Nigerians Bear the Pain As MEND Injects A New Wave of Criminality

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, popularly referred to as MEND, is no doubt the most dreaded faceless group that bestrode the southern part of Nigeria. Their activity so callous and unprecedented has sent shock waves all through other parts of Nigeria. It's so pronounced with awe and dread that any criminal or rogue wanting to instill fear in an opponent cites an affiliation to the evolving group.

Carefully, any reasonable mind can attest to how this monster has effervesced from kidnapping of foreigners to detonation of timed bombs in the midst of Nigerians and then the latest, blowing up pipelines, vessels and platforms. With bogus and well written emails which underline a complex, the group through one so called ÔÇśJomo Gbomo' claim responsibility for a variety of wicked acts that leaves the people they claim to emancipate maimed, killed or rendered homeless in the resulting confrontation with the military. The exuberance of this group is very clear as they enjoy the limelight their villainy attracts. At the slightest misstatement by any government official, pipelines are blown up e.g. the latest which was done just because the GMD NNPC alleged the corporation was paying up militants to keep the peace and protect pipelines. A denial by ÔÇśJomo' would have reassured Nigerians truthfully, but they decided to put a lie to the GMD's claim by further blowing up national assets. It is frivolous, childish and a clear revelation on the mindset of this group.

 This group enjoys what I will call press patronage, their emails are given front pages while everyone is thrown into fear as their fixed range of dates for another ÔÇśeconomic sabotage' approaches. Literary giants, well respected elder statesmen, leaders of thought, religious and traditional leaders in Nigeria who are expected to reject and condemn these actions to much consternation have turned a blind eye to the complications this short sighted acts are causing preferring to blame the Government as catalysts to this roguery; even newspaper editorials have chosen to turn a blind eye jumping the devil to blame the demon. I have never and I repeat never read or heard anyone of these categories of people whom I have deliberately not mentioned criticize or condemn this sheer recklessness and wickedness.

 MEND cites its goal to be a patriotic fight for the emancipation of the Niger delta people which this writer must concur have been afflicted and impoverished despite being inhabitants of the oil and gas rich region. According to the Oxford Paperback Dictionary Thesaurus, to emancipate means to and I reference "1. free from legal, social or political restrictions. 2 free from slavery' and concludes by mentioning its derivatives from the word Emancipation. I can connect this dictionary mini expatiation to a progressive, intellectual and ideological drive towards setting a people free of all sorts of oppression whether economic, social or physical not careless acts of violence that further degrade the environment, increase oil spills, encourage bunkering while entrenching a system of criminality that is sustained by weapons of death.

Some pundits argue that the progressive and ideological posturing of the likes of Isaac Boro and Ken Saro Wiwa (may their great souls be blessed) in their fight for the people never achieved a goal and it is time to try the armed aspect. My response has always been when will we learn to think clearly and exercise some foresight in this country? Is it an armed struggle that will provide better results in terms of attention and development?  

It beats my humble imagination that a people who claim to be fighting against environmental degradation and pollution due to oil spills now turn around to blow up pipelines that in turn spill its contents unto the land and sea. Do we need a Solomon to tell us that what these MEND people are doing is costing us more than it is benefitting us? The price of oil soars leading to a resultant scarcity in all the energy needed to make life easier for the ordinary man, it takes a stark illiterate not to know that the resultant effects of indiscriminate pipeline destruction in an oil dependent country like Nigeria is increase in food, service and commodity price respectively. The people at Abuja, Shell or Chevron are not inconvenienced one bit by these irresponsible acts because we all know they have the capabilities to mitigate any attendant fall out hence safeguarding their immediate families. Who then bears the burden and brunt, the ordinary man; you, me and our loved ones?

 One of the reasons why Nigeria and indeed Nigerians still have some element of respect amongst the comity of nations is the fact it maintains an enviable position at the OPEC? Understandably, our position at the OPEC is currently being reviewed because we can no longer meet our quota per day?

 When has pulling down a whole house become the best solution to address grievances raised by members of a family? Yes the governments we have had in place in Nigeria including the current one have shown crass irresponsibility and neglect to the Niger delta people but the means of seeking redress by MEND is jaundiced, lacks direction, focus and I make it bold to say it would eventually lead to an implosion that will leave us all on the floor.

 The major problem of the south-south region today is leadership and nothing else. The inability of elected representatives of the people to provide adequate governance despite increased huge federal allocations has trumped up reasonable noises about resource control and agitations which has heated up the country because this noise is being championed by selfish political and tribal rogues.

MEND should challenge and hold the Jonathan's, Alamieyeseigha's, Odili's, Ibori's, Attah's, Anenih's, Alaibe's etc to charge and if possible deploy their arsenals to seize and confiscate their loots and properties and this would in essence if not immediately but on the long run ensure accountability and probity amongst political leaders in the region. Only then would the region feel some developmental impact, the FG alone cannot be blamed for the neglect of that region. People like Ibori with state loot running into millions of dollars should be drilled by MEND if indeed they are sincere about their claim to freedom fight. When a proper arithmetic on all formal accruals to the whole region in the past nine years is done and compared to what is physically on ground, it will be crystal clear that mismanagement and executive vice is the major reason for the neglect in the region.

Today thanks to pioneers MEND, kidnapping thrives in the country, and criminals have seen this as a lucrative form of business in which no one is spared, be you a baby, child or grand father. Friends, children, husbands, wives and relations now arrange kidnaps to extort money from their own loved ones. It is a despicable shame that has an origin traceable to MEND! With MEND idolized by criminal elements, political thugs and assassins in the region, they too have taken up arms against Nigerian citizens harassing them with sophisticated weapons that are often times leased to contemporaries outside the region through a criminal network that can be blamed for the increased level of insecurity in the south eastern and western parts of the country.

International security experts have rightfully intercepted intelligence describing Nigeria as a fertile recruitment ground for the ÔÇśmujahedeen' based on the successes of MEND in entrenching terror in the creeks. What more, the Nigeria government with a consistently reduced production in barrels and the evident fall in income now has all the excuse in its kitty to jack up energy prices while also denying the people basic amenities and socio infrastructural services.

 Till we think proactively in this country, we will never make any form of progress; we will continue to beat around the bush preferred by gross failures like Obasanjo and Yar'adua so as to amass further wealth and massage the ego's of selfish cliques respectively.

 Making noise amid destructions in the creeks would not ensure attention and development, it would only increase tension, awe, hardship and that's it. Writing letters to George Bush, Barack Obama and George Clooney wouldn't neither; these are people who would take sides with their multinational companies considering their strategic importance to their own economies.

 The only solution is the forming of a coalition of what I would call armed good governance vigilantes that would keep all the public and elected officials from the local councilor in the region to the VP in check, demanding probity and accountability daily and this in turn would reflect in inflexible demands by these elected representatives for quality services and development from these oil companies. I bet you, these companies treat us with disdain because of the way our leaders have presented themselves before them. They are seen as self centred gluttons.

Sensitizing and if possible forcefully preventing rogues from contesting to sensitive positions of leadership is another option that can be used by MEND using its e media prowess and weaponry.

Except something very similar to a revolution against selfish leaders is done in this region nothing will change. I repeat destruction of the collective heritage of the country to ÔÇśdraw attention' wouldn't do any good; instead it would further bleed the sick country rendering its masses further impoverished. MEND should take up arms against ÔÇślootocrats and embezzlers' and not economically viable infrastructures that would be useful to us all one day when a progressive listening government comes into place. Yes that day would come!

Norris Benedict writes from London, UK