By Austin Emaduku
The Managing Director of Delta State Oil Producing Area Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Chief William Makinde, speaking on Quest FM on Tuesday, 6th September, 2016, made a very serious point regarding the relocation of oil servicing companies from Delta State that should be a take home for every true lover of the Niger Delta. His major point was that we created the state of insecurity that chased away the companies that would have provided employment for our teaming unemployed youths.
This is the immutable truth that our so-called agitators and those who applaud them have failed to see. There is on the rise, a culture of laziness and self-destruct that has permeated and continues to bedevil the Niger Delta region, especially Delta State.
I can recall the mid-80s to the early 90s when Warri, the economic hub of Delta State was home to hundreds of oil companies. Oil production was at its peak and many of our young men and women were engaged in one form of employment or the other: technicians, fitters, welders, caterers, security guards, etc. It was in this era that catering, a hitherto disregarded profession in this area came to the fore.
Several catering schools sprang up to train careers to fill the need of the catering companies that catered for the countless oil companies that operated offshore and they were legion. Even security companies became sophisticated and people were no longer ashamed to take on security jobs as they were now well kitted and the pay was good. The economy of the area boomed. Night life and recreational activities which are indicators of economic buoyancy of the citizenry thrived.
Female night workers, popularly called club girls, could visit any of the night clubs, pick up an expatriate oil worker of any nation and take him to her one room apartment in a face me I face you apartment and spend the night in peace. That white man would wake up in the morning take a cab and go back to his place of abode without any fear or may even decide to spend the weekend without a care for his safety. Club girls were known then to turn down advances from black men whom they nicknamed "si kro kro" for lack of dollar power during club nights until the early hours of the morning when it became clear that there would be no white customers to catch. Such were the exotic tastes of even prostitutes! How times have changed.
Enter the dragon! From nowhere, in the name of resource control, greedy politicians seeking leverage in national politics empowered and encouraged criminal groups to cripple oil installations. This graduated to kidnapping of expatriate oil workers for ransom and then vandalization and bombing of pipelines.
There was a time in Warri when you walked into a roadside bar and you would see an "Oyibo" man drinking beer. They had black friends, co-workers, whom they visited at home. But with the advent of unthinking militancy, the companies started relocating one after the other. Those that remained bought up our security and made us second class citizens in our land. You need to observe these expatriates hold up traffic during rush hours.
While our gun wielding uniform security operatives clear traffic for them –sometimes flogging us – we are made to spend needless hours in traffic just so that they can pass. While there is shortage of security for our homes and neighborhood, our expatriate friends have no such worries. Even the almighty Nigerian Army has been reduced to “maigad” – personal security men – status at the residents of the expatriates. You dare not loiter around their abodes or else you get the usual bloody civilian treatment.
Where has all this left us? A teeming horde of lazy jobless youths who think the surest way to easy wealth is intimidation and violence. They are even against the development of their own communities. Anyone who has attempted to create a road, draw electricity or site a building project in any of our commutes will know what I am talking about. "Deve" collection has driven away many investors from our clime as well as hampered and led to the folding up of many business concerns.
The evil that we created has come full circle. In the absence of white men to kidnap, these so called agitators have turned on our wives, daughters, and mothers who are daily kidnapped, and violated.
How does bombing and polluting the already degraded environment help the Niger Delta cause? How has the harassment and intimidation of investors helped the cause of the region? Instead of acting with tact to protect and preserve our environment, we have contributed in no small measure to its destruction. Instead of agitating to create wealth and employment, we have chased away employment opportunities.
Now let me say this to the so-called Niger Delta agitators who blow up oil pipelines and pollute the already over devastated environment. You are like the mad man who in an attempt to solve problem of rats in his house, set the house on fire only to sleep out in the rain. You are worse than the Boko Haram of the North-East. At least, for the Boko Haram, there is a religious hope of heaven and dream of conjugal bliss with seventy virgins, but for you, your religion has already condemned you to a life of damnation in hell, for the faith you profess is against rape, arson, stealing and murder. And for those who profess the African traditional religious faith, yours is even worse, for the gods of Egbesu, Agbejugbele, Igbe or whatever god you serve does not wait for the afterlife to mete out retribution.
Until we create a conducive atmosphere for investment to thrive we will continue to be jobless. The DESOPADEC MD put it succinctly when he said, until a white man can walk freely from NPA, Warri, to Enerhen junction in Effurun, without fear of being kidnapped, investors will continue to run away from our region and with them the prospect of employment and general economic boom.
Mark Zuckerberg recently came to Nigeria, freely walked on the streets of Lagos and jogged on Eko Bridge without security escort. This is the kind of environment that encourages investors and employment creation and not an atmosphere like the killing fields of the streets of Lebanon.
I challenge all “Waferians” with memory to cast their minds back to the mid-80s to early 90s before the agitation that drove away the companies and tell me when the region was better off: before or after the agitations? What gains has the so-called militancy brought us if not strife, tears and pain? Besides making billionaires of a few, what gains have the years of criminal militancy disguised as agitation for freedom the region?
Niger Deltans, it is time for us to think.
(Emaduku wrote from Ekete, Udu LGA, Delta State, Nigeria.)