By Freb Brisibe
The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), a militant group which sprang with an avowed mission to negotiate the Niger Delta people out of economic and political slavery, recently filled the air with its averment in favour of regional autonomy. The subtle review of its initial demand for an outright break-up through the bloodless means of a referendum seems to have emanated from a thought to reflect the trend of current realities in the country. It was made clear by the militant group that, fiscal federalism, with the Niger Delta as an autonomous region, was the only condition under which they would exist within the Nigerian State.
Since the NDA emerged with its fatal attacks on the economy of Nigeria from February this year, all circles of intellectual discourse, religious propagation and ethnic reawakening programmes have been in chorus for a benign restructuring of the country. The number increases by the day as university student bodies, reputable clergies and highly respected statesmen are found thronging along the queue for a better system where regional authorities would be given more power to make decisions and formulate their own budgets for the management of their affairs.
There is no denying the fact that right from its birth, the Nigerian state has never been seen with fairness towards the people of the Niger Delta. A tendency to monopolize political and economic control has often authorized especially the Hausa / Fulani group of the country to resist calls for restructuring of the country. The demand for a better foundational repositioning of the Nigerian faulty structure appears to remind the North of its infertile womb of a landscape which contributes nothing yet swallows the larger chunk of the oil wealth. It is the apprehension of a possible liberty of the people from the oppressive restrictions imposed on them through the numerous obnoxious laws that informs the northern antagonism each time the question of returning to the pristine regional structures is presented for implementation.
The Niger Delta has always been at the receiving end of the brunt each time the country was carved into smaller units called states which are designed to depend on a Central Government that flourishes with the revenues from the criminally neglected Niger Delta. The several extant states were created with an intention to permanently subjugate the region by fraudulently balkanizing its people into suffocation in a number of incongruous states. The states are to further position the northern leadership to perpetuate in advantage to determine the appropriation of the economic and political fortunes of the country. From its Protectorate of Palm Oil and amalgamation in1914 to the one of an exporter of crude oil from 1956 till date, the economy of Nigeria has been a Northern monopoly. This is despite the fact that the country has had the full weight of its economy on the Niger Delta for the survival of all sectors and sections.
Being unnecessarily subjected to all forms of debilitating conditions by the balkanization, the Niger Delta people have asked for equity on several occasions to be reorganized into one state or a single region formation. This was the cause of the litany of petitions presented by leaders of the region in London at the Pre-Independence conference in 1957. It was a request to allow them regain the rights and privileges they lost to the spurious Treaties of Protection which subjected them and their lands under the commands of Colonial rulers. The success that attended this effort was ephemeral. Rather than congregate them in a single state or region, they offered the Niger Delta a commission, the Niger Delta Development Board (NDDB), which distracted them from the opportunity to enjoy the desired equity and justice.
No system appears in competition with the region which shields the citizens within its protected territories from the fears of religious infiltration, unfavorable economic policies and unnecessary usurpation of rights. This is a fact even the skeptics may not venture to dispute with. The prosperity search it encourages can only be imagined. The regional system comes with a potential to whip up to walk any lazy state within a region to begin to explore ways to be self-reliant. It directs the focus for purposeful accelerated development.
The Yoruba nation wields a good knowledge of the benefits of regional governance. It is what gave them the edge they now have over and above others in the fields of education and political awareness. Little wonder, they are at the head of the campaign to return to a regional structure where they will freely exploit and commit their resources to the development of their land. The confidence demonstrated by those of the proposed “Oduduwa Region” is an indication that the quest for the restructuring of the country is not a selfish impossibility from the forge of the Avengers.
It is a better alternative to war and a handy solution to the series of regional crisis rocking the ship of the nation. The turbulent Niger Delta river will become placid the moment they become free to administer their affairs without undue interference with the resources derived from their land. It is the same stroke that will bring to an end the agitation for a Biafra independent state. The people of the Biafra enclave are also seeking for a conducive and an uninterrupted environment to express their talents and capabilities within the Nigerian state. A region for them will not only encourage them to excellence as a destination for commerce and industry, but will afford them the opportunity to compete with other regions and nations with a regained sense of dignity.
It applies to the indigenes of the “United Niger and “Middle Belt Region” who are lamenting under the terror of the Fulani herdsmen. In their region and with their own police, they will comfortably evolve appropriate security mechanisms to check the menace of external invasions. Being in that free indigenous space, they are expected to explore the world of agro business and move it beyond the shores of Nigeria to global commercial centres. Nigeria ought to allow this region grow into a destination for agricultural tourism. The present pseudo -Federal structure can only inhibit the full manifestation of the potentials of each of the regions.
It is a good development for the country and primarily for the “Arewa Region” if the recent noise about oil exploration in the north carries some substance in itself. However it goes, it is a sign that they too have risen to the offensive truth that the new era is ringing out a caution to every indolent region to begin preparations for the future. It is also a consolation that the Ministry of Steel and Mines is making tremendous impact on the long discarded treasure of Solid Minerals in the northern part of the country.
It shows without dispute, therefore, that the whole country is on course for a more acceptable structural adjustment. It is a guarantee for harmonious cohabitation and productive exchange of goods and services. It has the capacity to give every Nigerian a sense of honour to patriotically participate in the growth of the country with real commitment. The death of love between individuals, between ethnicities, between religions that characterizes the present Nigeria will be hugely tamed if the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari restructures the country as being advocated by the Niger Delta Avengers(NDA), and stoutly being supported by imminent personalities like Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Prof. Jerry Gana, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Bishop Mathew Kukah, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Prof. Niyi Osundare, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Lady Annkio Briggs, Chief (Dr) E. K. Clark, Dr. Felix Tuodolo, etal. This is by all standards a grand option for a country like Nigeria which requires total restructuring from its shallow and defective foundation to the ruined body of the structure.
Coordinator – Ijaw Human Rights Monitors
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