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Dokubo-Asari who is viewed by locals as a sort of folk hero, maintained his revolutionary

vow until Obasanjo bought him with an invitation to Aso Rock. He has since maintained

a low profile after his release from Obasanjo’s "prison visit".

 

 

Oil Wars in the Niger Delta

New Ministry Not the Solution

By Hakeem Babalola

 

The Federal government of Nigeria has announced the creation of a ministry of Niger Delta. This new ministry will serve as the primary vehicle for the delivery of agenda for the rapid socio-economic development of the oil-rich, but long- neglected region. "The Ministry will coordinate our efforts to tackle the challenges of infrastructural development, environment protection and youth empowerment in the region," says Yar'Adua.

Since the responsibility of any government is to cater for its citizens, there's nothing wrong in tackling the challenges of infrastructural or any other developments in the Niger Delta region, and in fact across Nigerian regions. Although it's getting too late, such gesture from the federal government provides a sigh of relief. If not for anything, at least, such announcement is an admission that the region is in very bad shape just like Nigeria in general. The core Niger Delta states are Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers.

But why does it take so long before the government realises that the region is restive? Does it mean that the federal government won't take action if the militants have not been disrupting oil production and kidnapping the foreign oil-executives? Is this move a genuine effort by the government to finding permanent solution to the problems confronting the Niger Delta people? The questions may sound cynical, but the fact is that we have heard such speech many times before. Olusegun Obasanjo, immediate past head of the federal government, also talked about developing Niger-Delta. The region has been used more for political gains than genuine concern for the people. "This is history repeating itself," says Jaga-Jaga, a public commentator. "The same tactics was used when in the late 50's a commission on Niger Delta recommended the setting up of the First River Basin Development Authority."

If this administration creates the new ministry with the aim to divert attention, or with the aim to buy some staunch advocates of the Niger Delta cause, then the ministry will have failed even before any implementation. Not long ago this administration embarked on what it called Niger Delta Summit which was later changed to Niger Delta Dialogue or something of that nature. The summit was to be chaired by the former Secretary General of the Federation, Baba Gana kingibe until several protests from well-meaning Nigerians constrained the government to reconsider its position. So, what's the aftermath of that summit or dialogue? Or is the new ministry a continuation of that summit-dialogue?

It seems the federal government likes building castle in the air. Personally, I don't think creating a ministry is the only solution to bring peace to the troubled region. The matter is beyond playing politics. Whilst I am not saying categorically that such idea is not good, I believe the intention matters a lot. Action, they say, speaks louder than voice. The Niger Delta people want action and not the loud and confuse and empty talk, a peculiar hobby of Nigerian Heads of State (or do they prefer presidents?) Come to think of it, what has been the Ministry of Health achievement? What has been the Ministry of Education achievement? What of the ministries of power, water, housing, communication and so on? Which ministry is actually functioning in Nigeria? I believe you know what I am talking about. 

Many Nigerians have started speculating that the new ministry would be another great opportunity to steal public money. And can you blame them for being skeptic judging from the inefficient and corrupt manner successive governments have managed the country. Even if this administration means business to solving the region's problems, there are some powerful elements who may want to attack its success. If Yar'Adua means business, he should just do the right thing without hiding under the official rhetoric which is no more effective. Yar’Adua should be the one in charge of any implementation to solving the Niger Delta problem. He definitely needs to go beyond creating ministries which of course appears to be symbolic.

There must be something spectacular about this new ministry that prompts a reputable Nigerian newspaper like The Guardian to support its creation. Even the Nigerian Union of Journalists through its president, Ndaghene Aku has started canvassing support for the new ministry. The media should tarry a little before going gaga over a ministry that may not function. If there's any organisation that needs extreme caution over the creation of this new ministry, I believe it is the media. Journalists in the country must not forget the Ibrahim Babangida's era when he used similar policy of appeasement to calm critics of his regime. For instance, he released Journalists who had been incarcerated by Buhari/Idiagbon juggernaut. The so-called evil-genius later showed his true colour. Among other things Nigerians witnessed the first parcel bomb that killed Dele Giwa, founder and editor-in-chief Newswatch Publication during Babangida's reign. 

Yar'Adua may have good intentions but good intentions are not enough. The thought of hawks that would manage the ministry remains a great concern. There are too many hawks in our polity. Ministries in Nigeria simply don't perform or do they? So how is this one going to be different? It won’t be out of order to posit that the federal government may have created the ministry in order to portray itself as a listening administration, or as an appeasement to various powerful organisations and individuals who have been canvassing for such ministry. Hum, what is the best way to resolve the situation? I shall try to provide an answer before my time runs out.

In any way the people have to be very careful about this September appeasement. From Isaac Jaspar Boro in the 60’s to the present Mujahid Dokubo-Asari and others, there have been instances of compromise on the part of Ijaw fighters. Boro is regarded as Ijaw hero because of his courage to start a struggle to liberate his people from the federal government of Nigeria. Shortly after the January 1966 coup, Boro declared the first Republic within Nigeria called Niger Delta Republic. This brilliant young man later fought on the side of Nigeria during the civil war. Why did he declare a republic in the first instance if he was to join the federal troop later? 

Dokubo-Asari also warmed himself into the hearts of many Ijaws when in 2004 he appeared from nowhere to continue the struggle through the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF). The NDPVF frequently demanded a greater share of oil wealth from both the federal and state governments and occasionally supported independence for the Niger Delta region. Dokubo-Asari who is viewed by locals as a sort of folk hero, maintained his revolutionary vow until Obasanjo bought him with an invitation to Aso Rock. He has since maintained a low profile after his release from Obasanjo’s "prison visit".

The highest brutality meted out to the Niger Deltans is probably the horrendous execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmentalist fighting for the liberation of his people. He was chained and hanged like a common criminal with eight other Ogonis by that lunatic (I will always call him a lunatic) called Sani Abacha. Meanwhile, the creation of this new Niger-Delta Ministry will definitely serves as a stimulus test for the various militant groups. I am interested in their reactions which will inadvertently reveal who exactly they are. The groups are Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF), and the Reformed Grand Alliance of Niger Delta (GRAND). 

Some groups are taking precaution whilst some are reported to be lobbying for appointment in the newly created ministry. Jomo Gbomo, leader of MEND, has issued a statement warning the people that the creation of a ministry should not be celebrated saying, "there are many ministries existing since the creation of Nigeria but none has made positive impact on the people". However former Delta State governor, James Ibori and Minister of Special Duties, Godsday Orubebe, have both been tipped to head the new ministry, according to a national newspaper. If the report is true, then you can see what the ministry has become even before its implementation.

But then it's only a dummy administration that would actually continue to play politics with this troubled region. As at the time of writing this piece, reports have it that MEND had declared full-scale war. It's such a bloody confrontation between the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) and MEND that one newspaper has nicknamed it "Operation Hurricane" while others simply termed it, Oil War. Hundreds of lives were reported lost as "JTF sank two militants' boats which attempted to attack a Chevron flow Station in Ibiama, River State".

It's only those gullible Nigerians or those sycophants that would praise Yar'Adua recklessly over the creation of this new ministry which, as I have said, is more of a policy of appeasement than a genuine concern to alleviate the sufferings of the people in the region. I can't just help myself prejudging the outcome, having seen what leadership means in Nigeria. Again, the creation of this new ministry shall expose these militants. What happens thereafter will help us to know their real agitation. Personally, I believe any solution starts from genuine Sovereign National Conference which should herald true federalism. Anything other than this seems to me a waste of time and money. It is as I always say, loud and empty and confused talk.

2008 copyright   mysmallvoice@yahoo.com

Hakeem Babalola is currently teaching English Communication in Budapest, Hungary. He loves writing, a vehicle by which he rides to relieve himself of certain emotions. His articles have appeared in Nigerian newspapers including Nigerian Tribune, Daily Champion, Vanguard, Daily Trust respectively. He is also a contributor to several online magazines like Nigeriavillagesquare.com, Chatafrikarticles.com, voiceofnigerians and a host of others. Hakeem is a member of Association of Hungarian Journalists.  

posted 24 September 2008

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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