’, Ankio Briggs, the Lower Niger Congress and several other encysted campaigners are now finding time to look up and away from their royal banquets to realise that the sun is yet to rise over the Delta. Ankio Briggs’ bid to inspire a renascence of the Niger Delta struggle now is suspect, ill timed and raises questions. If President Jonathan had not lost the elections would Ankio Briggs and the Lower Niger Congress have remembered to call for secession from an “unjust and fake” Nigerian Nation?
The sudden call for secession which is unequivocally and unpretentiously hinged on the electoral misfortune of one single individual indicates that the so called Niger Delta struggled has been redefined to exclude such things that would be for the greater good of the greater number of Niger Deltans. The new definition does not include improving the living standard of the farmer whose land has become barren from oil exploration activities, nor the army of unemployed youths, many of whom have acquired formal and informal training. Little wonder the kick-starting of NLNG train 7 was never a serious issue in their six years of festivities. The new definition beclouded the understanding of our resurrected champions from seeing the exigency of passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill as a structural way of addressing the age long grievances of the region. Major Boro would ask for a second death if he were to resurrect to find out that those upon whose shoulder providence had placed the responsibility of using the instruments of state to correct the age long injustices meted out against the people he lived and died for, had chosen to exchange a life time opportunity of rewriting the destiny of an oppressed people with some personal political ambition called ‘SECOND TENURE’. The new Niger delta struggle represents the interest of a numerically small but powerful cabal whose structural relations with the rest of the region can best be described as replacing the role of the Nigerian state as an internal colonialist.
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In the prevailing scenario were the interest of the impoverished, ecologically endangered and socio-economically deprived people of the Niger Delta has been replaced with the political and economic aspirations of the small but powerful group of persons who must have their way or hell is let lose, it is obvious that Anki Briggs’ new found secession agenda provides the poor and vulnerable Niger Deltan with the double tragedy of never benefiting but ever bearing the brunt of power play as the cabal gets ready to blackmail the Nigerian state into protecting its estate and interests.
As usual, Ankio Briggs tells us her new activism would be violent free, however we all know that owing to the volatile nature of the region, it would be easier for her to set the ball rolling than to control the direct and indirect outcomes . If the Niger Delta were to snow ball again into another orgy of violence, the major losers would not be those whose children are acquiring solid education in the best schools around the world but the same poor and deprived rural dwellers whose sons and daughters are susceptible to the brainwashing with passionate speeches by those who seek to recruit them again as non profit mercenaries to the Niger Delta clique whose threat of returning to the creek may have been triggered by a spontaneous apprehension that the many onshore and offshore acquisitions and privileges which their six year exclusive access to Nigeria’s power house had provided them would be threatened in the new scheme of things.
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