EKIYOR: Militants May Re-Group If Niger Delta People Are Marginalised
Dr. Chris Ekiyor is former President of Ijaw Youth Council and currently, Delta State Commissioner of Commerce and Industry. In this interview with HENDRIX OLIOMOGBE, he gives reasons why the resource rich, but impoverished people of Niger Delta will go to their old militant ways should the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, decide to shortchange them.
Fallout Of The Election NIGERIANS craved for change, but you can see that the voting has divided us into two sections: South-South, South East and then the rest. Even the South West is divided.
Now, you will see a North and South dichotomy again. I believe in a pan Nigerian where our voting should not reflect our tribe and religion. I would have love to see a Buhari being voted for by South-South people because they believe in him or a Jonathan being voted for by Kano people because they believe in him; but we all voted for Jonathan because he is from the South and Buhari because he is from the North.
That is how our country has been since 1960, polarised, which also breeds divisibility. Those states that the PDP is controlling must show classical leadership.
They must demonstrate so by delivering the dividends of democracy, being transparent, opened and managing scarce resources to reflect the party.
Why Jonathan Lost The outcome of the 2015 election was not unexpected. It may come to some people as a surprise, but not to me, because I saw a lot of disconnect within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as we proceeded towards the election.
There were a lot of back stabbing, wound dressings at the highest level of the party to pretend that it was well. A lot of betrayals also, so when those betrayals got to the peak, so many of the party’s faithful left.
It took only the very strong character members to stay on course, because those who have perpetually kept themselves in power wanted to create a scenario of power control.
In doing that, they told themselves a lot of lies. The party was fragmented and disunited. This level of falsehood got to the highest level even to the Presidency, where very respected aides of Mr. President shut down the doors to reality and kept the president from information whereas, the reality on the ground was different.
Take for instance, the Transformation Agenda of Nigeria (TAN); any sane human being will know that whatever TAN was doing, was not based on reality. When they go to the regions, they go and put on paper that they have mobilised people, up to seven million registered people, it comes to question, if those members were registered members to vote for PDP or they were just members being hired for a dance party.
Another sector is the kind of advice that started showing up in the campaigns. It was more of digital social media-based campaign adverts than grassroots politicking. Unfortunately, majority of the members in the cabinet are not grassroots politicians.
They are technocrats doing their jobs, but also wanted to be part of the mobilisation of people, which they did not have the capacity to do. For instance, I do not know how many persons the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, will mobilise in Delta State to win an election.
That goes to so many of his cabinet members. In an election year, you need to see many things change if you want to win but we didn’t see those changes.
In fact, if the election had held on February 14, the casualties would have been more. It took the President the last minute to realise this and address it desperately.
That was why the winning margin was less than three million. We could have a wide gap. Painful as it may, the truth is that we have been in government for sixteen years and as a party, we must be ready to play the role of a strategic opposition very different from what the All Progressives Congress (APC) was doing.
The APC criticised angrily, possibly because they had not been in the centre. Our party was in the centre for 16 years, and so, we knew what was possible and not.
I expect that the party should get back together, re-engineer its structures, inject in a lot of young and energetic people, strategic thinkers. This sit tight old men should provide leadership from the rear, the same way the Tinubus are doing in their own parties, provide the necessary financial muscles, look for the best hands to drive the process, open up all the vents in the party to take advice even from the common man.
What does it take to win an election? You probably need 774 foot soldiers, one per local council, somebody, who is fully in charge of his council and has the grassroots support.
He may not necessarily be the oldest man or the loudest name or the richest man but someone, who is a strategic thinker. For instance, if you want Patani Local Council of Delta State to be delivered, there are a couple of us. If you have a Chris Ekiyor on your side, the chances are that you are likely to win the council in any election.
I know that in any local council, there is one or two of such persons that if you hold down, can deliver the council. If you have a Basil Ganagana and Pius Senebe in Patani, they will mobilise the other people.
There is always another person in any council that you know that if you work with over the period, you can be rest assured that the real number will come out to vote because the people believe in them.
It is not just holding Chris Ekiyor alone that matters; there is the issue of faithful who believe in your ways in the whole of the Niger Delta. Your leadership style matters.
So if you go out and say this is where we need to go, people follow you but what we saw were more of sycophants and mediocre who were privileged to have access to government claiming to be able to deliver. They lost woefully. Some lost their units; some lost their local councils. Some even lost their entire states.
Two things caused that. People were even tired about the way leaders have managed the process greedily in the past. Your friend becomes an appointee of Mr. President; he suddenly stops becoming your friend. He creates walls of defence as if he himself is the President and then talks to the press without recourse to how the people feel.
So, most of them made enemies for the President, who obviously is a good man with good intentions to serve the country without fear or favour.
Jonathan Defeat, A Big Loss To South South For those of us in the South-South, it is a big loss. We slaved and supported the President to ensure that we placated our Northern brothers.
Majority of the infrastructural projects that the Jonathan administration executed in the last few years such as, schools and roads were concentrated in the North, as a way of ensuring that the North had a sense of belonging.
For me, it is saddening, because it looked, as if we traded original struggle of under development, impoverishment and environmental degradation of the Niger Delta for political power.
Some of us found it very difficult to criticise our own brother. Not that we couldn’t, but we also wanted to be sure that he was focusing on the larger country. We didn’t want people to misconstrue our criticisms or complaint of him not doing enough in the zone to mean that he is a Niger Delta President. A lot of challenges are still there.
The UNEP report has not been implemented fully; the environmental cleaning of the Niger Delta has not been done. The same things, which we complained of, apart from militancy, which was resolved, are still there. So, it is not enough for anybody to say that Jonathan spent his time developing the South South or South East.
He was trying to be a pan Nigerian, doing things more for the Middle Belt, the South East, the South West and the North at the expense of his own South South.
There is a Federal Government airport in Bayelsa, where nothing has been done. Bugaje Is Wrong, Oil Belongs To Niger Delta People Bugaje’s assertion is madness in its entire ramification.
In all the climes, aborigines are owners of those places. It is because of the useless Land Use Act, which says that government can sit down in one place and then claim to own all the things that they want to own. Go to Texas, Dubai, all over the world where there is oil, the inhabitants are the owners of the oil there.
I am eve more miffed when people think that Nigeria is all about oil. What happens to all the solid minerals like gold, iron ore, zinc in all the 19 states in the North? Militants May Re-Group If Niger Delta People Are Marginalised I know what it took most of us to persuade the militants to lay down arms.
It took us a lot to persuade them to accept the amnesty. Should Buhari decide to punish the South South people for not voting for him, I am afraid that the boys may resort to violence once more.
PDP Must Stay Focused And Lead By Example Looking back, we have to grapple with what we have created for ourselves. What is more important is that as a party, we must stay focused and begin to brace up as an opposition and do what is right to get back power as soon as possible. It may be in four years, eight years but we have to work towards it and show to Nigerians that we have what it takes to be better in power than those people who are now coming in.
As it is now, a lot of things will be skewed very differently from a democratic structure. Why Buhari May Fail The incoming government has promised a lot of things that we in government know are impossible to fulfill. In trying to do those things, we must begin to ask ourselves, how possible it is to do those things. You don’t say you’ll do things without checking the commensurate and concurrent in flow of finances.
For instance, we heard that they want to feed people free. He says he wants to create three million jobs annually. It is almost an impossible task when the industrial sector is almost comatose. The government from the councils to the states and federal can no longer employ because the civil service is over bloated. Every government, parastatal, ministries, department have those kind of people who just sit down on their chairs, doing nothing.
They don’t have any assignment, schedule and you are asking that same government to still employ more people. The private sector drives the economy. The government provides power, roads, rail line and other infrastructure to attract investors, which was what Jonathan was doing.