by Ini Morgan
In the light of the very mistake the federal government made in designing the Presidential Amnesty Program as an allowance-paying program to massage the egos of redundant, non productive but very volatile and rascally youths in the Niger Delta region, I strongly condemn the present administration’s policy of paying unemployed youths and post National Youths Corps graduates “unemployment allowances”. This will sustain and encourage unproductivity. It is one thing for government to seek ways to make life tolerable and bearable for the unemployed, but the government must view unemployment from its two sides. Unemployment is literally unproductivity. Employment is engagement for productivity. In dealing with unemployment, the federal government must tackle the unproductive face of unemployment and not apply cosmetics to it by issuing the wages for productivity to the unproductive. Wages are paid for productive inputs and not for redundancy.
Doing this can only achieve the temporary easing of the pangs of poverty, meeting the scarce needs of these youths, but the ultimate goal of emancipating their minds and recreating them by the reorientation and the re-engagement of their mental capabilities and capacities for the good of all, would not be attained. More than putting money in their pockets, government must, of essence, engage the minds of these youths, because that is where our whole social problems lie – in the idle minds of our youths.
No where in the whole world are youths reformed by government welfare bailouts, nor has these bailouts been able to deal with the problems of unproductivity, but it invigorates irresponsibility, making beneficiaries see such bailouts as “our money”, “our oil”; how does a person own the money he did not earn or control the resource he did not prospect? Like I said earlier, the policy under reference can put money in the pockets of a good number of them but their unproductive lives remain the major threat to the development of these youths and the communities in which they live. In the drive to institute a solid framework for youths development, employment generation and job creation, the issue of youths productivity should be the primary, secondary and tertiary targets for poverty alleviation.
It is therefore my earnest desire to showcase how the Buhari administration would be making a big mistake by paying One Naira to unproductive youths. Rather, if the administration ploughs in the N5,000 x 25 million youths/month x 12 months, about N1.5trn into revisiting our moribund industrial sector, especially the textile and confectionery factories in the North, the cement and other factories like the oil palm mills in the East, and the many other wealth generating industrial concerns in the West; as it was in the pre-independence era when government raised its revenues from every locality in the country, it would ensure urban to rural migration. The failure of government to continue with economic and social connection and activities in our local areas led to rural to urban migration and the social problems we are enduring in our urban centres, which are youths related.
A policy of government deliberately touching the local areas, like the powering of “national centres”, at every equivalent of our electoral polling units nationwide, will provide the avenues for our youths to be employed, making them productive, and earning wages. This way the wheel of our economy will be steered by the processes of production, because this is what Nigeria lacks – the capacity to be productive. We are a bunch of seeming irredeemable lazy consumers. Instead of pursuing contentment as a virtue, we feed the monger, hoard money. Stacking of currencies by politicians is like cutting blood supply to certain vital fluid regions of the body of our economy. It paralyses that sector completely.
It is a pity that some Nigerians thrive in ensuring that Nigeria remains a malnourished and neglected cow, milked dried by herders who are responsible for her charge. It is necessary for Nigerians to understand that unless we tend and grow what is ours, we will never have what is simply ours. We will continue to pay for what others tend and grow for themselves at all times – this is a continuous borrowing. In fact the cost of this silliness is at all times far more than it would cost to have our own. This is why I am using this opportunity to demand the banning of the “the importation of our stupidity” – the importation of kitchen accessories like matches, and the importation of dining table accessories like toothpicks.
These importation are condemnable; they are like expatriates imported to supervise road and building constructions in our country. It is a pity that we are a nation that can do nothing by ourselves but eat up our bestowals, not minding what tomorrow holds. Our bestowals are for us to profit withal. This government has not, as yet, indicated the direction of it’s national investments. Nigeria needs to invest in international stocks. Nigeria should look for foreign companies seeking recapitalisation and buy into their stocks. This is for posterity. I am sure if Yakubu Gowon knew this, he would not have made his infamous comment that “Nigeria’s problem is not money, but how to spend it“. Today, Nigeria’s problem is money and an imminent economic meltdown. Unfortunately, Yakubu Gowon is the kind of leader some Nigerians are projecting as role models to challenge our youths today – it is quite unfortunate. So what if Yakubu Gowon was 37 when he was Head of State….what legacies of his has endured in operational terms today? Rubbish!
Coming now to the resurgence of militant violence in the Niger Delta region, I need, first of all, to remind those who are behind the recent bombing of the Gbaramatu flow lines that the world watched while those who foreran their militant cause went into an agreement with the Nigerian government, leading to their dropping of arms and their ceasing from all militant violence in the Niger Delta region, embracing a presidential amnesty in return, 6 years ago. It is said that “you cannot eat up your cake and still have it”. It is reported that the present agitators claim their names were not captured in the initial documentation for amnesty consideration, and they have now taken up arms to resume the attacks of the economic installations of government. It does not matter to Nigerians, especially to those of us, legitimate inhabitants of the Niger Delta region, which they continuously claim as theirs, whether or not names were omitted. Their forerunners have shown us how their agitation is about their belly, ego and personal investments. We will not sponsor nor support these childish greed any more, as we did their forerunners, unless they deploy every Kobo they have pursed to the development of the region for which they so terrorised us. Sadly, they converted our heads into their dinning tables.
Let nobody take pride in projecting Government Ekpemupolo’s threat and warning to President Buhari to stare clear of the Niger Delta region. I am sure those words were put in his mouth because I would not believe that he is ignorant to understand how President Buhari’s mandate gives him unhindered powers to chiefly and militarily command Nigeria’s internal affairs throughout her sovereign borders. President Buhari is legally empowered by law to confront, deform and degrade any internal resistance, and his soldiers are in barracks located in every nook and cranny of Nigeria. The powers that Asari Dokubo and “Tompolo” urged on Jonathan to use when he was president now resides with President Buhari, and unlike Jonathan, Buhari is a veteran war strategist. This must be noted, not minding our democratic advance. The president’s legal powers include that of dealing decisively with “reasonably suspected criminal”.
I am not saying that those agitating to be considered for the amnesty program have no genuine demands to make, but it must be clear how their approach to these demands is deplorable, despicable, arrogant and kindergarten. In the face of the amnesty program, the present acts of violence vacates the continuation of the amnesty program completely – all bombings of pipelines after the amnesty program commenced invalidates the continuation of the program, and this is where I hold the present administration responsible for being indifferent to this economic sabotage. It is no excuse that Mr Ekpemupolo distanced himself from the recent attack, he should be held to produce those who did it – every militant group has a command structure. No group outside the Gbaramatu group would operate in Tompolo’s sector except the disgruntled members of his group whom he knows. If the present agitators say they were not captured by the initial amnesty consideration, whose fault is that?
Militant leaders were identified and brought into dialogue with representatives of government, and an amnesty consideration was reached, part of which was an arrangement for the federal government to pay for arms and ammunitions mopped up from the militants, and allowances paid to them for upkeep. If arms were mopped up and paid for, from where did the arms currently in use come from – it means funds from the amnesty payment were deployed to restock their armouries. For how long would government continue to feed these deceptions? Names of the militant-beneficiaries of this program were submitted by their leaders to the Presidential Amnesty Office, created to vacate the Amnesty Program. If names of authentic beneficiaries were omitted, who should be held responsible for this omission, and why did the present agitators wait until it is almost 6 years since the commencement of the program and at a time when the program is rounding up? Something is definitely fishy about the current stupidity in the Niger Delta region.
I will brotherly advice the present trouble shooters that they should “let sleeping dogs lie”. We, who suffered the pains of militancy in the Niger Delta region, saw the death of our brothers and sisters in the hands of those who call themselves after us, and their resultant pursing of all monetary benefits by these blood letters, and we will never support another ambush, which intends to continue the using of our heads as dining tables for rascally unproductive youths.
We also deserve and have the rights to the wealth in the region. We do not have to bear arms against the State to get food on our tables – we find work to earn from it. The idea of providing financial welfare for criminals and unproductive youths is just outright nonsense. Otherwise why has government not also embrace the call for amnesty consideration for, and allowance allocation to kidnappers as suggested by Mr Mike Ozekhome (SAN) some years back? Then, we can accept that we run a government that rewards criminals and muzzle law abiding citizens – this is the picture depicted so far. Young men and women now seek how to form militant groups in the Niger Delta to escape poverty. This is how much we have ignorantly descended into anarchy unawares. The Amnesty Program must be seen as the scam that it is. The story of this amnesty nonsense will clarify this.
Apart from the awareness and the 12-day long struggle to excise the Delta region from the Nigerian federation in 1966, created and led by Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro, an Ijaw who was an officer of the Nigerian Army charged with the Eastern wing during the Nigerian civil war; and the next prominent clamour for self determination in the Niger Delta region anchored by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), formed in 1990 under the leadership of the renown playwright and scholar, Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa. MOSOP pursued a non violent but intellectual resistant agenda to expose the lies and falsehood of the federal government and their Dutch Shell collaborator, operating in Ogoniland, bringing the economic rape of his people by these buccaneers to international reckoning. Unfortunately for both struggles, they happened under draconian regimes, and these forerunners of the Niger Delta struggle were all murdered in cold blood, simmering the struggle for self determination until the present democratic dispensation.
Pursuant to the effort of Isaac Adaka Boro and the judicial abuse suffered by the “Ogoni 9”, Ijaw youths gathered at Kaiama in December of 1998, around when the first and last Local Government elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held, on December 5 1998. At this meeting, Ijaw youths, in a Bill of Rights, agreed to adopt a non violent demand for resource control, a suggestion promoted by the late Dr. Oronto Douglas against Alhaji Mujaheed Asari Dokubo’s suggestion of armed struggle against the Nigerian State – this was commendable. All these happened as a prerequisite, to prepare the Ijaw nation to exploit the incoming democratic dispensation that was inaugurated in May 1999 with Olusegun Obasanjo as President, and demand attention to their cause. From the word go, democratic forums were created and alignments were made. Those of elected governors is what is now in view. Apart from the Nigerian Governors Forum, there were the Southern Nigeria Governors Forum, the Northern Nigeria Governors Forum and the South South Governors Forum. The Southern Nigeria Governors Forum and the South South Governors Forum had a focussed pursuit that demanded that the federal government handed over the control of resources to the regions producing them.
Their voices were strong and loud for resource control and Chief Obasanjo, in reacting to this agitation by all southern governors: authentic representatives of Southern Nigeria, negotiated the presidency with one of the South South governors and made him a fifth columnist among his colleagues. This was how Chief Obasanjo had first hand information and tapes recorded from meetings of either the South South Governors Forum or that of the Southern Governors Forum. With these information handy, Obasanjo truncated the advance that was initial made in favour of resource control and initiated the capitulation of both forums. As we stand today, only the Northern Nigeria Governors Forum and South East Governors Forum, a later entrant into forums, are still standing strong; with a comatose Nigerian Governors Forum at the background.
This marked the beginning of the operation of “Obasanjo magic” in his democratic governance of Nigeria – he invaded the West and rode rough over everyone, bringing Bola Ige down. There were major fallouts from this: first was the complete and immediate collapse of both southern (governors) forums and the polarisation of the cordial relationship between the then “golden governor” and his brother-governor “the governor-general of Ijaw nation”. This quarrel among two brother-governors was the actual cause of the initial ramblings that culminated in the “Niger Delta militancy”. No more, no less.
In the course of his political “maradonic” maneuvers in 1990, Ibrahim Babangida classified politicians into old and new breeds, and placed ban on the “old breed”, preventing them from participating in the politics of the “third republic”. This threw politicians who were virtual in their earlier political participations up, especially, in the politics of the first and second republics, to occupy the political space created during the third republic. At the commencement of the “fourth republic”, some novel electioneering strategy was introduced into our polity: initially political thugs were sponsored by political parties and not individual politicians; but as the battle for political space and relevance intensified at the approach of the fourth republic, the struggle for political prominence between the new and old breeds led to the “new breed” politicians recruiting legions of rascally youths as thugs who intimidated the old breed out of reckoning, providing the leeway for the present political occupation we have experienced for 16 years – Ibrahim Babangida’s set of new breeds turned out to become vicious political beasts.
Added to this was his liberalisation of the petroleum downstream lines, the licencing of independent petroleum marketers, and the expansion of the frontiers for oil bunkering in the country. The big names amongst the militants today were recruitment agents for leaders engaged in this economic sabotage, until they, the militants, could mechanised their own operations in their backyards and produce their own fuel. This was how the sabotage of the politics of the fourth republic and our elections were sponsored this past 16 years. Thank God for Attahiru Jega and his card reading devices.
The quarrel between our two brother-governors led to the division in the ranks of their personal “armies”, which initially were collaborative. This led to the the war that raged between the creeks of Okrika and that of Buguma, both in Rivers State. Two prominent militant forces emerged: the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, which supported the course of the “Governor-General of the Ijaw nation” against Obasanjo, and the Niger Delta Peoples Vigilante Force, which supported the course of the “Golden Governor” on the side of Obasanjo: this was the reason for Asari Dokubo’s many prison experiences and later Henry Okah, a robust sponsor of Ijaw cause – standing with DSP Alamiesiegha. The infighting between these two “forces” led to the crippling of governance particularly in Rivers States, until the “Golden Governor” asked Chief Obasanjo to wade into the crisis. This was how a truce was brokered between Asari Dokubo and Ateke Tom in Aso Rock villa, clearing the way for the manhunt and the disgraceful exit of the late DSP Alamiesiegha as Governor of Bayelsa State.
Though no communiqué was issued to indicate the conditions of that truce, it was clear that the “Ijaw presidency” was prominent on the list of demands and the possible introduction of the “Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta” (MEND) to bring together all emerging militant interests in the Niger Delta to press for the demand for the implementation of issues agreed upon with Obasanjo. In my opinion, Chief Obasanjo is the Chief promoter of the cause of MEND in the Niger Delta to pressurize the Yar’Adua presidency. At the twilight of the Obasanjo administration, and at a time a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) lost his bid to govern Bayelsa State, when his political relevance was waning, militant activities intensified in a way that made him draw up a proposal for an Amnesty Program, which was approved and he became the pioneer Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs and Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Program. This was how we got to where we are now.
They told us that they were killing our brothers and sister to call the attention of government to the degradation and neglect of the Niger Delta region, but at the end of 6 years of the implementation of the Amnesty Program, none of the youths on this program has a reformed mind, because if they do, and look back to the harm they caused us, the arms they voluntarily submitted, and all the pecuniary benefits they have enjoyed, it behoves that they should not think that other Nigerians, especially those of us in the Niger Delta, are fools. We are only long suffering.
It is therefore upon this fact that I sincerely call on President Buhari to, as a matter of national importance, review activities of the Presidential Amnesty Program, as he is presently doing with the Office of the National Security Adviser. Another committee should be set up to investigate what led to the escalation of militant activities during the Yar’Adua administration and what understanding Chief Obasanjo reached with the militants leadets he addressed in 2006. An African adage says “if you remove lice from the skin of a dog, show it, lest it thinks you pinched it“. The lists and financial remittances to each militant-beneficiary of the amnesty program should be published in all prominent news media globally. This is the only way the government can deal with the present rascality.
By the time the boys they led see how much their leaders have helped themselves with and the business interests they have accumulated, in the face of the deplorable state of our region, the targets for their bombs will change and government will know some peace. Its not all wars that are fought with weapons, this one is a psychological warfare – the leadership of the Niger Delta militants have soiled hands, they can longer sign on white sheets of paper because they will stain it.
Finally, I repeat, that it is not a good policy of government to finance the unproductiveness of youths, it will turn around to be a Frankenstein monster for the government…it will come back again and again until it consumes the government, like dealing with the present resurgence in militant activities in the creeks of the Delta region. The Hausas say “munafunci dodo, ya kan ci me shi”: the mischief of a ‘wild beast’ is in the fact that it can eat up its owner'”. This is what Nigeria is currently facing. Just like corruption, there are so many things that are positioned to kill Nigeria and unless President Buhari kills them, we are still in trouble even after corruption has been killed.
The Presidential Amnesty Office should be investigated as matter of urgency. and the program reviewed to touch, not the pockets of a few, but the environment and vegetation of the region, beginning with all pending environmental clean ups. President Buhari and his team must realise that their honeymoon with Nigerians is over and this is time to dig deep into governance. I will begin to attack this scratching of the surface of his mandate instead of facing the “koko of the Change agenda’. All nonsense must stop NOW! Nigerians are suffering, enough of “divide and chop”, it separates us continually.
Major Isaac Jasper Adaka Boro