Dr Chris Ekiyor is the former National President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) and currently the Caretaker Chairman of Patani Local Government Council of Delta State. In this interview, the Niger Delta activist faults the calls for amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect and warns that the people of the Niger Delta will resist any move to use the resources from the area to fund the amnesty.
On the 2015 presidency, he says the people of the Niger Delta are unanimous in their decision that President Goodluck Jonathan should run for second term asserting that any attempt to stop him by the North will lead to the end of Nigeria. Excerpts:
The Federal Government has announced a committee to look into the possibilities of granting amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect. As one of those who perfected amnesty for ex-militants in the Niger Delta, what is your view?
This is another bandwagon effect that is tearing apart our country again. Amnesty today is another word for quick money. I think it is a misplaced national priority to even think about granting amnesty to a bunch of people who, in all their activities, have shown criminality, have shown cold blood murder and have no focus or issue. And it is unfortunate to try to equate Boko Haram with the struggles of the Niger Delta.
In the Niger Delta, a people, who were living peacefully and having their own livelihood, were traumatized by the Federal Government with its activities in oil exploration. Their land captured, their environment polluted from 1957 till date. And the people decided to say, enough is enough, you cannot take our oil and impoverish us. You cannot put 60 per cent of our oil wealth in the hands of northerners and our environment is not protected. You have to allow us control our resources so that we can develop our place at the pace at which we found our resources. We are willing to pay tax to the center as it is done every where that oil was found’. That was what caused the Niger Delta crisis.
The Niger Delta struggle was a purposeful and ideology based struggle. That was the focus. Now, between 1996 and 2003, of course, it became an all-comers struggle. Criminals who will go and steal on the streets will claim that they kidnapped because of oil. Between 2003 and 2007 it went out of hand because the military itself became a party to the process.
By the time the Federal Government was offering amnesty, oil had been cut down to 700 barrels per day by the activities of the people in the creeks. Insecurity in the region made oil companies to foldup. Before, the youths accepted amnesty, they sent representatives including myself to dialogue with the government and they were series of meetings under the late President Yar’Adua’s administration.
Now, in accepting amnesty, the country recovered economically to the tune of about 2.1million barrels per day and you know what that means to the nation’s coffers. So, if from that pool, money is taken to rehabilitate people, who so to say admitted that it is our mother land, we will now allow government develop the region. Taking amnesty brought more value to the government and it is now trying to reciprocate the gesture by training people in the region.
’Militancy in the Niger Delta different from Boko Haram mayhem’
But beyond the technicalities of talking about amnesty for a group of people who are murderers, I think that government has misplaced its priority in terms of what it is saying.
Dialogue with the people, yes, amnesty, no. Amnesty is not an exit window for criminals. These are people who have murdered over five thousand people in cold blood. People are in churches, they bomb the churches, killing people who are equally victims of bad governance like them. Again, 80 percent of these people are not Nigerians. So, if you are granting them amnesty, where will you take the resources for which you are going to reintegrate them? Is it the Niger Delta resources, our oil money to integrate criminals and murderers in the North? That money should be put on infrastructures across the country if the money is too much in the government coffers.
’Jonathan taking bullshit’
I am particularly worried that our president, in line with his broad nationalism, is taking too many bullshit from too many people. He is the most insulted president not because he has not worked, there is no president that has done better than Goodluck in the history of Nigeria, but people don’t seem to know because he is not a loud speaker, he does not embarrass people.
’Posterity will not forgive Jonathan if he fails to develop the Niger Delta’
President Jonathan is a broad-minded Nigerian, he is trying to balance projects in all the regions and, in doing that, he has undermined his own region. So the Niger Delta people have started clamouring why should we not have more. But again he is the President of Nigeria not for Niger Delta. It is now left for the Niger Delta members in the National Assembly to ensure that there are resources in the appropriate ministries such as the Ministry of the Niger Delta to develop the region. As it is today the Ministry of Niger Delta is not being funded and that is why the Minister is frustrated. If you check the money they appropriated for the Niger Delta Ministry and that of Water Resources, you will see the difference. I want to also say that Mr President must not feel that if he develops the Niger Delta he will be blamed for it. Infact if he does not develop the Niger Delta posterity will not forgive him.
People committed themselves in developing Abuja because they have an agenda to develop the North. Jonathan is not weak as people are saying, no weak person can lead Nigeria. The problem is that this country is held by cabals and those people don’t want the development of the Niger Delta. So it is not Jonathan but a lot of people around him have their own agenda.
’Jonathan must run in 2015′
We were in this country when youths were mobilized to Abuja, ‘Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha’, during the military rule, when all the five political parties endorsed one man. We were in this country when Obasanjo wanted to go for third term.
Alameseigha and others were arrested. Yes, they may have been involved in corrupt practices but they became victims due to their opposition to the third term bid. People are talking now because Jonathan is seen as a toothless bull dog. He is seen as being weak, but they don’t know that it is in that his weakness that he has his strength. How can you see a president and say he should not contest again? The choice to contest is his but if he decides to contest, nobody can stop him except the ballot. And if they feel he cannot contest, then we should all be ready to pack our luggage.
Goodluck may be the last President of Nigeria because a lot of predictions are in line. There is the provision in the amalgamation law which says that, if after hundred years we cannot co-exist, everybody can go his way. These are signs of the end and we are happy about it those of us from the Niger Delta.
The earlier Nigeria breaks so that we can go and rebuild our economy and our environment the better since Nigerians don’t know that Goodluck is a blessing and a builder. Nobody can stop Jonathan, we have said that he must contest and anybody who does not want to support us, no problem. We will campaign throughout the nook and cranny of the country.