By Ben Ikari
Dear Niger delta delegates, this letter serves to respectfully notify you that although the conference isn't sovereign as the Pan Niger delta Conference (PNDC) held on January 28, 2014 demanded like other groups from the region and beyond. Many fronts, including states' representatives from the region or, all of you are present at the talk-shop. You're there to present the region's position and reason, network to actualize same alongside working out plans for a corruption-free and equitable, just, competent and progressive country. As you and other Nigerians know, Niger delta demand is just and fair and will not deprive any region, individual or ethnic group and state, the federal government or organization in the country their fundamental rights.
I ask humbly therefore, that you please insist on revenue generation, and not allow further option to resource ownership and control nor let another chance pass against workable federation, which fairly devolves power and grant greater autonomy to the units. The conference achieving these through your efforts and those of others who believe in the above ideology will not divide or break the country. It will rather change the current armed robbery, corruption-ridden and blood infested status quo, hence strengthen the country and make its states or regions competitively functional and efficient. As such pushing for, and achieving this demand is inductive and deductively fair. It's an expedient demand and the most holistically sound gift and legacy you can give the oppressed Niger deltans you represent and Nigerians in general. You shall owe no one apologies having written your names in GOLD for posterity when you present this demand without chickening out to stomach the present status quo hoping that angels or God will come down to deliver in another fifty or hundred years. Fifty-seven years (1956 to 2014) of exploitation and cheating, terrorizing and killing cum environmental ruins is enough for Nigerians and the world to see that the Niger delta has endured.
This duration is longer than the period critics will claim groundnut pyramid, cocoa and palm produce, etc., which the North, West and East got fifty percent derivation without sweat because they're affected, were used to care for the country. The number of states and development the period before oil boom created for Niger delta compared to what oil has done to the country can't be matched. Obviously many Niger deltans have been killed for the region's demand for equity, fairplay and justice. No one from the North, West and East was killed for asking and getting fifty percent derivation from the proceeds on their land. Their environment wasn't polluted and degraded in the process of growing and harvesting the aforementioned crops or produce. The experience before oil is against the measures the cabal imposed on Niger deltans. What is happening to the region and people is injustice, oppression and victimization of the highest order. The fundamental rights of the children, women, men and youths of Niger delta have been grossly violated.
So the choice is yours (like fault shall be yours if to the contrary) to end this unjust and dehumanizing treatment once and for all at the conference. That is, whether the conference is another waste of time or attempt that will benefit political interest and deceitfully ease nerves or an opportunity to discuss and solve the country's problems in an honest and just fashion. It remains your choice, as Niger delta delegates to stand up and reject the status quo. What if things don't work out as they're hoped to, is the question many will ask. The Niger delta delegates still have the most natural and righteous responsibility, even legal duty to insist on the region's demand and should be ready to tell the conference and peoples of Nigeria that Niger delta wishes to take a leave of absence from the country since the cabal or government and people aren't ready to do what's right by allowing freedom, justice and peace to prevail. This leave of absence means breaking away from the country and become independent. Although Nigeria may not escape the fate of former Soviet Union, Crimea in Ukraine and many groups or nations today, which break away from their original countries may not be bigger or not have been more oppressed than Niger delta.
What mattered to them is a recognition for human dignity, and so the will, determination to be free when oppression reached unbearable height. The oppression, cheating, killings and other ills forced on Niger deltans have no space to contain them. If Niger deltans, particularly the politicians and leaders, some of whom are at the conference aren't part of the conspiracy, the need and time to act is now else the pain will continue unabated. The region's just and fair demands for resource ownership and control, environmental justice aren't negotiable. Niger deltans may not appreciate the leverage or power they have, if fear becomes the recipe for a continual suffering. But once Niger delta take the first active step to make real its desire to say "Bye to Nigeria," an artificial country forced on the peoples against their wish, other groups, preferably Igbos will join to embolden many more. That is, assuming what we've been reading and seeing lately is to be laid hands on as reliable and dependable positions.
Consequently, true fiscal federalism or confederation, that comes with self-government or greater autonomy, resource generation and control should be the basis on which Nigeria will continue or disintegrate. Meanwhile, let me remind you of the resolutions and recommendations Pan Niger delta Conference made at the January pre-conference mentioned above. It’s that Goodluck Jonathan, who is the Nigerian president, and a Niger deltan, should mandate conference representation based on ethnic configuration or nationality instead of following the advice of the presidential advisory committee that was led by Dr. Femi Okurounmu. Because Jonathan, his advisers and cabal aren't open to the Sovereign National Conference ideology many Nigerians have demanded, rather looking forward to maintaining the status quo ante. Jonathan opted for representation based on federal government and states, civil society organizations, private and government sector institutions and other groups' representation.
As expected, one of Niger delta's pre-conference recommendations (ethnic representation) was ignored. The second important resolution and recommendation is that Nigeria should operate a true federal system of government, which will allow or create component units and guarantee them political autonomy and devolve power. The third resolution and recommendation that is core to the political, economic, social and otherwise development of the region and Nigeria in general and already pointed to, is resource generation, ownership and control without which the conference will be a ruse as usual. The fourth resolution and recommendation is referendum. That is, the conference should work out modalities that will subject its final recommendations to a national referendum. This way, the National Assembly's drama which shall be due to political differences and the predominance of the North, West and Eastern politicians will not stymied the efforts of the conference, which could come from critical thinking, hard decisions, dialogue, understanding and compromise based on honesty and fairness.
A referendum will also not toe Jonathan's earlier referral of conference resolutions to the National Assembly for review. Now, considering how the conference is going, particularly the fear that the status quo may be protected by government and cabal's delegates since committee membership is imposed by the leadership, and the fact that northerners especially of Hausa-Fulani stock aren't willing to compromise. I request humbly and respectfully that you and other delegates who believe in and advocate true fiscal federalism that bears the four legs and head of resource generation, ownership and control to persuasively make it upon the conference/country as a demand and as of right. Now is the time to not concede further resource sharing or allocation formula, rather preach and demand, get a deal that allows all the states or regions of Nigeria, including the federal government to generate their own resources or revenue so as to better run the country.
The task is a tough one when taking into account, the different interest and particularly the greedy cabal/federal government using their anointed delegates to playing "rub my back my back, I rub your back," thus twisting hands. Notwithstanding, it's a task that is possible, because nothing is impossible except where fear, lack of knowledge, doubt for possibilities and will, becloud the thinking of humans. The task demands energy, focus, delivery strategies, which include non-negotiable pitch. There may be no other opportunity to sit at another conference since the country can't pretend, lie to itself by doing all the wrong things, including conferences which agenda and end-result is dictated by few. These heartless brutes, cannibals have repeatedly ignored the will of the people and expect everyone, group to continue clapping and saying, “thank you, for making our lives miserable." The bunch never stops at lying that sovereignty is of the people in the face of hyper-corruption, other crimes against citizens, including killing them for demanding the best from their so-called leaders who are exposing them to untold hardship and danger, while they parade with bags of oil money smiling with their family and friends, associates in crimes, and in convoy of armed security operatives.
Lastly, although to signal suspected failure, the National Assembly seems not willing to amend current military imposed constitution to including referendum, so makes Jonathan not sure about the power of the conference to recommend and possibly conduct a referendum alongside the National Assembly, Electoral Commission and other groups, thus the likelihood for him to leave outcome to the partisan lawmakers, who would probably rubbish the work of the conference as originally design. Jonathan knew there is need for referendum, without which decisions at the conference shall be null and void except citizens insist and revolt, but he proceeded. He also knew consensus or seventy-five percent vote on all matters at the conference may not be possible when taking into account the issues, divide and animosity, but he went ahead to accept the idea from the cabal bent on maintaining the status quo. It's also clear that handpicked loyalists (so-called 50 wise men) finally imposed a 70 percent vote on the conference as a middle ground between seventy-five and sixty-six percent. This group and the conference leadership also imposed committee members on delegates hence ignore most delegates who earlier indicated interest to serve on committees they've expertise and others.
Irrespective of the scheming and hidden agenda, signs of wasteful exercise and failure. These issues or resolutions and recommendations should, and must be placed by all Niger delta or South-South delegates as demand without which nothing else shall be accepted from the conference. The Niger delta children must not continue to suffer in abject poverty while some from the North claims the oil at their backyard and under the graves of their forebears is theirs, so the only thing the people sitting on it deserve is environmental pollution, death and fights by few over the crumbs they throw to the presumed dogs. The right time is now to act decisively for the respect, protection and justice the Niger delta people deserve. You owe it to yourselves, the people of the region and Nigerians in general, to take this demand to every corner and committees of the conference, and insist it become the foundation for a new Nigeria or Niger delta will bid the country bye!