Typical of human situations, politicians in the region used the chaos for their enrichment. Some would even create more violence using some of the groups of boys in the region and paying them for ‘security’ and dirty jobs.
Beyond that, leaders in the region did not particularly show seriousness in the poor situation. They managed to finally get 13% of the national oil proceeds as oil producing states but how much have they helped? The region is clamouring for at least, 50% of the revenue, which is currently a tall order but the question is if this demand is truly people-based or simply a bigger opportunity for states and local government executives. Many of them are not trusted due to the pervasive corruption in the country. Pyagbara notes, Fifty percent, or even a hundred percent cannot help the situation because the structure that is created to receive that thing cannot address the issues of injustice in some communities. That is why we ask for resource control by communities, not by state”.
On the politics, Obari Gomba has this to say:
Niger Delta politics has been stupid. Your elected officers are not in office to serve your interest. They are in office to feather their nest, okay? So the conversation you hear is PDP, APP; PDP, AD; and when they got tired of that it became PDP, ACN; PDP, ANPP; and now it’s PDP, APC. I mean, that’s what the politicians are interested in. The real serious issues of existence that are plaguing their people is not part of their interest. I come from a local government where water is polluted because the level of benzene is very high and it was the United Nation organ that did the study and said there is a rise of cancer in Eleme because the water is polluted. You have acid rain and if you dig a well or a borehole, the water coming out is poisoned with benzene, and nobody is doing anything about it. And you have people in government from this area. You have a local government chairman, legislators and they don’t talk about this. And I bet you, there are other places within this state that suffers the same situation and people are not talking about it. You see, when a legislator takes a position and raises this matter in the national assembly, he has more attention than a youth leader from a village, who tries to block a road because he wants to call attention to his issues. This is one of the reasons you find violence here: those who are supposed to speak for the people are not doing so. And the people do not have confidence in them. So the only thing they know is to use the instrument of disruption to call attention to their situation. But if you have the parliamentarians in the state house of assembly, for instance, who talk about your matter and you see that they have a plan on addressing the matter, you don’t have to block the road because you know that your matter is being discussed; someone has a plan and is carrying your matter to the right places. Ask yourself, how many times do these legislators hold town hall meetings to listen to their people? What do they even do with the constituency development funds that go to them? So you have legislators who are just interested in themselves, building castles and filtering away the money. How many times do they sit down to map out strategies on how to solve the problems of the communities they represent? It may not happen immediately, but one needs to have a plan in place so that we create a momentum of continuity behind the plan and hope that with time, those challenges can be solved. There is no such thing in place. From LGA to LGA, village to village, the problems persist.
A NIGER DELTA FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Before the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s president, there was a chronic feeling of abandonment by the government. So his emergence in 2009 promised some relief for the people of the region, given that nobody ever reached that far from the region. He was the ‘son of the soil’ and would carry out some infrastructural works in the region and initiate policies that will begin to remedy the environment.
However, the presidency of Jonathan fell short of those expectation, throwing social critics into endless arguments. Some believe he is a total disappointment for the Niger Delta people while the other group point out the fact that he was a president of the entire country and not the region.
Dr Peter Medee, President of the Apex Organisation of Ogoni (KAGOTE) was vehemently critical of the former president.
Niger Delta did a fight and government recognised it and knew that we were restless, this somehow landed us in the apex office in this country. What can we show for it? Nothing! What more can I say if we had the presidency for six years? Should I go and blame a Yoruba man for the continuation of this misfortune, when we had the opportunity to turn this place around? We got nothing in six years. If you are coming from your father’s house, knowing how it is, without making any change in it, do we blame someone else?
Gomba also was full of criticism for Jonathan, though he believed his emergence was not part of their protests.
Goodluck Jonathan was and is a product of the system. His emergence on the national scene did not derive from out struggle as a people. It’s a kind of opportunism that is not rooted in our struggle. If you look at the demands of the Niger Delta, the presidency was not one of them. We have never demanded for the presidency to feel a sense of belonging in Nigeria, no. We have asked for environmental protection and remediation; we have asked for model and basic amenities; we have asked for a great deal of resource control, not a hundred percent, but even at that, we can have the total control of our resources and pay a kind of tax to the federal government. But the maximum we have asked for is fifty percent. So producing the president was not one of these demands. But because of the exigencies of the Nigerian politics, Jonathan emerged as vice president because the operators of the Nigerian state felt like if you give them a vice president, we can leverage on that to prevail on them. At the point when he was selected as the vice president, all infrastructure in the region had been completely crippled. In fact, the production of oil was about 500/600 bpd, as against the previous 1.2 million bpd production. So the emergence was not to solve the issues of the region, but a political master stroke and they said okay, we have your son as the vice president. And as time and political exigencies would have it, he would later become the acting and president and then president.
The poet was also disappointed by Jonathan’s inability to address any of the problems of the region.
If you look at the nature of his presidency, you would see that he did not do anything for the region; despite the clamour and support for him, he did not address any of the issues. Look at something as simple as the Petroleum Industry Bill. For six years, he was not able to get that out and that bill had been there from the presidency of Yar’Adua… He’s the president and the bulk ends at his office….the president is the most powerful citizen of the country. He has the collective mandate of the people that gives him the instrumentalities of coercion and persuasion. If a president sets his mind to achieving a thing, particularly in our own political climate, there are very few things that he cannot achieve. What I’m saying is that he did not have the commitment of the Niger Delta issues. He did not show it in any way. Maybe he was able to make a few persons rich; maybe he was able to get a few militants sing his praises. But if we look at the issues that affect the Niger Delta on a daily basis like the environmental pollution and remediation, and the rest, he did not address any of them. So if you get into office, stay for six years and you did not address the core issues in the system, you did not attach urgency to them, then at the twilight of your tenure, you want to create a political goodwill to get you another term; that is nonsense in my calculation.
The most visible evidence for those who argue that Jonathan did not do well for the delta is the uncompleted East-West Road that links Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States in the region. The road could not be completed. Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid in 2015 and the people of his region still believe ‘their’ tenure in the presidency is not complete.
In a speech presentation in Port Harcourt, in 2017, the former president however turned around to blame the intervention agencies for the situation in the region. Mr Jonathan said the agencies had failed the people after receiving funds from the government. According to him, as published in premiumtimesng.com 14/5/2017:
From the days of Special Funds, through OMPADEC to now NDDC, the Federal Gov-ernment has provided funds for the development of the oil bearing communities but very little physical infrastructure to show for it. This is so because these bodies are highly political and lack continuity as tenures are hardly completed. New Federal Government administrations appoint new teams who award new contracts hence the zone is littered with abandoned projects
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