Pitfalls of Vision 2020 in Niger Delta

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Written by Odimegwu Onwumere

If a child is not wise, he would dine with the man that killed his father. But if he is wise, he would fight the man that killed his father so that the killer would not in turn kill him.

I think the resignation letter tendered by Prince Tonye TJT Princewill, the Rivers State Action Congress (AC) Leader, as the Chairmanship of the FG Vision 2020 Sub Committee on the Niger Delta, after a carefully and critically review of the on-going carnage in Niger Delta, has buttressed the point a wise son should make. On the other hand, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) has also watched with disdain and chagrin the recent bombardment of Ijaw communities by members of the JTF of the federal republic of Nigeria in the pretence of cleansing our communities off militants. In a press release made available to newsmen on 18th May 2009, and signed by Dr. Chris Ekiyor, President, Ijaw Youth Council, it states that, as at the time this communiqué was been issued; the following communities namely; AZAMA, KUNUKUNUAMA, KURUTIE, OKERENKOKO, OPOROZA, BENIKURUKURU, OKOARANKO, KOKODIA-GBE, KOLOKUMA and the entire GBARAMATU communities has been sacked. This has led to an untold suffering by the inhabitants of the aforementioned towns and villages. A case of double jeopardy, with the blatant slaying of over a 50,000 law abiding citizens mostly women and children, and over 200,000 people rendered homeless without food or water.

Hear Dr. Ekiyor: “To buttress the insincerity of the Federal Government and the calculated genocide by the Yar'adua administration. There has been heavy military presence in the following major Ijaw towns, namely KAIAMA, ODI, OPOKUMA,YENAGOA, BOMADI,PATANI, OKRIKA, DEGEMA, BONNY, BUGUMA, BELE to mention but a few. It should be restated here that IYC under my leadership believes in dialogue as a means of peaceful mediation in conflict resolution and vehemently opposes the use of force in achieving peace. This genocide by the Yar'adua administration can only escalate the fragile peace been enjoyed in the region and thus, should be stopped. I am also using this as a means to call on the international communities, well meaning Nigerians to prevail on the federal government to stop this genocide, conduct a thorough investigation on those responsible for the showdown and bring them to justice, not minding whose horse is gored. The recent onslaught has brought to bear the insincerity of President Yar'adua's administration on the question of amnesty. Is it not a national shame that President Yar'adua has refused to meet with Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan on this or any other issue in the past 72 hours? Similarly, the IYC calls for total restrain from both side of the conflicts. We have already appealed to our kith and kin in Ijaw communities to remain calm and law abiding while we find a peaceful resolution to this avoidable aggression on our communities.

Prince Princewill spitting fire on his side said, earlier today I tendered my resignation as the Chairman of the FG vision 2020 subcommittee on the Niger Delta in response to the recent developments in the region and as a way of expressing my deep concern for the future direction of our country. Having spent time with the technical committee on the Niger Delta as set up by the Presidency and devoted many years before then to showing our people that there is a better way, my optimism peeked at the realization that the end of the impasse was nigh and the dark days of militancy would soon give way to a new dawn of hope, prosperity and peace built on the foundations of justice, fairness and equity. Despite the increasing criminalization of the legitimate discontent of the people accompanied with the apparent nonchalance on the part of the Federal Government, I again jumped at the chance to play a role in furthering a positive Niger Delta strategy under the Vision 2020 initiative again of the same Federal Government. All this was not because of a lack of things to do but for a love of my country and of my people that made service to either simply a matter of duty. It was never about Yar'Adua.

Unfortunately the recent decimation of riverside communities and the displacement of so many innocent people with the ease of an executive order is the straw that broke the camel's back and has left me feeling that not all hands are on deck and not all parties sincere in the creation of a region and a country we can all be proud of. For me to continue to Chair and chart the course for the blueprint of a Niger Delta region come 2020 is no longer tenable and will be not only like the proverbial pissing in the wind but an exercise in futility as the recipients have demonstrated a clear inability to listen on the one hand and a clear resolve to go it alone on the other. Violence begets violence. This is a message for all sides to ponder. For genuine peace to reign dialogue and understanding is the only route we can follow. The actions of the past few days have made it an even harder road to pursue and the prospect of genuine peace and reconciliation an even more distant memory. If we are to achieve anything from this debacle it is how not to use power. The actions of a few cannot and should not be used an excuse to visit injustice on the many. Today it is the entire people of Gbaramatu Kingdom not just some of them who are suffering. For those who don't appreciate the magnitude of this and opt to stay silent just remember that tomorrow it could be you.

My thoughts at this time remain firmly with the families of the people who have lost their lives and the many women and children who have been forcibly displaced through no fault of their own. I want to appeal to the aid agencies and various tiers of government to come to their aid. It is at moments like this that we must remember we are witnessing human beings at their most vulnerable. Every little will help. We all must stand by them not just in our words but also in our actions. In the meantime we will watch to see what the Federal Government does over the next few days before taking our next line of action. Fight not just crime but the causes of crime and when you do, work to preserve life not destroy it.

However, I share the statement by one George thus: No, Tonye!! Resignation will not solve the problem. If we must move forward as you really want then the boys MUST now drop their arms for dialogue as well. Criminals have taken over the initial genuine intentions and this must not be condoned in any disciplined society. It may be true that the federal Government is not sincere but our people are also using the boys to wreck us. We all know the boys who are doing this. Why can't we tell them to stop carrying guns? Will the guns they are carrying solve the problem? Let us stop playing politics with the lives of our people. You can not make a real change of a system from outside. TAMIL Tigers are gone!!

It is a pity!

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poets Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. [email protected]