Rejoinder to ‘Parasitic North?'

By Reno Omokri

Hello Mr. Bamaguje,

Greetings. I read your article and was impressed by its intellectual depth and obvious research. It was a good article. An objective reader can easily see that you made an effort to understand the problems of the Niger Delta and its relationship with the rest of Nigeria.

I just wanted to point out some observations which I believe may help you increase your insights as your article increased mine.

First, try to understand that the average Nigerian is not really educated and as such has not really developed his/her mind to an extent were he/she can reason objectively. Consequently a lot of us are slaves to our emotions and can not empathize or put ourselves in the other man's shoes.

If we are going by the meaning of the term parasite which refers to a relationship between parties where one party feeds of another it may hurt you when I say that the North is indeed parasitic, but it is true. It is a notorious fact that about 84% of Nigeria's earnings come from oil and this makes not just the North, but all of Nigeria dependent on oil and therefore the Niger-Delta. As a matter of fact it was Palm oil in the Niger-Delta that first attracted the British colonialist to the area now known as Nigeria whose name equally derives from the river Niger. You may now begin to see how the Niger Delta and oil are central to Nigeria.

And the North is dependent on the Niger Delta not because the North chooses to be, but because of the arrested development the North suffered when its major Philosopher king (Ahmadu Bello) was killed. His plan for the North as evidenced by his actions was to lift the populace by uniting them irrespective of tribe and religion and using the rich agricultural based economy of the North to make it the greatest part of Nigeria. He was a visionary. One North was his philosophy and he lived it. But when he was killed Nigeria was not able to sustain his leadership abilities and subsequent Northern leaders allowed the oil wealth to slowly but surely weaken the fabric of Northern society which hitherto had hard work and industry as its back bone.

The South too has become extremely hedonistic and has an insatiable desire for everything foreign. You may also call the South dependent on the North because we depend on the North and imports for our food security. The only difference is that this is a commercial relationship were the South pays for agricultural produce. This makes the South consumers.

As you rightly said the thing to do is to get rid of the corrupt elite that has held Nigeria hostage. But in doing that you must realize that your work or that of any one who chooses to correct Nigeria is cut out for you. You can not do this by writing things that will incite easily emotional people to anger.

You may want to avoid passing judgment on things that you may not have adequate information on, such as saying "…The amount of money that has accrued to the South-South governors in the past nine years is enough, more than enough to transform the Niger Delta...If monies are being used judiciously and religiously, the monies that have come to the governors of the South-South today, we would not have the problems we are having in the Niger Delta...The corruption among the governors in the South-South is enormous, the stealing is enormous, and I have stood as a voice even I would be the lonely voice that would tell them, so be it…".

Making these kinds of statement is only opening the door to counter accusations that may show an equal or even greater failure of leadership in other parts of Nigeria. For instance we have been witnesses to governors of dirt poor states accused of stealing 30 billion Naira only to turn cry babies when arraigned in court, of serving governors collecting 200 million Naira pensions, of economically backward states buying 57 cars for royal fathers or of sons of former Northern rulers flying polo horses in chartered jets to Switzerland for treatment when they are surrounded by millions of desperately poor peasants.

Shameful as the case of Ambassador Edem is, it is not a Niger Delta failing, it is a Nigerian failing. If you point fingers, others may remind you of a certain ex ruler who also patronized marabouts and reportedly ferried in exotic prostitutes whose pleasures were so delightful that they eased the man to the world beyond.

The truth is that the Nigerian system that emanated after the fall of the first republic is a system that will corrupt even an angel and it does not benefit any one and should be changed.

Have you not wondered why the regions worked very well? It was because our founding fathers and the British in their wisdom understood that true federalism was the best way forward for a country as diverse as Nigeria. Nigerians feel a sense of attachment to their regions that they do not feel for Nigeria.

Statements such as 'Even after the North made the mistake of bending over backwards to accommodate the outrageous offshore greed of Niger Delta agitators that short-changed the rest of the nation, the pea-brained ethnic jingoists continue their campaign of calumny against Arewa.' will never help any cause you or any decent person believes in. The North is not shortchanged by allowing people control of their God given resources. The North is only shortchanged when it neglects its own God given resources. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the Niger Delta people. Think deeply in sustained ways and empathize and try to understand the issues they face.

If you keep making the statements above, what would you say to Southerners and Northern minorities who have been the victims of senseless killings in the core North? I am sure you must have heard of Nigerians who were killed in the North because of a cartoon in far away Denmark. What would their relatives and survivors say when they read your words? They would only hate the North the more which is counter to what you are trying to achieve.

For instance if you understand the issues faced in the Niger Delta you would not have made the comment you made in response to one 'Tempest' on NVS that 'Like I stated in the article, the environmental degradation is largely self-inflicted by parasitic Niger Delta saboteurs who prefer to collect easy compensation millions, rather than work the land like we lazy Northerners.'

This statement is simply not befitting a man who has shown as much intellect as you did in your article and is not backed up by fact. How will Niger-Delta people self inflict environmental degradation? From this statement it is easy to see that you have not really been to the Niger Delta and if you ever went then you saw but did not observe. The Niger Delta environmental degradation has been chronicled by film makers, researchers and world bodies. It is a notorious fact which needs not be proven and it is of such a magnitude that there are serious doubts that it can ever be repaired. You may want to see the award winning movie 'Crude Impact' (get details on http://www.crudeimpact.com/show.asp?content_id=9665)

You are a Northerner and you will agree with me that the killing of the great Ahmadu Bello led to the civil war which set Nigeria backwards and cost over 1 million lives and sowed such a seed of discord that we are still reaping till today. The death of this one man enraged your region and set it backwards because of the leadership it deprived the North of. If you had read Gen TY Danjuma's last interview in The Guardian, you will understand that there is still a lot of angst over this issue. That interview was laced with venom.

Well Mr. Bamaguje, the killing of Ken Saro Wiwa had the same result in the Niger-Delta as the killing of Ahmadu Bello. Before his execution the term Niger-Delta militants did not exist. Ken Saro Wiwa was an intellectual who authored several books and produced a satirical comedy on Nigerian television called 'Basi and Company'. He had a vision of a peaceful agitation for resource control and was effective at that and that was what led the regime of Sani Abacha to set up a tribunal that sentenced him to death and as you know being an intellectual that 'those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable', this singular action was the genesis of militancy in the Niger Delta struggle. Prior to that the only time the people of the Niger Delta were militant was in the 60s during the Isaac Boro rebellion.

In conclusion I would want to appeal to you to use your obvious talents and intellect to champion the cause of changing the present system in Nigeria which is a worthy campaign and not contaminate it with a divisive ‘us and them' approach.

Reno Omokri.