The shifting sands of illusion
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu’s statement at the “groundbreaking” of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Park in Ogbia in Bayelsa State, bears the hallmark of the servitude, and opportunism that characterizes the so-called leaders from the Niger Delta region, which continues to fuel the disillusionment and disdain which the people of the Niger Delta feel for and towards them.
Saying that the only means of economic freedom and “over-dependence on the centre for monthly allocations” for the oppressed people of the Niger Delta lies in the development of the region is a paradox, one that should not in any way be propounded by him. The Niger Delta region and its people have subsidized, and continue to subsidize the entire peoples and groups that makeup Nigeria since 1958. All these at the expense of their near; political, economic, environmental and bare physical extinction in no small way.
It is intellectually criminal, and deceitful, to now, hereby, propagate an empty economic freedom theory, to a people whose major source of economic activity—fishing and farming—has been rendered near impossible to engage in successfully. In great part caused by an overbearing and colonial-like resource grab going on on their land, by the same centre, for which, in return, a paltry 13% of the profit is given back. A 13% not even capable of ensuring that the roads leading to the extraction plants are in good condition.
The Minister went on to “urge the governors to emulate Lagos State.” Claiming that they have the “opportunity and human resource” to develop. The human resource we have, but the opportunities we do not, in its entirety. Same Lagos State with the operational headquarters of Mobil. Same Mobil which mines no single barrel of oil from Lagos, but mines almost all its oil from Akwa Ibom State. Up until today, the many unemployed young graduates in Eket and Ibeno from where Mobil survives in Nigeria continue to agitate for Mobil to bring its headquarters to Akwa Ibom, so they can have opportunities to make something good out of their lives.
But till today, that has not happened. Instead Mobil continues to mine oil from Ibeno and Eket, destroying their air with hydrocarbons from its numerous flares, destroying their sources of water and farmland with its numerous spills, while graduates in Lagos and surrounding states strut around its gigantic headquarters with jobs that should fairly and justly be in Akwa Ibom, for Akwa Ibom people. I believe the Minister is unaware that Akwa Ibom state is in the top three of Nigerian sates when it comes to unemployment/underemployment as statistics have shown, led and followed by Rivers State and Bayelsa State respectively.
That the country is fundamentally, and specifically skewed to suppress the Niger Delta region and hinder its development is very visible. It is visible in the fact that the only functioning port in the country remains in Lagos by the constitution, turning the probable viable ports in the various Delta states into cement depot for Dangote.
It can be seen from the hundreds of megawatts of electricity which between 1999 to 2007 was built by Governors in the various Niger Delta states for their people, but had to be handed over to the Federal Government for “sharing.” Today the people the Niger Delta at large do not have stable power, except those brought about by the gas flares turning the sky of many Delta communities forever day. So in what way does the Minister want the Niger Delta to emulate Lagos?
“Warning” youths of the community against destroying facilities of the various “ingenious financial projects put in place by the government” such as Egina, Zabazaba, Gbonga South, and others goes a very long way in faulting his claims that they would provide “3000 jobs” for the youths. Again I ask, if the young people of these communities will benefit from the jobs and the “positive impact” from these projects, would they need to be warned to not destroy them? Would the youths not protect something whose beneficial magnitude to them is large? The answer is visible, as is the subtle bullying contained in the message of the Minister.
The people of the Niger Delta will continue to push for, and fight for the control of their resources. The economic freedom of the Niger Delta people and the region, lies in the expeditious end of the over-dependence of the centre—the Federal Government—and by extension other states, on the resources of the Niger Delta region. The economic emancipation of the Niger Delta lies in the control and utilization of her resources for her development, in the ways with which its people deem fit. Kachikwus words at worst is a poor attempt at victim shaming the Niger Delta people, and at best an indigent ploy to pressurize the Niger Delta to accept the horrid condition and treatment it has endured for decades as a way of life; to compromise on and backpedal on its struggle for equity and fairness. Just like an infinite loop, the response to his subtlety remains a resounding NO.
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