The Niger Delta Quagmire:
The Niger Delta Quagmire:
What We Think
The capitalist ruling class internationally and nationally is willy-nilly dragging the country into quagmire, a no-win war over the oil wealth of the Niger-Delta. A few days before publication, the estranged Vice President Abubakar Atiku disclosed the fact that the President Obasanjo government had approved the sum of $2 billion for arms to fight the growing insurgency of Niger Delta militant. Predictably, government spokespersons had promptly denied the veracity of Atiku’s claim. But for those that know the real development in the Niger Delta this is nothing more than a clear, bold face, fraudulent denial.
Underlining the extreme importance which America’s imperialism (bugged down in an unwinnable war in Iraq) attach to the issue of steady cheap oil in Africa, there is already a US inspired so-called Gulf of Guinea Energy Security embracing coastal oil regions of Angola, Sao-Tome, Cameroon, Nigeria, etc. The point must therefore be made that this was a deliberate militaristic approach to the Niger-Delta in question. The idea is to militarily strive to secure the extraction of oil from this area without let or hindrance, at all cost.
For the past 8 years in power, the Obasanjo government has essentially been pursuing this militaristic approach as he did with the Odi massacre and on other several occasions in other part of Niger-Delta. When the chips are down, all layers of the capitalist ruling class including Atiku himself, will adopt militaristic perspective to resolve the crisis in Niger-Delta. This is because oil wealth constitutes the mainstay of the capitalists’ ill-gotten wealth. Oil fetches over 85% of the country’s total wealth. However, due to increasing militant activities, Nigeria is said to have lost 10% of this in the year 2006. Oil and oil wealth is such a big deal which every section of the ruling class will strive to protect at all costs! Even General Muhammed Buhari, a leading opposition contestant for presidency among other things promised to arrest what he describes as the “criminal lawlessness” in Niger-Delta if he becomes president. To give this “naked force” perspective a populist touch, he then promised to address social problems facing the Niger-Delta masses. This is nothing but an act of putting the cart before the horse!
This is however not a mistake. Working class elements and youths must never forget the fact that Buhari is the presidential candidate of ANPP, a capitalist party which is not only extremely conservative but which is equally dominated by anti-poor, corrupt politicians, just as the PDP. So, whether under President Obasanjo, Buhari, Atiku or any other capitalist elements, the greedy, self-serving interest of the entire capitalist class will always compel them to see military solution as the next most effective way to deal with the Niger-Delta crisis.
AN UNWINNABLE WAR
However, no matter the ferocity and enormity of their firepower, the ruling class will never be able to fully militarily suppress the ongoing agitations in the Niger-Delta for the following reasons. One, Nigeria’s ruling class is so corrupt such that most of the resources that will be voted to wage the war in Niger-Delta will, as usual, end up in the private accounts of top government officials and their capitalist contractors. Two, and much more fundamentally however, is the fact that no conventional army, no matter how well equipped has ever been able to defeat the guerrilla army especially one that grew out of mass sense of deprivation of an entire community. This was partly the reason that led to the defeat of America’s imperialism in Vietnam in the mid 1970s.
Even in Iraq where many guerrilla insurgents are based on sectarian interest that lacks the kind of wide-spread social sympathy of the masses as was the case in Vietnam and now in the Niger-Delta, the mightiest world military power has only worked itself into a quagmire, an unwinnable war with guerrilla forces who have no permanent bases and positions that can be militarily destroyed once and for all.
Presently, there have been threats by some of the Niger-Delta militants to take their war to mainland cities like Abuja, etc. If the escalation of military crack down on the militants in the Niger-Delta makes the situation intolerable within the region, this threat might rapidly become reality. This again proves the porosity of fundamental reliance on military force to address the Niger-Delta crisis. If the Gulf of Guinea Energy Security outfit and the Nigeria military apparatus combined to make militant activities intolerable or impossible within the Niger-Delta region, how would they be able to provide such security for the whole of Nigeria’s cities?
Against the background of decades old ruthless economic exploitation and permanent political repression of the masses of the Niger-Delta by the combined rule of oil multinationals and the successive Nigeria’s neo-colonial governments, the development of a militia phenomenon among the oil rich but poverty stricken region of Niger-Delta should be understandable. Therefore, all efforts being made by oil multinationals and governments to present the Niger-Delta militants as “sheer criminals” will not succeed in alienating them from Niger-Delta masses who are likely to continue to see them as “bold” defenders of masses’ interests, especially in the absence of a powerful mass working class movement strong enough to win major concessions to improve living conditions in the region and across the country.
Even right now, in some partsof Nigeria, particularly in the south-west and south-east, the Niger-Delta militants are largely seen as heroes striking some strategic blows against oil multinationals and their collaborators in Nigeria. Nonetheless, the current tactics being employed by the Niger-Delta militants will equally lead to a no-win situation. As Marxists, we in the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) fully supports the right of the Niger-Delta people for self-determination, including secession, if that is the wish of the majority of the masses in the region. However, within the framework of capitalism and the peculiar features of Nigeria as a country, none of the above-stated aspirations can be actualised in such a way that the masses will derive fundamental improvement in their economic and democratic conditions of living.
Firstly, the spread of guerrilla war to urban cities of the mainland areas side by side with agitation for secession, will only on the basis of prevailing bourgeois order drive the overwhelming majority of the masses of the non-oil producing areas into the arms of Nigerian state with the usual false slogan of ‘keeping Nigeria one, a task that must be done’. Capitalist ideologues will step up propaganda to the effect that Nigeria was once built on agricultural products of other areas and thus present the agitation of the Niger-Delta people for self-determination as a selfish ploy motivated by the desire to keep oil wealth to themselves alone.
THE NIGER DELTA ELITES
Secondly, given similar opportunity, the capitalist elites of the Niger-Delta region have shown in the past 8 years, beyond any reasonable doubt, that they are as corrupt and anti-poor as their counterpart from the major nationalities of Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo. It is therefore false and simplistic to automatically equate the prospect of development of the Niger-Delta areas and the improvement of the conditions of the masses with the mere fact that more money can be directly paid to the region instead of to Nigeria as a whole.
For instance in 2006, Senegal, a country regarded as one of West Africa’s wealthier nations, and with nearly 12 million people had a total budget of $1.7 billion to run the entire country including its standing army, police, judiciary, foreign missions, etc. In comparison, Rivers State with a population of 5 million people, and which does not have the functions and responsibilities of a sovereign government, had a budget of $1.3 billion. But at the end of the day however, the money allocated to Rivers State does not appear to be getting to most of its citizens. According to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), posted to the web on February 3, 2007 by the “Inter Press Service” (Johannesburg), “state and local budgets have expanded dramatically in recent years, but mismanagement and theft have left basic health and education services in a terrible state of decay”. The 107-page report describes health clinics lacking running water and electricity – not to mention mattresses and even the most basic medicine – and schools without textbooks and chalk. Thus the more money the region actually got, the poorer the masses become, no thanks to the capitalist thieving arrangement.
WORKING CLASS SOCIALIST SOLUTION NEEDED
For us therefore, the only ultimate way for victory for the people of Niger-Delta is to base the ongoing war on working class socialist character. Instead of giving the incorrect impression that it is the entire people of Nigeria that are responsible for the prostrate conditions of lives in the Niger-Delta, conscious efforts on a constant basis has to be made, to explain the fact that the agitations and restiveness in the Niger-Delta was not based on the fact that the oil wealth is being used for the whole of Nigeria, but rather that only oil multinationals and a tiny layer of elements in corridors of power are looting most of these oil wealth. From this analysis, militants and revolutionaries in the Niger-Delta must champion a socio-economic arrangement where for the first time, this stupendous oil wealth can be truly used for the benefit of the working masses across the country.
Throwing bombs in Lagos, Kano, Abuja, etc will not make the ordinary people to put pressure on the elite of the major nationalities to hands-off Niger-Delta, rather it will most likely make them to look towards the Nigerian state for security which may be falsely seen as protecting their economic interest. The issue has also been posed as to whether, faced with an unwinnable war together with serious disruption of its oil supplies, imperialism led by America, will want to aid the struggle for self-determination of the people of Niger-Delta, if doing this will in the long run, guarantee its unfettered access to cheap quality oil from the Niger-Delta. Some have even claimed that thereafter, imperialism will be able to carry out rapid development in the Niger-Delta area to resolve the prevailing tension in the region. To say the least, this is an utopian perspective.
First and foremost, working class activists and youth must know that imperialism is never a developmental agency in any sphere of its influence. Even its conduct in Niger-Delta since 1956, when commercial oil exploration started in Nigeria, has proved beyond any reasonable doubt the reactionary character of imperialism in all colonial societies. Even if for its own self enlightened interest, sections of imperialism decided to support the cause of Niger-Delta region for self-determination, the Nigerian state will demagogically equally raise up the defence of “one Nigeria”. During the Biafran war of 1967 – 1970, French imperialism backed the declaration of Biafra while other imperialist countries led by Britain pitched their tents with the elites of the major nationalities that have been ruling Nigeria since the exist of the British colonialism.
Therefore, the only way to once and for all defeat all the forces responsible for the perpetual misery of the people of the Niger-Delta in the midst of abundant wealth is a perspective which consciously urges the working masses of the Niger-Delta and that of their counterpart across the country to take under public ownership, the commanding heights of the economy including oil, banking, etc, under working class democratic control and management with a view to guarantee the basic needs and aspirations of all the masses of every region of Nigeria. Only a socialist working class and poor peasant government that is genuinely anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist can accomplish this necessary historical task.
We wish to say that without this kind of perspective being embraced by the working people of Niger-Delta and the rest part of Nigeria, the prevailing nightmare scenario developing in Niger-Delta will for long but sadly remain a permanent feature of lives and polity.
We campaign for the following
- Immediate release of Asari Dokubo and other nationalist militants like Ralph Nwazurike of MASSOB
- No money for more arms.
- Massive funding of social programmes that would positively impact on the living conditions of the masses.
- Jobs for all persons that can work and adequate living social security payment for all those that cannot get jobs.