When I set out to write a review of this weeks Nigerian blogs I had it in my mind that I would write on the invasion and bombing of towns and villages in Warri region of the Niger Delta. To be frank I expected to read Nigerians outraged by this attack on their fellow citizens by the Nigerian military especially since the Nigerian mainstream media has been uncritical. Unfortunately there wasnt as much as I had hoped and hope is all too important in the struggle against tyranny.
“chidi opara reportshas the most posts on the Niger Delta generally but one in particular stands out in which the writer claims that the PDP tried to recruit one of the top militant leaders Mr. Government Ekpumupolo aka Tom Polo. The whole story sounds very sinister with former disgraced Bayelsa State Governor of transvestite fame, Diepriye Alamesigha as the contact man. What the story does suggest is that there are communication channels between the militants, the oil companies and the Nigerian military which on some levels seems rather too friendly for purported enemies.
More sinister than the “chidi opara reports”story, is what we do know is happening in Delta State. Waffarian points out the truth that many of us have always known – “Nigerian is not one” and certainly the Niger Delta has always been at the extremities of Nigerian consciousness. Waffarian also points out that there are now refugees in Nigerian. Hmm excuse me but this is not new. There were / are refugees from various inter religious and ethnic clashes, attacks by the Nigerian military on other Niger Delta communities – Ogoni, Isoko, Ijaw to name a few. And of course Biafra which leads me to a post by Max Siollun’s Website on the Biafran war, a subject which I think needs to be discussed far more than it is. He describes it as a “no victor no vanquished where Biafran disabled soldiers still remain the forgotten victims of Nigeria’s gruesome past.
“Today our sun has risen; for the first time since 1970 when the war ended we are seeing members of the Nigeria Defence in a great number like this. Happily enough you have seen us you have seen where we are quartered; by our right is the leprosy colony, in our front is the Oji River General Hospital ; it mainly treats the leprosy patients.
As you can see, there is no government catering for us; we only live on charity. As you come here today, we and members of our family are rejoicing that at least, they’ll have something to eat. You represent the federal government and we know through you our message will get to the president.
Nigeria, What’s New points out the promise President Yar’Adua made to the UN Human Rights Council he would not attack the Delta communities because of the very real possibility of loss of innocent lives. Another untruth – well a bare faced lie actually. The military state has never considered loss of innocent lives. On the contrary by far the majority of lives lost over the past 20 years have been civilians.
As Grandiose Parlor points out not all Niger Deltans have been adversely affected by militarisation, at least not in a negative sense. He comments on the “Statue of Liberty” which graces the entrance to the palace of “Ogbeh-Gbarana III Aketekpe Agadagba Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Council of Delta State.” Has he spoken and what position is this traditional leader taking over the invasion of what is presumably his “domain”? In typical Nigerian fashion he has erected a “colonial” iconic statue juxtaposed against what is the last remnants of the past. I wonder where on earth the money came from to erect this hideous monstrosity. When I saw the photo I was reminded of the entrance to my Grandfathers compound in Abonnema – though that is completely dilapidated – but still a reminder of the glorious past of a once rich merchant of palm oil and grand chief of the town. 87 years since my fathers birth the compound like the rest of the town is still without electricity and running water – this is the truth of life amongst the oil wells of Nigeria.
To round up this brief review of the Niger Delta my thoughts are that instead of focusing on the militants lets look at the Nigerian Military State and try and discern a more truthful perspective. What is their record in the Niger Delta? Umuechem October/November 1990; Ilaje community in 1998 (the case against Chevron which took place in December last year); Oleh, Ozoro, and Olomoro towns in Isokoland in 1999; Ogoni between 1990 through to the judicial murder of the Ogoni 9 in November 1995; Kaiama and Odi towns in January and November 1999; the rape of women by soldiers in Choba (Ikwerre) in 1999; the attacks on communities in Delta state by the Nigerian military on behalf of Chevron in 2002.
These attacks took place before militants took up arms at least on the present scale. The rhetoric coming from the Nigerian military state and its leaders including those in the Niger Delta states is that the militants are a threat to the security and sustainability of Nigeria. But if we are truthful we find that the danger actually comes from the militarisation of Nigeria’s governance which is only thinly veiled by the second civilian republic. Human rights abuses and collective punishment together with the ongoing partnership between the military state and multinational corporations are a threat to us all. Who knows when it will be your community that is attacked with such wanton display of power and guns.
Anyone who has ever had even a cursory encounter with Nigerian security forces – military, police and MOPO (mobile police) will have little problem in imagining the brutality unleashed against people and property in Warri South West at this moment.