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Osuagwu: There cannot be peace without justice


Acting President Yemi Osinbajo being received by Rivers State monarchs at the Port Harcourt International Airport in continuation of Federal Government’s dialogue with Niger Delta people…

Dr Ndubisi Osuagwu is a Senior Lecturer with the Department of English, University of Calabar. In this interview with ANIETIE AKPAN, he spoke on the impact of the Acting President’s visit to Niger Delta states and what to do to ensure permanent peace.

Can the government be trusted to deliver on its promises to the people of Niger Delta following the Acting President’s recent visit?
It depends on which government you are talking about. Is it the government of the Acting President or the government of President Muhammadu Buhari? You see, there are several factors to be considered. One, if it is the government of Buhari that is making the promises and with Buhari as the person driving the implementation directly, I will take that with a large dose of salt, but not just a pinch of salt, because it has taken him so long to deliver on promises he made during the campaigns. Rather than delivering in some circumstances, the situation has become worse and Nigerians have become poorer, rather than richer, and it is getting to a point where Nigerians are cynically saying, please dump the war against corruption and bring back corruption.

That kind of comment means, give us evil over good, that the good you are trying to do for us, stop it, just give us back our evil.  Then there is a problem. So, a man at the helm of affairs that elicits this kind of discussion or promises for the region, trusting him, I have a little problem. It is not that he cannot be trusted, he may be trust worthy, but the signs are rather driving those who will wish to trust him into some kind of wait and see. So, for now, my trust will need to be earned, the trust of Nigerians will need to be earned. That is my attitude to it. But then, if it is the matter of a promise made by the Buhari presidency being driven by the Acting President now, I will say that we have seen what has just happened to the relationship between the dollar and the naira in just a few weeks that he has listened to the complaints of the people and the Federal Executive Council under him intervened and got the Central Bank of Nigeria to do something and we have seen some improvement there. That, for me, if he is the one making the promise and he is the one going to drive the implementation, whether when president Buhari comes back and say to him go ahead and drive it, I will then have some reasons to trust. In other words, yes, he will be trust worthy and the government could be trusted, but it will be conditional.

How do you think this peace deal will help douse the agitation in the region, even though no dialogue yet?
I think if there is sincerity of purpose things can work out well. In every leadership, there is a period we call the honeymoon period. It seems to me the people may want to push aside whatever experience they have had dealing with Buhari and say now that this man is in charge, even if it is in acting capacity, let us give him a little chance and believe that something may happen. In other words, there is ample room of trust and if there is sincerity of purpose on the side of government, I believe that at the end of the day something good will come. That is if the promise being made by government through him is driven to full implementation, I don’t see why we will not finally see peace and development in the Niger Delta and Nigeria.

On dialogue, this so far has not really taken off, what is your take on it?
That is the point I am making. He has made the promises and if he follows up with plans on ground that have not been implemented, including the dialogue, things will change for good. There is nowhere you can make peace without dialogue. Even if you go into war, all wars are resolved at the dialogue table, so why do we not go straight into the dialogue without waiting until we fully fight the war?  I want to believe that if the promises he has made are fused with sincerity of purpose, which of course will include the dialogue as a central point to the entire process, then I don’t see why we will not achieve peace.

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