From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
There appears to be no solution yet in sight in the current crisis in the Niger Delta, how depressed are you over the situation?
To suggest that there is no solution is against my faith; there is nothing God cannot do. I know there is a solution and we are working towards it. I am bold to let you know that some elite in the country want to take advantage of this to get recognition; that is why the issue of militancy has continued. The approaches we are adopting to end the crisis are strategic.
To begin to tell you what we are doing will not be okay. When you give out information, it means you must be able to manage it. We are getting down to the roots.
Is your allusion that the elite want the crisis to continue based on investigation; and are the elite you fingered from the Niger Delta?
The crisis is traceable to the elite from the region and other sections of the country. They are doing that for various reasons which are not connected to the Niger Delta improvement.
Why do you think that some leaders from the zone are against federal government dialoguing with the militants?
I am not aware of any leader that said we shouldn’t dialogue. The Minister of Transportation said, ‘If you will have to negotiate issues of the region, then call the leaders of the region, not those who pose to be representing the region whereas they are only representing criminality.’ That means he believes that the solution can come once and for all without facing it on the basis of social strategy. That the governor of Edo State suggested that government should drop charges of those who committed crime against the country as object of negotiation isn’t correct; this is promoting crime that was what I heard them say.
The only pressure I feel is the pressure of the normal work of an office that is encumbered with crisis. Since the ministry was formed, there was no much measure of militants; maybe true or not true. Not everyone is willing to see and appreciate the change in the governance, in strategy, approach, vision, in the total fabric of Nigerian moral content. The difficulty of adapting forms the agitations. The Niger Delta region in appreciating the change is sentimental than rational. Many are more sentimental about the administration, they have forgotten that every administration since 1999 has come in by the ballot rightly or wrongly perceived, rightly or wrongly introduced, legitimately or otherwise. But when there is a government in place, we have learnt to accept that all along. Why is it that at this time, we will not learn to accept that? Some people think that if it doesn’t happen the way they want it to be, then it is wrong. Before the election, it was said that if the Niger Delta indigenous president did not win the election then the country would not be in peace. So, various theories that can be accommodated in the speculations subject to prove and otherwise.
The tangent of reality is between the pronouncement and the eventualities, otherwise there is nothing else you can say. Are they really carrying out the threats? If they were to carry it out, how will it have gone other than what is going on and I think there is no reason for that.
But don’t you think that it was this way that the Boko Haram insurgency began?
Between 2003 and 2004, there was no Boko Haram, the US issued a warning of Nigeria as a terrorist state and instead of us digging into their investigation, we decided to ask for apologises and abused their Parliament. If the foresight was there or crafted on the account of intelligence; the issue of them using Boko Haram to destabilize Jonathan’s government wouldn’t arise. The first time the bombings occurred in 2010, the President said the bomb wasn’t made but later when the evidence proved otherwise, a Nigerian was convicted in South Africa, did it make any meaning? Can you draw chronologies between the eventualities? It was safe for the president to conclude without waiting for due intelligence. It suggested a mindset of ethnicity and the government does not run that way. If we say again that Boko Haram was used to destabilize his government, I ask a question, who has the capacity to degrade Boko Haram? Is it you and or the government?
This now drives us to the current vogue of hearing the confessions of how money which was supposed to be used to fight insurgency was shared, who presided over it? During the campaign, there was a claim that the present president sponsored Boko Haram, he was almost killed in a bomb blast, it was the same man that said the fight against insurgency must leave the headquarters to the location where it is happening and within one year, have we not seen the effort? Maybe he is pretending but if that pretence leads to safety and peace, let it continue.
I am not just uncomfortable by the things happening in my state but by the things happening in Nigeria. We may not have a nation soon. Where is there peace in Nigeria? Other countries that have problems were not like this, ours is worse in terms of foundation. The case in Cross River State where politicians want to seek recognition, we have ideas of the funding and those funding them.
The threats are not overwhelming the government; government has a spirit, any man in authority is a minister of God, biblically, politically; the strength of government by its foundation is such that it can’t be overpowered no matter how small it is. This government doesn’t want to be at war with the citizens. Idle minds would want to endanger the citizens the county is trying to protect. When the government wants to defend the state, those ideal people would start talking about human rights. Do rights only pertain to a category of people? Rights have duties and responsibilities, you can’t have a right when you don’t have a duty to perform and you can’t have a duty when you don’t have a responsibility. Government has the rights to protect the people, and a duty to sustain the rights and the responsibility that goes with it to provide the social security. Government cannot be weighed to provide without them carrying out the security. The difference between the criminals is that one section is educated and they call themselves elite.
The fact that government isn’t confronting the people means they are thinking outside the box. The killing of the woman was condemned by the government. It is a collective responsibility. If you say the killings are not your business, it will get to the point where it’s at your doorstep and you will be ignored.
The popular thinking is that the president has not been fair; that he is favouring one section of the country?
In Nigeria, gaps are widened with the vocal posture of advocacy on any matter, because some people have learned to cry out loud, the gap seems to be widening. Look back at the appointments from 1999 till now and let us know the time it has been rating in favour of one region to another until we carry out that analysis, then we will understand. Some of the appointments we are crying for, we don’t have a reason to cry because appointments that border on the administration of the presidency and his personal security are not the issues any one should talk about at all, we don’t have to play democracy. People want to attack anyone that says no to corruption.
When Obasanjo set up EFCC under Malam Nuhu Ribadu, those same people made the allegations that they were using him to fight those he didn’t like. In the present administration, have you not heard that the close associates of the president are being arrested, those who will speak and it will be like the President has spoken; that’s what I mean by close associates. The government wants to show a transparent face.
The transition committee of this administration recommended the removal of subsidy, but the President said it would bring a lot of hardship on the poor people; then it got to a stage where the foreign reserve was so depleted that there was nothing there to import, and they agreed to deregulate totally. Non-payment of salaries existed before this administration came and the president came and gave bail out for salaries to be paid. There is a social justice to ensure that the administration takes care of the citizens. If you are using the money gotten to solve problems from the past, then you need money to solve that of the present. Then economic infrastructure which is destroyed by the people; you cannot ask a day old child to chew bones when he or she has no teeth, how do we attend to the economy without resources? Some ministers are living in boys’ quarters or are even squatting in two bedroom flats. The truth about this administration is that they are determined to solve the problems of the country; they were pretending that the country was doing well. Economic growth doesn’t amount to development, economic development doesn’t even amount to human development, it is policy framework that distributes the resources, and once the policy framework are faulty, nothing can be done. The money recovered from the former NSA alone; presume that it was ploughed into the economy what will happen by now. It is not the lack of consent but the lack of resources that limits the government.
There is no hopelessness. A hopeless situation would not be better than the attempts of the government. This nation has been affected with something more dangerous than cancer. There is no alternative than to keep doing what we are doing to recover the economy.
What are you doing at the level of the Niger Delta Ministry in this whole process?
The first thing in respect of achievement is to juxtapose the mandate of the ministry with our activities. As a ministry, we are working strictly by the terms of our mandate. We have set up several things that you will want to see in the near future. The great challenge we have is that the economic capital is a critical infrastructure. Our bidding processes are on and trying to send people to the site to work on what you see. It is the intangibles that shape the tangibles. We have put in place frameworks that could ensure that work is done appropriately. The achievement is that we now have a focus. The Sun