President Yar’adua’s Era: A new dawn for the masses?
THE NIGER DELTA
Arguably, the crisis in the Niger Delta constitutes the greatest threat to the self-serving rule of the capitalist elite nationally and the interest of imperialism internationally. As of today, the region, through revenues from crude oil, accounts for 95% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. However, due to the combination of a skewed political arrangement left by British colonialism, the post independence subordination of the people of this region to the rule and domination of the capitalist elite of the three Nigeria’s major nationalities (the Hausa-Fulani, the Yorubas and the Ibos) and the especially rapacious, greedy and reckless exploitation of the regions oil resources by multi-national oil companies in active collaboration with the successive capitalist governments of Nigeria, the region has pathetically remained one of the poorest and environmentally most devastated parts of the world. For ages, governments after governments have made unfulfilled promises to effect adequate development of the region as well as elevating the living standard of its people. This, it must be stressed, was the primary reason, which brought about the development and growth of militia groups claiming to fight for social justice and self-determination few years back across the region. In the past one or two years, the activities of these militia groups have developed to such a proportion that an unhindered reckless exploitation of the region’s oil resources (the mainstay of Nigeria’s corporate entity and stupendous profits for multi-national corporations) could no longer be guaranteed without resolving, one way or the other, what is generally called the Niger Delta crisis.
Quite naturally, both the Nigeria capitalist state and the multinational corporations feeding fat at the expense of the region and its perpetually impoverished people are seriously apprehensive of this development and as such would be prepared to take any step that can, at least, pacify the region in order to guarantee the continuous exploitation of the region’s resources for their own self-serving ends. President Obasanjo, Yar’Adua’s predecessor, used all weapons in his armoury to no avail in resolving this crisis. Apart from his much touted 7-point agenda x-rayed above, the resolution of the Niger Delta crisis has been one of the constant issues being raised by Yar’Adua, as his main agenda.
Towards this end, he has pledged to convoke a “stakeholders conference” on the Niger Delta issue. In addition, he has released on bail, through an obvious political arrangement, Asari Dokubo, one of the main militia leaders, charged with treason and who was refused bail throughout Obasanjo’s era. In his first one hour television and radio interview on September 2, 2007, President Yar’Adua disclosed that his government has now adopted the master plan of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) which “ifâ€¦â€¦implemented fullyâ€¦â€¦â€¦will greatly transform the region”. He speaks further: “We have also worked out a programme of action to set up a framework for solving militancy in the region. One of the issues is the total suspension of all kidnappings for a certain period and for government to move in with issues of development. We are at a stage of setting up a joint implementation strategy. In the next two weeks, we would have a joint communiquÃ© spelling out the steps to be taken. We are still discussing”.
Bluntly put, nothing much will be achieved on the basis of the above outlined perspective. Over the years, and before the creation of the present NDDC, the concept of using a specially created capitalist agency to address the socio-political issues confronting the Niger Delta region has proved a colossal failure. And the reason for this is not far fetched. One, those that get appointed to such agencies were usually political acolytes who invariably were always appointed on the basis of their loyalty and disposition to the powers that be. Two, the few projects that these agencies often undertake were usually done through capitalist contract system, which invariably means that project prices are usually inflated beyond reasonable proportion. At the end of the day, these capitalist agencies have only turned out to be no more than publicity stunts for Nigeria successive capitalist governments, while their appointors carry on with large scale looting of the country’s treasury. Therefore, ensconced as it is, within the framework of neo-liberal capitalist ideology, Yar’Adua’s own Niger Delta “master plan” will fair no better than those of his predecessors.
Yes, for a temporary period, Yar’Adua government reach out to the leaders of the known and main militia groups, could stem the tide of kidnappings, hostage-takings, oil pipe vandalisation and oil bunkering. However, it must be stated that the Niger Delta crisis has, on its own, developed to an epidemic proportion such that an agreement or pacification of a set of militia leaders and armed groups could only have a temporary effect. The current situation in Niger Delta can be likened to the social menace called armed robbery. For thousands of times, the police and security agencies have claimed to have broken the backbone of armed robbery. However, the problem has persisted, threatening the security of the entire society with greater menace and brutality.
Of course, like a true capitalist government, the present Yar’Adua regime has simultaneously continued with the highly expensive and brutal militaristic actions all aimed at forcibly pacifying the restive Niger Delta militia. Towards the end of his days in office, former President Obasanjo, according to the former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku, approved a sum of $2billion for arms to fight the growing insurgency of the Niger Delta militants and people. To underscore the security hysteria associated with Niger Delta, Yar’Adua, in his maiden budget proposal to the National assembly muddled up Niger Delta and security as an item and voted the largest allocation to the appropration bill.So, while President Yar’Adua continues to openly give the impression that his regime is ready to right the wrongs in the Niger Delta, a major part of government strategy remains the usage of superior fire arms to overwhelm the Deltan masses not to positively address their plights. Here, the point should be stressed that this militaristic approach also represents the view point of imperialism on this matter. This is why the capitalist West had helped to create what is called Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy (GGESS). Not even prepared to take any chances, the US has unilaterally formed what is called African Command (AFRICOM) and has almost secured Yar’Adua’s government consent to host same. Of course, to massage the insincere national egos of the African bourgeoisie, John Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State recently stated that “AFRICOM’S goal is to help African countries maintain security. Any notion of the US wanting to further militarize Africa is absolutely false”.
Working class activists and youths must not be deceived by this blatant false pledge. The greatest destabilizing factor troubling Africa remains the horrendous mass poverty which dominates the continent in the midst of inexhaustible materials and human resources. meanwhile, best way to tackle this problem is to stop forthwith the mindless plundering of African resources by imperialism and its utterly corrupt local allies so that the continent’s abundant resources can be really utilized for the benefit of all African people as opposed to the prevailing order where only a tiny capitalist exploiters and looters hold sway. Sadly to note however, this would be the last thing to expect the local capitalists and their imperialist backers to do. On the contrary, they should be expected to continue to pay priority attention to the expansion of the activities of Military Joint Task Force, Gulf of Guinea Energy Security Strategy, AFRICOM, etc. Their primary aim yesterday and today remains how to continue to exploit unhindered the oil resources and the people of Niger Delta through force of arms. Justifying the imperialist military build up in the Niger Delta and Africa, Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi, former Minister of Defence in The Guardian of January 9, 2007, had made the following statement: “The recent presence of some foreign powers in the Gulf of Guinea, as disturbing as it may be, has been occasioned by the incapacity of our armed forces to secure and adequately police the territory. Given the strategic importance of oil and gas deposits available, it weighted against the unsteady supplies from the Middle East. It is in the vital interests of the foreign powers to dominate the Gulf of Guinea at all costs, necessitating their military build-up in the area”.
Therefore, a lasting resolution of the Niger Delta crisis, as well as the social political crisis ravaging the entire Nigeria is something that goes beyond the purview of capitalism and particularly, that of a capitalist government which is based on a brazen electoral fraud as that of President Yar’Adua.