WAR IN THE NIGER DELTA
Fifteen years ago this month Ken Saro Wiwa and the other eight Ogoni environmental activists were murdered in cold blood by the Nigerian state on trumped up charges of murder. They wanted to scare the people to submission. Right now there is an on-going military campaign of joint forces of the Nigerian army, air force, navy and other military branches who are engaged in an all-out war of air, land and sea with the civilian communities of the Niger Delta region. It is the entire military force of the Nigerian state versus an unarmed hapless population whose crime is that they are human beings and inhabit a geographical area where oil and gas are found. It is only in Nigeria that a government declares full scale war on its so-called citizens which it is supposed to protect, using deadly aerial, ground and marine war weapons to attack and kill defenseless civilians.
Bombs are being dropped indiscriminately on the civilian population of these communities with children, women and men being killed. And in the bid to ensure a thorough job, the bombings are immediately followed by strafing just to make sure that any person that escaped the bombs’ explosives and shrapnel gets killed by the bullet sprays. The Nigerian state has declared war in the Niger Delta and it is left to the stakeholders in these communities to defend themselves or be bombed into the ground and be lost forever. It is the spirit of the man that wins in wars and not the strength of the arm. Let the people decide that they will fight back and that will be the beginning of their victory.
Evil and injustice can only endure for a while but the people’s resolve, hope and pursuit for human dignity will always prevail at the end. Nigeria’s aim is to bomb and strafe the people into subjugation and surrender just like when they killed Saro Wiwa and the other heroes of the people. At the time they seemed to have succeeded in striking fear into the hearts of the people. But this method of fear tactic cannot succeed as long as the people can realize that whichever way they decide today will directly impact their next generation. And there may not even be a next generation if they should make the wrong decision (not fight back) today.
The rest of the world may not want to show concern in bringing about a lasting solution to what is going on there today in the Niger Delta because it is very far removed from any part of the United States and Europe. But we must realize that more than three hundred foreign oil and gas workers have been abducted within this region between 2006 and now, 2010. Of this number, most have been Europeans and Americans. And though most of the abductees have always been released after ransoms have been paid, but how about the periods of anxieties and apprehensions that the families and friends of these people go through while they are being held by their abductors? We should also not forget that because of the interconnectedness of today’s world it is no longer the best policy to ignore what is happening in any remote part of the globe just because it is far from us. When we do and it is allowed to continue long enough, it will find a way to touch us no matter how far away we may be. For peace and progress to happen in that part of the world, Nigeria must be divided into several nation states. Some of the peoples’ cultural differences are fundamentally irreconcilable and a state’s unity cannot continue to be maintained by the continuous spilling of the blood of the innocent victims of the poor decisions of the colonial rulers.
Nigeria’s version of the story is that the Niger Delta and Igbo activists and freedom fighters are criminal elements. Well, it is left for the peoples of the area under attack to surrender to this scandal of name-calling or let the world know the true story. Who decides what amounts to a crime? Is it the criminal state Nigeria or the indigenous peoples who must defend themselves today or perish out of the face of the Earth tomorrow? Let us take a look at the names of some of these groups who are actively involved in the region that are fighting for the liberation and self-determination of their people. They are such groups as Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP). These names definitely do not spell criminal as any honest person anywhere would agree.
For about fifty years Nigeria has raped and despoiled the entire area of the Niger Delta and Igbo land and polluted the people, their land and waters as a result of indiscriminate and indiscreet mining and exploration of oil and gas and the desecration of their way of life and their ancestral Gods and deities. The entire environment is in complete devastation and the people of the area have been reduced to abject penury, without any access to healthcare, good roads, portable clean water or sources of food, since their lands and waters have been polluted and scotched by Nigeria and their partners-in-crime, the international oil companies, such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Afren, etc, through the use of the worst kind of oil exploration techniques and gas flaring. It has been said that the Niger Delta has the world’s record of being where the worst kind of oil and gas exploration method is practiced.
About a year ago the real criminal, the Nigerian state declared what they call an amnesty for those who are fighting to survive on their own land, they claimed to pay money to these freedom fighters for rehabilitation and to divert their attention to a fictitious and temporal present. Now the question is who needs an amnesty, the criminal state, Nigeria or the people of the various communities who have been deprived and destroyed for so long, the victims of Nigerian criminality?
Since last October a prominent leader of these freedom fighters, Henry Okah has been held in jail in South Africa under the instigation of the Nigerian state accused of an act of terrorism. The terror act is said to be committed by him while Nigeria celebrated the charade called independence anniversary on the first of October. Two car bombs had gone off near the venue of the occasion in Abuja Nigeria and they went to South Africa 3,000 miles away to arrest and detain Henry Okah, another scare tactic by Nigeria. Even when it is being alleged that the bomb blasts were the handiwork of the ruling government’s political opponents, South Africa still continues to be a willing partner in the shame of punishing the innocent. Nigeria’s plan has always been to criminalize the victims and kill them off. In this way they suppress opposition and prolong the time they have to devastate the people’s lives and their environment. They, Nigeria plans to kill Henry Okah and all the other legitimate leaders and freedom fighters in the area just the way they killed Ken Saro Wiwa and the other eight Ogoni heroes fifteen years ago. But as history has always shown they can only delay the peoples’ freedom but they cannot deny them of their liberty forever.
How long the criminal Nigerian state will succeed at delaying the peoples’ freedom can only be determined by the people. How much longer would they, the people let Nigeria delay their freedom? The length of the duration will always remain with the people. The victims can continue to accept to be called the criminals while the real criminal, the oppressor continues to claim a false and dishonest right, it is the peoples’ choice to make and it will always be this way.