How we lost golden opportunities to develop Niger Delta region
By Sunny Timothy Kiri
Once upon a time, God answered all our prayers in the Niger Delta, but we were still praying for the Messiah from heaven to supply all our needs.
Perhaps, this made way to the gain of the Federal Government and the loss to the Niger Delta.
So many believed that after the declaration of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme, there will be massive development in the region both in human capital development, and infrastructural development, in 2009, by the late President Umar Yar’Adua.
Our hope increased thinking that every community in the Niger Delta will be developed; also those involved in the process of the Amnesty Programme will be positively impacted. This was the thinking of all the delegates.
Then came the sad news of the death of President Umar Yar’Adua. It was sad news; at the same time people did not give up hope.
The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made it clear that after the death of a President, the Vice President becomes the President of the country. Perhaps, this increased the hope of all Niger Deltans and the ex-agitators hearing that Dr Goodluck Jonathan is now the President of Nigeria. It was a celebration for the people of the Niger Delta and the lovers of democracy.
My good friend, Dr Leo, called to congratulate me that we now have an Ijaw man as a President of Nigeria. Although I told him that the President coming from Ijaw land is not my major concern, however, his ability to do the needful and carry everyone along is the main issue. He said I was right. According to Barrister S. Smooth, we were all thinking we have our freedom. Perhaps, what we have been fighting for and the development we have been seeking is getting to our hands. In reality, we were into six hundred years of another struggle.
Power could corrupt people, yes, mostly having too much control of everything. Immediately GEJ became the President, most of our leaders in the Niger Delta world view changed.
Those of our leaders fighting for the development of the Niger Delta, became more of politicians who travelled to Abuja every week seeking for contracts; some now bought properties in Lagos, Abuja, and some outside the country.
The spirit of fighting for the emancipation of the Niger Delta died a natural death —from the Ministry of Niger Delta, NDDC and all our federal and state law makers stopped talking about the progress of the Niger Delta.
Most believed that the Amnesty Program will give the ex -agitators better lifestyle from their previous living standard; perhaps we were sleep walking.
For the six years GEJ was the President of Nigeria, nothing tangible was achieved in the Niger Delta. Our major disappointment was the ministry of the Niger Delta followed by the NDDC. These agencies became money making tools for our governors and political boys.
We saw enormous greed for making money in the Niger Delta. Making money is a great idea but not using agencies made to develop the region of the Niger Delta to benefit the majority but a few, is wrong.
According to King Pereama Freetown, the Numu Pere 11 of Ijaw nation, he said, “no matter how interesting the party is, there will be time to go home.”
Our leaders in the Niger Delta failed to understand anything of such; they believed the government is in their hands.
Every elected officer has a time lifespan of 4 years. Thus came 2015. A sitting President, GEJ, lost the election to a 4th time contestant, General Muhammadu Buhari.
Our eyes opened for the first time in 6 years that all what our leaders were doing in the Niger Delta was all about selfish interest, not for the benefit of the Niger Deltans.
Conceivably, this is a gain to the Federal Government of Nigeria but a loss to the Niger Delta region because we failed to plan and implement the right policy to develop our region when the powers were with our people.
This is how we lost a golden opportunity in the Niger Delta and it is a gain to the Federal Government of Nigeria. In addition, nobody is talking about Niger Delta. The Amnesty Program became so terrible that President Buhari has to change coordinators every few years due to corruption allegations. We hope and believe that Dikio Dixon Milland will put an end to this nightmare in the program.
We could be our own saviour and at the same time, our downfall. We can not complain in the region. We have gotten all we asked for; it is left for the people of the South-South to produce servant leaders in managing what we have.
Sunny Timothy Kiri, writes from Lagos