Nwaokobia: Government too lethargic to terms of NDA ceasefire
Chris Mustapha Nwaokobia Jnr is the Convener, Countryfirst Movement, and Director General, Change Ambassadors of Nigeria (CAN). In this interview with ENO-ABASI SUNDAY, he wants government to act swiftly in addressing the present threat by the Niger Delta Avengers, as the nation cannot afford another spate of violence or destruction of oil installations.
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) have threatened to resume bombing after they suspended the ceasefire they had with the Federal Government. Should they be taken serious by the Federal Government?
The Federal Government cannot but attend seriously, and with some sense of urgency to the present threat by the Niger Delta Avengers, knowing that the nation cannot afford another spate of violence in the Niger Delta space. ‘Operation Red Economy’ will do no one any good, particularly now that it is believed that our nation has exited recession. ‘Operation Show No Mercy’ will not only return the nation to recession, but drastically diminish every effort at repositioning the nation and meeting the concomitant challenge of infrastructural development and growth.
The NDA says its decision to begin what it described as “Operation Show No Mercy” is as a result of the government’s failure to honour its promises to the people of the area. How justified are they to resort to destruction of oil installations?
There is to me no justification for violence, but oftentimes this position is lampooned by the preponderant number, who insist that in the face of persistent unwillingness of government to live true to the terms of agreed programmatic, you leave the people with no choice but brigandage, banditry and bellicosity. However, I believe that it is more profitable to jaw-jaw than to war-war. So I say without an ounce of equivocation that any attempt to resort to the destruction of oil installations is reprehensible and condemnable.
Has the government over the years truly given the people, especially the youths of Niger Delta the reason to stay quiet, while the government exploits the resources in their domain for the good of every one in the country?
The government, here I mean both past and present, have treated the Niger Delta with inexplicable levity, it has been consistently a case of propaganda and platitudes over performance and proactive action. You cannot explore and exploit the space and give little back to the place from where the resources that sustain the country comes from. It is befuddling and bewildering to observe how abandoned the Niger Delta region is. Sadly, rather than turn that region into a huge construction site, successive governments have traded off the call for development with a culture of handouts and stipends to a few restive Youths, ala the present amnesty regime, thus fueling the general disquiet that stems from infrastructural deficiency and want.
Many accuse government of always being reactive instead of proactive on matters involving the Niger Delta. They are quick to point at the delayed commencement of the cleanup of Ogoni Land, and delayed take-off of the Maritime University, Okorenkoko, as issues that cannot be logically explained. Do issues like these help in worsening matters?
I align with the position that government is pretty slow, lethargic and reactive regarding the terms of the ceasefire reached with the leaders of the Niger Delta. I cannot conjecture the whys of the delay in the take-off of the Maritime University in Okorenkoko, and the very slow pace of the cleanup of Ogoni Land. I cannot conjecture the whys of the dearth of effective governmental presence in terms of infrastructure in the Niger Delta, despite the humongous funding of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Niger Delta Ministry. And I cannot conjecture the whys of the unwillingness of government to hem in those, who have consistently embezzled and looted the resources meant for the development of that space. So, government is culpable, and hugely reactive rather than proactive in attending the concerns of the goose that lays the golden egg.
The flora and fauna of the region, would definitely be negatively impacted once hostilities begin. Won’t this amount to cutting off one’s nose to spite the face?
Yes, the flora and the fauna of the space will be negatively impacted. Yes, the health and the lives of the inhabitants of the space will be badly affected. Yes, the outbreak of hostilities will deal colossal damage to the people and their means of livelihood. And yes, violence and armed conflict is an ill-wind that blows no good. So, it is arcane, recondite and esoteric to say that, it amounts to cutting off one’s nose to spite the face. But do the militants really care? Do not forget how a famous American criminologist put it, ‘the society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it’, the criminal is almost always oblivious of the deeper impact of his criminality, so government must do everything necessary and needful to avoid and avert any break down of law and order in the region.
Youths of the area are alleging that the Federal Government is doing more of propaganda than truly trying to salvage the situation, now that they don’t appear to be listening to their elders again, what immediate steps must government take to still the storm?
The time is for government to walk the talk. The time is for performance above propaganda. The time is for government to turn the Niger Delta space into a huge construction site and obviate the frequency of agitation predicated on the seeming unseriousness of government to live true to what it says on paper. And the time is for government to show good faith by promptly, effectively and expeditiously funding the take-off of the Maritime University, the Ogoni cleanup, and allied infrastructural projects in that space, only such can still the youths, and make them heed the call of the elders to keep the peace.
With a fragile economy at hand, and thinning oil revenue, how will resumed hostilities affect the implementation of 2018 budget, especially in the face of a very poorly implemented 2017 budget, which has left the country on tenterhooks?
Until we are successful at diversifying our economy and deepening the non-oil sector, should the present restiveness snowball into the resumption of hostilities, you do not need a clairvoyant to make valid conclusions on the negative impact on the economy, and the damage it holds for the effective implementation of the budget, particularly now that we yet have huge challenge in the execution of the 2017 budget, I imagine therefore that your guess about the foul omen it holds for the 2018 budget is as good as mine.